Assess the Intent and Impact of Publicity-Oriented Legal Challenges to Physician-Assisted Suicide

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HS542ON Section A Nov 2011
Health Rights and Responsibilities
Professor A. Dennis
Research Paper
Assess the intent and impact of publicity-oriented legal challenges to physician-assisted suicide 12/11/2011

A retired social worker, Smith, was diagnosed with cancer at the age of 86. He said that he has no regrets but worries about the pain. "Death itself is not a fearful consideration for me," he said. "But the process of dying could be if it were extremely uncomfortable." He is in no haste to die but expects that he will feel severe pain when the cancer reaches its final phases and when it happens; he would want his doctor to be able to prescribe him with a toxic dose of medication that he can use to end his life comfortably and peacefully. He said he doesn’t think of it as suicide because he’s dying anyway. Smith's wishes are in dispute in Superior Court now over whether doctors can legally prescribe lethal doses of medication to mentally capable, terminally sick patients who wish to end their lives because they in severe pain (Carroll, 2007) . Physician-assisted suicide (PAS): The voluntary termination of one's own life by administration of a lethal substance with the direct or indirect assistance of a physician. It is the practice of giving a fit patient a prescription for toxic medication upon the patient’s request to use with the intention to end his or her life (Pozgar, 2007). Define the Problem:

PAS is only permitted in Oregon and Washington States in the United States. The Oregon Death with Dignity Act of 1996 of allows terminally sick person to be given prescription for lethal medications by their physicians to administer by themselves if they are to die within 6 months (Rutter, 1994). PAS has its supporters and opponents. Some of the opponents are the physicians that believe that it against the fundamental principle of medicine and the duty of physicians which is to take care of ill patients; physicians are supposed to be healer. Some opponents think that some of the patients were forced to assisted suicide to make the financial burden easy and simple for the family member taking care of them. They also worry that assisted suicide could lessen pressure to provide better palliative care and find new cures and therapies. Those with religious faith said that God should determine the time for death and not humans. PAS supporters think that terminally ill patients should be able to determine and decide when they should go if the pain is too much to be handled, autonomy. Some argue that if a terminally sick person have the legal right to refuse treatment that will make a live long such as respirators or dialysis, so do physician assisted too because without the respirator or dialysis, death is fast approaching for the patient. Some said that assisted death have always been around but because it is considered illegal in all states but Oregon and Washington, does not allow the physicians to relates it as an option to terminally sick patients that are going through severe pain. Legalization of PAS would help open discussions between physicians and patients. It may also promote better end-of-life care as patients and physicians could more directly address concerns and options (Press, 2007).

Should physicians be allowed by law to assist terminally sick patient to commit suicide upon the request of the patient? Good question Literature Review:
There have been several high-profile cases related to specific incidents of physician-assisted suicide. The first was Dr. Timothy Quill, Varco v. Quill, who was investigated for giving one of his leukemia patient sleeping tablets but not indicted for participating in the suicide of the patient. The second was Dr. Jack Kevorkian who claimed to have assisted over 100 patients in death. He was tried and found not guilty in the court for his actions in the death of 3 patients. In October 1989, he announced a new developed device that...
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