Physician Assisted Suicide

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Physician Assisted Suicide
Michelle D. Latham
Ashford University
Informal Logic
PHI 103
Professor Krough
March 17, 2013

Physician Assisted Suicide
Physician assisted suicide, to legalize it or not? The debate about whether or not a physician should be able to help a patient die with dignity on his or her own terms is a very touchy subject. Physician assisted suicide and euthanasia should be legalized in the United States, even though many people believe, it too be unethical and morally wrong. Physician assisted suicide is defined as, “the practice of providing a competent patient with a prescription for medication for the patient to use with the primary intention of ending his or her own life,” (Meier et al., 1998, p. 1194). Active Euthanasia is defined as, “the practice of injecting a patient with a lethal dose of medicine with the primary intention of ending the patient’s life, which may or may not be voluntary,” (Meier et al., 1998, p. 1194). The decision to prolong or not to prolong the life of a terminally ill human being is most definitely a challenge to our ethical code. In today’s society, doctor and patients are being forced to look at life and death in a different way. The rapid technology changes and new medical discoveries have brought to the surface once again, the ethical issue of the right to die with dignity. Physicians have always been confronted with life and death choices. These difficult choices are a part of being a doctor. A substantial proportion of physicians in the United States surveyed report that they receive requests for physician assisted suicide and euthanasia, and about 6% have complied with such request at least once, N Engl J Med 1998;338:1193-201, (Meier et al., 1998, p. 1193). According to author and professor of philosophy and religious studies at Brookdale Community College in New Jersey, Robert Mellert, medical ethics involves two opposing theories; the first is the “curing tradition” theory and second, the “caring approach,” (Mellert, 1997, p. 17-18). Mellert says that the curing tradition is about the approach to medical ethics that argues the role of medicine is to heal, working in agreement with the person’s right to die with dignity. He includes that caring would violate the nature of medicine itself. Caring is important but must be seen as a subservient to the primary task of curing, (1997). In this morality, human life is ultimate and all ordinary measures must be taken in order to preserve it. In this type of care, it is saying that, God is the only authority in this approach and He is the only one that can decide the time of death. Ultimately, the physicians are the primary decision makers because they are knowledgeable about the relevant medical procedures and their patients put their trust in them to make the best choices for their care and comfort. According to, Professor Robert B. Mellert, the “caring approach” refers to the second theory in medical ethics concerning physician-assisted suicide which is a more situational or utilitarian method, (1997). A nineteenth-century philosopher, Jeremy Bentham best describes it as, “the maximization of pleasure and the minimization of pain.” Most human beings seek pleasure and want to avoid pain, (Mellert, 1997). In the “caring” model of medicine, it is the role of the physician to minimize the pain in their patients. It is very important to analyze all possible outcomes. The patient should be allowed to determine the morally preferred procedure in hastening his/her own death. The right to die with dignity; is it a mercy killing or murder? According to authors Derek Humphrey and Ann Wickett, in August of 1985, Fredrick C. Wagner, lay in a nursing home, suffering from Alzheimer’s disease and gangrene. His friend, Dr. John Kraai injected three large doses of saline into the chest cavity of Frank, thus killing him, (1986). Was this an act of mercy or murder? Even though Dr. John...
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