Euthanasia and Physician-Assisted Suicide

Essay by yac8680 September 2004

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Physician-assisted suicide has always been a controversial topic, and over the years, debate has intensified in the United States over whether or not it should be legal. The campaign to legalize physician-assisted suicide has been under way since the 1970s and recently began to gain steam. At the present time, the practice of physician-assisted suicide is legal in only one state (Oregon) in the United States. Patients that have decided that they want to die will either attempt to do it themselves or will find a doctor hat is willing to assist them illegally. Instead of forcing patients to resort to illegal, and sometimes unsuccessful, means of dying, physician-assisted suicide should be made a legal option for patients with terminal illnesses.

It is a patient's right to have control over his own body. Decisions about time and the circumstances of death are very personal. Just as competent people have the right to choose for themselves the course of their life, so should they have the freedom and choice to decide how and when to end their life.

A complete prohibition of assisted death excessively limits personal liberty, and undermines a physician's duty to have respect for a patient's autonomy.

Moreover, people have the right to be happy and to "die with dignity." In order to avoid a prolonged death in which the patient is in terrible pain, heavily sedated, or wholly dependent on others for help in performing basic bodily functions, some patients may decide that physician-assisted suicide is the best way to "die on their own terms." While palliative care may be successful in alleviating pain for some illnesses, some terminally ill patients may find that there is nothing that can be done to relieve their pain and suffering. If a person's life has deteriorated to the point...