The Audience that I chose to write for is the reader’s of a contemporary/news-orientated magazine such as Time Magazine. I chose to write in the form of an opinion-piece so that I could be more informal and try to relate to my audience. One’s Right is Not One’s Obligation Imagine if you were in unbearable pain, hooked up to 20 tubes, your body is being kept alive by means of machines, and your family is standing by watching you suffer in our final weeks of life. Your dignity is diminishing, any quality of life you once had is now masked by this not so sought after scenario you call life.
Is this something you would wish to prolong? I’d expect almost anyone would answer no to this questions, yet a large group of people are going through a similar experience while you are reading this article. The current U. S. government, as well as many other governments around this world, have refused to recognize this experience as something that needs to be addressed. Terminally ill patients, as well as their families have been bringing about the topic of legalizing physician-assisted suicide for decades; yet, it is still not legal in 47 of the 50 U. S. states.
Many reasons for this is that the public has been given skewed claims as to what physician-assisted suicide entails, and this needs to be changed. Given the correct criteria, and special care a plan could be devised to make legalizing physician-assisted suicide a very feasible option for the U. S. government.
So what exactly is physician-assisted suicide? Well, according to Medicinenet. com, physician-assisted suicide is “the voluntary termination of one’s own life by administration of a lethal substance with the direct or indirect assistance of a physician. Although that is the “technical” definition, what physician-assisted suicide brings to the table is so much more. First, let me clear up a few misconceptions about what physician-assisted suicide entails. For one, it does not allow a physician to take the initiative to kill a patient; it is the patient who takes the initiative. It also does not giver permission for a person to commit suicide; actually suicide is legal in most jurisdictions currently. Families will not be allowed to take the initiative to administer euthanasia, nor will anyone other than the patient seeking it.
If the patient is not in a competent, unaltered state of mind they will not be able to receive the assistance in their suicide. Also, if it were to be legalized, a misconception is that it will be sought after by a large population, when in actuality it is sought after by a only a very small population, even in areas where it is currently legal. Ultimately, what physician-assisted suicide entails is giving power to people to have control over their OWN bodies. In areas of the country where physician-assisted suicide has been made legal, it has proved to be a very successful thing.
For example, In October of 1997, the state of Oregon adopted the Death with Dignity Act. What this act entails, is that terminally ill patients who are given 6 months or less to live to obtain lethal doses of drugs to end their lives at home. The physician is not the one administering the drugs; they are only the ones giving prescriptions for them. Although this Act has been put in place for over 10 years, only a small amount of people have sought the lethal drugs, and an even smaller amount of people have actually used them. According to Medicinenet. om, “ Many patients have said that what they want most is a choice about how their lives will end, a finger on the remote control, as it were. ” If this is all a patient truly desires, why have more states not adopted the plan of legalizing physician-assisted suicide? The reason that this act hasn’t been spread to the entire country is because of the oppositions stake in the influence of the public. The main opposition groups are conservative religious groups, medical associations who feel uncomfortable with euthanasia, groups concerned with disabilities, and pro-life activists.
These major stakeholders do make points that could easily persuade an audience against legalizing physician-assisted suicide, however, mainly all of their reasons involve some sort of moral backing, not a backing of what is lawfully right and wrong. Conservative religious groups, the same organizations that are against abortion and same sex marriage, probably have the most influence on the public’s view of euthanasia. They believe that God gives life, and that death should be a natural cause. Roman Catholic’s do not believe that humans have a right to die, but an obligation to live as long as God intents for them to.
They also believe that someone who helps administer euthanasia to someone else is committing murder. The church has recognized the belief that a human who insists they have a “right” to die is not acknowledging their relationship with God. Being Catholic myself, I was raised on the belief that God gave up his life, because he couldn’t bear to let others suffer. If suicide is defined as the ending of one’s life to end suffering, isn’t this, in essence, committing suicide? If God wanted all of his people to never have to suffer, then wouldn’t having the option to end your life before you endure suffering be a good thing?
It is hard to decipher whether or not physician-assisted suicide is morally right and wrong, however, it should be up to the individual to determine what course is best for them. Church and state are supposed to be separated in this country and religious views should not be holding back the government from granting citizens the right to their own bodies. Other major stakeholders in the debate of physician-assisted suicide are the medical professionals being asked to administer the life-ending prescription. When medical students are going through their schooling, they are taught the cardinal rule of medicine.
