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Assisted Suicide

Assisted Suicide Assisted suicide (or Euthanasia) is a topic undergoing serious debate. There exist two obvious and definite opinions regarding this controversy. The anti-euthanasia faction consist of: ? Conservative religious groups. They are often the same organizations that oppose access to abortion. ? Medical associations whose members are dedicated to saving and extending life, and feel uncomfortable helping people end their lives.

? Groups concerned with disabilities, which fear that euthanasia is the first step towards a society that will kill disabled people against their will. These groups bring both a religious and professional ethics perspective to the opinion that physician assisted suicide should be prohibited by law. The other side of the debate over euthanasia is those individuals who follow the convictions of Dr. Jack Kevorkian and the Right to Die organization. The book Prescription: Medicine (1993) is an interesting, yet controversial book about physician assisted suicide.

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Authored by the only physician known to provide assisted suicide to terminally ill patients, Dr. Jack Kevorkian, the book brings up some topics of heated debate. Kevorkian discusses his Suicide Machine, reasons for assisted suicide, and some of the cases he has supervised. The Proponents for Euthanasia In his book, Dr. Kevorkian explains the ancient roots of euthanasia and his invention of the Suicide Machine. He gives examples of how doctors in the time of the Pythagorean readily gave poison to any patient who requested it.

Kevorkian tries to justify assisted suicide by carefully stating the words of the Hippocratic Oath. He also thoughtfully interprets both the laws and the oath in order to make it look like they agree with his ideas. One justification for assisted suicide that Kevorkian uses is that of a proclamation by a medical committee that it is ethical for physicians to help terminally ill patients commit suicide. Only, he doesnt make it very obvious that the committee is part of a special interest group known as the Society for the Right to Die. This committee was obviously biased because of its affiliation with the organization.

There could be some complicated problems if physicians were allowed to perform euthanasia at anytime on anybody who wanted it. The biggest problem might be if someone is mentally and physically incapacitated to the point where they cant make decisions on their own, and they want to die, who is really making the decision? Are they deciding or is it their greedy relatives that want the inheritance? Absolutely no one has the right to choose who gets to live or who gets to die. Advocates of voluntary euthanasia contend that if a person is meets the following criteria then there should be legal and medical provision to enable her to be allowed to die or assisted to die. The individual must be: 1.) suffering from a terminal illness 2.) unlikely to benefit from the discovery of a cure for that illness during what remains of their life expectancy 3.) as a direct result of the illness, either suffering intolerable pain, or only has available a life that is unacceptably burdensome (because the illness has to be treated in ways which lead to her being unacceptably dependent on others or on technological means of life support) 4.) have an enduring, voluntary and rational wish to die (or has, prior to losing the competence to do so, expressed a wish to die in the event that conditions #1 – #3 are satisfied); and 5.) unable, without assistance, to commit suicide The major argument is that people possess the right to end their own lives if they wish to. There is no laws or regulations outlawing it and the action harms no one other then the individual who commits suicide. Advocates of euthanasia believe that death is preferable for people whose quality of life has shrunk to zero, find the indignities of being cared for as an infant unbearable, or simply want to die with dignity before they become very sick.

This group would include, but is not limited to individuals afflicted by ALS, Huntington’s Disease, Multiple Sclerosis, AIDS, Alzheimer’s, etc. The Opponents of Euthanasia In a recent article from the Connecticut Post (1998) a physician described the phrase “doctor assisted suicide” as an oxymoron. The author believes that if someone assists you with taking your life you have not really committed suicide. Whether it is a doctor or your best friend helping you take your life, it is nothing less then murder. As mentioned earlier in this document the three primary constituents of the anti-euthanasia debate are religious institutions, medical professionals, and persons with disabilities.

There are two primary arguments offered by Christians, and those of other religions, that caution against a person pursuing suicide, in any form: 1.) Life is a gift from God, and that “each individual [is] its steward.” Thus, only God can start a life, and only God should be allowed to end one. An individual who commits suicide is committing sin. 2.) God does not send us any experience that we cannot handle. God supports people in suffering. To actively seek an end to one’s life would represent a lack of trust in God’s promise. These beliefs are common in most religions ranging from Christianity to Islam. In some ancient religions suicide is permitted but the method of death is in no way comfortable or “good”.

