A Persuasive Essay
Instructor Elena Fitzpatrick
November 20, 2008
Sigmund Freud died September 23, 1939. He fought jaw and throat cancer for over fifteen years before asking his doctor to help end his suffering. He died of a physician-assisted morphine overdose. He was of sound mind, if not body, and made an informed decision regarding his life and ultimately his death. Freud is a classic example of physician-assisted suicide. He was a patient who fought his malady for years, and after failing to be cured, sought to end his suffering in a legal, controlled manner. As human beings we deserve the right to decide for ourselves in a certain death situation when and how to go. When a person’s only options are living with a loss of trust in health care professionals, dignity, and quality of life, or attempting to commit suicide by himself, where is he supposed to turn for assistance and guidance? Why should he be forced to linger indefinitely and continue to suffer so that the government can feel it has done the decent, moral thing? Physician-assisted suicide should be legalized and is a decision that should be made by a patient and his physician, not by a judge and an appeals board. In physician-assisted suicide, a physician gives a terminally ill patient a prescription for a lethal dose of narcotics to be self administered when the times comes that the effects of his disease are no longer controllable or tolerable. As of now, it is legal only in the state of Oregon. It has long been disputed for many reasons. Among them are religion, public opinion, and how to govern and restrict the process. As there is supposed to be a division of Church and State, religion should play no part in making this decision. According to a poll, “61% of people answered ‘yes’ to the question ‘Shall the law allow terminally ill adult patients the voluntary informed choice to obtain a Suicide 3
physician’s prescription for drugs to end life?’” (Fraser & Walters, 2002, p.3). In a separate poll “60% of physicians said they should be able to help terminal patients and 7% admitted to having done so” (Fiesta, 1997, p 3).
When it comes to health care choices, people usually turn to their doctors for help in guiding them in the right direction making these decisions. Doctors are expected to have compassion for their patients in their time of pain and suffering. Suffering means more than just pain; there are other physical and psychological trials and tribulations. It is not always possible to relieve a patient’s suffering, the mental anguish that comes with waiting and wondering, and the humiliation at their condition. Physician-assisted suicide can be a compassionate response to unendurable suffering. According to Robert T. Hall, author of “Final Act; Sorting Out the Ethics of Physician-Assisted Suicide” (1994), patients want to trust their doctors not to abandon them in their most desperate time of need, when dying is their best option. Hall believes the medical field will earn more respect overall if it agrees to help ease the dying process rather than leave patients to their own devices (p. 4).
In the final months of a terminally ill patient’s life, there is usually a sharp decline in the patient’s ability to care for himself. When this happens, these tasks often fall upon the patient’s spouse, a family member, or a close friend. These tasks range from the mundane (i.e. laundry, cooking, cleaning, and shopping), to intimate necessities that include bathing, tooth brushing and assisting with bodily function clean up. These situations can be extremely embarrassing for the patient, making an already degrading Suicide 4
situation that much more humiliating. No one should ever be forced to remain in a position in which his...