A Dignified Death Wish Essay, Research Paper
A Dignified Death Wish
In the children s story, More Or Better , a boy meets an old woman in the forest, who is selling magical beans. She offers him more or better . He chooses more and spreads it around his house. The bean plants grow so high he can t get out. He then goes back to the old woman and tells her he s changed his mind and he wants better . She gives it to him, and again he spreads it around his house. After that, he had the best vegetables ever grown.
This dilemma of quality versus quantity is one which people have wrestled with for years. It is also one thing that must be considered when discussing doctor-assisted suicide. Is it better to live a long time in pain or to die when the pain becomes unbearable? Should this be an individual decision or should society, the voters, or the law decide?
Doctor assisted suicide has only been a major political and ethical issue since the mid 1970 s. In previous centuries, any terminally ill person would die in a relatively short time. Now, with the miracle of modern medicine, life can be prolonged. A person with terminal cancer can live months, even years, longer than he or she would have lived one hundred years ago. (Docker)
As of now, doctor assisted suicide is illegal in most of the world. The Northern Territory of Australia was the first legislature in the world to legalize voluntary assisted suicide in May of 1995. The bill was passed by a 15-10 vote after sixteen hours of debate.
The bill includes the following conditions:
1. The patient must be over eighteen and of sound mind.
2. The patient must request death, then wait for seven days.
3. The patient must then sign a formal request certificate, then wait another forty-eight hours.
4. Two doctors with at least five years experience must diagnose the patient as terminally ill and beyond medical help during the seven days;
5. One of the doctors must have diploma level psychiatric qualifications and certify the patient is not suffering from depression related to terminal illness;
6. Both doctors must be satisfied the patient has considered the implications of assisted suicide on his or her family.
7. The two doctors can t be related either through their families or their businesses; and terminally ill is defined, as the patient will die if extraneous measures are not taken to save his or her life. There are no guidelines in the bill about the method of suicide; however, it does allow the government to prescribe a method. All assisted suicide deaths must be reported to the coroner who is responsible for making sure all legal requirements have been fulfilled. (Last Rights World News.)
Two years later on October 27, 1997 physician-assisted suicide became a legal medical option for terminally ill Oregonians. The Oregon Death with Dignity Act requires that the Oregon Health Division (OHD) monitor compliance with the law, collect information about the patients and physicians who participate in legal physician-assisted suicide, and publish an annual statistical report. (Oregon House Bill 2954)
The Oregon Death with Dignity Act, a citizens’ initiative, was first passed by Oregon voters in November 1994 by a margin of fifty-one percent in favor and forty-one percent opposed. Immediate implementation of the Act was delayed by a legal injunction. After multiple legal proceedings, including a petition that was denied by the United States Supreme Court, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals lifted the injunction on October 27, 1997 and physician-assisted suicide then became a legal option for terminally ill patients in Oregon. In November 1997, Measure 51 was placed on the general election ballot and asked Oregon voters to repeal the Death with Dignity Act. Voters chose to retain the Act by a margin of sixty to forty percent.
Currently thirty-one states have laws explicitly banning assisted suicide, while the other nineteen ban it in precedence set by the courts. Lawful Exit makes another point about the laws against assisted suicide, “Most American states do not make suicide or attempted suicide a crime, but they do continue to make assisted suicide a crime. Those which do not have a specific statute could charge it as manslaughter or second-degree murder” (Humphry 27-28).
Many people believe it is absolutely unethical under any circumstance for anyone to end his or her life. Other people believe those who are dying and in pain should have the option of choosing to die and that a physician should help them. People on both sides believe very strongly in their cause and are willing to fight for it. Many people who believe in the rights of terminally ill patients have repeatedly tried to get laws passed in their state.
In reality, the argument runs like this “Let’s face it, people are already doing it.” Assisted suicide happens now even without a law allowing it. Dr. Jack Kevorkian is the most visible example, but there are other people who are willing to risk prosecution and help a dying person hasten their death. Between 1990 and 1993, Dr. Kevorkian helped sixteen people die. Because of his actions, his home state of Michigan passed a law banning assisted suicide. Before that, attempts to prosecute him failed because there was no clear law to accuse him of breaking, he was eventually tried and sentenced to prison after the ban was passed. With or without a law against assisted suicide, the procedure will continue to be used regardless of any set law.
One great fear regarding legalizing doctor assisted suicide is that doctors would abuse the right to help people die. People fear the decisions would be made on an economic basis-that is doctors would promote assisted suicide for poor patients while leaving those who could afford expensive medical care alive.
Another concern is that as assisted suicide became accepted, terminally ill patients may feel it is their duty to society to commit suicide. Some people fear that doctors would stop looking for cures to diseases and simply help people die instead.
One could argue that the costs of keeping terminally ill people alive, is exceedingly high. Who’s footing the bill for the ten thousand people being sustained in a persistent vegetative state? If assisted suicide were made legal, many people would save money. If a person chose to end his or her life instead of living, there would be reduced medical costs for the person s family, or for the government, if they were paying for it. It could stop unnecessary heartache and suffering on the part of a dying person and his or her family. The dying person could end the agony and pain when they chose. The family could say good-bye and know for certain it was the last time that they would see their loved one instead of living through the agony of not knowing.
If assisted suicide is kept illegal, people will have to deal with the uncertainty of how long a dying person will live. Terminally ill people will have to live in pain, with no hope of a death when they decide the pain is unbearable.
I think doctor assisted suicide should be legalized in all states. I believe everyone should have the right to die if they are terminally ill. It is very painful to have to watch a loved one die in pain. It is also very painful for the person who is dying.
If doctor assisted suicide were legal, everyone could choose if they wanted a doctor s help in dying. Many people say doctor assisted suicide is not God s way, but can it be God s way for His creatures to live in pain?
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Docker, Chris. The Scottish Voluntary Euthanasia Society (Voluntary Euthanasia Society of Scotland.
Dougherty, Charles J. “Legalizing Euthanasia Would Harm Society.” Euthanasia. Opposing Viewpoints. Carol Wekesser, book ed. David Bender and Bruno Leone, series ed. San Diego: Greenhaven Press Inc. 1995. 64.
“Dutch Doctors Revise Policy On Mercy Killing.” World News. http://www.rights.org/deathnet/Ir_Wnews2.html 26 Aug. 1995
“Euthanasia Bill Approved By Legislature-World History Made.” Last Rights World News. http://www.islandnet.com/Ir_Wnews.html 24 May 1995
Humphry, Derek. Lawful Exit: The Limits of Freedom for Help in Dying. Junction City, OR: The Norris Lane Press, 1993
Pridonoff, John A. “Legal Safeguards Can Prevent Euthanasia From Harming Society.” Euthanasia. Opposing Viewpoints. Carol Wekesser, book ed. David Bender and Bruno Leone, series ed. San Diego: Greenhaven Press Inc. 1995. 72.
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