Debate on Physician Assisted Suicide (PAS)

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The arguments on physician assisted suicide (PAS) have been debated for years. PAS is medically defined as the voluntary termination of one’s own life by administration of a lethal substance with the direct or indirect assistance of a physician.

This term is commonly confused with Euthanasia, which is the painless killing of a person suffering from a chronic and painful illness by any person. Today, my goal is to argue that physician assisted suicide should be illegal in every state in America. I’ve organized my essay focusing on two main points, the problem and a possible solution.

Ronald A. Lindsay, president and CEO of the Center for Inquiry explains that “since November 1997, Oregon has had in place a statute that authorizes physicians, under certain conditions, to provide terminally ill patients with a prescription for medication the patients can take to hasten their deaths”(Lindsay).

He adds that Oregon had approved the law in 1994, but it was held back for three years due to protests. California, Colorado, Vermont, Washington, and the District of Columbia have followed in their footsteps. Countries outside of the United States such as Switzerland, Belgium, and The Netherlands have legalized it as well.

There are many factors that people consider when pondering whether physician assisted suicide should be legalized, including the fact that modern medicine is far more advanced than it has ever been. Professors, doctors, ethicists, loved ones, and patients all have opinions on if PAS should be legalized or banned.

There are many protesters of physician assisted suicide. One of the biggest arguments regarding physician assisted suicide is morality. This includes the main argument from the religious perspective. Cristina L. H. Traina, assistant professor of religion at Northwestern University, offers her perspective that “it yields a near-consensus that PAS/euthanasia is morally wrong”.

There is also the idea that physician assisted suicide is still suicide, which in the bible God does not permit. Professors and ethicists researching the topic feel that PAS should be against the law everywhere around the world. J. Donald Boudreau and Magaret A.

Somerville explain in 2014 that patients requesting physician assisted suicide might not be thinking clearly, and the act disrespects human life. Boudreau worked as a respirologist and an associative professor in the department of medicine for over twenty-five years. Somerville is an ethicist employed by the University of Notre Dame working as Professor of Bioethics.

Some believe that this kind of power should not be given to any person. Two doctors, Sulmasy and Finlay, debate that something to be considered is the chance of slippery slope. The slippery slope theory suggests legalizing physician assisted suicide will lead to the killing of patients against their will.

They refer to Germany during World War II, when physician assisted suicide was taken advantage of. “Approximately 21% of the infant euthanasia deaths occurred without request or consent of parents”(qtd. In Sulmasy). They inform us that German doctors were killing disabled babies without their parent’s consent.

The authors impressively include this due to the fact that it was legal in Germany, possibly giving people cold feet about legalizing it because the United States do not want to be anything like Germany, whom we have been to war with. With a slightly different perspective, Doctor Peter Rogatz,Co-founder and Vice President of Compassion and Choices of New York, uses Doctor Duffy’s past experience with a patient that overdosed from the medication that he prescribed.

Duffy offers that “the slippery slope may be subtler and even more insidious and dangerous for the profession”(qtd. in Rogatz). Duffy means that there needs to be more restrictions and laws to be able to protect against slippery slope. Doctors are not the only ones who feel as if the law could be twisted into something entirely different. There are even patients who notice the riskiness of changing the law.

An important term vastly used when discussing PAS is palliative care. The U.S. National Library of Medicine’s definition states that “palliative care is treatment of the discomfort, symptoms, and stress of serious illness. It provides relief from distressing symptoms including pain, shortness of breath, fatigue, constipation, nausea, loss of appetite, and problems, with sleep”(Palliative Care).

I contend that palliative care, not PAS, is the solution to addressing the needs of the terminally ill. Even well-informed people on the topic of PAS who can see the points made from both sides cannot commit support to physician assisted suicide and suggest that palliative care is the answer.

Doctor Oliver works at the University of Kentucky Institute of Medicine and Health Sciences. “There may be no easy way of reducing their distress and anxieties”(Oliver). He understands that some people feel as if death is their only option and that their life is useless.

Oliver believes we should not suffer if it is preventable, but that there could be other ways to avoid physician assisted suicide. He suggests that palliative care is a possible alternative to physician assisted suicide. Oliver states that palliative care helps to improve the quality of life in patients who are suffering and in pain can be used for patients who are facing physical symptoms, emotional and spiritual issues, and practical issues.

“Palliative care can offer much to patients and their families, involving the physical, psychosocial and spiritual aspects of care of both patient and family”. The author endorses many different aspects of the alternative to physician assisted suicide, showing that he does not fully support it.

He finalizes by including that “most requests for assisted dying can be resolved with good communication, understanding and symptom control”. Doctor Oliver feels as if most patients and families are not getting enough information on how to fight through the rough times of their sickness.

Next, I will provide support for this stance from three different points of view: health care providers, loved ones of the dying, and those who sympathize with those on both sides of the PAS issue. Nurses are known to get attached to their patients. Taking care of a sick person and tending to their every need can help form a close relationship with them.

Susan A. Salladay works as a RN with a PhD and consults on nursing ethics. She argues that people should not be supporting their loved ones to end their own lives. She, like Boudreau and Somerville, believes that physician assisted suicide is not morally correct. Salladay informs us that just because there are people who wish to legalize PAS, does not mean that it should be legalized.

In addition, she states that PAS should always be seen as morally and legally wrong. Sissel Johansen, researcher of euthanasia, declares “fear of future pain, and/or poor quality of life, were the most commonly cited arguments for holding a positive attitude towards euthanasia PAS”(Johansen).

The patients who supported physician assisted suicide were worried of no longer living a pain-free, enjoyable life. Jean-Jaques Georges, an expert in Public Health, states that the patients’ reasons for requesting physician assisted suicide are that they want to die with dignity and no longer want to suffer.

People say that you do not know what you would do if it was your loved one who had requested to die. An interesting case includes a professor against physician assisted suicide whose father had asked to help hasten his death. Professor Susan M. Wolf had to go through this difficult process to resolve her final stance on PAS.

Wolf has been against physician assisted suicide for over twenty years. In 2005, she had to rethink her past standpoints. Her father developed metastic head and neck cancer and was beginning to be in unbearable pain. He was falling down, losing tons of weight, and soon after that he developed cancer in his liver.

Her father had requested a fast death, she had instantly said no. Wolf was faced with a tough decision. “I knew right away that I needed to think through my no”(Wolf). She wanted to alleviate her father’s pain and keep him as comfortable as possible. Some people would think that seeing someone you love in that much pain would ultimately make them want to help end their pain, even if that means ending their life.

But, Wolf shows that even in difficult times, she still stands by her previous beliefs. “My father’s death made me rethink my objections to legalizing assisted suicide and euthanasia, but in the end, it left me at ease with what I’ve written”(Wolf). Although she does not wish that physician assisted suicide should be legal, she believes in a comfortable death.

With all the information I have provided, I hope that everyone is educated enough on the subject to realize that the legalization of physician assisted suicide is wrong. We now know that PAS is morally conflicting and that the legalization of it throughout the world would lead to the slippery slope theory. I hope that you are convinced that physician assisted suicide is not the answer. We should advocate for high-quality palliative care to ensure the terminally ill do not suffer and can die a comfortable, peaceful death.

Cite this paper

Debate on Physician Assisted Suicide (PAS). (2020, Sep 24). Retrieved from https://samploon.com/debate-on-physician-assisted-suicide-pas/

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