Physician Assisted Suicide and Euthanasia
Jack Kevorkian also known as “Dr. Death,” a name given to him due to his efforts in helping over 130 terminally ill people commit suicide, was one of the first physicians to make euthanasia and physicians-assisted suicide (PAS) what it is today. Since the 1990’s his methods have been criticized by many due to evidence showing that some patients were not terminally ill. He was a pioneer and it is due to his efforts that PAS is becoming more accepted today. He invented different devices to perform PAS, note Dr. Kevorkian was not the one to “flip the switch” that began this lethal process, which took only six minutes; instead it was the patient, aware of the timer that would release potassium chloride after they became unconscious, who started the process. Dr. Kevorkian wanted to give people the option choose between living in pain or putting an end to it in their own terms. This example attracts several issues regarding the morality of PAS and euthanasia. PAS and euthanasia are two different terms yet many regard them as the same in moral discussions. Euthanasia is the term used for mercy killing and is not the same as suicide. There are different forms of euthanasia, which are passive or active and voluntary, involuntary or non-voluntary. The difference between voluntary, involuntary and non-voluntary euthanasia is exactly what it sounds like, voluntary patients grant permission to perform euthanasia, involuntary patients refuse permission to perform euthanasia, and non-voluntary patients are unknown because they are not in a conscious state to grant or deny permission. Voluntary euthanasia on the other hand is with the consent of the patient to end his or her own life. The difference between active and passive euthanasia has to do with how the patient dies. Active implies that a specific action from the hands of the physician kills the patient, such as a medication. Passive euthanasia or withholding treatment, is when the patient knowingly dies from natural causes because he or she has denied medical treatment that could have kept him or her alive longer. Many see passive euthanasia as something acceptable because no person or medical treatment in particular can be held accountable for the death of a patient, only natural death is responsible. There is debate about which of these labels PSA falls under. Some argue it is a form of passive voluntary-euthanasia because the physician is not physically assisting the patient with her death. However, a prescribed lethal dosage of medication is not a natural death for anyone; therefore others view PAS as active-voluntary euthanasia. A third group sees physicians assisted suicide in a category of its own because the patient, takes it upon themselves to commit the actual act instead of relying on the hands of someone else. The question and main aim that will be addressed is whether PAS and euthanasia are morally permissible. I will first present a couple of arguments for and against these treatments. After discussing both sides of the argument, I will present my conclusion on the morality of physicians-assisted suicide and euthanasia. There are many arguments today that oppose physicians-assisted suicide and euthanasia. Some of the arguments are specific to the United States because they depend on the structural limitations of our health care system. In this first chapter I will examine the two most prominent stances that argue against PAS and euthanasia. I will focus on Hippocratic Oath that every physician must follow. Then on how our society can provide better alternatives for end-of-life treatment. For many people in the United States there is an important moral distinction between the two terms ‘killing’ and ‘letting die’. The term ‘killing’ has a negative societal connotation. According to philosophers Gert, Culver and Clouser, killing means, ‘causing death’1 and is not morally permissible, with the...
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