The Right to Live or Die

Essay by pearsondUniversity, Master's May 2004

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The medical profession has long subscribed to a body of ethical statements developed primarily for the benefit of the patient. As a member of this profession, a physician must recognize responsibility to patients first and foremost, as well as society. However, there is an emerging practice that physicians are facing in the medical profession. Moreover, conflict surrounds this practice, legally and ethically. There are various standards of conduct that epitomizes the behavior of a honorable physician, however, within the confines of those standards there exist uncertainty. According to the principles of medical ethics, "a physician shall respect the law and also recognize a responsibility to seek changes in those requirements which are contrary to the best interest of the patient" (AMA 1). Each year millions of individuals are diagnosed with terminal illnesses, which result in excruciating pain. In 85% of the cases death is inevitable. Armed with this fact, the afflicted are torn between the decision to allow the disease to consume their existence or opt for euthanasia.

In this paper, I will examine the legal and ethics conflict that surrounds the Physician Assisted Suicide and Euthanasia. The act of Physician Assisted Suicide (PAS) is an example of the fine line between a Physicians legal obligation and ethical responsibilities. PAS, generally refers to a practice in which the doctor provides the patient with a lethal dose of medication, upon the individual request that is used to end their life. According to Humphrey, " The word "euthanasia" comes from the Greek-eu, "good and thanotos--death. Euthanasia, also called "mercy killing," is the act or practice of putting people to death who are suffering from painful, incurable diseases or incapacitating physical disorders" (18).

Incidentally, there are several ways in which the two forms of suicide is carried out: Terminal sedation, which is, the...