Should assisted suicide be legal

In the context of this paper, I am going to address the issue of the legalization of assisted suicide. At first, I will argue that it is unethical to legalize assisted suicide. Physicians are not supposed to be given the authority to assist their patients to commit suicide. The main aim of this paper is to explore the ethical aspects of the legalization of assisted suicide by considering different perspectives in a bid to arrive at a better as well as more informed view as far as the issue is concerned. This paper will be broadly divided into three main stages. The first section will be the thesis, this is the section in which I will introduce the issue of the legalization of assisted suicide and highlight some of the related terms and concepts. I will then proceed to give the reasons why I feel that it is unethical to legalize assisted suicide. The second section will be the Antithesis, this is the section where I will consider some of the possible objections that can be cast upon my initial argument. The final section will be the Synthesis, this is the section where I will state my final argument, in light of the criticisms and objects that have been highlighted in my antithesis.

I think it is unethical to legalize assisted suicide. My basic reasons to support this opinion are, the sanctity of life, the potential for abuse, professional integrity, professional fallibility as well as the distinction between active and passive killing. I will look at these points in greater detail. To set the stage for the argument which is to follow, I will highlight some of the terms and concepts as far as assisted suicide is concerned. Assisted suicide can be deemed to be incorporating both the Physician Assisted Suicide (PAS) and euthanasia. PAS involves the process where by the physician prescribes a lethal medication to his patient. The patient is then required to administer the medication himself (Palmer, 2000). If it is an injection, the patient will be required to inject himself. This is more or less similar with euthanasia, the only difference being that in euthanasia the physician takes the active role of administering the lethal injection. In both these cases, the patient is required to give his own unforced opinion of the reason why they feel they want to commit suicide. It is mandatory that the patient should be mature enough and should be mentally stable. The patient should reconfirm his opinion after certain duration, probably two weeks to ascertain that he is serious with this ambition.  The patient has to be diagnosed with a terminal illness or has to be to be deemed to be undergoing unbearable pain. The patient is required to be well informed about the consequences of his decision and its irreversibility (Mackler, 2003).

First of all, I feel that it is unethical to legalize assisted suicide as it interferes with the sanctity of life. Life is sacred and should not be terminated in any condition. In accordance to the secular as well as religious traditions, human life is not supposed to be shortened. Since assisted suicide contradicts such beliefs, assisted suicide can thus be deemed to be unethical. Assisted suicide violates the right to life. We are not supposed to destroy that which we cannot create. We are given life by God, and only God should have the option of taking someones life. Regardless of the condition of the patient, the physician should not take any active role meant at shortening or terminating the patients life (Mackler, 2003).

Secondly, there is a possibility that some patients and even physicians are likely to assisted suicide if it is legalized. Patients who are not able to access adequate care as well as support are likely to be forced to consider assisted death as the option to escape all their misfortunes. There is also likelihood that some individuals are likely to embrace assisted suicide as a means of containing their cost and cutting down medical expenses. Families which are burdened by the expenses incurred as a result of their terminally ill member are likely to embrace assisted suicide to cut down on their costs and avoid being impoverished by a terminally sick patient who is ultimately going to die (Wall, 2003). Healthcare providers who are overwhelmed by the condition of the patient are likely to encourage assisted suicide. Due to the emotions associated with having a terminally ill family member, or seeing a loved one constantly suffering unbearable pain may be overwhelming to some families and they may encourage assisted suicide to salvage their emotional wellbeing (Benjamin, 2000).

My next point deals with professional integrity. Medical profession has always attached great emphasis on the ethical aspects of their undertakings. Every practice they do is always deemed to be having some ethical considerations. It is ethically wrong for medical personnel to take life, the very thing they swore to help protect.  In their Hippocratic oaths, medical practitioners swear to protect the live of their patients and avoid any activity aimed at shortening the lives of their patients. When such personnel assist their patients in committing suicide, they are deemed to have violated the same oath. Most medical professional groups do not support assisted suicide and thus if assisted suicide is legalized, medical profession could be associated with the act and that hamper its public image (Callahan  White, 2000).

My final point is professional fallibility. There is very strong possibility that physicians are likely to make mistakes in the course of their duties. They can commit errors in the course of diagnosis as well as prognosis. There is also the possibility that the physicians may not have taken adequate measures in pain treatment and thus the patient may be vulnerable to unbearable pain. The state is thus supposed to protect the lives of its citizens from these mistakes which cannot be practically avoided. There is a distinction between active and passive suicide. Passive suicide can be equated to a case whereby a patient refuses medication and ultimately dies. Active suicide can just be deemed to be killing and thus is unethical (Callahan  White, 2000).

In this section I am going to explore two main objections to my view. The first counterargument will be on the notion of the right to die which entails individuals autonomy. The second will be concerned with justice. In what follows, I am going to address each of these arguments in detail.

