The Right to Assisted Suicide

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The right to assisted suicide is an important topic that concerns people all over the United States. Dating all the way back to ancient Greek times, the most historical figure in western culture ever to live, died by assisted suicide. Socrates ended his life by ingesting poison. He believed that death may be the greatest of all human blessings.

The dispute goes back and forth about whether a dying patient has the right to die with the aid of a physician. Some are against it because of religious and ethical reasons. Others are for it because of their sympathy and respect for a person’s autonomy. Physicians are also divided on the issue.

They dispute where they position the line that divides relief from dying and how some people see it, murder. For many the leading concern with assisted suicide is the mental capacity of the terminally ill.

Many terminally ill patients who are in the last stages of their lives have requested doctors to aid them in practicing active euthanasia. It is sad to realize that there are people in immense pain that in their eyes the only hope of bringing that suffering to a stop is through assisted suicide.

Another issue people are wrong about is that it would a negative impact on hospice and palliative car. Robert Weir proves that in his book Physician-Assisted Suicide stating, “This scenario would end up strengthening hospice, since almost all patientst would have to undergo a trial of hospice care before being viewed as a potential candidates for suicide assistance and the vast majority, one hopes, would end up being so satisfied with the palliative approach that they would soon withdraw the request for suicide”. (Weir 144)

When people see the word euthanasia, they see the meaning of the word in two distinct lights. Euthanasia for some carries a negative meaning; it is the same as murder. For others, however, euthanasia is the action of putting someone to death painlessly, or allowing a person suffering from an incurable, harsh illness or condition to die by withholding highest medical measures.

But after studying both sides of the issue, a sympathetic person must comprehend that terminal patients should be granted the right to assisted suicide in order to end their suffering, lower the damaging financial outcome of hospital care on their families, and defend the right for people to determine their own death.

Medical technology today has accomplished remarkable achievements in prolonging the lives of humans. Respirators can maintain a patient’s failing lungs and medication can sustain a patient’s physiological progress. For those patients who have a realistic chance of surviving an illness or accident, medical technology is science’s greatest gift to man.

For the terminally ill, however, it is just a means of extend suffering. Medicine is supposed to relieve the pain that a patient endures. Yet the only thing that medical technology does for a dying patient is give that patient more pain and distress every day. Some terminal patients in the past have gone to their physician and requested for a final medication that would take all the pain away which would be lethal drugs.

For example, as Ronald Dworkin recounts, Lillian Boyes, an English woman who was suffering from a grave case of rheumatoid arthritis, begged her doctor to aid her to die because she could no longer stand the pain (184). Another example is Dr. Ali Khalili, Dr. Jack Kevorkian’s twentieth subject.

According to Kevorkian’s attorney, “Dr. Khalili was a pain specialist; he could get any kind of pain medication, but he came to Dr. Kevorkian. There are times when pain medication does not suffice” (Cotton 363). Mary Warnock states, “So another formulation of the categorical imperative is that one must never treat another human being as a mere means to an end, but always as an end in himself” (Warnock).

Terminally ill patients should have the right to assisted suicide because it is the best means for them to end the pain caused by a disease which no medication or treatment can cure. A qualified terminal patient must have the option of assisted suicide because it is in the utmost interest of that person.

Further, a dying person’s physical suffering can be most intolerable to that person’s immediate family. Even with the advanced medical technology, successful or not, medication has a lofty price attached to it.

The cost is sometimes too much for the terminally ill’s family. A mentally capable dying person has some knowledge of this, and every day that he or she is kept alive, the hospital charge skyrockets. “The cost of maintaining [a dying person]. . . has been estimated as ranging from about two thousand to ten thousand dollars a month” (Dworkin 187).

Human life is costly, and in the hospital there are not that many affluent terminal patients who can afford to continue what life is left. As for the not-so-affluent patients, the price of their lives is left to their families.

Of course, most families do not consider the cost while their loved-one is still living. When a loved-one passes away, most likely the family has to struggle with an enormous hospital bill and are often prone to financial ruin. Most terminal patients want their death to be a peaceful one and with as much comfort as possible.

Ronald Dworkin, author of Life’s Dominion, says that “many people . . . want to save their relatives at the expense of keeping them pointlessly alive…”(193). To leave the family in financial debt is by no means a formality of consolation.

Those terminally ill patients who have accepted their near future death can’t prevent their families from sinking into financial debt because they do not have the choice of stopping the medical bills from piling up. If a patient has the option of assisted suicide, they can ease their families financial overload as well as their suffering.

Finally, many terminally ill patients want the right to assisted suicide and why people support it is because it is a means to endure their end without the unnecessary suffering and expense. Most also believe that the right to assisted suicide is an essential right which does not have to be given to an individual.

It is a liberty which can’t be held because those who are dying might want to use this liberty as a street to pursue their happiness. Dr. Kevorkian’s attorney, Geoffrey N. Fieger, voices the absurdity of curbing the right to assisted suicide, saying that “a law which does not make anybody do anything, that gives people the right to decide, and prevents the state from prosecuting you for exercising your freedom not to suffer, violates somebody else’s constitutional rights is insane” (qtd. in Cotton 364).

