Physician Assisted Suicide is the process of a doctor providing the necessary sleeping pills/lethal dose to allow a terminally ill patient to perform the life ending act. In the United States, all but four states have made physician assisted suicide (PAS) illegal.When in a situation a terminally ill patient is in, they should have the right to commit a physician-assisted suicide.
In 1994, the state of Oregon enabled the Death With Dignity Act (DWDA). With 51% voting in favor of the act, it gives terminally ill patients access to PAS. Attorney General John Ashcroft challenged the act by saying it was not “real” and that allowing doctors to do perform that, violates the Controlled Substances Act (CSA). CSA protects the regulation of doctors from performing unauthorized distributions of drugs and drug abuse. If doctors are able to assist suicides, through Ashcroft’s claim, they would be using drugs as an abuse. In the Supreme Court, petitioner Paul D. Clement argued in the case about the violation of CSA, with 6-3, “we conclude the rule is not authorized by the CSA, and we affirm the judgment of the Court of Appeals” (Gonzales V Oregon).
Patients of irreversible illnesses often develop disorders that go underdiagnosed causing them to live a life that isn’t happy for them or their family members. According to Dr. Fine of the Office of Clinical Ethics, terminally ill patients usually get depressed when dealing with intense suffering. When the patient is depressed, they may not respond to treatment as expected. If the patient is not responding to treatment well, the doctor may up the dosage of medication or consider adding antidepressants, causing the patient to be reliant on medication for the rest of their life.
Patients who receive a terminal diagnosis usually experience high levels of anxiety. According to Dr. Fine, anxiety can cause problems such as, agitation, insomnia, restlessness, sweating, tachycardia, hyperventilation, panic disorder, worry, or tension. Sleep deprivation plays a huge part in the anxiety the patients feel. The patient’s sleep is often interrupted many nights and several times to get their blood pressure checked, blood withdrawals, checkings of veins, etc. Because these medical requirements can not be withheld, many doctors may feel the need to heavily sedate the patient to make them feel lucid during the day time.
Studies have shown that patients of terminal illnesses fear that they’d burden their families. The patients feel, “grief and fear not only for their own future but also for their families’ future” (Johnson), researchers say. The feelings of being in the way can cause emotional, physical, social, and financial problems. In doctors Johnson, Nolan, and Sulmasy’s research, they found that feelings of burden are most likely to affect emotional symptoms, quality of life, and patient satisfaction. Wanting to feel like they aren’t a burden to their families and society was most important to patients seen by the doctors. The research the doctors conducted found that out of a list of 28 qualities, the wish to not be a physical or emotional burden on family, 93% of respondents said that this was very or extremely important to them. The doctors made three categories of experiences that were related to “self-perceived burden” (Johnson). The first one being “concerns for other” (Johnson), then “implications for self” (Johnson), and last being “minimizing the burden” (Johnson). Feeling like a burden can cause “empathic concern engendered from the impact on others of one’s illness and care needs, resulting in guilt, distress, feelings of responsibility, and diminished sense of self” (Johnson).
To let a patient commit an assisted suicide means, they’re freed from pain. To force someone who knows that their time's coming to an end quickly when they do not wish to be in pain anymore should be a crime. In Epidemics, Book 1, it states, “practice two things in your dealings with disease: either help or do not harm the patient”, by allowing the patient to continue their life is harming them, all physically, mentally, and spiritually. Doctors take an oath, the Hippocratic Oath when practicing medicine. In the oath, there is a phrase that says “Also I will, according to my ability and judgment, prescribe a regimen for the health of the sick; but I will utterly reject harm and mischief”, if the patient has considered an assisted suicide, they’ve been in too much pain and wish for it to end. Refusing them the help causes them more physical and emotional pain; physical being the illness itself and emotional being the feeling of being a burden.
Patients with terminal illnesses have the right to commit assisted suicides because it allows them to end their life from something no drug would be able to fix. With the illness being irreversible, dragging it out will cause both suffering and financial problems. Terminally ill patients have the right to die with dignity. Dying by choice will let their loved ones know that they are ready and have accepted their fate, easing weight off their families shoulders. Having the ability to die will portray the patients as human beings who want to make one last decision before going rather than people who are laying in a hospital bed waiting to die. A patient knows that the doctor’s job is to relieve pain, with a doctor refusing their wish, only cause distrust in their relationship. Letting assisted suicide would allow their families to begin healing. By refusing the patient their right to die, forces them to live a poor quality of life no one would ever wish upon anybody. It is in everyone’s interest to let them go. Doctors have a responsibility to make the patient happy and to relieve them of any kind of pain, letting them go is relieving them of the pain they wish to no longer feel. PAS gives them the ability to go happily and contently.