Physician-Assisted Suicide: The Right to Die with Dignity
One of the most controversial topics in society is physician-assisted suicide. The debate is endless in regards to human suffering. There is a solid argument in favor of physician-assisted suicide in terminally ill patients, who are experiencing unbearable pain and have little time left. Research shows that one who is terminally ill and going through excruciating pain has the right to make decisions regarding free choice and human dignity to end one’s life in a merciful way. Research on opposing arguments will show that physician-assisted suicide has negative psychological effects on the doctor along with being morally wrong to take the precious gift of life. Public attitude, education, perception, religious beliefs, family values, and freedom of choice all combine to make the decision of whether physician-assisted suicide is right or wrong, is murder or not murder, one that will truly never be clearly defined. This writer believes that all human beings have the right to be safe and free of pain when one is suffering from a terminal illness. To understand physician-assisted suicide one must know what it is meant by the term. According to Worsnop, this form of suicide allows a physician to help a suffering patient with an incurable disease end one’s life. In 1994, residents in the state of Oregon agreed upon the Death and Dignity Act which allows individual’s suffering from terminal illnesses with less than seven months to live die with dignity (Enouen). In 1997, Oregon became the first state to allow a doctor to order life-ending prescriptions to a patient who is dying and in unbearable pain (Bowden). According to Bowden, Oregon law provides understandable measures by which doctors can help a dying patient while remaining free from prosecution. Physicians in Oregon are only allowed to prescribe a fatal dose of medication to a patient who is psychologically competent, provides a written and oral statement, receives consultation from more than one doctor, and goes through a waiting period (Bowden). No one can submit to physician-assisted suicide but the patient, and the long suffering individual is the only one who can administer the deadly dose of medication (Bowden). In looking at the stipulations Oregon has in place, it is clear that the suffering individual is the one making all the choices regarding freedom of choice. As an American, one has liberties in regards to freedom of choice. According to Bowden, the Declaration of Independence proclaims certain liberties such as the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. People do not need permission to live and no one can hinder a person’s hard work to achieve contentment in one’s life (Bowden). If happiness becomes impossible to achieve because an incurable disease is going to cause pain and suffering leading to an early death then the right to life implies the right to die (Bowden). To say that civilization must give you the say-so to commit suicide would mean one does not have the right to one’s life and it is an obligation to exist by consent and not by choice (Bowden). According to Bowden, the law and society has no right to make choices about one’s life because existence belongs to the individual. As a result of one’s civil liberties, freedom to die with dignity should be recognized. Research shows that terminally ill persons who are not assisted by physicians in ending the pain and suffering may commit suicide in other ways. For example, a Nobel Prize-winning physicist named Percy Bridgman who was suffering from incurable cancer pulled the trigger of a gun to end the excruciating pain (Bowden). According to Bowden, along with leaving gory remains for the family to find the physicist left a note saying, “It is not decent for society to make a man do this to himself and this is probably the last day I will be able to do it myself” (1). If people truly want to...
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