Physician-Assisted Suicide - an Utilitarian Perspective

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Physician-assisted suicide is “the voluntary termination of one's own life by administration of a lethal substance with the direct or indirect assistance of a physician. Physician-assisted suicide is 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” (MedicineNet.com, 2004). Many times this ethical issue arises when a terminally-ill patient with and incurable illness, whom is given little time to live, usually less than six-months, has requested a physician’s assistance in terminating one’s life. This practice with the terminally ill is known as euthanasia. Physician-assisted suicide and euthanasia is a controversial topic that brings up many ethical issues and the rights of the patients the physicians serve. Many questions arise when this topic is discussed. For example, does an individual have the right to end their life, if prolonging it will only cause more pain and suffering? Should families, who do not want to lose a loved one, be allowed to prolong the pain in the life of a terminally ill family member so they do not experience loss? Is this more or less ethical than letting the person die? This paper will examine why terminally-ill patients should be allowed to make decisions regarding their care and their life. This paper will examine a utilitarian perspective on physician-aided suicide, which provides a solid argument for allowing physician-assisted suicides in certain circumstances.

“Utilitarianism is a moral principle that holds that the morally right course of action in any situation is the one that produces the greatest balance of benefits over harms for everyone affected (Andre & Velasquez, n.d.). How would utilitarian thinkers view physician-assisted suicide? Utilitarians would assess each individual situation and determine the right course of action which is relative to the unique circumstances. For the utilitarians, the...
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