Physician assisted suicide (PAS) is regarded by many in the medical field as an unethical practice, being that the purpose of being a medical professional is to prolong the patient’s life, of course.  But the question remains: should we prolong a patient’s life, and possibly make them suffer until their untimely demise; or should we put them out of their misery at their own request? This is a question of morality, one that beckons us to try and understand the perspective from both the medical professionals and their patients. Although many disagree with the practice, in some cases, physician assisted suicide is the best option for the well-being of patient, allowing them a release from their suffering.

Hippocratic oaths taken by doctors state that they have an ethical responsibility to make sure that their patient lives, but no modern oath actually forbids physician assisted suicide. In a study of 150 hippocratic oaths conducted by Orr, R. D., N. Pang, E. D. Pellegrino, and M. Siegler, it was found that “only 14 percent of modern oaths prohibit euthanasia” and that none prohibit PAS (Tyson). While the importance of the modern oath is declining, many doctors still hold it firm in their beliefs, and with PAS not being banned in any of them, save the classical,  it should be noted that there is nothing inherently wrong the two. Infact, under the circumstances in which it would be administered, it would be completely ethical as it relieves a terminally ill patient of their pain, that’s why “54 percent of American doctors support assisted suicide” (Gorman).

Physician assisted suicide is only for those who are already on death’s door. Not everyone is eligible for PAS, only those who have been “diagnosed with a terminal illness that will lead to death within six months” (ProCon.org) and are capable of making and communicating health care decisions for him/herself” (ProCon.org)—meaning that they can consciously make the decision to end their own life—can participate in PAS. Terminally ill patients having the option of PAS grants them the option die if their suffering, in any form, becomes too much for them to bear. Morally, this is better than prolonging the patient’s life, forcing them to suffer for a longer period of time. Furthermore, because the patient must be able to consciously decide whether or not to kill themselves, it is clear that they know exactly what they are deciding to do and why they want to do it. Whether it be to escape physical pain or psychological pain, they have come to the conclusion that ending their lives—already shortened by their terminal illness—will save them from a great deal of suffering. It should also be noted that PAS is not dissimilar from legal right of refusing treatment, a practice that also accelerates the death of the patient.

This solution to the terminally is is not a clear-cut as it seems, some believe that PAS could lead to eventually doctors abusing their power. These people fear that  intentionally recommending PAS those who are not terminally ill, or possibly making decisions out of bias. Infact, “studies have found that Do Not Resuscitate orders are more frequently used for black people, alcohol misusers, non-English speakers, and people infected with Human Immunodeficiency Virus” (THE ARGUMENT). If these biases are found in existing practices, then the probability of them occurring in PAS is high. While patients still have to request PAS in order for it to take place, physicians are the ones who tell the patients what is wrong with them and can recommend PAS if their situation is undesirable. This, along with the fear that assisted suicide will become more mainstream and available to not only the terminally ill, but the disabled too, frighten people. This is a slippery slope that could lead to the intentional murder of patients based on bias or other contributing factors. Of course this situation is extreme, but the extremes must be taken into account when questioning the morality.

While the morality of PAS is highly debated among medical professionals, PAS is the best option for the terminally ill as it releases them from any type of suffering that they may be enduring. People should not be forced to suffer for the rest of their lives. The moral choice is to allow them to decide whether or not they want to prolong or end their own lives after being diagnosed as terminally ill.

 

Works Cited

Gorman, Anna. “From Doctor to Patient to Assisted-Suicide Advocate.” The Atlantic, Atlantic Media Company, 31 Mar. 2015, www.theatlantic.com/health/archive/2015/03/from-doctor-to-patient-to-assisted-suicide-advocate/389108/.

ProCon.org. “State-by-State Guide to Physician-Assisted Suicide.” ProCon.org. 21 Feb. 2017, 12:58 p.m., euthanasia.procon.org/view.resource.php?resourceID=000132

“THE ARGUMENT AGAINST ASSISTED SUICIDE.” Medical Ethics and Health, 16 Mar. 2015, sites.psu.edu/mehealth/2015/03/16/arguments-against-assisted-suicide/comment-page-1/.

Tyson, Peter. “The Hippocratic Oath Today.” PBS, Public Broadcasting Service, 27 Mar. 2001, www.pbs.org/wgbh/nova/body/hippocratic-oath-today.html.

 

Image from: http://www.md-health.com/Physician-Assisted-Suicide-Pros.html

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CC BY-SA 4.0 The Morality of Physician Assisted Suicide by Nick is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

6 Comments
  1. Treyvon 2 weeks ago

    Hey Nick,
    This is an outstanding article about PAS and it is a very heavy concept to discuss and think about. It ultimately does come down to what the patient wants for their lives because they are the controller of their destiny. I believe that it is completely ethical to let a person have assisted suicide because it is relatively pain free. I found an article that discusses some points about doctor’s arguments towards PSA and what they believe in the matter.

    http://www.berkeleywellness.com/healthy-community/health-care-policy/article/physician-assisted-suicide-ethical

    I really enjoyed reading your article and hope you continue to post about topics that make the reader think. Amazing job.

  2. Author
    Nick 2 weeks ago

    Wow. Terrible. I bet you wrote this at 3am.

    • Author
      Nick 2 weeks ago

      Thanks! nin.

  3. Joseph 2 weeks ago

    Nick, your argument is quite thorough and shows that lots of effort was placed in to write your argument. I agree that it is hypocritical to be swear to be moral but killing someone at the same time. Along with your point, it feels like doctors are abusing their authority and making rash decisions for patients and their families. I am interested to hear your thoughts and your side of the argument. Thanks!

  4. Srihita 2 weeks ago

    Nick, I agree with your point that PAS should be an option for patients as it is their choice when it comes to what happens to their lives. It is better for them to live a short life than suffer and live for a longer period of time. I also think this is a good option to have out there, despite the possible misuses, because PAS is relatively pain free and prevents patients from taking their lives in other ways just to end their misery.

  5. Gigi 2 weeks ago

    I appreciate your in depth explanation for what PAS is. Before reading this I did not know precisely what it was. I found your essay very informative and appreciate the use of credible sources.
    Good Job!

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