Should Doctors Help Patients Die?

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Physician assisted death has always been a controversial issue in the United States that some view as a moral, ethical, religious, and legal issue. In any discussion about physician assisted suicide it is important that the terminology is clear. Physician assisted death is the procedure that a patient dies as a result of the voluntary ingestion of a fatal dose of medication that a physician has prescribed for that purpose. Assisted death is distinguished from euthanasia in that it necessarily involved an individual who is capable physically of taking his or her life and does so with means provided by another person. Physician assisted death was legalized through Oregon’s death with Dignity Act in 1994 and enacted in 1997. This act allows terminally ill patients to obtain and use prescriptions to self-administer lethal doses of medications. Although it is still rare in the state, between fourteen and forty-six people die each year by physician assisted death (PAD). Oregon’s Death with Dignity Act allows us to evaluate the law assessing the arguments towards whether or not physician assisted death should be legalized. Most of Oregon’s health’s professionals may agree with the patient’s request but they lack intimate knowledge on their values and reasoning for their choices. The organization, Compassion and Choices of Oregon, is dedicated to expanding the choices at the end of life, and offers guidance and support to those who qualify for physician assisted death. Compassions and Choices of Oregon, evaluates feedback from family members to obtain information on why they felt their family members decided to fulfill their PAD request. According to families results, with the top median score, the most important reasons patients pursued PAD request, patients wanted to control the circumstance of death and die at home, they worried about loss of dignity, future loss of independence, quality of life, and self-care ability. Ganzini, Goy, & Dobscha propose if there is better end of life care in homes helping patients maintain control, independence, and self-care in a home environment this may be en effective means of addressing some serious request for physician assisted deaths. Interventions can help patients determine if they can deal with symptoms and make them feel more comfortable helping them to make their decision. Some argue that patients are depressed; lack social support, and vulnerable groups turn to PAD as their only last option. Although the Death with Dignity Act empowers individuals to control the timing of their death, physician assisted death still remains a controversial topic in today’s society that raises many ethical questions. Choosing their circumstances of death.

The Oregon act went through many obstacles when implementing the law to make safeguards to ensure that the law provides requirements so that it will not be abused. A major concern is about laws allowing physician assisted death is that they would open floodgates of people requesting such assistance, therefore causing a “slippery slop effect”. “The Health Division Report indicated that in 1998,23 people received such prescriptions, 15 of whom used them in hastening death during a person in which approximately 28,900 people died in Oregon. These numbers suggest that only an extremely small percentage of people (.05% or 5 people in 100,000) who dies in Oregon received assistance under the act. “ (Batavia, 2000). Patients who are applying for the use of physician-assisted death will have to follow strict regulations and have physicians, therapist, and family members consent to the choice of the patient. All patients and health care professionals have to commit that they will be in full compliance with the law and follow the procedures. Debates over the PAD also often warn of a “slippery slope” predicting abuse of vulnerable groups such as poor people, minorities, depression, women, and uninsured individuals. Depression can often develop among...
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