A Good Death: the Ethical Debate of Assisted Suicide

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A Good Death: The Ethical Debate of Assisted Suicide

Vickie L. Mobley

PHIL 200

Instructor Daniel Beteta Jr.

April 4, 2011

A Good Death: The Ethical Debate of Assisted Suicide
Hippocrates the father of modern medicine stated “I will give no deadly medicine to any one if asked, nor suggest any such counsel”: clearly he opposed the practice of euthanasia, known later in modern society as “assisted suicide.” The debate regarding Euthanasia or assisted suicide has been a subject that has been examined, discussed and ethically dissected for thousands of years. Early Roman and Greek cultures regarded euthanasia as an acceptable practice, both societies sharing the opinion that “there is no need to preserve the life of someone who has no interest in living.” Centuries later, as a result of shifting morals and values, assisted suicide has become an issue of the ethics of quality vs. the sanctity of life as well as one that conflicts with religion and politics (Keelan, 2006). When religion and politics are removed from the debate of assisted suicide, what remains is the desire of a terminally ill individual to choose to end their pain and suffering, to die of their own choosing with dignity and peace, to obtain a “good death.” The debate for or against assisted suicide finds its origins based in religious, political and social beliefs and viewpoints. Those who support the practice feel that the terminally ill have every right to choose to end their lives in order to avoid pain and suffering. Additionally they feel that current medical treatments for the terminally ill leave them with no alternative but to endure undo pain and suffering, prolonging a life that will end, regardless of medical practice and jurisprudence. Assisted suicide provides quality of life because it affords one the opportunity to plan and prepare for their eventual death, taking into account their needs as well as the emotional needs of those they love. To plan one’s death is to take control of one’s life to the very end, something advocates of assisted suicide claim allows for dignity and closure. Advocates for assisted suicide will argue the choice to terminate the life of an individual who is dying is an individual choice and should remain so, separate from any religious or political interference or influence: it should not be governed or mandated by laws. Furthermore, they argue that even in the best medical settings, keeping a terminally ill patient alive is only palliative, that is medicine can only reduce pain but not eliminate it all together, that suffering can and will continue. For those who are opposed to assisted suicide, often a religious or spiritual approach is the primary factor in deciding that such a practice violates both Gods and Mans laws with regards to the valuing of human life. Additionally they argue that only God has the right to take a human life and by choosing assisted suicide the patient and loved ones will not be spared any pain or suffering (Lynn, Harrold, 2006). There is the belief or hope that advances in medical science have produced drugs and medical therapies that allow for a good quality of life for the terminally ill, affording them comfort and more time with loved ones before the end comes. Perhaps society’s opposition is actually rooted more in the emotional: under the best circumstances when a family member, friend or loved one is dying, the inevitability of their loss and the grieving that goes on long after a life has ended is difficult to process and prepare. It is human nature to begin the grieving process after someone has died, not typically while a dying person is still alive. Ironically we want to shield or spare a terminally ill loved one the anguish of seeing our own grief while denying them the opportunity to shield or spare themselves from any or all anguish that can be resolved with assisted suicide....
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