Should Assisted Suicide Be Legal?

Table of Content

Assisted Suicide Defined ‘Assisted Suicide’ or ‘Mercy killing’ has been an issue of debate since the times of Plato and Aristotle. ‘Assisted Suicide’ is helping a terminally ill person to end his or her life so as to release the person from inexorable pain. In other words it is the intentional ending of the life of a person who is suffering from a terminal or painful disease at his or her request.

Part I ThesisToday, almost all pains can be eliminated due to advances in the medical science. The pain can be reduced to a tolerable extent. Killing is not the answer to the pain. Anyone who kills another person at the victim’s intentional request to end his or her suffering is a murderer because it is considered act of homicide.

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Homicide cannot be become acceptable because victim has given the consent. If critically ill persons ask for death, it doesn’t mean that they want end of their life. Actually they want emotional support and relief from their suffering.Doctors should be educated about latest pain management techniques.

Instead of killing the patient, doctor should control the pain. People who are going through intolerable physical pain may make such decisions out of severe depression. Today there are there are adequate pain control drugs and pain can be controlled in virtually all cases. There are many psychiatrists who can provide support to deal with emotional suffering.

People should be provided support to face life in a human way.‘Assisted suicide’ is morally and ethically unacceptable. Many major religions of the world believe that life is gift of God and only God should take it away. God has not given us the right to dispose of the life.

In certain religions, such as Christianity suicide is considered a grave sin. John Paul II condemned ‘assisted suicide’ as a false mercy and has stated, “True “compassion” leads to sharing another’s pain; it does not kill the person whose suffering we cannot bear”.‘Assisted suicide’ is also in conflict with medical ethics. The duty of a doctor is to protect life.

If doctors are licensed to kill, the doctor patient trust will be shattered. ‘Assisted suicide’ challenges ethical responsibilities of the medical profession. According to American Medical Association “Physician-assisted suicide presents one of the greatest contemporary challenges to the medical profession’s ethical responsibilities. Proposed as a means toward more humane care of the dying, assisted suicide threatens the very core of the medical profession’s ethical integrity,” (CEJA Report 8 – I-93).

It is contradictory to a medical practitioner’s role. It is against the Oath of Hippocrates that states, “I will give no deadly medicine to anyone, even if asked”.Part II Anti Thesis;Although medical science has made a tremendous progress but there are cases (such as terminal pain) where it is still incapable of controlling or managing the intractable pain. In many cases, terminally ill people experience agonizing pain even with the best analgesic care.

They live an undignified and painful life as they are incapable of caring for themselves. So every individual who is terminally ill should have the freedom to end intolerable suffering by ending his or her own life. Assisted suicide is the only way to end emotional and physical suffering of terminally ill people. It is cruel to deny the patient an easy and painless death.

Assisted suicide can be equated with ‘right to die’. The theory of rights and freedom of choice endorse the act. Every person should be given the choice to take his or her life. If the person has the ‘right to live’, he or she must have the ‘right to die’.

People make decisions throughout their lives. People must be given the right to decide what is best for them and they must have the right to die with dignity. The ‘right to die’ enables personal autonomy. It is consistent with the ethics of individualism and personal autonomy.

It is a matter of personal choice.People who are chronically ill feel that they are burden on their caregivers. So ‘assisted suicide’ can be the only solution to relieve the person from great agony or pain and burdensome life. Death should not be postponed against patient’s wishes.

It is cruel and inhumane to delay the death of a person who is experiencing agonizing pain. Like many other options, death is also an option and this option should be given only to terminally ill patients. It provides a way of relief when a person’s quality of life is low and not worth living. So people in unbearable pain should not be forced to stay alive.

It is quite appropriate to end meaningless and worthless life with medical intervention. Indeed it is an act of kindness to allow people suffering from chronic illnesses to choose death.Another thing is that ‘assisted suicide’ frees up the medical funds to help other ill people and many more people can be helped by this act. Today doctors have the skills to put off death almost indefinitely with the help of advanced technologies.

Many terminally ill people are kept alive with the help of these technologies without any hope of improvement. It is the wastage of scarce health resources to keep people alive who are in a persistent vegetative state. It is better to give terminally ill people a choice about ending the agonizing life. Assisted suicide should be performed under strict guidelines to avoid the misuse of law.

