The Changing Role For Doctors Essay, Research Paper
There were times in human history when people died in childhood by disease, in adulthood through war, or at any age through starvation. However, for much of the earth now, these problems do not threaten most people’s lives. As a consequence, people are living much longer, and in old age they are dying slow deaths from cancer, lung diseases and heart diseases. For many years, doctors have taken the Hippocratic Oath, promising not to end life. During this time, the best way for doctors to support humanity was by always trying to extend life. Conditions in the world are different now. While life has never been better for most people, death has never been worse. Laws in every country in the world must be changed to allow doctors to use their professional discretion when attending those who are dying.
It is accepted in our society that people who are dying from incurable diseases have the right to end their own life. Euthanasia means a good death, and a long, painful death is not a good death. Of the six authors who wrote about the subject of euthanasia in Current Issues And Enduring Questions; A Guide to Critical Thinking and Argument, with Readings, not one author argued that there was not a right to end one’s own suffering life. Once there is agreement on the right of terminal patients to end their suffering, the question of the doctor’s role must be answered.
Many doctors willingly help their patients take their lives in a painless way. However, because of the rules of medical practice and government law and regulation, many of those doctors do not openly admit their actions. The patients understand these unwritten rules too. When Doctor Quill was asked for barbiturates for sleeping by a patient who was dying from leukemia, she knew the ultimate purpose of those pills (433-38). The patient knew from the Hemlock Society how to ask for them without stating their true purpose. However, Doctor Quill was more interested in the best interests of the patient than in protecting himself. He wanted to know the manner that the patient intended to use the medication. This doctor was showing the highest professional standards by supporting and aiding the decision that the patient felt was best. As he expresses it, “Yet I also felt strongly that I was setting her free to get the most out of the time she had left and to maintain dignity and control on her own terms until death” (436). Furnishing pills used to commit suicide, as this doctor did, and assisting the suicides of incurable patients, as Dr. Kevorkian does (Jacoby 441), are not different. Both are examples of active euthanasia, and both are morally correct even if they might not be legally correct.
There are those who say this is murder. It is not murder because it is the patients who make the decisions. If the doctor were making a decision to end a person’s life when that person wanted to continue living, then it would be murder. However, the role of the doctor is to support the legitimate needs of the patients. In the modern world, those needs often require ending a hopeless and painful situation.
The role of the doctor has undergone some changes. Today, the most humane way a doctor can behave, sometimes, is to help a patient end their life in a quick and painless manner. A true appreciation for human life is shown by those who are greatly concerned about the quality of every person’s life. Sometimes the quality of a life is greatest when it is not a life at all. When human suffering is more than can be tolerated, death is more kind than life. Doctors must be allowed to use their profession judgement and compassion is the way they think is best.