Physician-Assisted Suicide as Liberation from Suffering

Introduction

Physician-Assisted Suicide (PAS), the death of a patient as a result of being aided to undertake a life-ending act by a physician, is a contentious issue of importance in society. The act presents diverging views which are a result of the moral grounds of the values held by individuals in opposition and in support of PAS (ama-assn.org, n.d). The basis of the argument is that PAS tantamount to taking away patients’ lives, a direct violation of fundamental medical principles. What is more, the legalization of PAS is in contradiction to many religious and cultural principles, as it is frequently equated to murder. Essentially, PAS conditions and their attendant circumstances present a complex ethical dilemma. Those in support of PAS are a significant number of medical professionals, as well as many incurably ill patients. The other parties supporting the claim include human rights activists and some family advisors (Sumner 90). The paper investigates the claim that physician-assisted suicide (PAS) presents the liberation of suffering for patients with terminal conditions.

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Information

Predictive, inquisitive, and general information has been transmitted about PAS as an opportunity to liberate terminally ill patients. Predictive information about PAS expresses concerns that the practice, instead of being exceptional, may become common and applied without an explicit request. The concerns about the failed cases of PAS are transmitted by the media and physicians. In general, the introduction of PAS to standard medical practice may have serious implications for the definition of medicine. The need for PAS as the ultimate method of liberating patients from suffering does not conflict with my observations and information concerning incurable patients who would prefer to terminate their lives by PAS.

Rhetoric and Fallacies

The rhetoric and fallacies used with respect to the claim are mainly dependent on individuals’ background and to some extent, their knowledge levels. Public rhetoric about PAS varies, ranging from positive to highly negative, depending on religious views, general background, and other factors. Medical views on the subject also vary significantly, as some medicals professionals are PAS proponents while others regard it as a violation of Hippocrates’ principle. The main misconception about PAS is that it equals euthanasia. Although both procedures refer to the termination of a patient’s life, they differ in who performs the procedure: a physician in case of euthanasia or a patient in case of PAS.

Research

A number of scientific studies significant to the claim have been undertaken and their findings published. According to Emanuel, the research in the USA, Canada, and Europe demonstrates that from 0.3% to 4.6% of all reported deaths are due to PAS in jurisdictions where this practice is legal (86). Moreover, the frequency of PAS-related deaths has been increasing, which means the growing need for this type of medical procedure. The survey indicates that the prevalent motivation for PAS requesting is not physical pain but moral suffering, stemming from the loss of independence and dignity, inability to enjoy life, and mental and emotional distress (Emanuel 88). Studies show that the obligatory requirement for the implementation of the PAS procedure is a waiting period of at least 15 days, which allows a patient to make an informed decision. The following are the best ways to assess the probabilities of this claim:

  • To evaluate objectively the probability of the need for PAS, it seems necessary to conduct physicians’ surveys to determine the real number of PAS requests, including the areas where it is not legalized.
  • More profound research into the reasons and motivations for PAS requests is in need in order to provide a comprehensive outlook on the issue of PAS.
  • Studies on possible complications or problems after or while PAS performing would be of significant use to assess the associated risks.

Possible Remedies

Forced euthanasia does not carry the motive of compassion and help to the patient, but, on the contrary, is designed to kill people and not only terminally ill against their will. Forced euthanasia was an element of the national policy of the Third Reich towards representatives of the non-Aryan race, which for many years discredited the institution of euthanasia and its associated phenomena, as a result of which the word “euthanasia” still has a certain negative connotation (Timio, 2014). Passive euthanasia is permitted by law in more than forty countries. This is the most common form of euthanasia.

Involuntary euthanasia can be used in cases where it is impossible to obtain informed consent from the patient to refuse life-support equipment (for example, the patient is in a coma). In this case, the decision to disconnect the patient from the life support equipment is made by the court at the request of relatives, who in this sense are “proxies” (proxy decision-makers). However, over the past thirty years, in some states, so-called “living wills” have spread, in which future hopelessly ill people make advance orders for their own lives, instructing doctors not to reanimate themselves and not extend their lives artificially if they are in a persistent vegetative state (Vijayalakshmi, Reddy, & Suresh, 2018). On the basis of such orders, doctors carry out the euthanasia procedure, which in this case will be passive and voluntary. Involuntary euthanasia may also apply to newborn babies in the Netherlands.

Active euthanasia is prohibited worldwide, except in Belgium, the Netherlands, and Luxembourg (Levin, Bradley, & Duffy, 2018). The key role is given to the doctor, who, with the consent of the patient, intravenously administers the lethal drug to him. Such actions may only be carried out in compliance with the procedure established by law. Regarding suicide with the help of a doctor, we note that this legal category exists exclusively in the legitimate science of the United States and the countries of the Anglo-Saxon legal family and is opposed to the group of “euthanasia,” which has a different meaning here (Timio, 2014). Suicide, with the help of a doctor, implies the patient’s control over the procedure, since the patient himself takes the deadly medicine, and the doctor only provides him with this medicine. In contrast to the active euthanasia procedure, the doctor is given a passive role for the person who ensures the patient’s death but does not take direct actions to kill the patient.

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Killing out of mercy equates killing with extenuating circumstances. In this act, the victim can be not only a terminally ill person, but the doctor is not necessarily the subject of the crime in the exercise of his official duties. As can be seen from the above, the main criteria for distinguishing between different kinds of shades of euthanasia are the role of the doctor in the procedure for early termination of the patient’s life and the presence of the patient’s direct will.

Conclusion

All in all, the issue of PAS presents a major controversy in modern medicine. The public and professional debate has been caused by the serious implications which the official introduction of PAS to medical practice may have on medicine and society in general. Nevertheless, the liberation of extreme suffering for incurably ill patients who are fully conscious of their condition and able to make an informed decision seems an inalienable human right.

References

Ama-assn.org, (n.d).”Physician-Assisted Suicide”. AMA. Web.

Emanuel, Ezekiel J., et al. (2016).”Attitudes and Practices of Euthanasia and Physician-Assisted Suicide in the United States, Canada, and Europe.” Jama, vol. 316, no. 1, pp. 79-90.

Levin, K., Bradley, G. L., & Duffy, A. (2018). Attitudes toward euthanasia for patients who suffer from physical or mental illness. Journal of Death and Dying, 77(2), 2-17.

Sumner, Leonard Wayne, (2017). Physician-Assisted Death. Oxford University Press,.

Timio, M. (2014). Euthanasia in dialysis. Giornale Di Tecniche Nefrologiche e Dialitiche, 26(4), 374-376.

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Vijayalakshmi, P., Reddy, P. D., & Suresh, B. M. (2018). Indian nurses’ attitudes toward euthanasia: Gender differences. Journal of Death and Dying, 78(2), 143-160.

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