Physician Assisted Suicide

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Emily Larson
English 102
Dr. Dietrich
Long Research Paper
Assisted Suicide
In the medical field there are massive amounts of treatments for various diseases. Some treatments are going to help the patient feel more comfortable; however, some are going to counteract the problem, and others are going to help kill the patient. Physician assisted suicide is defined by medterms.com as “the voluntary termination of one's own life by administration of a lethal substance with the direct or indirect assistance of a physician.” Any person wishing to undergo assisted suicide in Oregon must be at least 18 years of age and have a terminal illness. This illness must be within its final stages and leave the patient with less than six months to live. Within these six months a patient can request the treatment, but must orally request twice, and provide a written request once as well. In order to receive this treatment, however, a second physician must give a second opinion on the length the patient has to live. In her article, “Physician-Assisted Suicide: Compassionate Liberation or Murder?” Vicki Lachman talks about the option that patients have to request a lethal dosage of medication. She explores the moral conscience of nurses, the ethical and moral issues, and the legal issues that surround a patient’s request for lethal dosages.

Similarly in her article, “Physician-Assisted Suicide: Development, Status, and Nursing Perspectives,” Theresa F. Rose gives background on the history of physician assisted suicide. She investigates the perspectives that nurses have on the issue and their personal views on the subject. Joris Gielen and his coworkers show a different angle in their article, “Religion and Nurses’ Attitudes to Euthanasia and Physician Assisted Suicide.” Their goal was to find the viewpoint of nurses on physician assisted suicide in regards to their religious beliefs. There are many different viewpoints on physician assisted suicide and they come from many different sources. Although physician assisted suicide may seem like a personal liberation from suffering for the patient, it is emotionally stressing on healthcare professionals.

Within the healthcare spectrum the nursing staff is the closest to the patient and must deal with the moral feelings caused by physician assisted suicide. Nursing staff are going to have the closest contact with patients and their families, and therefore, will become attached to the families. This makes it difficult to live with such a decision. According to Lachman, “nurses who frequently care for dying patients did tend to be less supportive of euthanasia.”(124) Personally I can say that caring for a dying patient is very difficult. The patient may be struggling and having trouble breathing or swallowing, but they are still hanging on. In this case it is the nursing staff that tries to make the patient as comfortable as possible, but there is no thought of helping them die. There is a conscious thought to always have the patient’s comfort first place, and any other behavior would go against the moral standard set by many medical professionals. Assisting with suicide also violates the Code for Nurses with Interpretative Statements as well as any other ethical code put into place by established nursing associations.

Doctors also have a moral issue in dealing with physician assisted suicide. Although the nurses generally have more contact with the patients, the doctors are still very present with patients. While nurses have the connection with patients that would be very difficult to harm, physicians have a very difficult job as well. The physician has to fulfill the wishes of the patient and prescribe the needed medication. This in itself seems unethical because the doctor is prescribing a lethal dosage of medication that will ultimately kill their patient. Furthermore, doctors must recite an oath that ensures they are only practicing to help patients, not harm them. The Hippocratic...
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