In the world today there are arguments for everything, ranging from matters of great importance to things that may seem ridiculously trivial. However, there are always different sides to every case and right and wrong is in the eyes of the person involved in the dispute.
This argumentative essay is based upon a very serious situation that faces our medical community. The topic of assisted suicide and/or euthanasia is a highly debated subject with many issues and sides. In this essay, each topic will be discussed and analyzed and the arguments for and against this topic will be debated. I will discuss my reasons for advocating physician-assisted suicide and I will also provide objections to my argument, but even though these counter arguments have merit, I will provide enough evidence to support my thesis.
The topic of my paper is physician-assisted suicide. Sometimes it is incorrectly referred to as euthanasia, but however subtle, there is a difference between the two. Euthanasia is when the doctor provides the means with which the patient may end his own life whereas physician-assisted suicide is when the doctor causes the patient's death, for example through a lethal dose. In his own words, the infamous Dr. Jack Kevorkian describes the difference between euthanasia and his own profession: "It's like giving someone a loaded gun. The patient pulls the trigger, not the doctor. If the doctor sets up the needle and syringe but lets the patient pull the plunger, that is assisted suicide. If the doctor pushed the plunger, it would be euthanasia." (McCuen 1994 p.54)
Both euthanasia and physician-assisted suicide will be discussed in this paper as they pertain to the arguments for and against this subject.
There are many arguments for both sides of this case. In this part of the essay I will discuss the argument against assisted suicide. The Bible reads, "Thou shall not kill". The American Nursing Association (ANA) position statement reads, " A nurse must not act deliberately to end a person's life." These are two of the very basic arguments against euthanasia. However, the subject is much more complex than these two defining pieces of literature suggest - there are many reasons why it is morally wrong and unethical to take a patients life away, even though they may have requested it.
The religious argument is one of the strongest and most powerful opponents to assisted suicide. It is based on two main points, the first defining the sanctity of life. "All life, but particularly human life, is recognized as a direct gift from God, one that never becomes personal property. It is ours not to give away, to damage, or to destroy at will, but to preserve intact until the moment when it is taken back" (McKhann, 1999, p.
63). The second point is entrenched in the Christian belief that suffering can be beneficial in its own right. Suffering should be looked at as a positive thing when it is unable to be avoided because it means the entry to something good. "An extension of this thinking is that suffering is a result of guilt that leads to repentance. The greater the suffering, the greater the guilt, hence the greater the need for repentance" (McKhann,
1999, p. 63).
Besides the religious case against physician-assisted suicide, another argument would be that it violates medical ethics. The American Nurses Association (ANA) position statement reads, "A nurse must not act deliberately to end a person's life" (Sullivan, 1999, p. 31). The Hippocratic oath also states; "I will give no deadly medicine
to anyone if asked, nor suggest any such counsel" (Woodman, 1998, p. 162). Taken from two of the most prestigious and important documents in the medical field, these statements strictly forbid the taking of a patient's life or aiding a patient in his or her death.
One of the most important things in health care is the relationship between the health care worker and a patient because it is the health care worker's job to provide not only medical care but also support, hope and a caring relationship.
If a patient were distressed enough to bring up
the subject and the physician were to agree that
the choice is a rational one and that assisted
suicide is a reasonable alternative, would this
not reinforce the patient's feelings of despair
and worthlessness? Even a suggestion of
agreement might undermine any remaining hope.
McKhann, 1999, p. 150
The last argument against assisted suicide that I am going to deal with is the patient's state of mind. When making any important decision in life, one must give it plenty of thought and be completely unbiased. When something tragic has happened to make one consider death, their state of mind must come into question. Are they considering death for the 'right' reasons? If a physician assisted death is to be considered, a patient must be considered mentally competent. There are many issues that interfere with a patient's mental capacity to make such a drastic decision. The patient may be temporarily depressed or may undergo a change of mind. Patients should be given
sufficient time and counselling in order to enable them to make sure their decision represents their true wishes.
Guilt is another reason a patient's state of mind may come into question.
Patients might feel guilty for staying alive and choose death to lift the financial burden or the strain on loved ones. Desperate and emotionally exhausted, families may give up too quickly and eagerly lend their support to the termination of a relative's misery, as well as their own.
