SOC120: Introduction to Ethics & Social Responsibility
April 27, 2012
Physician Assisted Suicide
Physician assisted suicide has been an ethically intense subject to many people for decades. The U.S. sees this as an illegal and immoral way to end one’s life while many other countries find it is perfectly legal and moral. The determination of its true standing is one that will probably take many more decades to fully understand. Physician assisted suicide, or euthanasia has been a very serious debate for at least a decade now. It was brought to the main stage in 1998 with the arrest of Dr. Kevorkian, whom helped at least 100 terminally ill patients commit suicide. If this was actually morally and ethically wrong are very hard questions for some and a very easy for others. If someone is terminally ill or really just does not belong in this world, then who really gets to decide if they get to live or die. The American College of Physicians along with many political and religious groups all finds this to raise serious ethical and other concerns. The definition of assisted suicide is an action which an individual helps another person voluntarily bring about his or her own death. Voluntarily is the key word in that definition. The definition of voluntarily is of one’s own accord or by free choice. If it is indeed free choice then the doctor or person helping you out is not killing but merely mercy killing or committing the act of euthanasia. When one takes their animal to be euthanized, neither the owner nor the vets is charged of murder or animal cruelty leading to the argument that if you can euthanize an animal then you can do so to a human. The first step in closing the legal gap for treating animals and humans at the end stages of life similarly is subscribing to a theory of legal rights that would allow us to do so. According to the Will Theory of legal rights discussed in the article "Do animals and dead people have legal rights?" by Matthew H. Kramer, a complete application of the Will Theory would imply that: Animals, infants, comatose people, senile people, and dead people do not have any legal rights. Such creatures are not competent to form or express their wishes with the elementary degree of precision and reliability that would be necessary for the full-fledged exercise of any legal power of enforcement/waiver… In short, they do not have any legal rights, because they are incapable of being right-holders. (Kramer 29 - 54)
Even though humans have rights some cannot express their free will due to being in a coma or other medical situation that renders them incapable of speaking their wishes. It then is decided by the next of kin or by a physician if no family is left to decide on their behalf. In this instance neither the family nor doctor is arrested for murder when both are “assisting” in the fate of the person in the hospital bed. In the case of a coma patient neither party truly knows the state of the patient. Sometimes they pull out of it even though the most of the time doctors family members give up after a few days or weeks. In a news report by ABC News in 2007, “Ramirez, 36, suffered traumatic brain injury in a May 30 car accident, which put him in a coma. He had been in this minimally-conscious state for a little more than a week when doctors informed his wife that he may never recover and she made the decision to have his feeding and water tubes removed.”(Childs,2007) The Ramirez family sought council to override the wife’s decision and when the tubes were put back in within a few days he regained consciousness. If the family did not get involved then the wife would have indeed killer her husband and the doctors would have had a hand in it. My son was born preterm. He made it four days in the NICU before the doctors brought us devastating news that he was a stage four internal bleed that could not be...