The Right to Die: Legalization of Assisted Suicide
Medical science has experienced significant advancement since the 1960s, and has made great progress in prolonging people’s lives, even giving time to those who are suffering from terminal illnesses. However, some patients, after weighing the high costs of medical procedures and the vastly limited lifestyle of those living on borrowed time turn toward assisted suicide as a possible option. Assisted suicide is based on the belief that individuals should be allowed access to medical assistance to end their lives voluntarily, when and how they choose. Assisted suicide typically involves the physician or doctor providing access to ...view middle of the document...
Dr. Harry Chen, Vermont's health commissioner and a former emergency room doctor in Rutland, asks for others to "Understand that this is a terminal patient who is going to die, [that] this is as much as anything helping them to decide under what circumstances they want to die. Having seen a lot of people die, some of them peacefully, some of them not at all peacefully, I can understand why some people would want this. I support that."
Furthermore, legalization physician-assisted suicide could reduce the instances of suicide by other means. When acting independently of a physician’s advice and without oversight, patients desperate to end their own life may choose unreliable methods to end their own lives. Such methods could be violent, painful and dangerous, and include drug overdoses, firearms, and asphyxiation. In some cases, suicide attempts may fail, rendering patients left with injuries that only increase their pain and suffering.
Laws prohibiting assisted suicide also places a great burden on doctors and loved ones who are faces with watching their patient or loved on suffer without legal recourse to alleviate that person’s suffering. In states where assisted suicide is still illegal, loved ones, relatives, or doctors could face serious consequences for aiding in the suicide of the patient, including prison sentences. 62-year-old Lloyd Yarbrough was diagnosed with encephalitis, a viral infection that causes the brain to swell, and he lapsed into a coma. When he woke, he couldn't walk or talk or swallow or go to the bathroom without help. Lloyd spoke with his 52-year-old wife Kim Yarbrough, and told her that he didn’t want waste away in a nursing home. In May, in a quiet ceremony attended by a few close friends and neighbors, Lloyd and Kim renewed their wedding vows. Three weeks later he was dead, and Kim was charged with murder.
A.C. Grayling, a philosopher and founder of the New College of the Humanities, asserts that physician-assisted suicide is “a humane impulse of kindness, based on the realization that we are gentler to our pets than to our fellow humans in facilitating an ultimate release from suffering when it is needed.” Giving people the option to decide upon the time and nature of their death would also allow patients to make the necessary end of life arrangements. Under the current system, patients dying from incurable disease may spend weeks, months, or years in the hospital draining their savings and insurance benefits without the possibility of recovery.
Arguments against the Legalization of Assisted Suicide
Opponents point out that legalizing assisted suicide and euthanasia could result in serious consequences. One fear is that dying people might not receive proper care if euthanasia appeared to be a cheaper, easier alternative. Another fear is that choice and the right to determine one’s fate might not always be the deciding factors. Voluntary euthanasia might lead to the involuntary euthanasia of individuals incapable...