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The Right To Live Or Die

1939 words - 8 pages

The medical profession has long subscribed to a body of ethical statements developed primarily for the benefit of the patient. As a member of this profession, a physician must recognize responsibility to patients first and foremost, as well as society. However, there is an emerging practice that physicians are facing in the medical profession. Moreover, conflict surrounds this practice, legally and ethically. There are various standards of conduct that epitomizes the behavior of a honorable physician, however, within the confines of those standards there exist uncertainty. According to the principles of medical ethics, "a physician shall respect the law and also recognize a responsibility to seek changes in those requirements which are contrary to the best interest of the patient" (AMA 1). Each year millions of individuals are diagnosed with terminal illnesses, which result in excruciating pain. In 85% of the cases death is inevitable. Armed with this fact, the afflicted are torn between the decision to allow the disease to consume their existence or opt for euthanasia.In this paper, I will examine the legal and ethics conflict that surrounds the Physician Assisted Suicide and Euthanasia. The act of Physician Assisted Suicide (PAS) is an example of the fine line between a Physicians legal obligation and ethical responsibilities. PAS, generally refers to a practice in which the doctor provides the patient with a lethal dose of medication, upon the individual request that is used to end their life. According to Humphrey, " The word "euthanasia" comes from the Greek-eu, "good and thanotos--death. Euthanasia, also called "mercy killing," is the act or practice of putting people to death who are suffering from painful, incurable diseases or incapacitating physical disorders" (18).Incidentally, there are several ways in which the two forms of suicide is carried out: Terminal sedation, which is, the practice of sedating a terminally ill competent patient to the point of unconsciousness, then allowing the person to die of their disease, starvation, or dehydration; second, withholding or withdrawing life-sustaining treatment; and finally, the overdose of pain medication. Hence, "only 1% of dying patients specifically asks for PAS and, of those, only 10% actually take the lethal dose prescribed--were legal; 17% of patients chose euthanasia whereas 3% chose PAS" (Zucker 703). Nevertheless, there are no moral or legal obligations for a physician to comply with a patient's request for a doctor's assistance to commit suicide. However, "While there is a focus on the right to life, there is also what is considered to be a 'negative right,' which is the right not to have bodily injury or pain inflicted on oneself. Clearly, some medical procedures are painful in and of themselves, but when even this does not provide even short-term benefit, other options should be available without repercussion [...] should it be necessary to function as an agent of simple...

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