Euthanasia: "Should Physicians Be Allowed

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Inconvenienced relatives could be encouraged to persuade patients to "voluntarily" ask for death; handicapped children and senile persons who are considered as burdens on the families and societies could be the next targets.

Another valid concern associated with assisted suicide is its potential for abuse as a cost containment tool. "Lethal medication" has been termed as the "least costly treatment for any illness" and with the increasing emphasis in recent years on cutting health care costs, legalized assisted suicide can be used by health service providers as a convenient way for cutting costs. Since physicians' preferences strongly influence the preferences of the patients (especially those involved in end of life treatment), it is easy for doctors to persuade their patients into 'voluntarily' requesting assisted suicide. Doctors must never be put in such a 'conflict of interest' situation.

As emphasized by Physician Kathleen Foley, our compassion for the dying and terminally ill patients should be directed towards providing them with the best possible care and pain relief rather than in terminating their lives. More courses in effective pain management and care for the dying need to be introduced in our medical schools so that a majority of doctors are properly trained. Doctors need to "walk the last mile" with their dying patients instead of being involved in ending their lives.

Conclusion

Euthanasia and related issues such as "physician-assisted suicide" are such contentious issues that they always evoke passionate debate, with well-meaning persons taking positions on either side of the fence. Those who support the legalization of physician-assisted suicide emphasize the supremacy of patient's autonomy and contend that if someone wants to end his life in order to avoid pain, the doctors are duty-bound to obey the request. They also believe that opposition to assisted suicide is a form of discrimination against people most in need of assistance. I, however, believe that the arguments in favor of physician-assisted suicide are misplaced. Its legalization has a number of drawbacks, the most telling of which are its potential for abuse as a tool for healthcare cost-cutting and the possibility of an unstoppable descent down the 'moral slippery slope.' Moreover, the major objectives of the supporters of assisted suicide such as compassion for the suffering patients and pain relief can be achieved by other, more compassionate means without resorting to the irreversible option of assistance in ending their lives.

References

Angell, Marcia. "The Supreme Court and Physician-Assisted Suicide -- The Ultimate Right," Article reproduced in "Taking Sides: Clashing Views on Controversial Bioethical Issues," pp. 80-87

Evans, Hilary M.D. "Pitfalls of physician-assisted suicide" (September 1997) Physician News Digest. Retrieved on October 28, 2003 at http://www.physiciansnews.com/commentary/997wp.html

Foley, Kathleen M. "Competent care for the Dying Instead of Physician-Assisted Suicide." Article reproduced in Taking Sides: Clashing Views on Controversial Bioethical Issues," pp. 88-95

Hendin, Herbert "Physician-Assisted Suicide and Euthanasia in the Netherlands: Lessons from the Dutch," 277 Journal of the American Medical Association, (June 4, 1997), p. 1720-1722

Marker, Rita L. And Kathi Hamlon. (2003) "Euthanasia and Assisted Suicide: Frequently Asked Questions." International Task Force on Euthanasia and Assisted Suicide. Retrieved on October 28, 2003 at http://www.internationaltaskforce.org/faq.htm

The word, euthanasia is a Greek word for "happy death."

These definitions have been summarized and adapted from Issue 5: Taking Sides pp. 78-79 and Euthanasia Definitions from Euthanasia.com

Legal-definitions.com [http://www.legal-definitions.com/health/euthenasia.htm]

Killed" is considered to be too blunt a word by some, but reality is often harsh.

Most of the "Arguments for" have been adapted and summarized from Marcia Angell's "The Supreme Court and Physician-Assisted Suicide -- The Ultimate Right," which first appeared in The New England Journal of Medicine, vol. 336 (January 2, 1997) pp. 50-53, and is reproduced in "Taking Sides: Clashing Views on Controversial Bioethical Issues," pp. 80-87.

Marcia Angell (1997) Taking Sides, p. 86

Rita L. Marker, and Kathi Hamlon. (2003) "Euthanasia and Assisted Suicide: Frequently Asked Questions."

This argument is the main theme of Kathleen M. Foley's article "Competent care for the Dying Instead of Physician-Assisted Suicide." Taking Sides, pp. 88-95

The argument is also used by Physician Marcia Angell in her article "The Supreme Court and Physician-Assisted Suicide -- The Ultimate Right"

Kathleen M. Foley. (1997) "Competent Care for the Dying..." p. 92 of "Taking Sides: Clashing Views on Controversial Bioethical Issues,"

Hilary Evans, M.D. "Pitfalls of physician-assisted suicide" (1997)

The term refers to the possibility that legalization of a 'softer' option such as 'assisted suicide' would invariably lead to 'hard core' non-voluntary euthanasia.

Netherlands and Oregon are two of three places where 'physician-assisted suicide is legal -- the other is Belgium.

Herbert Hendin. (1997). "Physician-Assisted Suicide..."

In the article "Competent Care for the Dying..." (1997)

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