Physician-Assisted Suicide: Is It Morally Permissible? Essay

1786 Words Jun 1st, 2012 8 Pages

My essay topic is whether or not physician assisted suicide is morally permissible. I intend to argue that it is permissible because a competent patient ultimately has the right to choose for themselves the course of their life, including how it will end. To lie in a hospital bed in a vegetative state, unable to see, think, speak, eat, being totally unaware of your surroundings or those of your loved ones nearby speaks loudly of the pain and suffering at all levels for a terminally ill patient. Physician assisted suicide (PAS) is ethically justifiable in certain cases, most often those cases involving unrelenting suffering. While PAS is not
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Here opponents point to the historical ethical traditions of medicine strongly opposed to taking life. For instance, the Hippocratic Oath states, “I will not administer poison to anyone where asked,” and “Be of benefit, or at least do no harm.” The practice of suicide is contrary to the values of most Americans. Our lives are sacred, and we do not have the right to dispense with them as we please. Withholding unnecessary and unhelpful medical treatment from a patient in a coma, for example, is a far different scenario from asking a doctor to prescribe poison for someone under his care. The overall concern is that linking PAS to the practice of medicine could harm the public’s image of the profession.

THE SECOND ARGUMENT BEGINS BY ASSERTING THAT if PAS were legal, abuses would take place. For instance, the poor or elderly might be covertly pressured to choose PAS over more complex and expensive palliative care options. John Arras constructs the “slippery slope” argument from social consequences in regards to abuse. Supporting Arras’ standpoint, the New York State Task Force on Life and the Law oppose legalization of PAS. Assumptions of abuse include the expansion of these practices to non-voluntary cases and the widespread failure to pursue readily available alternatives to suicide motivated by pain, depression, and hopelessness. To protect against these abuses, it is argued PAS should remain illegal.


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