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The Legalization Of Physician Assisted Suicide Essay

2792 words - 11 pages

Support for the participation of physicians in the suicides of terminally ill patients is increasing. Much of the controversy surrounding physician-assisted suicide however focuses on the debate over whether the practice should be legalized. A woman suffering from cancer became the first person known to die under the law of physician-assisted suicide in March of 1998. In 1994, voters in Oregon approved a referendum called the Death with Dignity Act, which was enacted in 1997. This law allows patients who have been given six months or less to live that wish to hasten their deaths to obtain lethal doses of medication prescribed by two doctors. Between 1998 and 2000, ninety-six lethal prescriptions were written, and seventy patients took the fatal doses. Physician-assisted suicide is only legal in the states of Washington and Oregon, meaning in the rest of the country, the practice remains illegal. Many patients are unable to get the help necessary to end their lives and must involuntarily endure unbearable pain. Some terminally ill patients have to experience an intolerably poor quality of life and would prefer to end their life rather than continue until their body finally gives up. Physician-assisted suicide should be legalized because it offers terminally ill people the option to end their lives when they feel it is no longer worth living with the help of a physician.
Jack Kevorkian, also known as “Dr. Death." made a “Suicide Machine” on September 17, 1998. His invention injected lethal doses of medications into a patient, which then caused them to die. His first patient was Janet Adkins, who had Alzheimer’s disease. She requested the procedure because she felt she could no longer go through the rest of her life with the struggle of not remembering anything, and she was aware that soon enough her disease would become so severe that it would interfere with her daily tasks. Dr. Kevorkian did his procedures in Michigan where at the time, did not have any laws against physician-assisted suicide. Also in the same year continued to assist patients. One patient in particular, Thomas Youk suffered from Lou Gehrig's disease requested the assistance of Dr. Kevorkian had is procedure televised on the CBS television news program 60 Minutes. The Michigan legislature enacted a law making assisted suicide a felony punishable by a maximum five year prison sentence or a $10,000 fine soon after. This meant Kevorkian's could be charged for his previous acquittals. On March 26, 1999 Dr. Kevorkian was convicted of second degree murder.
In 1991, by a vote of 54 to 46 percent, Washington State voters defeated Initiative 119, a measure that would have permitted physicians to provide assisted suicide by a prescription for an intentional lethal overdose of drugs. After that, three attempts were made in the Washington State legislature to transform assisted suicide, which was a crime in Washington, into a “medical treatment.” All three attempts failed. However,...

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