Death with Dignity

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Death with Dignity
Imagine having a terminal form of cancer and having no response to treatment. The physicians say there are only a few months left until death. Does one choose to suffer out the last few months of life with family or end his or her life peacefully, with dignity? Physician assisted suicide should be legal because one should have the choice to end his or her own suffering.

It has been said that physician assisted suicide would change the view of human life and its meaning as life focuses on two major events, birth and death. Some would believe that physician assisted suicide removes compassion from death, in reality physician assisted suicide is compassionate. If the patient wishes he or she may be surrounded by friends and family, who are often the most compassionate people in one’s life, to be present at the time he or she chooses to pass.

Physician assisted suicide, if legalized, would be an option only after treatments were exhausted without success or death was imminent, i.e. fatality within six months. In the instance of constant unrelieved pain from a terminal illness physician assisted suicide would be an option for the patient, if the patient so desired. Physicians would not be actively offering physician assisted suicide as a treatment option. “A survey published [2007] in the Journal of Medical Ethics showed almost half the Dutch doctors questioned tried to avoid euthanasia because it was against their own values or difficult to deal with” (World Federation of Right to Die Societies, 2007)

A definite standard that clearly outlines that physicians do not kill needs to be in place for patients, physicians, and society to maintain physician patient trust (Somerville, 2006). A doctor would still have the same intention with all treatment; whether it be a cold or a possibly fatal illness, to provide the patient with physical comfort during the illness as well as trying to cure the ailment. The fact that the patient may choose to end his or her own life does not mean that a doctor is going to recommend physician assisted suicide to each of his patients. According to The World Federation of Right to Die Societies (2007), “There was a concern that once doctors started using euthanasia they would do it more and more easily. What we see is the opposite because they need emotional rest."

Physician assisted suicide differs from euthanasia in that euthanasia allows for another person to assist in administering the lethal dose of medication. In physician assisted suicide the patient administers the medication themselves but the lethal dose is prescribed by a physician. Typically anyone who aides another in death is prosecuted by the state. Physician assisted suicide should not affect someone in a vegetative state or a person who could not speak for him or herself. Physician assisted suicide should be in place to assist those of sound mind who are obviously suffering and terminal to choose to end his or her own life (Alters, 2007).

There are currently few places where physician assisted suicide is legal. Oregon passed their Death with Dignity Act in 1997. Oregon is the only state in the US that has legalized physician assisted suicide; other states such as Maine, Washington, California and Michigan also polled for death with dignity acts unsuccessfully. The Oregon law is known as The Oregon Death with Dignity Act. The Act states “An adult who is capable, is a resident of Oregon, and has been determined by the attending physician and consulting physician to be suffering from a terminal disease, and who has voluntarily expressed his or her wish to die, may make a written request for medication for the purpose of ending his or her life in a humane and dignified manner” (Death with Dignity Act, 2007). In summary the patient must have been diagnosed terminal by two doctors, made two verbal requests for physician assisted suicide and also make a written request before the physician could even consider...
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