Physician assisted suicide is a kind of euthanasia where the physicians provide the deeply suffering patients with the lethal drug dose to end their life on their will, where the patient is the one who administers the drug within himself and no the physician (Brock). The physician is thus an assistant in their ordeal of committing suicide due to excessive pain of terminal illness or the fear of future painful death due to their medical condition. Physician assisted suicide and euthanasia should be legalized and frameworks be made to assist the practice whereby patients are given autonomy over their body and can relish a dignified death rather than a painful one.
The topic is very important since there have been so many arguments for and against it given to the sensitivity of the topic and traditional moral beliefs on which it was condemned in the past but now several arguments have come forth finding counter arguments for the problems initially stated using the ethical frameworks and values.
Problems with Physician Assisted Suicide
First and foremost, the act is considered immoral according to various traditionalist views since it involves killing an innocent person (Arras). It violates the moral principle as it takes away the life of an innocent person at the hands of another. This group strongly oppose the idea as it goes against their inherent moral beliefs and justifications. The roots of these perception lies within the religious jurisdiction as suicide is already considered wrong in most religions where the bodyâ€™s sole domination lies within the God, and not the person himself (Arras).
Euthanasia and PAS are the deliberate killing of an innocent person and not depriving them off their treatment in the case of terminal illness, which is not considered sometimes wrong as it is practiced in United States where the patients chances of survival are less and to relieve them of the suffering, doctors sometimes withhold or withdraw treatments to save the patients from pointless financial and physiological burden (Battin). So even at times, allowing them to die is not considered that immoral than helping them to die as it involves the deliberate fastening of the process of death considered wrong and immoral in majority viewpoints. So even if it is physician assisted, which means that the lethal dose is not directly administered by the physician, it is immoral because it is assisting something sinful and wrong within the traditional and religious boundaries.
Act being done by Physician
Another opposition stems not from the ideology of euthanasia but with the person assisting the act which is physician. As physicians should be involved in saving their patients life and not in an act which takes away their life, the act of physician assisted suicide or physician committing the killing himself, is considered wrong (Arras). In Germany the doctors are condemned to cause or assist a patientâ€™s suicide intent, however anyone outside is, by law, not withheld from committing the act (Battin). So a family member, a friend can assist a person in his suicide attempt to save them from the acute pain of their physical or physiological pain. Furthermore, there has been a private organization that serves the purpose with proper documentation and paperwork for the act (Battin). These opposing group has a problem with the performer of the act for the performance and not the act itself.
The third kind of opposing argument comes for the frameworks and problems that might occur as a consequence of legalizing euthanasia and the physician assisted suicide (Arras). These people donâ€™t have the problem with it being immoral, they consider it morally right and understand the suffering and pain caused by the chronic illness to these patients where prolonging their lives is just pointless and adds to their suffering, however, they have a problem with legalizing it and the consequences like potential abuse of such framework (Arras). After legalization, how can the pain be justified of being eradicated due to death and the doctors misusing it for their own gains. This view is considered a â€˜slippery slopeâ€™ (Arras) as these people consider that the legalization would bear negative consequences and risky ordeal. Also this slippery slope also dives into non-voluntary euthanasia where the patient is psychologically incompetent to make that choice for himself, causing social risks of the act (Brock). There are several negative and positive consequences identified by different authors of legalizing it, weighing the good and bad consequences to understand whether it is morally right to consider legalizing it.
Critiques and Arguments for the Physician Assisted Suicide
The philosophical arguments in favor of PAS and euthanasia consists of two different point of views. Firstly, the argument is based on autonomy whereby everyone has the right over their bodies and decisions related to their body which includes life, death etc. (Arras). This first argument rules out the major concern of immorality of the act as it is the patientâ€™s choice and his capability of bearing the pain which is the major player here. So, the killing of the innocent is not against his will, he intends to be killed and the assisters are just fulfilling his request which is very humane.
