Table of Contents
The question whether physician-assisted suicide should be allowed in certain cases, such as on patients with advanced terminal diseases, but not in other cases is a moral and ethical issue that has been debated over years. There seems not to be an agreement as to whether it should be allowed in the society (Pappas, 2012). The debate around the issue has led to a sharp divide between individuals that oppose the practice and their counterparts with opposing views. Personally, I advocated for it to be allowed in some cases especially about patients with advanced terminal diseases. Advanced terminal diseases cannot be cured, and they subject the patient and the society to a lot of pain and suffering. A patient can therefore willingly ask for it.
People, at an individual level, determine the legality and morality of physician-assisted suicide considering the sharp divide based on each’s opinion (Hawkins, 2002). Patients suffering from terminal diseases may ask physicians to assist with drugs to end their lives. The pain, suffering, and costs associated with terminal diseases, such as progressive heart illness or the last stages of cancer, may influence the patient decision. To reduce the emotional and physical suffering that their families and friends are subjected to, they may willingly make the decision to take their own lives. In the society, ethical, moral, cultural and religious factors may disagree with physician-assisted suicide (Pappas, 2012). However, it should be practiced if the level of pain and suffering is going to be reduced for the patient and the society.
Human beings have the right to life. The right to die lies only on the natural causes. However, in the case of advanced terminal diseases, the patient may willingly make the decision to take their life. If the patient request for physician-assisted suicide the patient should be allowed to undertake it. It should be allowed in cases that reduce the pain, suffering, costs and other negative impacts of the terminal disease on the patient, family, friends, and the society. Suffering, pain, and expenses which seem to deliver no definite improvement in a patient can be avoided if the patient willingly asks for physician-assisted suicide.
Aim and Procedure
The primary purpose and objective of this paper is to address the issue of whether patients with advanced terminal diseases should be allowed to practice physician-assisted suicide. Patients with terminal diseases understand that they cannot be cured. Therefore, this discussion focuses on an analysis of whether terminally ill patients have authority to take their lives willingly. The discussion looks at the supporting and opposing reasoning on the issue. It also applies the utilitarian ethical theory and the virtue-based model in analyzing these conflicting statements. The discussion further examines cognitively and analytically the supporting reasoning and the opposing reasoning. The discussion concludes with a summary that explains the moral issue, the theoretical provisions and the arguments presented.
Support for Physician-Assisted Suicide
Terminal diseases are diseases without cure when they reach certain advanced stages. These health conditions subject patients to a lot of pain, suffering and financial constraints (Pappas, 2012). The patient’s family and friends of are also subjected to emotional pains and suffering. Physicians in most health institutions have the obligation of notifying the patient and the family of the patient on the progress of the treatment process and the patient’s chances of recovery. Consequently, patients have the right to make medical decisions which they feel will benefit their conditions and their families.
Since the introduction of the field of medicine, medical decisions have been personal (Hawkins, 2002). Patients have the right to take or not take medications. If a patient with terminal diseases makes the decision to terminate their life, it should, therefore, be allowed. On the other hand, patients suffering from diseases that are curable and manageable should not be allowed to practice physician-assisted suicide because there is hope for successful treatment. The right to die may be left to natural causes, but in cases where the patient and the society are aware that the disease will lead to death, the patient can willingly opt for physician assisted suicide. According to Pappas (2012), dying in dignity ensures that the patient is not subjected to so much suffering and pain.
The utilitarian ethical theory argues the role that pain and pleasure play in the lives of individuals in the society (Singer, 2003). It states that decisions or actions taken by individuals in the community should bring a high level of happiness as compared to pain. Patients with advanced terminal diseases are subjected to pain and suffering in the society. Their families and friends also undergo emotional and physical pain and suffering. It is a direct opposite of what this theory advocates for in the society. Physician-assisted suicide attains the goal of this theory of ensuring that pleasure is enhanced in the society instead of pain (Pappas, 2012). The patient who makes the decision to take his life willingly is, therefore, not wrong according to Utilitarian ethical theory.
The decision to end their life reduces their pain and suffering as well as for their family members and friends. This brings about more good to the society than bad. It reduces the pain and suffering in the community, and this brings about pleasure because the pain and suffering are managed. The larger group of people in the society can benefit from the physician-assisted suicide in cases of advanced terminal diseases (Pappas, 2012). The utilitarian ethical theory also advocates for our decisions to serve the large group of the society (Singer, 2003). It means that the decisions that we take should benefit the community in a way that increases their happiness or pleasure within the society. A patient suffering from advanced terminal disease requires high level of attention. The society, while trying to meet this attention, it undergoes a series of emotional, psychological and physiological suffering. This suffering does not bring any happiness to the community. Patients with the advanced terminal disease can take their life to achieve happiness in the society.