This cardinal rule states that no physician should do anything to a patient that would not be in his or her best medical interest. In the past, this view has been interpreted in a way that physicians believe that they should do every single thing within their power to keep a patient alive. However, some might argue that keeping a patient’s body alive and keeping a patient itself alive are two very different things.
Doctors are also taught to not become emotionally attached to their patients, and if this is the case, then doctors should be able to do what is in the best interest of their patients and allow them to eek out what would be most beneficial to them. I do believe that some doctor’s should have the right to not write a prescription for the lethal drug for two reasons. One being if they truly do not feel as thought the patient is going to have a diminished quality of life and the other being if their religion prohibits it in which case such doctors should be able to refer their patient to someone who could help them. The skewed information that has been portrayed to the public is one of the main culprits of giving the public a negative view on the legalization of physician-assisted suicide.
Large influences such as interest groups and pro-life advocates have painted a gruesome picture of the future if physician-assisted suicide is legalized. What they are portraying to the public is that physician-assisted suicide is the same as physician-assisted murder. They have convinced a lot of people that Oregon Law would allow members of government to visit hospices/nursing homes and decide who deserves to live, who is useless to society, and should be terminated. This scenario is so far from what physician-assisted suicide intents to bring as well as what it will bring.
In no way, shape, or form will there be a future genocide against people who seek as much medical attention as they desire, no matter what state of life they are in. In fact, since Oregon has legalized physician-assisted suicide, the quality of hospice and other end-of-life care has increased. (Knickerbocker 1) There needs to be a call to action for informing the greater U. S. about the results of legalizing physician-assisted suicide. First, the public needs to be further informed about what the clear definition of physician-assisted suicide is.
The public needs to be aware that there is no possible way for “murder” to be committed. Once the public is informed and has maybe warmed up to the idea of physician-assisted suicide, the action needs to happen. Legislature and governments needs to address whether or not they are basing their decision on whether or not to allow it on moral reasoning or lawful reasoning. Once a plan has been adopted, as it already has in 3 states, the actual process of receiving a drug to end your life is something that needs to be addressed for many people. The public needs to be aware that there is a criterion that needs to be met.
In no way will this law passing allow depressed, or non-stable minded people to receive the drug. As it has already been instilled in 3 states, the criterion is that a patient must be terminally ill, emotionally stable, able-minded, and have good enough reason to prove that they are going to have a diminished quality of life. In Oregon, where physician-assisted suicide has been legalized since 1997 with its Death with Dignity Act, there is a proven successful plan installed.
Since 1997, Oregon has averaged about 40 deaths contributed to assisted suicide yearly, which is so miniscule to estimated population of 3,521,515 people in 2002. State & County Facts) Oregon legislature has developed a clear and concise criterion for their act. It allows mentally competent adults who proclaim their desire for euthanasia in writing and have been diagnosed terminally ill. The patients, after being heavily screened on mental stability, are prescribed the lethal drug themselves, orally, after a certain waiting period. (Knickerbocker 1) Since the Act has been passed in Oregon, there has not been one reported violation or evidence that a terminally ill patient has been influenced by anyone other than himself or herself to take the lethal drugs.
The most recent state to jump on the bandwagon of legalizing physician-assisted suicide is Montana. Montana became the third state in the U. S. to do so. Montana has been very forthcoming about why their legislature has decided to enable physician-assisted suicide to be practiced. The Majority justices stated that, “We find nothing in Montana Supreme Court precedent or Montana statutes indicating that physician aid in dying is against public policy.
The ‘against public policy’ exception to consent has been interpreted by this court as applicable to violent breaches of the public peace. Physician aid in dying does not satisfy that definition. In physician aid in dying, the patient, not the physician, commits the final death-causing act by self-administering a lethal dose of medicine. ” (Knickerbocker 1) Montana hopes to model its progress after Oregon. The plan to adopt this goal of achieving legalized physician-assisted suicide nationwide is moving in a good direction.
More and more states are beginning to realize the benefits and positive outcomes it has had in states with the adopted act. I believe that with more positive information being circulated throughout the media and governmental agencies, the U. S. can expect to see this plan be adopted in more areas in the very near future. Misconceptions and skewed information being portrayed by pro-life groups and activists against physician-assisted suicide need to be overshadowed by the truth of what physician-assisted suicide really entails.