Every individual is considered to have the ability of making independent decisions concerning matters which affect him. In assisted suicide, the patient is the one who decides whether or not his is willing to be involved in the act. If a person is in unbearable pain, and he feels that he cannot withstand it any longer, then he should be allowed to choose to die. In the case of terminally ill patients, they are sure that they are bound to die within a short duration there would be no point of suffering and ultimately dying (Gorsuch, 2000). They can choose to die earlier rather than endure all the pain. Why should they be denied the opportunity to find peace and rest by escaping the sufferings of life These people have the right to die. They should not be denied this right if they meet all the necessary prerequisites to determine their fate. Assisted suicide should thus be legalized, only that the patient needs to meet all the conditions. It is not ethical to deny somebody to do something which will have consequences in his life when you are not fully aware of the experience he is undergoing through. It is morally right to assist a patient to commit suicide if it is in his own unforced interest (Ganzini  Youngner, 1998).

The second point is that we have to consider the aspect of justice. Assisted suicide can sometimes be considered to be doing justice to the patient. As medical personnel, it seems unfair to allow a patient to suffer unbearable pain while you no that he is bound to die. Is it really fair to subject a patient to a painful death The law is supposed to give the physicians the authority to act in the interest of the patient even if it means assisting him in taking his life. It is just to prevent your patient from undergoing painful stress. It is also just on the side of the family members, who undergo a very difficult emotional time as they contend with seeing their loved one constantly suffering in pain (Gorsuch, 2000). They also spend a lot of money and invest a considerable amount of resources trying to salvage a situation which is ultimately destined to get worse. If a patient can be allowed to die when he refuses to take his medication and this is considered as passive death, then it is just to assists a patient to die through assisted suicide. This is more so due to the fact that refusing medication may not be effective enough in ending the lives of some patients (Benjamin, 2000).

In the context of this paper, I initially argued that legalizing assisted suicide is wrong. My basic reasons were the interference to the sanctity of life, the potential for abuse, professional integrity, professional fallibility as well as the distinction between active and passive killing. In what follows I will clarify my final argument, by highlighting what I take to be the most relevant as far as legalizing assisted suicide is concerned. Then I will justify those values, by supporting each one with a particular moral theory.  Finally, I will conclude this paper with a brief consideration of additional questions that were raised. Kantian ethics which focuses on the nature of duty is the ethical system I take to be most relevant here. Kantian system advocates for the Respect for Life.

Life is sacred and so it must be treated. There is no reason enough to warrant somebody the powers to take the life of another. If the patient cannot contend with the pain he is feeling, then it is upon him to indulge in activities such as refusal of medication to terminate his life rather than a physician taking an active role in the process. The life that they are agreeing to terminate does not belong to either of them, life is given by God. Therefore, the patient does not have any moral ground to request for the termination of his life. Only God is supposed to take life from a human being.

Legalizing assisted suicide makes it particularly vulnerable to abuse. Patients, their family members as well as health practitioners are likely to abuse such a legislation to suit their individual needs. The integrity of the medical fraternity is also brought to question when assisted suicide is legalized. The physicians will violate the very oath they swore to when they begun their profession. The practice of medicine is supposed to guard life at all costs and termination of life seems to go against the ambitions of the medical profession.

There is a possibility of professional fallibility. Some of the errors in medical profession are very difficult to completely eliminate while they may dictate dire consequences on the life of the patient. Misdiagnosis may lead the physicians to make misinformed and misleading conclusions about the states of health of the patient. The physicians may also have neglected treating the patient well to relieve the pain. This may lead the patient to contemplate engaging in assisted suicide while in the actual sense they do not deserve.

The counterargument that the idea of assisted suicide should not have a moral implication is strong. This is more so because of the fact that i t is the will of the patient. It is important that we should respect the idea of a person about something that is bound to affect him. This may be true but in accordance to Kantian ethics, we should never be compelled to terminate life regardless of the situation. The other point is that of justice, it is true from a given perspective that assisted suicide may in some occasions imply justice. But this should not give physicians the moral ground to actively involve themselves in the practice.

The counterargument has led me to modify my view so allow assisted suicide in very desperate cases if the patient is willing and the physicians have proved beyond any reasonable doubt that this is the best possible solution that can be explored. This can only mean that the legal apparatus can be slightly amended to accommodate assisted suicide for very desperate cases only. Kantian ethics advocates for the respect of life. It is ethically incorrect to terminate the life.

I analyzed the issue of the legalization of assisted suicide and initially argued that it is immoral.  Then I considered several objections to this view, which encouraged me to slightly modify my view.  In the final analysis, several questions were raised, including the interference with the autonomy of the patients decision. The patient should be given the right to determine what he feels is good for him. The aspect of justice linked to assisted suicide was also highlighted. I now feel that assisted suicide should not be legalized for all the cases but some openings should be created in the legal system to ensure that desperate cases which deserve assisted suicide are attended to.


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