Doctor Assisted Suicide Essay, Research Paper
Physician Assisted Suicide
The issue of whether doctors should be allowed to assist patients in suicide has been a very sensitive and emotional topic for people of both sides. With machines to substitute organs and blood, there is no doubt technology have saved and prolonged many lives. Although medical studies on improving life have increased, many patients have lost their will to live, or some feel pressure to end their lives with the growing cost of medical care. Questions on the value of life have risen; people’s rights, whether doctor assisted suicide is allowed, and who would decide for the person are all issues that play significant roles in the debate. Nevertheless, despite weak opposition of positive effects for doctor assisted suicide, doctors who grant patients lethal medicines or injections lose control of their judgment and often kill patients without their knowledge. If assisted suicide became legal, in many states, it could endanger lives.
Although assisted suicide is morally wrong, many people feel that terminally ill patients should be given the privilege of early death. The fear of pain has been the main factor when terminally ill patients want doctor-assisted suicide. “Society can ask for three things: that doctors be humanitarians and not merely scientist, that life support mechanics and other aspects of modern medical technology not be used where there is no hope, and that when the patient is suffering from severe pain it be relieved by medicine even if this means shortening the life of the patient” (Barnyard 89). However, relieving a person from pain can be done in other ways. People who want doctors to have more compassion must realize if doctors face people wanting to be put to death everyday, they may lose their morals. Furthermore, a person may feel the pressure to commit suicide if assisted suicide is ever made legal. Because of these pressures, a person may not be reasoning rationally. “A patient must be mentally alert, within six months of death, and a doctor must certify that a patient’s decision is not coerced to do a physician-assisted suicide (Leone, Daniel 42-3). It is also hard to prove that a patient is spiritually alert. They may have been influenced strongly by another person. If they also are experiencing depression, their decision for assisted suicide may be a impulsive choice. Doctor assisted suicide should never be made legal.
If doctor assisted suicide was legalized, it would be virtually impossible to control. One place where it would be hard to control would be in the court system. “No one knows for sure what the medical world will be like once the legal shackles against assisted suicide are removed, but we can guess” (Leone, Bruno 95). With so many different people, conditions, and cases the courts would not be likely to give each request for death a fair amount of time to investigate. Eighteen years ago, after David Rivilin broke his neck in a swimming accident at age twenty, he decided that he’d had enough and wanted to die. Intellectually unimpaired, but so severely paralyzed he depended on a machine to breathe, the judge granted him his wish. She justified it by saying it would not be an illegal assistance in Rivilin’s suicide, it would be the granting of his legal right to refuse medical treatment. When his doctor turned off his respirator he quickly died. Five days before he died, Rivilin said, “I don’t want to live an empty life, lying helplessly in a nursing home for another thirty years” (Smith 50). Rather than search for a way to get him out of a nursing home, the court sanctioned his death. With not enough time and people in courts to analyze each individual situation, assisted suicide may slip out of the government’s control. Moreover, there are fears that the poor, minorities, and disabled might be more easily encouraged to die rather than receive inadequate health care. “The push to legalize doctor assisted suicide could not come at a worse time. Spiraling health costs and our aging population led to radical changes in how care is financed, with doctors and hospitals rewarded for doing less for their patients” (Leone, Daniel 43). People with disabilities fear that judges, lawyers, and physicians may too easily feel that disabled people’s lives are not worth living. There are an estimated 15,000 people with disabilities in the United States who are dependent on respirators. What happened to David Rivilin, for example, means that anyone of these people could be granted assistance in dying should they ask for it. Many men and women would die from hasty decisions if assisted suicide was made available to everyone.
With legal assisted suicide, doctors might indeed abuse their powers, when too much authority is given to them. With each physician having his/her own mind, many may let their personal judgments overtake their common sense. In some places, a person doesn’t even have to be physically ill to obtain a doctor assisted suicide. “Physician-assisted suicide among the Dutch has been quietly tolerated for some time. But no one was prepared for the number of Dutch doctors who have taken it beyond that, proactively dispatching the terminally ill without their knowledge” (Leone, Bruno 42). Also, Dr. Jack Kevorkian, a physician dedicated to putting people to permanent rest, only recently was arrested and put in prison in the U.S. So far, 120 names have been made public of people he assisted during the final stage of their lives. Kevorkian was more interested in publicity than he was in “helping” people die. In several interviews, he expressed his desire to assist in the deaths of twenty to thirty year olds who are not ill, but who “just don’t want to live anymore”. Jack Kevorkian invented several death machines, which he jokingly called: “killing machine”, “self execution machine”, “mercy machine”, “Thanatron”, and “Mercitron”(Smith 21). To him it didn’t matter why his patients wanted to die, as long as they wanted death, they could be experiments for his ideas. Kevorkian is only one of the doctors who have stood openly in public with his judgment of suicide. Imagine all the other unknown doctors who have the similar belief that suicide is a acceptable practice. Furthermore, with the doctor having the role of God, patients who want suicide may also not be in the right frame of mind. When given a terminally ill patient the right to live or die, many choose death over pain. Nurses in hospitals have stated how many patients fall into deep depression when they must unwillingly accept the fate of their illness. “Most suicides among older persons are caused by depression. Similarly, adolescent suicide is often a response to depression and feelings of hopelessness” (Smith 28). A patient could be in a very vulnerable state when accepting suggestions from doctors. Sometimes when too much power is given to a group of people, such as doctors, many tend to take full advantage of it.
Ultimately, despite weak opposition of positive effects for physician assisted suicide, doctors who grant patients lethal medicine or injections lose control of their judgment and often kill patients without their knowledge. People may also not be in the right frame of mentality when they want to die. There is a very fine line when it comes to whether or not a doctor is justified to play the role of God. Although there is a strong argument on both sides, not legalizing doctor-assisted suicide has more pros than cons. If assisted suicide was ever legalized, it could cause many more problems to arise.