In the preceding paragraphs an extremely convincing argument has been made
against assisted suicide. After all, it violates personal and medical ethics and it undermines the relationship of patients with their health care workers. Besides, what happens if a miracle cure is found after the patient has already made the decision for assisted suicide and gone through with it? Once suicide has been committed it is irreversible. What's done is done and there is no changing it.
If the Hippocratic Oath and the ANA states that it is wrong, and the ever influential Bible argues against assisted suicide, then who are we to question it? Instead of trying to help end patients' lives, people and physicians would be better served by improving all patients' state of life and mind so that they can live out their last days free from pain and enable them to gain a sense of spiritual fulfillment.
As mentioned in my thesis statement, I support assisted suicide. I want
to make a cautious argument because I believe that under some carefully limited circumstances, it is permissible for a physician to assist a person in taking his or her own life in order to put an end to unwanted and unnecessary suffering. This includes
providing medicines or other means the patient can use to commit suicide or by directly administering these medicines themselves.
As stated earlier in the religious argument against assisted suicide, life is a gift. However, in a time of suffering "the gift may no longer be wanted and the loan gladly repaid" (McKhann, 1999, p. 63). If it is God's place to give and take away life, then an implication of that objection is that we should not interfere at all with any life threatening condition because it is God's will. After all, what would happen if a person is bleeding to death from an accidental cut? To interfere and help would mean to interfere with God's prerogative to determine time and place of death.
The religious argument is also flawed for two other reasons. What if a
person has no faith or what if that person's faith suggests something different? With so many religions in the world, there are bound to be conflicting views on almost everything including suicide. The second reason is challenged "by those who do share the faith when the suffering seems out of proportion to any possible spiritual benefit. Even the most devout Christian will ask, "what have I done to deserve so much pain?" (McKhann,1999, p. 64). The religious argument against assisted suicide is quite strong but if one were to take a closer look, large holes in this argument can be blatantly seen.
It is true that the physician-patient relationship is important. However, I feel that a patient's trust would not be undermined with the implement of assisted suicide. I would want to be able to trust my doctor to do what is best for me in every situation. If my life has become so unbearable that I feel I need to end my life, I would want my
doctor to help me die a painless, peaceful death and not one racked with pain and misery. I would want to trust that my physician will respect my every wish.
Dr. Charles F. McKhann concludes, " most patients interviewed in my study felt that knowledge that their physicians had helped others to die would either have no effect or would enhance their respect for their physicians" (McKhann, 1999, p. 150). The role of the physician is to do what is best for the patient, and in some extreme situations this may include hastening death upon the voluntary request of the dying. If the role of the physician is defined solely in terms of healing, then, of course, this excludes assisting someone to die, but this is the wrong way to go about defining a doctor's role. I feel that a doctor's role is to do the best thing for the patient, whatever the circumstances may be. In nearly every case the answer will be to heal, to prolong life, to reduce suffering, to restore health and physical well-being. However, in some extreme circumstances, the best service a physician can render may be to help a person end their life in order to end intolerable pain as judged by the patient. This would be an enlargement of the physician's role, not a contradiction to it. Sometimes ending suffering takes priority over extending life.
I feel the most powerful argument comes from the families of those who have witnessed loved ones die in extreme agony, helplessly watching as they slowly and painfully deteriorate in front of their eyes, their bodies ravaged by pain and suffering. Meanwhile, the medical profession has done all it can to help but has failed to ease the suffering. I feel in these extreme cases that assisted suicide would provide a way for patients to end both their suffering and the suffering of their loved ones who are forced to
sit by, helpless and powerless to do anything.
It seems unfair that after living their whole lives independently, making important decisions everyday, that a person is required to leave much of the responsibility of their death and dying to someone else. Given the chose, most people would want to live to old age, accomplishing what they could along the way, then die a peaceful, satisfying death. That is not always the case. A persons life can be marred by severe disability, incurable disease and may come to a conclusion with a slow, painful, agonizing death.