Virtue ethics model takes into consideration the person making the decision to exercise physician-assisted suicide. It analyzes their character or behavior (Maclntyre, 1984). The decision taking is not highly considered as long as the character of the person is admirable in the society. Virtue ethics model supports the decision taken by the patient to end their lives as long as their prior behavior was good. The social norms, values and principles advocates for good character in the society (Maclntyre, 1984). The society judges people according to their principles. Virtue ethics model likely supports physician-assisted suicide in cases where the community believes that the patient has no other option. It is exactly what I advocate for when I state that it should be allowed in cases where patients have no hope for recovery or successful treatment process.
The society firmly believes that the right to end someone else life should be left to natural causes and events which cannot be prevented (Pappas, 2012). It is considered illegal and unethical to take someone else life or assist them to end their lives. Physicians across the world have an obligation of ensuring that they treat a patient with their level best for a successful recovery. Suicide is considered as murder, and it should not be exercised in the society. The people who are left behind after the death of the patient may be subjected to more pain and suffering in the community for their loss. This contradicts utilitarian ethical theory which requires that the people in the society should be happy (Singer, 2003).
The majority of people in the community may suffer from the death of the patient who willingly agrees to commit suicide with the assistance of the doctor. Consequently, it is not ethical for physicians to help in taking a patient life. The patient makes the decision to seek treatment with the aim of curing the disease that has affected them. A physician who assists in taking the life of a patient commits a crime according to the law (Hawkins, 2002). It can affect the doctor career, the family members of the physician livelihood, the patient relatives, and friends. This has an impact on a larger group of people in the society negatively. It is therefore not ethical or legal to undertake physician-assisted suicide (Pappas, 2012).
On the other hand, the death of the patient through physician-assisted suicide is considered by the society as wrong. Virtue ethics theory advocates for individuals in the community to be of good character (Maclntyre, 1984). The society expects the principles and values of people in the community to serve the common good. Committing suicide of any form is therefore considered unethical and illegal. Taking your own life shows no respect for the society and its values. It is therefore highly not advocated for despite the situation of the people. Religion beliefs also are against the suicide of any kind because of the belief that there is a supreme being that has the right to life.
The society has many principles and values that it expects the people to follow in their day to day activities. The suffering and pain that people suffer from about advanced terminal diseases are not considered in these values and principles. The society expects people to follow all the legal and ethical measures that are outlined (Maclntyre, 1984). Advanced terminal diseases are diseases which cannot be cured. Instead of subjecting the patient to constant pain and suffering without any hope for effective treatment, the patient can willingly opt for taking their own life. The family members also can positively be able to ensure that their loved ones are free from any suffering or pain. Consequently, some advanced terminal diseases can be acquired through contact with the patient. Physician-assisted suicide can enable the society to reduce the spread of the disease. It is therefore essential that patients, who willingly ask for physician assistance in ending their lives due to advanced terminal illness, be given the support (Pappas, 2012).
In summary, physician-assisted suicide in cases of advanced terminal diseases can be made legal and ethical because it reduces the pain and suffering of the patient and the society. It, therefore, serves well for the majority of people in the community. In some cases, it is considered unethical or legal because of people believes that natural circumstances should cause death. Other people are limited to accepting physician-assisted suicide by religion and social beliefs, values, and principles. These people argue that suicide of any kind can bring about more suffering and pain in the society. However, advanced terminal diseases cannot be cured, and people should be allowed to make the decision to take their own lives in this case. The society values do not reduce the pain and suffering of the patient. These diseases can also be passed from one person to the other. Physician-assisted suicide, therefore, serves the common good for the society.
- Hawkins, G. (2002). Physician-assisted suicide. San Diego, CA: Greenhaven Press.
- MacIntyre, A. (1984). After virtue. Notre Dame, IN University of Notre Dame Press.
- Pappas, D. (2012). The euthanasia/assisted-suicide debate. Santa Barbara, CA: Greenwood.
- Singer, P. (2003). Voluntary euthanasia: A utilitarian perspective. Bioethics, 17(5/6), 526-541.