The Legalization of Physician Assisted Suicide

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Abstract

The process of dying can be slow, painful, and undignified when you have an untreatable disease. The ethical dilemma of legalizing physician assisted suicide has been fought over for many years. Physician assisted suicide, which is different from euthanasia, is when terminally ill patients commit suicide facilitated by means of a lethal dosage of prescribed drugs which have been provided by a physician who has talked to the patient and is aware of how them plan to use them. (Merriam-Webster, 2011) In this paper, arguments in favour of physician assisted suicide are explored, as well, some arguments against are addressed and refuted. The points which are analyzed are as follows; since the criminal code stipulates that it is a criminal offence to assist someone in committing suicide, a patient who is terminal and does not possess the ability to take their own life, this code then deprives these people of their section 7 Charter rights which states that everyone has the right to life and the right to take it away. Secondly, when patients cannot confide in their physicians, it is much more likely for their family to need to aid in their suicide. This then puts their family in grave risk of jail. Lastly, it has been quoted that many physicians already secretly assist some terminal patients in committing suicide. Physician assisted suicide should be legalized in every country.

Everyday many terminally ill people are faced with very difficult decisions regarding how they want to continue or end their painful life. When a person has come to terms with their decision to end their life and is unable to due to disability or sickness, they may try to turn to physicians in order to receive assistance in the termination of their life. While at the moment in Canada physician assisted suicide is illegal, the controversy around the topic is of great debate. Many people and religious groups believe that it is wrong, no matter what your state of health, to end your life before it is meant to and to ask a doctor to aid them; while others think it should be up to the individual when and how they would like to end their life. Physician assisted suicide can be appropriate and should be legalized for all people who are suffering from a degenerative, extremely painful, or fatal condition. The patients in this situation are being deprived of their right to life, their family and friends are faced with life-altering decisions in order to free their loved ones from pain, and many physicians already secretly aiding in suicide illegally.

Every individual has the right to life and in turn, has the right to deny it and when faced with illnesses that greatly increases their morbidity, one should be allowed to get assistance. As shown in section 7 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, “Everyone has the right to life, liberty and security of the person and the right not to be deprived thereof except in accordance with the principles of fundamental justice” (Daina, 2007). In September of 1993 Sue Rodriguez, a 42-year-old woman suffering from the terminal illness of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) (appendix 1), appealed to the court to have a qualified physician legally aid in the termination of her life by abolishing section 241 of the Criminal Code which states that it is a criminal offence to assist a person in committing suicide. Mrs. Rodriguez argued that even though it is illegal to assist someone in committing suicide, since she cannot do so without help, this law denies her Charter rights (Smith, 1993). The Supreme Court of Canada in a five to four vote denied Mrs. Rodrigues’ claim, because of this close voting, it proves that there is still much controversy over this issue. Shortly after her loss in the courtroom in 1995, she died by terminating her own life with the assistance of an anonymous physician. Much has changed since 1993; society's view on physician assisted suicide has evolved. In...
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