by Johanna Kumpula
I largely support the legalization of physician assisted suicide; an ethical issue that has been causing widespread problems across the United States. California, Oregon, Washington, Vermont, and Montana are the few states that have made this practice legal. There are some obvious qualifications needed to participate in assisted suicide; patients have to be diagnosed as terminally ill, they have to be able to take the drug themselves, they must have the mental capacity to understand what they are doing and the consequences that come along with it, they have to make two verbal requests and one written request with two witnesses, and an attending and consulting physician must verify that the patient meets all of these criteria. (Jaret, 2016)
There are compelling arguments from both sides of the debate. People who support assisted suicide believe that they have a right to decide their own fate. If they are living in constant pain for months before they are inevitably going to die, they should be allowed the choice to end their suffering in a way that preserves their dignity. The supporters also claim that the disregard for the patient’s wishes, coupled with our rise in medical technology have led to unnecessary suffering on the patient’s end. Those against assisted suicide believe that the legalization of the practice will cause a domino effect leading to the patient’s mistrust of the physician due to divided loyalties, the physicians would be breaking their Hippocratic Oath, and that they will no longer try their best to comfort the ill in their last days. (Sharma, 2003)
As a supporter of physician assisted suicide, I believe it should be legalized in more than at least five states. True, the ethical dilemma will still be eerily present regardless of the legalization of the practice, but I believe that creating a law with strict measurements for who qualifies as a patient would be the best way to start to destroy the stigma surrounding the practice. Ultimately, this decision comes down to the patient, family, and physician, but if the patient qualifies for assisted suicide and would rather end their life on their own terms instead of living whatever is left of their years in pain, they should have the right to do so. They should not be criticized because others see it as an ethical dilemma – their decision is their own. As for the fear of physician power some opposers believe will arise, this practice is already occurring in five states, and no reports of unethical decision made on the physician’s part have ever been cause for alarm.
Politicians should make this practice a more easily understood topic. The public needs to be educated on physician assisted suicide, so they are aware of their options if something were to ever happen to them. All it takes is one person to mention how they would like to die with their dignity, and the effect snowballs. The legislators can discuss the practicality of the practice and vote in their favor. The support of a community, regardless of how big or small, needs to occur in order for this practice to really start to make an impact on people’s lives.
People have been moving to other states to qualify and participate in physician assisted suicide. I see no reason why a terminally ill person should have to uproot themselves and their family in order to end their pain. This practice should be legalized, regardless of the ethical dilemma some are concerned with. I understand that this might not ever be an option for some people, be it because it goes against religious, moral, or ethical beliefs, but those who wish to end their suffering should not be restricted by just your beliefs. If you do not believe in the practice you don’t have to participate, but don’t completely disregard someone else’s decision to die with dignity.
Jaret, P. (2016, April 26). Is Physician-Assisted Suicide Ethical? Retrieved October 8, 2016, from http://www.berkeleywellness.com/healthy-community/health-care-policy/article/physician-assisted-suicide-ethical?ap=604
Sharma, B. R. (2003, September). To legalize physician-assisted suicide or not? – a dilemma. Journal of Clinical Forensic Medicine, 10(3), 185-190.
Johanna Kumpula primarily writes fiction within the genres of fantasy and sci-fi. She’s currently in her third year at APU studying to earn her degree in creative and professional writing. When she’s not writing or studying, you can find her fishing at the Kenai River or playing video games with friends. She enjoys long walks on the beach, rainy days, late nights, and her all-time favorite food chocolate chip cookies.