A Stand Against Assisted Suicide
Assisted suicide is a highly controversial topic. Assisted suicide is when, upon request, a doctor prescribes a lethal dose of medication to a terminally ill patient so that the patient can kill him or herself. In other words, a doctor provides the means for a patient to commit suicide. A form of assisted suicide is euthanasia. Euthanasia is when the doctor intentionally kills the patient with the intentions of ending the patient’s suffering; mercy killing. Although there have been many Supreme Court rulings on assisted suicide and the practice of euthanasia, it is legal in some states like Oregon and Washington. The practice of assisted suicide is done under the term “terminally ill.” There is no concrete interpretation of the phrase. Therefore, the phrase terminally ill can be interrupted according to which ever definition works best for us. Assisted suicide also causes mistrust between patients and doctors, unnecessary deaths, and involuntary suicide. Assisted suicide has a profound affect on family relationships, doctor-patient relationships, and ethical standards because of the mistrust it creates and the controversy over the issue. Assisted suicide and the use of euthanasia should be outlawed everywhere in the United States, not just in some states. Because euthanasia is a form of assisted suicide, I will, for the purpose of this paper, address the terms “assisted suicide” and “euthanasia” as one practice. The most important argument for banning assisted suicide may be that of misdiagnoses. In a 2006 New York Times article, journalist David Leonhardt said that “Studies of autopsies have shown that doctors seriously misdiagnose fatal illnesses about 20 percent of the time” (Leonhardt). Harvard hematologist Jerome Groopman found that “80% of medical mistakes are the result of predictable mental traps, or cognitive errors… [While] only 20% are due to technical mishaps” (Gorman). In other words, 80% of medical errors are due to the doctors themselves and not to technological issues. With doctors misdiagnosing patients at this astounding rate, it is inevitable that some patients will be misdiagnosed with a terminally ill disease, become depressed about their diagnoses, and think their pain is uncontrollable. This may leads to a request for assisted suicide under false pretences. Not only will these be tragic events, but doctors who misdiagnose are bound to be charged with murder since their diagnoses led to the intentional death of their patient. Erik Van Tongerloo wrote an article against the use of euthanasia on the basis of a true and personal experience: When I was 10 years old I was involved in an accident and was in a coma for 5 weeks. The doctors told my parents I had no chance to survive and they treated me because it was their duty. If euthanasia was allowed maybe I [would] not [be] alive anymore. I am still alive and most of my health problems are cured now. (qtd. in Tongerloo) In Tongerloo’s story, the doctors made a devastating decision prematurely that could have changed the life of Tongerloo and his family forever. Like Tongerloo, we should ask ourselves the same question: If euthanasia was a common practice at that time, would he still be alive? I would like to think so, but we cannot predict what would have been. We can only prevent what can happen in the future by banning the use of assisted suicide in the United States.
Assisted suicide should also be outlawed because of the open interpretation of the phrase “terminally ill.” In other words, “terminal” can be defined in many different ways. Jack Kevorkian, once deemed “Doctor Death,” “defines terminal illness as any disease that curtails life even for a day” (Sarkar). There are many diseases or conditions that can “curtail life even for a day.” Diabetic patients can slip into temporary comas if they are not careful in treating themselves. Nonetheless, they are not good candidates for assisted suicide. In contrast...
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