The argument that has sent the world into a tailspin is whether or not people suffering from terminal or excruciatingly painful illness have the right to take their own lives by way of physician-assisted suicide. Proponents contend that what one does with one's life is of no consequence to anyone else -- that it is humane to allow someone to be relieved of constant – if not unbearable – discomfort. On the other hand, critics claim that the act of euthanasia is nothing more than a fabricated form of murder. Indeed, both sides have pertinent points when it comes to understanding and assessing the conflict, but euthanasia supporters have a significantly stronger argument when considering the bigger picture. Clearly, physician-assisted suicide is not only the right thing to do for someone seeking such a decision, but it is ethical and humane for a physician to abide by the patient's wish.
The primary focus of conflict with regard to physician-assisted suicide is whether or not it is ethically sound. To determine what is ethically sound, however, one must first define the meaning of ethics. This may appear rather simple to achieve on the outset, but one would soon find that defining such a concept is an extremely personal interpretation. There is no black and white definition of ethics, because each and every person subscribes to his or her own value system; therefore, placing a blanket definition upon the ethical implications of physician-assisted suicide is no different than doing the same with religion or politics: one size does not fit all. To ascertain the ethical nature of euthanasia is to find out what it means to the person requesting the procedure. One will find that to these people, who have suffered terribly at the hands of debilitating and terminal illnesses, the ethical attributes of physician-assisted suicide are far more forgiving than to those who stand by and ignorantly criticize.
In determining the ethical nature of physician-assisted suicide, one cannot make such a judgment without first understanding what compels someone to want to take his or her own life. Until one is placed in such a position, it is not possible to comprehend the unbearable pain and suffering terminally ill patients endure. Making the decision to kill oneself is one of the most "highly emotional, value-laden, and complex events" (Darr 4) in any person's life. To be sure, this is one of the "most compelling arguments" (Kowalski 45) that supports physician-assisted suicide, as well as also the most convincing. However, in light of contemporary technology and the ability to successfully and efficiently address issues of severe pain, critics contend that it is unnecessary for patients to consider euthanasia as an alternative to relieving their ongoing suffering. Yet even with the advances of modern science to help alleviate the discomfort of terminal illness, there are still situations where medication is not the whole answer (Kowalski 45). Granted, the pain may subside temporarily, but the patient realizes that the relief does not lead to a permanent remission; rather, it only masks the inevitable.
In dealing with those who are terminally ill and want to take their own life, it is important to remember that physical pain is not the only kind of suffering they endure. Sometimes the emotional devastation is more to bear than the physical side; without the mind remaining strong for the body, it is very difficult to effect positive change. Patients who are without family do not have a lifeline to encourage them to live. They have no means of support for the loneliness, emptiness, misery and hopelessness that are often associated with terminal illness, nor do they feel as though they can continue without such support. A person who has been left in the care of a cold and lonely facility has no motivation to fight for even one more day, because...