Secondly, the philosophical argument goes around the idea that it is not a harsh act undertaken by the physician but instead it is an act of mercy for them (Arras) as they are relived from the current as well as future excruciating pain due to their illness. It is important to understand that the people with illness like cancer, AIDs which are not treatable, not only adds to the financial burden to the family, who could utilize this saving for better purposes but also extends the painful time period of the patient which heâ€™s unable to endure and wants a relief, making it his duty to end his life (Hardwig).
Main Values that Support Euthanasia
The two main values for the sustainment of the patientâ€™s life that support PAS and Euthanasia are self-determination and individual well-being (Brock). Self-determination revolves around giving people the right to live their life according to their own beliefs and values which they deem are necessary to lead a prosperous life which gives them the autonomy to decide for their treatment and sustainment of life in their own way where they can choose euthanasia if it contradicts their good living and surviving (Brock).
On the other hand, individual well-being revolves around people benefitting from survival and making choices to live in a way that benefits their well-being, so in euthanasia, they consider their life of no benefit to them making their very own survival a burden to them (Brock). Both these values support the instances of PAS and euthanasia and serves as a counter argument for religious views of rights over oneâ€™s own body.
Allowing to die V/S Killing
The problem with the physician in causing or assisting with the suicide is again baseless as these physicians are the first-hand dealers of the kind of pain their patients go through. Allowing the patients to die by withholding their treatment is worse than fastening their process of death as it lets the patient die in dignity and relives them from the future severe suffering as well as the financial and emotional constraint of the family. So morally justifying that the physicians didnâ€™t kill but halted the treatment process due to the patientâ€™s and patientâ€™s familyâ€™s consent is ironic. This practice has been undertaken in United States where â€˜terminal sedativesâ€™ to cause the patient to be unconscious to relive their pain and withholding or withdrawing their treatment is considered legal but reliving them completely of their suffering is not legalized (Battin), again ironically inducing more suffering to the patient and the family than actually performing euthanasia. So physicians already involve in cases to allow them to die, which compromises on their individual well-being which is more painful then hastening the process which goes with both the values and is morally right as an act of mercy.
Having concerns for the consequences and the process of something undertaken is justified but not undertaking it just because it has risks of abuse attached is very flawed within itself. The risks and negative consequences can be mitigated through proper legal adoption of the policy with detailed technicalities eradicating all the risk factors. Because this topic is of utmost concern and just because the legalization of PAS and euthanasia has risk attached, those patients canâ€™t be left to deal with the pain and suffering on their own. The patients should be treated at all the levels of treatment to eradicate the pain and suffering of the individual till it not compromises their quality of life, like providing them with clinical treatments if it has a chance of making them healthier again (Arras) but if it is untreatable it is only rational to consider the patientâ€™s request for its own survival and about his own life. Netherlands have also have proper frameworks of active voluntary euthanasia and physician assisted suicide and there is no such abuse of negative consequences as euthanasia cases are very less in Netherlands, showing that it has an effective framework (Battin) as nobody has the duty to die if they can be saved (Ackerman), but if they voluntarily decide to end their suffering due to their terminal illness and the pain and suffering are inevitable their request to euthanasia should be concerned.
Ackerman, F. N. (n.d.). ‘For Now Have I My Death’: The ‘Duty To Die’ VS The Duty To Help The I’ll Stay Alive . Physician Assisted Death , pp. 493-501.
Arras, J. D. (n.d.). Physician Assisted Suicide: A Tragic View. Physician Assisted Death, pp. 455-461.
Battin, M. P. (n.d.). Euthanasia: The Way We Do It and The Way They Do It: End-Of-Life Practices In The Developed World. Physician Assisted Suicide, pp. 467-481.
Brock, D. W. (n.d.). Voluntary Active Euthanasia . Physician assisted Death.
Hardwig, J. (n.d.). Is There a Duty To Die? Physician Assisted Death, pp. 483-493.
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