Part III SynthesisTwo sets of beliefs are in conflict. On the one hand it is essential to respect the wishes of patients, relieve their suffering and put an end to excessively burdensome and seemingly futile medical treatment but on the other hand the act of ‘mercy killing’ is against the supreme law of life and this act breaks the religious sentiments also. ‘Assisted suicide’ or ‘right to die’ seems to be a good slogan and but it is a merciless act (Kamisar, 2002). Every social problem cannot be weighed in terms of ‘rights’.

The ‘right to die’ theory also cannot be justified as ‘assisted suicide’ is not about the right to die. Actually, it is about giving rights to others to kill helpless and infirm persons. It is a cold blood murder as it facilitates death. This act is against the sanctity of life and it is not permissible to take human life under any circumstances.

The sanctity of human life must be respected.If ‘assisted suicide’ or ‘mercy killing’ becomes legal there is potential for abuse of this law. The law would have many dangerous results. For example if someone stands to inherit one million dollars then it is possible that the heirs may misuse the law.

The emotional and psychological pressures from heirs may push the people towards assisted suicide. In many cases it may result in premature or involuntary deaths. The ‘right to die’ will soon become ‘duty to die’.Most physicians oppose legalizing ‘assisted suicide’.

The American Medical Association has stated that if assisted suicide is made legal, it would be easily extended to ‘other vulnerable populations’ as there is no consensus on the definition of “terminally ill”. According to Wesley J. Smith, a senior fellow at the Discovery Institute, “physician-assisted suicide, if it became widespread, could become a profit-enhancing tool for big HMOs”. Health maintenance organizations (HMOs) would use assisted suicide as a cost cutting tool.

People would be forced to choose assisted suicide over costly palliative medicine. There would be no need for direct coercion but delay in life-sustaining health care treatment would push the patients towards assisted suicide. (Golden ; Zoanni, 2010).It would be difficult to know who is eligible for assisted suicide.

The doctors may give lethal injection to a patient and may claim that it was the best way to end physical suffering of the patient. It is feared that doctors may set up private clinics to facilitate the death of terminally ill people.Robert Beezer, (a Judge on the US Court of Appeals) has stated that if assisted suicide is made legal helpless, dependent and elderly would be “at risk of being unwanted and subjected to pressure to choose physician-assisted suicide rather than continued treatment..

.”  ‘Assisted suicide’ is legal in Netherlands, Belgium, Oregon and Washington (USA). Netherlands was first country to legalize ‘assisted suicide’. In Netherlands (Holland) legalized assisted suicide has resulted in severe decline in the health care system.

The quality of care for terminally ill patients has decreased drastically. Due to lack of proper palliative care, patients often ask for ‘assisted suicide’ (Caldwell, 2009).Thus the alternative is certainly not legalizing ‘assisted suicide’ but appropriate medical care, providing all means to control pain and emotional support to the patients. The solution lies in caring, not killing the people who are sick, disabled and old.

Assisted suicide can never be a merciful and compassionate act as it is against the ethical values of life. It is unacceptable morally and ethically. It also weakens further development of health care services (especially palliative services). The patient should have the right to refuse excessive and extraordinary medical facilities such as respiratory and heart but it is unethical and contrary to role of physician to intentionally end the life of people who are terminally ill.

;;;ReferencesAmerican Medical Association (n.d.) “Physician-Assisted Suicide”. CEJA Report 8 – I-93Accessed on April 28, 2010Retrieved from; http://www. ;Beezer, R. (2009) “Should Euthanasia Or Physician-Assisted Suicide Be Legal?  EuthanasiaProCon.

org;Caldwell, S. (Dec 9, 2009) Now the Dutch Turn against Legalised Mercy Killing, Mail OnlineGolden, M. and Zoanni, T. (2010) Killing Us Softly: The Dangers of Legalizing Assisted SuicideDisability and Health Journal (3) pp.

16-30Kamisar, Y. (2002) Right to Die-Good Slogan, Fuzzy ThinkingAccessed on April 28, 2010Retrieved from;

html;Paul J. II (1995) “The Gospel of Life”Accessed on April 28, 2010Retrieved from;

html;;Smith, W.J. (May 20, 2003) Dying Cause: Assisted Suicide is Losing Support, National ReviewOnline;;The Hippocratic OathAccessed on April 28, 2010Retrieved from;;

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