After taking into account the arguments presented in this essay, I feel there is only one conclusion to draw. Assisted suicide is an idea that needs to be explored further and given serious consideration. If assisted suicide and/or euthanasia is to be legalized than very strict regulations would have to be used to insure that it would only be used as a last resort after all other options had been exhausted. If the patient is so overcome with pain and suffering then it is best that they should be given the option to end their suffering. The job of the people in the medical field is to do what is best for the patient and sometimes ending the suffering is the best option.
McCuen, G.E. (1994). Doctor Assisted Suicide and the Euthanasia Movement. New York: Gary E. McCuen Publications Inc.
McKhann, C.F.(1999). A Time to Die: The Place for Physical Assistance. Connecticut: Yale University Press.
Sullivan, M. (1999). Are We Prolonging Life or Extending Death?, 30(3), 31-33
Weir, R.F. (1997). Physician-Assisted Suicide. Indiana: Indiana University Press
Woodman, S. (1998). Last Rights: The Struggle Over the Right to Die. New York: Plenum Publishing.
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A Patients Right To Die - With A Free Essay Review
Imagine that you are lying in the hospital bed and the past months have brought nothing but agony and pain to you. Tears and sadness can be seen on the faces of your family and friends wishing there was something they could do for you. Then, your doctor informs you that what you have is incurable and will only get worse. Would you be able to live on with the pain and try to make the most of your lifes situation? For years, doctors have been prohibited from helping patients to take their own lives. I believe that a terminally ill patient should have the right to decide if they have had enough. By legalizing euthanasia, also referred to as physician assisted suicide, tremendous misery and anguish of patients can be saved. The right to die should be a fundamental freedom to each person (Gorsuch, 2008).
Patients should have to right to die with their dignity intact rather than have their illness leave them as merely a shell of their former selves. Some say assisted suicides will open a whirlwind response to non-critical patient suicides and other abuses. It is the pain and anguished experienced by the patients and their families that ultimately can be protected. When do we agree with the person going through this anguish first hand and allow them to determine their own destiny? Assisted suicide is done in order to put a stop to a patients agony and suffering. Working with the state government would help nurses and hospitals gain a clearer definition of what assisted suicide covers in order to prevent the abuse of this practice.
Physician assisted suicides, also referred to as euthanasia, have been in existence for hundreds of years. One name more known with this subject is Jack Kevorkian, but he was not the first practitioner of assisted suicides. If we look at Romeo and Juliet, we see how a reluctant sells a vial poison to Romeo, who uses the vial to kill himself after learning of Juliets death. These types of deaths have been seen as honorable in past events. New and often expensive medical technologies have been developed that prolong life. However, the technologies also prolong the dying processes, leading some people to question whether modern medicine is forcing patients to live in unnecessary pain when there is no chance they will be cured. Passive euthanasia when a feeding tube is removed or a respirator is disconnected has become accepted as one solution. However, someone who overdoses on pills remains controversial. Assisted suicide is known as a type of active euthanasia where a doctor provides a lethal prescription dose to a patient who is responsible for performing the final act. Even though changes in modern medicine are continuous, attitudes toward assisted suicide among the legal system are not as unceasing.
Another argument we see in opposition of assisted suicides is that it violates medical ethics. The American Nurses Association (ANA) position statement reads, "A nurse must not act deliberately to end a person's life" (Kjervik, 1996). The Hippocratic oath also states; "I will give no deadly medicine to anyone if asked, nor suggest any such counsel" (Pretzer, 2000). These are two of the most respected and acknowledged documents in the medical field. What both of these statements are doing is prohibiting any partaking of a patient's life or helping a patient in his or her death. Health care professionals work hard on developing a caring and trusting relationship with their patients, giving support while providing the medical care necessary for the patients well-being. We are working so hard on the relationship than we must also ask ourselves, when is it right to make the patient most comfortable with in incurable and painful disease?
Those against assisted suicide question and bring religious views into play arguing that life must be sanctioned by all means as life is most sacred. Another position seen from the opposition is that when a patient is undergoing medical treatment, they must be made to stay alive for as long as possible no matter what they may want because only God can decide when one may die. We can look at the Terri Schiavo as one example in relation (Quill, 2005). Terri was far beyond life based on an examined life and a medical basis; most philosophers would say she could be considered no longer a person. At what point do we take the best interest of the patient into hand and heart? We see how patients can have a say whether to live off of a machine or to have it unplug and this is justified legally. Because these people cannot speak up for themselves, but those that can and are suffering are unjust in their reasonings.
