Doctor-Assisted Suicide Essay, Research Paper
Doctor Assisted Suicide
An issue of great controversy boomed in the United States approximately ten years ago. Doctor-assisted suicide was brought to the attention of Americans in the mid-1980s, but did not become the issue it is today until the nineties. The question of whether to live the remainder of one s life in pain or die with dignity, became apparent. The idea that physicians could prescribe medication to terminally ill patients to end their suffering for good by putting them to rest was presented. This idea struck some Americans as opportunity for relief, and others as an appalling violation of morals .and the controversy began.
Doctor-assisted suicide has repeatedly shown up on ballots across the country for the past ten years. However, because of the complexity of the issue a consistent decision has not been reached or followed for any length of time. Doctor-assisted suicide is not as simple as one may think. It is not just a physician prescribing pills to any unhappy, ordinary Joe. There are general guidelines to the process. The guidelines may differ from state to state, but the main ideas are the same. Major guidelines are: The patient must be terminally ill, which can be defined as having no more than six months to live; At least two independent physicians must agree on the diagnosis and prognosis of the patient; There must be a mental health examination that proves the patient to be mentally stable; and Civil and criminal immunities are provided to any parties assisting the patient, as long as all rules are followed.
Doctor-assisted suicide can be viewed many different ways. There is a moral issue involved. People are always taught that killing is wrong and classify doctor assisted suicide as killing. To counter that, others see doctor assisted suicide as relief. A way to be set free from all pain that not even morphine can dull. There is also the view of the healthcare profession. As a whole they are opposed to doctor assisted suicide. They feel that healthcare is there to keep people alive and help them, not to kill them. Helping people survive is what they are taught. However, others may comment that keeping someone in unbearable pain is not helping them at all. That helping them would be assisting them in permanently relieving their pain. It all depends on how one would define the word, help. This is controversy. It is all in the eye of the beholder.
One group, called The Hemlock Society, is really what began this controversy. They were the first ones to present the issue of doctor-assisted suicide. Derek Humphry founded the Hemlock Society in 1980. It is the oldest and largest organization of it s kind, consisting of over 27,000 members from across the United States. Hemlock believes that, People who wish to retain their dignity and choice at the end of life should have the option of a peaceful, gentle, certain and swift death in the company of their loved ones. They feel that this should be done lawfully with legally prescribed drugs as part of the continuum of care between a patient and a doctor. Hemlock does not support anything illegal pertaining to this issue. Hemlock is pushing to change the law so doctor-assisted suicide is allowed. To protect patients and physicians they want a law that allows a dying patient to speed up his/her death with a doctor s help, with the following safeguards: A terminal diagnosis confirmed by two independent physicians; An evaluation by a mental health professional; A written, witnessed request; A waiting period; Voluntary on the part of the doctor; Revocable by the patient at any time; Medication prescribed by the doctor and self-administered by the patient; No criminal liability for a physician or family member that helps; No effect on insurance; and Monitoring by state health department. The Hemlock Society strongly opposes suicide for emotional or financial reasons and strongly supports suicide prevention programs. Their goal is not to encourage people towards suicide, only to make the option available for the terminally ill.
There is another organization on a much smaller scale, but with close to the same opinion as The Hemlock Society. The Association for the Right to Die with Dignity (ADMD) would like to see doctor-assisted suicide legalized. The ADMD promotes change not only in the minds of the general public, but also in the way the healthcare profession responds to the issue. The ADMD has four goals: First, to make pain relief available to all; Second, to ensure the recognition of the right to refuse unwanted, life-prolonging treatment; Third, to legalize Living Will ; Fourth, to decriminalize doctor assisted suicide. They object to suicide for political, social, or economical purposes. They only want the option.
On the other side, there is The American Medical Association (AMA). They are strongly opposed to doctor-assisted suicide. They have made it clear that they have absolutely no intentions on loosening their stance on the issue. Instead, they said they would seek to better educate doctors on alleviating pain and suffering of dying patients. A doctor and current member of the AMA strongly opposed to helping patients commit suicide said; We re talking about preserving and protecting life, not ending it. Another: The end simply does not justify the means.
Many actions have been taken in the government concerning the issue of doctor-assisted suicide. On June 26, 1997, the Supreme Court ruled on two similar cases involving assisted suicide. The two cases, Washington v. Glucksberg and Vacco v. Quill challenged their state laws on the ban of assisted suicide. They felt that the ban on assisted suicide was a violation of the 14th Amendment s Due Process Clause. The Supreme Court unanimously ruled that there is no Constitutional right to have a doctor s assistance in ending a life.
In 1997, Oregon voters approved the assisted suicide law. June 5, 1998, Attorney General Janet Reno announced that there would be no federal challenge to Oregon s assisted suicide law. Reno said, The federal government would respect the will of Oregon voters and allow the physician suicide measure to go forward. In 1997, President Clinton signed a law that blocks any federal funding of assisted suicide programs.
If the idea of allowing doctor s to assist in their patients suicide is adopted throughout the nation there is the possibility the law could expand. This is one thing Americans fear. Some feel that if doctor-assisted suicide is accepted it will soon be available for anyone instead of just the terminally ill. They are afraid that someone will easily be able to end their own life because they are unhappy with the cards life has dealt them. On the other side of that there are the consequences of the law not being approved. If doctor-assisted suicide is not approved many people will suffer. They will live every minute of their lives in excruciating pain and have to endure the hardships of a long, drawn-out death. There is also the possibility that more and more people will begin to take suicide into their own hands and do it illegally.
Doctor-assisted suicide is always going to be controversial. There are too many moral issues and details involved for it not to be. There is no way to get all the groups in the country to agree. The issue involves such a serious end result that there are many strong opinions out there. With doctor-assisted suicide there will always be at least two counter opinions. For every argument there is a counter argument and it all depends on perspective.