Assisted Suicide is Wrong
A Saskatchewan farmer, Robert Latimer, was sentenced to life in prison last year for the 1993 second-degree murder of his severely disabled daughter, Tracy. He asphyxiated her with exhaust from his pick-up (Heinrich).
Assisted Suicide is somewhat related to Euthanasia. The word Euthanasia comes from the Greek language: eu meaning "good" and thanatos meaning "death". The meaning of the word has evolved from "good death" . It now refers to the act of ending a person's life, at their request.
There are two types of Euthanasia. The first, Passive Euthanasia is the death of a person by removing life support equipment, stop taking medication, or not eating and drinking which allows the person to dehydrate or starve to death. These acts are preformed on suffering people so that natural death will happen sooner. The second type of Euthanasia is Active Euthanasia. It is the death of a person through a direct action such as an over dose of pills or a lethal injection.
Assisted Suicide is morally wrong and should be against the law. Killing someone used to be called "murder," now it is "assisted suicide." The Roman Catholic, Lutheran and Episcopal churches have made formal statements that oppose doctor-assisted suicide. They want it to remain that people would not have on option to choose an early death. Many faith groups within Christian, Muslim, Jewish and other religions believe that God gives life and therefore only God should take it away. They feel that we are all stewards of our own lives, but that suicide should never be an option.
In June of 1997, the Supreme Court rendered a decision on assisted suicide. They found that the average American has no constitutional right to a physician- assisted death. The vote was 9 to 0, an unusual, unanimous decision. On the other hand, the court implied that there is no constitutional bar that would prevent a state from passing a law which permits physician-assisted suicide (Internet).
"Assisted suicide is not an act of caring, it is an act of killing," says Dr. Michael H. Levy, M.D. , Ph.D., at the Fox Chase Cancer Center in Philadelphia. If all people had access to skilled pain management, along with psychological and spiritual support, assisted suicide would not be necessary (Saevri).
Instead of assisted suicide, many people choose hospice care. Hospice care is a program that provides care for patients at home, where a nurse, doctor, social worker, chaplain and volunteers come in during the week to help care for the patients. This helps the patient and family to say good bye and make plans and adjustments.
According to Dr. Sherwin Nuland, a surgeon and author in California, " Five out of six of the reasons a patient says he wants to die are something a medical establishment can deal with or treat." Other studies show that pain is not the main reason the dying ask for a doctor's help in committing suicide. A majority of the dying said that they were afraid of being a burden (Shapiro).
Attitudes have changed during the 1900's. Before then most of the deaths were children who died of infections diseases. Most people died at home, surrounded by their families. People were familiar with dying and saw it as a natural part of life. Then vaccines, better medicines and improved hospitals enabled people to live longer. Most deaths now occur in hospitals, many young people have never been present when someone died. This lack of experience makes it difficult for many people to talk openly about death or to be with a dying person.
Dr. Jack Kevorkian, a doctor in Michigan, is known as Dr. Death. He has assisted over 40 people into early death. He has been on trial many times, but so far has not been convicted for these deaths. Dr. Kevorkian says," The government has no business telling you how much you have to suffer before you die" (Sheed).
Views on assisted suicide are different around the world. Holland is the only place in the western world where physician-assisted suicide is permitted. There are about 3,000 cases a year. The Northern territory of Australia is the only place in the world where Euthanasia (in the senses of active administration of lethal drugs by a doctor) has ever been legal. Assisted suicide was approved by Colombia's Constitutional Court in June 1997.
Many people say that the pain that terminally ill people have can be controlled, so that there is no need for doctor-assisted suicide. However, millions of people in North America do not have access to pain management. Millions do not have health insurance; many doctors withhold painkillers because they are afraid their patients will become addicted to the drugs. People are afraid if assisted suicide is made legal, some people will be pressured into dying by their families. Other people ask if the expensive treatment of terminally ill people, in order to lengthen their lives for a few weeks, is worth the cost. The money that is being used on the terminally ill could be used for prenatal care, infant care, or to improve the long-term quality of life for others.
There is an association of both physicians and non physicians working for control of assisted suicide. It is important for all people to know the alternative options to assisted suicide. This non profit association is working to spread free information to people with chronic or terminal illnesses about the alternatives instead of assisted suicide, such as pain management and hospice care. Uncontrolled assisted suicide can lead to serious consequences (Internet).
In 1995, the Dutch government was forced to change its euthanasia laws because patients were being put to death without their consent.
In America, pulling the plug for the dying is permitted. Prescribing death-dealing drugs for those who are able to decide is not permitted. When people become doctors they take the "Hippocratic oath". It says "I will give no deadly medicine to anyone if asked." How can assisted suicide become legal?
" Association for Control of Assisted Suicide." Internet. Nov. 23, 1997 http://firstname.lastname@example.org
"Death." World Book Encyclopedia. Vol. 5. World Book, Inc., Chicago Il. 1882.
Heinrich, Jeff. " Medical symposium discusses legalizing assisted suicide."
The Gazette. January 30, 1996, Internet. Nov. 02, 1997
Hippocrates. World Book Encyclopedia. Vol. 9. World Book, Inc., Chicago Il. 1882.
"EUTHANASIA AND PHYSICIAN ASSISTED SUICIDE: ALL SIDES." Internet. Nov. 02, 1997 http://www.religioustolerance.org/euthanas.htm
Krauthammer, Charles. "First and Last, Do No Harm." Time. April 15, 1996, Pg. 83.
Saveri, Gabrielle. "An Ethicist Insists Patients Need Help Living Not Dying."
People Weekly. May 22, 1995, Pg.91
Shapiro, Joseph P. "Expanding a right to die."U.S. News & World Report. April 15, 1996, Pg. 63.
Sheed, Wilfred. "Dr. Death, a 90's Celebrity." Time. June 3, 1996. Pg. 80. [ return to top ]
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updated 12 August 2009