Usually the suicide is very painful and is a symbol of your faith. Unfortunately because of the secular nature of most religions their views on euthanasia are not very practical arguments, especially with the growing percentage of Agnostics, Atheists, Humanists, secularists, non-Christians and liberal Christians. Medical professionals who are dedicated to preserve life argue that the oath that they take upon becoming a physician binds them to not assist their patients in committing suicide. In fact the American Medical Associations policy toward euthanasia says that “Physician assisted suicide is fundamentally inconsistent with the physician’s professional role..” and, “it is critical that the medical profession redouble its efforts to ensure that dying patients are provided optimal treatment for their pain and other discomfort. The use of more aggressive comfort care measures, including greater reliance on hospice care, can alleviate the physical and emotional suffering that dying patients experience..”. To be a practicing doctor you must follow and understand this oath.

A recent survey performed by Dr. Diane Meier of Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York, NY, of 1,902 doctors showed that 6.4% of those who responded admitted that they had helped at least one patient commit suicide. The doctors questioned specialized in aging, infectious diseases, cancer, and diseases that affected kidneys, nerves and lungs. Opponents of euthanasia also argue that if physician assisted suicide were legal, insurance companies and family members who do not wish to see funds wasted on costly medical bills would opt to have their relatives or clients commit suicide without proper consent. This is of major concern to disabled persons who worry that if lawmakers permit terminally ill patients to commit suicide that eventually laws will be created to allow states to kill anyone that it deems to be worthless.

Granted this statement may seem a bit unrealistic; however, when looking back at the atrocities of history (i.e. nazi death camps and human medical testing, etc) the question is valid as to where physician assisted suicide will stop at. Conclusions My moral and religious convictions strongly oppose suicide in any form, whether it is someone jumping from a building or physician assisted. I believe that by killing yourself you will be condemned to Hell. However, this does not mean that I am in favor of a law outlawing euthanasia.

To do so would limit an individuals rights. It is my belief that as an individual you have the right to do anything. This not only includes the rights to life, liberty and happiness, but also the right to steal, murder and commit suicide. Fortunately, if you exercise a right that is regulated by law you will be punished by a government agency for it. Furthermore, if you commit suicide my religion tells me that you will be punished my God. Not everyone has the same moral and ethical convictions as I do; therefore, it would be wrong to force others to follow them.

Whatever the outcome, laws relating to euthanasia need be determined by the federal government and not by individual states. Otherwise, too many discrepancies and problems will occur. For instance, there could be an influx of people seeking assisted suicide into states that have legalized it. If the government permits euthanasia there needs to be a specific set of guidelines to follow outlining who can choose euthanasia and who can administer it. There will be complications if physicians were allowed to perform euthanasia at anytime on anybody who wanted it.

The biggest problem I see is if someone is mentally and physically incapacitated to the point where they cant make decisions on their own, and they want to die. In this case who is really making the decision? Are they deciding for themselves, or are greedy relatives or insurance companies making the choice? Absolutely no one has the right to choose who gets to live or who gets to die. Kevorkian seems to think of himself as some sort of saint for offering assisted suicide as a professional service. I dont agree with Kevorkian that euthanasia and “obitiatry”, as he calls it, can benefit everyone. There are definite rules and regulations at to when assisted suicide is permissible.

Bibliography Jack Kevorkian. (September 1993). Prescription Medicine: The Goodness of Planned Death. (268). Prometheus Books Brad Knickerbocker. (1998).

Oregon Escalates Its Heated Right-to-Die Debate. The Christian Science Monitor [Online], 3. Available: csm.htm [1999, April 30]. Stephen R. Katz, M.D. (1998, April 27).

Doctor Assisted Suicide – a Bad Oxymoron and a Bad Idea. Connecticut Post [Online], 2. Available: [1999, April 30]. Bruce A Robinson. (1999, April 24).

Euthanasia and Physician Assisted Suicide: All Sides of the Issues. tor [1999, April 30]. Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. (1996). Euthanasia, Voluntary [Online]. Available: tary [1999, April 28].

FastAccess- A Starting Point. (1999). Religion & the Right to Die [Online]. Available: [1999, April 28]. Lynne Ann DeSpelder & Albert Lee Strickland.

(1998). The Last Dance: Encountering Death & Dying (5th Edition). Mayfield Publishing Company.


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