Is Physician Assisted Suicide Ethical?

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Is Physician Assisted Suicide Ethical?
Theresa Anderson
SOC 120 Introduction to Ethics & Social Responsibility
Instructor: David Jung
November 25, 2012

Physician assisted suicide, is this an ethical procedure? Many feel strongly on both sides of this issue. Some states such as Washington and Oregon have made Physician assisted suicide legal. Other states such as Michigan and Massachusetts have put the issue to a vote and the voters have turned down the option. What exactly is physician assisted suicide? According to, the definition is a situation in which a physician provides the means of death for a gravely ill patient .Dehal and Levy explain, “The Death With Dignity Act (DWDA) allows mentally competent, terminally ill patients who are over 18 years of age and residents of the state of Oregon to obtain a prescription for a lethal dosage of medication to end their own life in case their suffering becomes unbearable. Patients eligible for the act must make one written and two oral requests over a period of 15 days. The prescribing physician and a consulting physician have to confirm the diagnosis and the prognosis. If either doctor believes the patient's mental competence is impaired, he must be referred for a psychiatric or psychological evaluation. The prescribing physician is required to inform the patient of potential alternatives to PAS, such as comfort care, hospice care, and pain control.” The positives of Physician assisted suicide is that people who are at the end of their lives can forgo the incredible pain that can happen with many diseases. Health care cost can be reduced. Doctors and Nurses would have more time to save those who are going to live or those who wish to try to survive. Family and friends have a chance to say their good byes. Organs can be saved to help others. Patients feel they have a choice, and may not be forced to try other ways to diminish their pain. The negatives include that many feel physician assisted suicide goes against the doctors' Hippocratic Oath. It goes against many religious believes. Patients may give up on life to early. Doctors can abuse the process. Government and insurance companies may put undue pressure on doctors to assist in the suicide to save money. D Harris, B Richard, and P Khanna state in the Post Graduate Medical Journal that, “In the state of Oregon, where the 1997 Death with Dignity Act legalised assisted dying, only 60% of people who get a “lethal” prescription actually use it. It is suggested that the knowledge that assisted dying is available may itself aid wellbeing and reassurance (of the facility to control death)” (Harris,Richard,&Khanna, 2006). With so many pros and cons on physician assisted suicide, it is hard to decide how to make an ethical decision on this issue. When deciding if physician assisted suicide is ethical there are many ways to discuss the issue. The “utilitarianism argues that, given a set of choices, the act we should choose is that which produces the best results for the greatest number affected by that choice” (Mosser, 2010, Ch1 Pg7). When using the utilitarianism principal to decide if physician assisted suicide is ethical, you would have to decide if the assisted suicide is helpful or hurtful to the majority of people. Most people who use physician assisted suicide are helped by this procedure. Those people are choosing to end their lives. One of the rules for assisting in the suicide is that the patient has to consent to the end of life help. The families of the patient are helped because; they do not have to watch a family member go through the pain of their last days. It cuts the cost the family members end up with after the loved one passes. The family members know when the death is going to happen. They have time to say their final goodbyes and have time to prepare for the burial of the ill loved one. The doctors and nurses are not trying to save this patient or manage the pain so; they are...
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