In summary, everyone is going to have an opinion in this matter just as each case is unique in nature. We can see how one case of someone who is suffering from stage four pancreatic cancer can be sympathized with verses reaching out and trying alternative ways to help a patient with extreme depression wanting to end their life because of what their depression is telling them to do. We have seen changes in the form of more and more hospice and homes in communities and this high need of hospice nurses nationwide. This is a struggle that will be within the medical field for years to come as there is no legal end in sight. The power to protect our civil liberty which is the right to die should lie within us.
I'll begin with your second paragraph, since I've little to say about your first paragraph (but note that some readers prefer a more elaborate thesis statement than the one you offer; i.e., some teachers may want your thesis statement not only to state your view but also to summarize your reasons for holding that view). The second paragraph deals with the topic of patient dignity and with the slippery-slope argument against legalizing euthanasia. Generally, try to keep to one topic per paragraph. I think it would be a good idea, in any case, to devote a paragraph to the question of "patient dignity." It's a fairly vague concept on its own, but it shouldn't be too difficult to make it more concrete. You try to do that by referring to the fact that patients become "merely a shell of their former selves," but really that's just a cliche. Don't be afraid to talk about the actual conditions under which terminally ill patients sometimes must live. For instance, some patients need help eating, washing, and going to the toilet. Some patients wear diapers and need others to change their diapers. Others throw up on themselves, or wet their beds. And so on. That kind of stuff is perhaps unpleasant to write about, but writing about it will allow you to clarify what you mean about dignity.
The third paragraph also deals with more than one topic: the history of euthanasia; the impact of life-prolonging technology; passive euthanasia; assisted suicide properly speaking. One of the problems with having a bunch of different topics in one paragraph is that it is difficult to keep track of your argument; you move very quickly from one assertion to another without pausing to clarify how each assertion contributes to the demonstration of the truth of your thesis. What do we learn from the history of euthanasia, for instance, that might help us rethink our resistance to euthanasia today? (I especially don't understand, by the way, the relevance of the reference to Romeo and Juliet, since its subject is a matter of fiction, not history, although you could argue that it reflects the values of its time). With your reference to modern medical technology, you seem to want to argue that we, in modern times, have all the more reason to be receptive to the idea of euthanasia, but you don't actually, explicitly, make that argument, but instead rush headlong towards your next topic.
So slow down. Divide the topics you actually want to discuss, and want to draw conclusions from, into separate paragraphs. Note that you could devote one paragraph to the difference between historical attitudes and modern attitudes to euthanasia, thus making one topic, that difference and its implications, out of what was originally two topics (the history of euthanasia; modern medical technology). What you want to aim for, in other words, is a paragraph that is argumentatively coherent. To achieve that aim, you will need to know in advance what you want the paragraph to argue. So ask yourself that question every time you go to write a paragraph: what exactly do I want to argue here?
Your next paragraph does deal with one topic: medical ethics. So as a paragraph it is better, more coherent, than the previous paragraph. Note, however, that the paragraph does not culminate in an argument related to your thesis, but rather in a question. It is almost always better to make your claims explicit, instead of relying on your reader to come to the conclusion of you would want the reader to reach. Readers are unreliable!
I don't quite understand what you are trying to say in the last two sentences of your paragraph on the religious opposition to euthanasia. They are worded very awkwardly (the last sentence is not, grammatically speaking, a sentence at all). Revise those sentences with a view to making a compelling case why the religious view is less ethical than the view that favors giving patients the right to physician assisted suicide.
The first sentence of your conclusion is a bit banal, but the second sentence makes a good point, although again not explicitly enough. It may be crucial to the success of your argument that we believe it is possible to tell the difference between cases where euthanasia is justified and cases where it is not. It's not a bad idea to emphasize in your conclusion the point that you make in that respect.
Submitted by: Jinkers02