Euthanasia and Physician Assisted Suicide

The debate about legalizing euthanasia and physician-assisted suicide is usually structured around two main arguments: the sanctity (inviolability) of life and the individual’s autonomy. The usage of each of these principles can lead to extreme situations: for instance, the absence of restrictions on the use of medical technologies or assistance in suicide in the case of “fatigue from life.” Nonetheless, the debate about the use of euthanasia and physician-assisted suicide remains unresolved. This paper will discuss Oregon’s Death with Dignity Act and the concepts of physician-assisted suicide and euthanasia that bring essential moral questions.

Considering Oregon’s Death with Dignity Act, I would state that the law is morally justified for those urgently needed to get relief from suffering caused by severe disease. The provisions that Oregon’s law includes define who can get a physician-assisted suicide, including strict rules that apply to patients who should be 18 years or older, reside in Oregon, capable of communicating decisions, and diagnosed with a terminal illness that will cause death within six months (Institute of Clinical Bioethics, 2011). These rules imply that those patients who suffer from severe disease will have a chance to make their own moral decisions about the desire to die with assistance without the influence of others.

Oregon’s Death with Dignity Act is also morally justified because it can help physicians, hospice centers, and health care organizations to lessen the pressure on patients, their families, and medical professionals who are obliged to make difficult decisions (The Denver Post, 2014). One can state that Oregon’s law is not morally justified because of the sanctity of life as physician-assisted suicide contradicts religious rules against taking human life and is the “active” killing of a person (Institute of Clinical Bioethics, 2011). Nevertheless, it is a known fact that physicians help people with terminal diseases to end their lives, or patients are sometimes mentally and physically pushed by care providers to use pills and die (The Denver Post, 2014). Therefore, giving a very sick patient a chance to make his or her own decision on the ending of life as Brittany Maynard did is a morally justified option.

One can state that physician-assisted suicide constitutes a dignified death because a patient has a chance to end the life with a “human” face by using compassionate end-of-life care in comparison to probable torture and pain that can appear due to the terminal disease (Woodruff, 2019). In any situation, a medical intervention to prolong a patient’s life or withdrawal of treatment that would result in natural death is associated with harm and pain provoked by a disease (The Guardian, 2020). Thus, dignified death allows a patient to go in peace, maintain body integrity, and die on patients’ terms, according to scientists (Kennedy, 2016). That is what Brittany Maynard did when stating that she would die in her bedroom, her family would be with her, and she would leave without suffering (NBC News, 2014).

There are specific provisions of the Oregon law that are aimed to protect patients and physicians and avoid abuse of the Act. A patient should conduct several steps to get a medication that would result in the lethal ending of life, including two oral requests to the physician, a written request, signed by a patient in the presence of two witnesses, approval of diagnosis & prognosis by an independent physician and proof of competency by prescribing and consulting physicians (Institute of Clinical Bioethics, 2011). Moreover, suppose one of the medical professionals doubts the mental state of the patient. In that case, the physician can send a person to psychological examination and offer alternatives to assisted suicide, such as comfort care, hospice care, and pain control (Institute of Clinical Bioethics, 2011). The possible abuse of the law can happen when family, medical care providers, or other parties might push the option of assisted suicide because patient care can be costly, or there can be a lack of access to care services and support.

The question of whether physician-assisted suicide should be legalized throughout the United States is controversial. Some people claim that the enactment of Oregon’s Death with Dignity Act led to a deterioration of the situation and decrease the quality of end-of-life palliative care (Disability Rights Education & Defense Fund, n.d.). Moreover, it can be noted that the development of medical technologies might help patients to treat their diseases successfully; however, it is unlikely to be done in 6 months of predicted death.

Others state that terminally ill people should have a right to decide whether they want to continue living when a physician’s prognosis claims that they will not live longer than six months (The Denver Post, 2014). I believe that physician-assisted suicide can be legalized throughout the United States; however, additional guidelines can be introduced to ensure that patients are not pushed to refer to the assisted suicide or influenced by different stakeholders that would like to get rid of financial and human resources burden.

To make a conclusion, one can state that Brittany Maynard’s case, who had a malignant brain tumor and moved to Oregon to get a physician-assisted suicide triggered significant debates around the topic of a patient’s right to die with dignity. A terminally ill woman, Brittany used her right to voluntary death, and her family supported her in this decision. Still, many doctors and public figures recall cases when, contrary to all diagnoses, a miracle occurred, and the disease receded for different patients who had unbeaten desire to stay alive. Nevertheless, the most crucial thing that should be done is establishing rules and guidelines that would help patients die with dignity and protect them from being adversely influenced by other people.

References

Disability Rights Education & Defense Fund. (n.d.).Web.

Institute of Clinical Bioethics. (2011). Web.

Kennedy, G. (2016). The Ulster medical journal, 85(1), 45–48. Web.

NBC News. (2014). Web.

The Denver Post. (2014). Web.

The Guardian. (2020). Web.

Woodruff, R. (2019). IAHPC Press. Web.

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