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Introduction to the concept of physician-assisted suicide.
Physician-assisted suicide is also referred to as euthanasia or Mercy killing. It occurs when a physician assists a patient who has a terminal illness to die. Physician-assisted death dates back in history during the 400 and 300 BC in the Greek and Roman empires. The issue has attracted a lot of controversy in the Modern world sparking off heated debates on whether it is morally right to practice it
According to Taylor and Francis Group in their “Journal of medicine and philosophy” (2006), in the world today some countries have legalized it, for example, the Oregon state in the U.S.A through the Oregon Death with Dignity Act. There are those who see it as a form of merciful killing.
They argue that a patient may be in a desperate situation and death is the last treatment. Those who oppose it argue that matters of life and death are determined by God and man has nothing to do in determining the death of a person.
Why physician-assisted suicide is not the best option and misconception of death with dignity.
Physician-assisted suicide or mercy killing attracts many views especially from the religious groups who see it as morally wrong and should not be used as the last resort even in a desperate situation of terminal illnesses.
It is not the best option because it degrades the value of humanity. Human life is very precious. It should not be terminated by a physician through mercy killing. Although a patient may be terminally ill undergoing a lot of pain, assisted suicide is not an appropriate solution. A person’s life is sacred. Physician-assisted suicide is wrong as legalizing and practicing led to a lack of trust among the physicians. It is against the violations of the physician’s Hippocratic oath as this physician swears not to engage in any forms of harm. This oath is very important as it gives assurance to patients that physicians assist in treating them and not hurting them. Many instances had been reported of involuntary deaths in which physicians had committed them without any consent.
Physician-assisted suicide creates a situation where abuses can be experienced. Patients sometimes may feel the need to die due to psychological or mental problems. A physician may decide to assist in dying; this is wrong as such a patient is supposed to be counseled to get out of the situation. Physician-assisted suicide can lead to patients who are not critically ill ending their life.
Physician-assisted suicide is against religious teachings and beliefs.
Religions such as Christianity condemn any form of killing. They view it as a form of murder against the “thou shall not kill” commandment. Other religious beliefs also condemn killing and it should not be used as an option.
Depending on physician-assisted suicide creates a situation where physicians and family members of a patient may decide to end the life of a patient earlier on the belief that in the future things will be worse. In such cases, such decisions are misguided as they deny the patient enough time to spend with family members and maybe to recover.
Sometimes physicians can diagnose a patient wrongly. In such a case they may claim that the patient chances of survival are minimal thus opting for mercy killing. It is quite wrong the way the physicians have been granted much power because they can abuse it.
According to Miller Franklin G and Meir Dialie E. in “Voluntary Death: A comparison of Terminal Dehydration and Physician-Assisted suicide”, terminal dehydration is considered as an alternative way to physician-assisted death in form of voluntary forgoing food and water. It is believed by many scholars that terminal dehydration takes an advantageous position compared to physician-assisted suicide in matters of the implications associated, the integrity of the professions, and its accessibility.
Issues that relate to physician-assisted suicide over the years have not recognized terminal dehydration as the other option for physician-assisted death.
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Patients with terminal sicknesses may artificially forge nutrition by refusing to eat and drink.
Those in favor of terminal dehydration argue that it is painless and any discomfort associated with it can be prevented more adequately. Forgoing water or food by any means by a patient is deriving from the rights as in refusing treatment. In terminal dehydration physicians sees it as morally right of a patient to refuse to take food or water, but refusal to take lethal medicine is not morally accepted by the physicians.
Terminal dehydration creates opportunities for patients to be able to take control of their life as it calls for one to be determined to resist food and water. It creates situations where a patient can decide to change his mind as it takes long before death occurs. In physician-assisted suicide, death occurs rapidly and immediately. Terminal dehydration can be availed quickly than physician-assisted death but it is morally challenging.
Proper physical and psychological pain management can help to eliminate the desire for suicide.
In physician-assisted suicide, patient desires to end their life due to the desperate situation caused by pain. But it is quite clear that the desire for committing suicide can be alleviated by using several other means physically or psychologically.
Counseling psychologists, physicians, and other health professionals hold that the application of these methods can indeed reduce the levels of suicide rates. (Richard 112-121)
Pain is invisible and various standards can be used in the assessment and managing it. This calls for the recognition of the patient’s rights in getting proper management of pain. Through educating patients and family members on the effectiveness of pain management can reduce the high chances of a patient desiring to commit suicide as the information can be useful to handle psychological problems.
As pain affects a patient physically, psychologically it calls for an approach from an interdisciplinary perspective. Pain requires careful attention from professionals in healthcare, proper planning and care for patients by physicians, therapists, counselors, pharmacists, helps in controlling and managing pain thus reducing the desire for seeking assisted suicide
Palliative care as an alternative
Palliative care refers to the medical treatment that is given to a patient to reduce the symptoms of an illness, this relieves pain and suffering. Palliative care aims at improving patient’s conditions and quality of life. The care is given to patients who suffer from a terminal illness which are chronic such as cancer, heart diseases, and others. (Matzao and Witt 2006)
Palliative care has been used as an alternative to assisted suicide where it has shown higher chances of success today where many such institutions have been established. They give psychological, spiritual care to patients and help them to live positive lives.
Professionals from various disciplines like physicians, therapists, psychiatrists, nurses, palliative care providers have been able to assist patients with complex sickness in alleviating the progression of the disease symptoms. They offer a good opportunity to the patients in the provision of information and care in dealing with the patient’s sickness. They know how to prescribe drugs to a patient with physical problems.
In cases where the problem may be psychological, they assist in counseling the patients and families on how to deal with issues. Palliative care is a very good alternative in dealing with issues terminal illnesses and physician assisted suicide.
Physician-assisted suicide should not be seen as the only alternative in a situation, where a patient is desperate due to an illness.
There are other alternative methods that can be applied and they have proved to be more efficient. It is morally wrong for a physician to end one’s life.
Proper care and management of the patient’s pain should be emphasized to alleviate suicide commission attempts legalizing physician-assisted suicide should be discouraged at all costs.
Lee M.,Nelson H., Virginia P., Ganzini L. and “et al.” “Legalizing Assisted Suicide”- views on Physician in Oregon. The New England Journal of Medicine volume 334 (1996):309-317.
Matzao Marianne and Witt Deborah. Palliative Care Nursing: Quality care to the End life. Springer publishing company, (2006).
Miller Franklin G and Meir Dialie E. “Voluntary Death: A comparison of Terminal Dehydration and Physician – Assisted suicide.” (1998). Volume 128. Issue 7.
Taylor and Francis Group “Journal of medicine and Philosophy”, (2006): 1-13 Print/1744- 5619 online.
Weiner Richard S. Pain management, CRC press, (2001) pg. 1138.