In recent years the public interest towards physician-assisted suicide (PAS) has grown significantly. However, there is still no unity in opinions concerning the issue, neither among the general public nor between scholars and politicians. The arguments against PAS can be better summarized by two peer-reviewed articles. In the first paper, “Why Physicians Should Oppose Assisted Suicide,” by Y. Tony Yang and Farr A. Curlin (2016), it is stated that PAS is inconsistent with the professional role. Further opposing arguments are presented by Daniel P. Sulmasy, John M. Travaline, Louise A. Mitchell, and E. Wesley Ely (2016) in “Non-faith-based arguments against physician-assisted suicide and euthanasia.” The scholars claim that 1) PAS devalues human life since the pain of terminally ill patients can be successfully managed by palliative care; 2) its legalization may gradually lead to the ambiguous limit of use.
On the other hand, in “Physician assisted dying: A turning point?” Lawrence O. Gostin and Anna E. Roberts develop criticism towards the opinions mentioned above. First, they contend that even though PAS is incompatible with the profession, most physicians working closely with terminally ill patients support it. Second, they argue that intolerable pain and the desire to die with dignity cannot devalue human life. Finally, the authors mention that evidence suggests that in jurisdictions where PAS is legalized, the number of cases did not grow significantly.
Incompatibility with Professional Code
In both articles, Yang and Farr (247) and Sulmasy et al. (253) assert that PAS is intrinsically inconsistent with medical worker’s code of behavior as it violates the Hippocratic Oath. In the authors’ opinion, the legalization of PAS would turn physicians into simple service providers that follow the caprice of the customer. Moreover, it is believed that such a practice would reduce the trust towards professionals from other patients. Also, Yang and Farr (247) add that patients can choose other methods of finishing their life that would not include physicians, such as refusal from life-sustaining treatment. On the other hand, Lawrence and Roberts (249) note that even though PAS contradicts professional ethics, the evidence shows the prevalence of support towards the practice among physicians who closely work with terminally ill patients. Furthermore, in the jurisdictions where PAS is forbidden, medical workers seek to assist dying by other methods. Finally, the authors argue that physicians always have the personal choice to participate or avoid the procedure.
Devaluation of Human Life
Next, it is argued that PAS devalues human life and experiences. Sulmasy et al. (250) argue that killing oneself contradicts the notion of a life worth living. Moreover, it is maintained that modern palliative care can reduce patients’ suffering significantly. Therefore, PAS is viewed simply as a simple solution to the problem. Conversely, Lawrence and Roberts (249) state that the main reason people choose PAS is based on the desire to die with dignity that palliative care cannot assure. Similarly, Yang and Farr (247) argue that fear of suffering is not among PAS’s first motivations.
Finally, Sulmasy et al. (251) are concerned that the legalization of PAS may lead to a gradual erosion of the inclusion borders. This means that more people, for various reasons, would seek to kill themselves in such a manner. However, evidence shows that this might not be true, as jurisdictions, where PAS is legal experienced only moderate growth in death cases (Lawrence and Roberts 249).
Various arguments in favor of and contrary to PAS were discussed. It is found that although the procedure contradicts the professional ethics of medical workers, those physicians working directly with terminally ill patients mostly support it, which signifies that the former prefer compassion over professional duty. However, such a trade-off may potentially hurt the trust towards physicians from other patients. Also, the question of whether PAS lessens the value of human life is answered with equally persuasive arguments. Finally, it was found that the legalization of PAS is unlikely to cause a slippery slope phenomenon as evidence suggests that the number of patients who seek aid in dying increased only moderately.
Yang, Y. Tony, and Farr A. Curlin. “Why physicians should oppose assisted suicide.” Jama, vol. 315, no. 3, 2016, pp. 247-248.
Sulmasy, Daniel P., et al. “Non-faith-based arguments against physician-assisted suicide and euthanasia.” The Linacre Quarterly, vol. 83, no. 3, 2016, pp. 246-257.
Gostin, Lawrence O., and Anna E. Roberts. “Physician-assisted dying: a turning point?.” Jama, vol. 315, no. 3, 2016, pp. 249-250.