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Physician Assisted Suicide Essay

Example essay on Physician Assisted Suicide:
Physician assisted suicide is a rapidly growing concern that is troubling the lawmakers of our country. Physician assisted suicide is currently illegal in the United States of America in every state except Oregon where it has been legalized under certain circumstances. There have been many challenges concerning the constitutionality of the ban on physician assisted suicide. Physician assisted suicide should remain illegal because it murders innocent people and it violates the Hippocratic Oath.

“Most especially must I tread with care in matters of life and death. If it is given to me to save a life, all thanks. But it may also be within my power to take a life; this awesome responsibility must be faced with great humbleness and awareness of my own frailty. Above all I must not play god” (NOVA Online 1). This excerpt from the modern version of the Hippocratic Oath it specifically states, “I must not play god.” That is exactly what doctors are doing when they practice physician assisted suicide. They are picking who lives and who dies.

There are many laws concerning physician assisted suicide. Thirty-five states already ban assisted suicide by law and most of the rest ban it by court precedent or custom (Mauro and others 1). Physician assisted suicide has been illegal for many years. Anglo-American common law has punished or otherwise disapproved of assisting suicide for more than 700 years (Biskupic 3). The ramifications of legalizing physician assisted suicide would damage the patient-physician relationship, jeopardize the medical profession’s role of healing, and lessen the value placed on life, especially the disabled and vulnerable (Loviglio 1). The line between healing and harming a patient could be blurred by the legalization of physician assisted suicide (Loviglio 1). A society the allows physician assisted suicide may eventually follow along the path of Hitler’s euthanasia program that began with the disposal of the physically and mentally imperfect and culminated into the annihilation groups the Nazis considered impure (Rein 59). Dr. Timothy Quill helped one of his patients, Diane, commit suicide. Dr. Quill gave Diane barbiturates to take that would kill her because she was diagnosed with an acute form of leukemia. She was very sure, not only that she would die during treatment, but also that she would suffer unbearably while undergoing chemotherapy (Rein 66, 67). Dr. Quill let Diane prescribe her own treatment. Diane was very sure that she was going to suffer greatly while undergoing chemotherapy. The chemotherapy may have cured Diane’s cancer but she decided to have her doctor aid in her suicide instead of giving chemotherapy a chance. Dr. Quill’s failure to challenge Diane’s presumption that the cancer treatment would fail opened the door to the next decision – to commit suicide with his help (Rein 68).

Physician assisted suicide is really just a cheap and easy way of getting around the real problem which is that many patients receive poor medical care and support (So You Wanna 1). Physicians are not adequately trained to deal with dying, much less to determine the many symptoms associated with the patient’s requests to die (Rein 74). If physicians could successfully alleviate the patient’s pain and suffering, like they should be trained to do, there would be no reason for any kind of suicide because patients would be focusing on what they want to do with their lives rather than on the pain and suffering they have. A competent, caring doctor is always able to relieve the pain associated with terminal disease, so there is really no need for any kind of suicide (So You Wanna 1). Patient suffering is unnecessary given the sophistication of modern drugs (So You Wanna 1). With all the advancements in technology and medicine, things can be done that could only dreamed about twenty and thirty years ago. With the medicine a doctor can prescribe for a patient, almost everything can be cured and alleviate almost all pain, yet some people still turn to suicide as their only means of getting rid of the pain and suffering.

There are two alternatives to physician assisted suicide. One of these is aggressive pain relief. Instead of giving their patient medicine that causes the double effect. The double effect is obtaining medication to alleviate the suffering, even to the point of causing unconsciousness and hastening death (Ostrom 2). Sister Sharon Park, executive director of the state’s catholic conference, said on the American Civil Liberties Union’s bill that would remove liability from physicians who offer patients a “full range of end-of-life care choices, “Aggressive pain relief is already legal. Going beyond that is flying down a slippery slope toward assisted suicide. With careful, modern pain management, aggressive pain relief rarely, if ever, causes death” (Ostrom 4, 3). Many doctors worry that they are going to make drug addicts out of people, or have the Drug Enforcement Agency down their backs, or have authorities saying they are promoting drug use (Ostrom 4). No doctor has ever been disciplines as a result of treating a terminally ill patient (Ostrom 4). In only one case in the past fourteen years was a doctor investigated (Ostrom 5). Barbara Coombs, Compassion in Dying Federation executive director believes that, “For patient’s sake, state medical boards must educate and even discipline doctors who wont deliver adequate pain medication to their patients” (Ostrom 4). When a patient is in pain a doctor is not doing his job properly. A suffering patient should be given medication to get rid of the pain he has.

The other is hospice care. Jay Mahoney, president of the National Hospice Organization (NHO), said on the Supreme Court rulings of 1997 that concluded that Washington’s ban on assisted suicide constitutional:
“A stark, and frankly incomplete, picture of end-of-life care has been presented to the public during the debate of assisted suicide. There is a perception that a terminally ill patient must choose between a painful existence devoid of value on one hand and assisted suicide on the other; however, there is another, more appropriate option – hospice care. People cannot make an informed choice unless they fully understand their options. Unfortunately, in the debate about assisted suicide, the option of hospice care is often overlooked.”(Rein 76)

When patients are diagnosed with a terminal disease hospice care is often overlooked. Hospice care is often referred to as palliative care, which relieves a patient’s pain and the accompanying symptoms of his or her illness without curing the terminal illness (Rein 76). Providing more and better palliative care, treating depression more aggressively, and increasing access to hospice care are essential to help terminally ill patients die more comfortably and to quell the demand for assisted suicide (Loviglio 1). Hospice care lets the family be more involved in administering health care. Many patients could benefit from their family members helping with their health care.

Richard F. Corlin, the president of the American Medical Association, says:
“You see People in the last stages of a terminal illness; you see people suffering from chronic depression, people with arthritis, and multiple sclerosis. They’re in pain but would clearly benefit from the better use of pain medication, the better use of psychological support, and the involvement of family in their care.”(Loviglio 2)

Approximately ninety percent of hospice services are delivered in the home. Care delivered in the home, where a family member is the primary caregiver, has been proven time and time again to be less expensive than hospitals or nursing homes (Rein 77). The modern hospice movement evolved out of the need to provide humane care to the terminally ill patients, while at the same time lending support to their families (Rein 76). Hospice care should be what terminally ill patients are choosing instead of physician assisted suicide. While it not only cares for the patients, it also lends support to the patient’s family.

Even with alternatives to choose from, many people still turn to physician assisted suicides as their only means of getting rid of their pain and suffering. Some of their pain is brought on by doctors not being able to successfully alleviate the pain and suffering of their terminally ill patients. Physicians need better training in aggressive pain relief so they can successfully alleviate the pain. Physician assisted suicide should remain illegal because it murders innocent people and violates the Hippocratic Oath.

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Physician Assisted Suicide Essay
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