Do people really have the right to die? Or is there even a right to die? The controversy over the immunity of an individual to end their own life when living has become emotionally and physically intolerable continues to evoke in our society. A dying person’s physical suffering can be unbearable for the person’s family. Imagine a woman lying in a hospital bed, and for the past months nothing but agony and pain is all she felt. Tears and sadness can be seen on the faces of her family and friends wishing there was something they could do help her, but there isn’t. Then, the doctor informs her that what she has is incurable and will only get worse. Some individuals will acknowledge the time that modern technology gives them; while others find the loss of control overwhelming and frightening. They want their loved ones to remember them as they were not as they have become. Some even choose death to avoid the burdens lingering on. They also seek assistance in doing so from medicine (Kass 17). The choice of assisted suicide would allow these terminally ill patients to end the sorrow and grief of their families as well as their own misery. For too long human beings are being forced to suffer under the primitive religious notion that it is “God’s” decision and not ours to end life (Mendelson 1). Since the 1990’s medically-assisted suicide is still being frequently debated over the news. Assisted suicide should be a legal option for terminally ill people because they should not be compelled to live a painfully unbearable life which will result in death anyway; and the passing of the law will not impose on a slippery slope on our society.
Physician-assisted suicide (PAS) is the voluntary termination of one’s own life by administration of a lethal substance with direct of indirect assistance of a physician (Merriam-Webster Dictionary). It has had a long and controversial history dating back to the ancient Greeks and Romans. They believed that there was no reason for anything to continue living a painful and suffering life. The term euthanasia comes from the Greek meaning “a good death”. Not until Hippocrates of Kos who was a Greek physician who created the Hippocratic Oath. The Hippocratic Oath was an oath stating the obligations and proper conduct of doctors, which opposed deadly medicine towards patients. PAS became better known to the public when Dr. Jack Kevorkian a pathologist helped assist his first patient to death. Jack Kevorkian was a U.S.-based physician who assisted in patient suicides, sparking increased talk on hospice care and “right to die” legislative action. Kevorkian’s invention of the “suicide machine” to inject the lethal doses of medication, caused him to spend eight years in prison due to four “murder” charges.
There are numerous concerns about a slippery slope in society if PAS is legalized. Many believe that the right to die laws will put many vulnerable groups such as the poor, elderly and disable at risk and will ruin society over time. In the article “There Is No Evidence of a Slippery Slope with Right-to-Die Laws.” Michael Smith states that studies published by the Journal of Medical Ethics show no evidence of such risk in any of the states or countries that have right-to-die laws legalized. “Assisted dying has accounted for 596 deaths over 14 years, only 0.2 percent of all deaths in the most recent year” (2). Also in the article “Assisted Suicide Works Wells in Oregon” Kathryn L. Tucker describes the tightly controlled procedures of the Dignity act to show the strictness of the act. For example, it requires healthcare providers to file reports with the state documenting their actions. The physician must also inform patients requesting the medication of the risk of taking it, and alternatives to taking their own lives. The qualifying patient must have been properly witnessed and have all waiting periods expired. She goes on to inform how the experience in Oregon demonstrates how carefully the law does not place patients at risk. Oregon reports show that the option of assisted suicide has not been forced upon people who are poor, uneducated, uninsured, or at a disadvantage.
On the other hand, some might disagree with the legalization of PAS because they believe that patients who are terminally ill need support to live longer and not suicide help. Rosemarie Jackowski the author of “Patients Who Lack Hope Need Advocates, Not Suicide Help” claims that most people believe that God makes the decisions to end life, and that experiencing suffering is the great teacher of humanity. Due to the belief that medical science is able to treat all kinds of pains, which is false, causes people to go against PAS. Vulnerable groups are the main concerns; some of the most vulnerable will be pressured to end it all for the convenience and financial benefits of others. “Patients will be influenced into giving in to family members.There are no safeguards that can ensure that the laws will not be abused” (2). Yet there has not been any cases reported showing the abuse of the law in any of the places that have PAS legalized. Jackowski believes that people should be figuring out ways to improve the life and death for all. By making healthcare available to all, alleviate pain and protecting those at high risk by setting up a system of healthcare advocates.
Considering some might have contrasting beliefs; but above all when it comes to taking a life to relieve an individual from pain and suffering is the moral thing to do. Although it is not uncommon for people with a terminal illness to live a controlled and painless life; however for others, it’s a never ending unbearable pain that makes their existence no longer desirable. Allowing a patient the right to choose their death gives them the sense of control and choice they experience gives them the courage and peace of mind to see it out much longer (Mendelson 2).If PAS were to become legalized, it could become a final control that a dying patient could have.This right would allow them to leave this earth with dignity, and relieve them of insufferable pain.The act of PAS is actually practiced a great deal of times on animals. For instance, if a loved pet has intractable suffering it is put it down. It is seen as an act of kindness, and they get no say in whether they want to die. Why should this kindness be denied to humans? Suffering is not meaningful nor is it noble, as the majority of religious teachings would maintain. It is cruel and pathological to endure a painful, tortured existence in which there is no hope for relief but that ultimately brought by death (Mendelson 2)
As previously stated, PAS shows no evidence of a slippery slope and people should not be forced to live a painful life that will result in death regardless. The right to die is an important topic that concerns people all over the world. Some are against it because of religious and moral reasons. Others are for it because of their sorrow and respect for the dying. However, at the end of the day a person’s body is his own and his alone; therefore, when it is all said and done, it should be he who is in full control of his own destiny.