The specific method in each state varies, but mainly involves a prescription from a licensed physician approved by the state in which the patient is a resident.
California recently joined Oregon, Washington, Vermont, and Montana in legalizing physician-assisted suicide. Death, like taxes, is inevitable. But should we be able to turn to doctors to help us die? Micco explores the complex ethical and legal issues involved.
First, what exactly do we mean by the term physician-assisted suicide? Assisted suicide is the act of intentionally killing yourself with the aid of someone who provides the knowledge or the means to do so.
Suicide isn't illegal, but some people consider it immoral. Physician aid-in-dying is distinct from euthanasia. A patient has to be able to take it on his or her own. Euthanasia is where a doctor, or another person, administers the medication. In states that allow physician-assisted suicide, which patients qualify?
Patients have to be terminally ill, which by definition means their doctor believes they have six months or less to live. They have to be able to take the drug themselves. They must have the mental capacity to know what they are doing and what the consequences are.
They have to make two verbal requests, 15 days apart, and one written request Physician assisted suicide policy two witnesses.
And two doctors—an attending physician and a consulting physician—must verify that the patient meets all the criteria. There are a lot of hoops to jump through. The basic question is one of autonomy. I should have the right to take my life when that seems like the proper and best thing to do.
Doctors control the means—drugs that end life painlessly. Why should they be able to withhold them from me? What about the arguments against assisted suicide? Some people fear that it will become an ethical slippery slope. Once we allow physician-assisted suicide for competent people who are terminally ill and can take the medication on their own, it opens the way to offering it to people who are no longer mentally competent.
And then to people who are in distress but not terminally ill, such as the year-old depressed woman in Belgium. Where does it stop? The disabled community, through organizations like Not Dead Yetoffers another argument.
They insist that people should be given the right to live well before they are given the right to die with assistance. One way is to offer more and better support to people with disabilities so they may live life more fully.
Another argument comes from people who work in palliative care and hospice. But the experience in Oregon shows that nearly all of the people who received a prescription for aid-in-dying were in hospice at the time, and had access to palliative care. They do it because they want to have control over how and when they die.
Lastly, there are religious arguments against suicide.
I can understand this point of view, but I think it should apply only to believers. Why should the rest of the population be held to this standard?
Do the strict guidelines for physician aid-in-dying prevent some patients from getting the help they want at the end of life? Slowly but inevitably they lose all motor function, eventually including the ability to swallow or breathe. Along the way, they lose control of their arms.
Someone would have to give it to them. Does that pose an ethical dilemma? There are all kinds of ethical questions to wrestle with. For that matter, why should someone have to be terminally ill?
Why should someone who is suffering horribly, unremittingly, not have a right to physician aid-in-dying? Those are difficult questions to answer. The legal issues are just as complicated.Physician-assisted suicide laws have been associated with a 6% increase in total suicides (15% in those older than 65 years) in the states where physician-assisted suicide is legal, controlling for state-specific time trends (29, 30).
The concept of assisted dying has been a topic of discussion for decades but as legalization of physician assisted dying practices has expanded to the United States, the debate warrants further consideration.
This paper explores the political feasibility of further expansion of assisted dying policies in . Physician-assisted suicide’s most profound injustice is that it violates human dignity and denies equality before the law. Every human being . It is imperative to distinguish personal wishes from the significant dangers to society of legalizing assisted suicide as public policy.
The legalization of assisted suicide has many harmful consequences.
June , entitled “Physician-Assisted Suicide in Oregon: A Medical Perspective” (PDF). on the question of ‘euthanasia’ or ‘physician-assisted suicide’. Most hospice programs lean more heavily toward the passive end: We will do nothing to speed along the process of dying.
He also works as a palliative care and hospice physician. California recently joined Oregon, Washington, Vermont, and Montana in legalizing physician-assisted suicide. Death, like taxes, is inevitable. But should we be able to turn to doctors to help us die? Micco explores .