Euthanasia Essay, Research Paper
Originally, the term “physician assisted suicide” meant the provision by a physician of the means of which a suffering, terminally ill patient could initiate his or her death. The “euthanasia” means the killing of a terminally ill person to end his or her suffering. Now, by practice, the term “physician assisted suicide” has been expanded in meaning to include the administration of a lethal substance by a physician to a suffering patient-a form of euthanasia. Thus, physician assisted suicide can now be defined as any action taken by a physician to provide death to a patient.
Many people argue that the decision to kill oneself is a private choice which society has no right to be concerned about.
This position assumes that suicide results from competent people making autonomous, rational decision to die, and then claims that society has no business “interfering” with a freely chosen life or death decision that harms no one other the suicidal individual. However, according to experts, who have studied several cases on suicide, the basic assumption is wrong.
It is very unlikely that someone with serious disability commits suicide. Rather, as society view seriously disabled and terminally ill individuals as burdens with unacceptable quality of life, these persons may feel an obligation to commit suicide.
A careful 1974 British study, which involved extensive interviews and examination of medical records, found that 93% of those studied who committed suicide were mentally ill at the time. A similar St. Louis study, published in 1984, found a mental disorder in 94% of those who committed suicide. There is a great body of psychological evidence that those who attempt suicide are normally having conflict feelings and that they are most of time the victims of mental disorder.
Almost all of those who attempt suicide do so as a subconscious cry for help, not after a carefully calculated judgement that death would be better than life.
A suicide attempt powerfully calls attention to one’s plight. The humane response is to mobilize psychiatric and social service resources to address the problems that led the potential suicide person to such extremity. Typically, this counseling assistance is successful. One study of 886 people who were rescued from attempted suicides found that five year later only 3.84% had gone on to kill themselves. A Swedish study with a 36-year follow-up only 10.9 % later killed themselves.
In Netherlands, physician assisting suicide and euthanasia have now become routine in that country, accounting for almost 10% all deaths in 1990. More than half of the people did not ask to be killed.
Not only do physicians perform assisted suicide on terminally ill patients, but they also kill newborn infants and hospitalized seniors whose quality of life is judged to be too poor.
This experience in Netherlands should not serve as a precedent. The lesson of physician assisting suicide in that country shows us how quickly the decision moves from a patient’s request to a surrogate’s request to a physician’s personal decision.
However, you should be asking yourself, but what about those who are suffering from severe pain and disabilities, shouldn’t we respect their decision to die?
Keep in mind, contrary the assumption of many in the public, a scientific study of people with terminal illness in the American Journal of Psychiatry found that fewer than one out of four patients expressed a wish to die, and those who did had diagnosable depression. In addition, contrary to pro-euthanasia propaganda, physical pain, with rare exceptions, can be controlled if the physician knows the appropriate treatment.
Even Dr. Pieter, a leader of the successful movement to legalize direct killing in the Netherlands, has publicly observed that pain is never an adequate justification for euthanasia in light of current medical techniques that can manage pain in virtually all circumstances.
Most people with disabilities will tell you that it is not so much their physical or mental impairment itself that makes their lives difficult but the conduct of the nondisabled toward them. Denial of access, discrimination in employment, and an attitude of aversion or pity instead of respect are what make life painful to them.
In brief, physician suicide was originally aimed at killing ill people in intractable pain and whose lives depend on feeding machines. However, the meaning of physician assisted suicide is rapidly being expanded further to include the provision of death to those who agree that life with a disability or illness is not worth living. As in the Netherlands, patients will be subject to euthanasia to spare family members or from the burden of their conditions.
For defenders of euthanasia, there are crucial question like: Have those physicians who assisted suicide examined the patient’s records to find out if they have been given adequate pain medications or have they been diagnosed for depression? If patients have made “rational” choices for suicide, are not these physicians assisting them in ethically questionable acts? Don’t physicians who assist suicide help to create an atmosphere of distrust between physicians and patients? For isntances, if the physician cannot cure you, will he care for you or will he kill you? It is reasonable to conclude that physicians who are involved in assisting suicide are doing a disservice both to their patients and their profession.