Terminally ill patients should be allowed to die with dignity. Choosing the right to assisted suicide would be a last chance of autonomy for the dying. They will not be seen as people who are waiting to die but as human beings making one last active choice in their lives. As Dworkin puts it, “whatever view we take about [euthanasia], we want the right to decide for ourselves…”(239).

On the opposite side of the issue, people who are against assisted suicide do not think that the terminally ill have the right to end their suffering. They defend that it’s against the Hippocratic Oath for a physician to participate in active euthanasia. Perhaps most of those who continue this argument do not know that, for instance, in Canada only a “few medical schools use the Hippocratic Oath” because it is inconsistent with its premises (Barnard 28).

The oath requires the physician to promise to relieve pain and not to administer fatal medicine. This oath cannot be applied to cancer patients. For treatment, cancer patients are given chemotherapy, a form of radioactive medication that is toxic to the body. As a result of chemotherapy, the body suffers unbelievable pain, hair loss, vomiting, and other very unpleasant side effects.

Thus, chemotherapy can be considered “deadly medicine”. Because of its effects on the human body and its unsteadiness, is the reason why the Hippocratic Oath cannot be used to deny the right to assisted suicide. To administer numerous drugs to a terminally ill patient and position him or her with medical equipment does not help anything except the disease itself.

Respirators and high dosages of drugs can’t save the patient from the triumph of a disease or an illness. Dr. Christaan Barnard, author of Good Life/Good Death, quotes his peer, Dr. Robert Twycross, who said, “To use such measures in the terminally ill, with no expectancy of a return to health, is generally inappropriate and is—therefore—bad medicine by definition” (22).

Still other people argue that if the right to assisted suicide is given, the doctor-patient relationship would stimulate distrust. The antithesis of this claim is accurate. Cheryl Smith, in her article advocating active euthanasia (or assisted suicide), says that “patients who are able to discuss sensitive issues such as this are more likely to trust their physicians” (409).

A terminal patient agreeing to assisted suicide knows that a physician’s job is to ease pain, and giving consent to that doctor shows admirable trust. Other opponents of assisted suicide insist that there are possible abuses that can arise from legalizing assisted suicide. They claim that terminal patients might be forced to choose assisted suicide because of their financial position.

This view is to be respected. However, the option of assisted suicide is in the patient’s best interest, and this interest can include the financial situation of a patient’s relatives.

Competent terminal patients can easily see the grief and sadness that their families experience while they await for death to take their dying loved ones away. The choice of assisted suicide would allow these terminally ill patients to end the sorrow of their families as well as their own distress.

The choice would also put a halt to the financial trouble of these families. It is in the patient’s interest that the families that they leave will be liable to the smallest amount of grief and worry possible. This is not a mere “duty to die.” It is a concerning way for the dying to say, “Yes, I am going to die.

It is all right, please do not worry anymore.” Further, legalization of assisted suicide will also assist to shape the practice of it. “Legalization, with medical record documentation and reporting requirements, will enable authorities to regulate the practice and guard against abuses, while punishing real offenders”(Smith 409).

Some who argue that the right to assisted suicide is not a right that can be granted to anyone at all. This claim is countered by a judge by the name of Stephen Reinhardt.

According to an article in the Houston Chronicle, Judge Reinhardt ruled on this issue by saying that “a competent, terminally-ill adult, having lived nearly the full measure of his life, has a strong liberty interest in choosing a dignified and humane death rather than being reduced at the end of his existence to a childlike state of helplessness, diapered, sedated, incompetent” ( qtd. in Beck 36). This staement is the strongest defense for the right to assisted suicide. It is an inherent right.

No man or woman should ever suffer because he or she is declining the right. The terminally ill also have rights like average, healthy citizens do and they cannot be denied the right not to suffer.

The right to assisted suicide must be granted upon those who are terminally ill. This right would allow them to leave this earth with dignity, save their families from financial ruin, and ease them of unbearable pain. To give competent, terminally-ill adults this necessary right is to give them the autonomy to finish the book on a life well-lived.


Cite this paper

The Right to Assisted Suicide. (2020, Sep 24). Retrieved from https://samploon.com/the-right-to-assisted-suicide/



Is voluntary assisted dying legal in Act?
No, voluntary assisted dying is not legal in the Australian Capital Territory (ACT). Attempts to introduce legislation have failed in the past, and there are currently no plans to change the law.
What is death with dignity law in the United States?
In the United States, death with dignity laws allow terminally ill patients to end their lives with the assistance of a physician. These laws vary from state to state, but typically require that the patient be of sound mind and make the decision to end their life voluntarily.
Which of the following US states legally allows physician assisted suicide quizlet?
Oregon was the first state to legalize physician assisted suicide in 1997. Since then, Washington, Montana, Vermont, and California have followed suit.
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