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Essay: The Morality of Physician Assisted Suicide:

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  • Subject area(s): Sociology essays
  • Reading time: 3 minutes
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  • Published: 3 February 2022*
  • File format: Text
  • Words: 700 (approx)
  • Number of pages: 3 (approx)
  • Tags: Euthanasia essays

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In this essay, I will be arguing that physician assisted suicide is morally permissible. Physician assisted suicide is the supply of a lethal dose of prescription medication by a physician to a patient, . In PAS (Physician Assisted Suicide), the terminally ill patient is in full control of whether or not their life is halted. This practice allows for the physician to distance themselves from the conceivable guilt associated with causing of one’s death, while still allowing them to assist a patient in the cessation of pain and hastening of death. Physician assisted suicide is commonly mistaken for euthanasia, however these two are vastly different. While PAS requires the physician to write a prescription for a dose that is to be virulent to the patient, their responsibility ends at this step. The patient now has the option to either take the lethal dose or leave it and continue living. Euthanasia, however, requires a far more active role from the physician.

This process requires the physician to not only prescribe the dose, but administer it as well. Physician assisted suicide is currently legal in six states, Montana, Colorado, Oregon, Vermont, Washington, and California (ProCon). This process allows terminally ill patients the ability to humanely end their suffering. Imagine this scenario, there are two terminally ill patients, Jim and John, both with severe cases of lung cancer. Both Jim and John’s cancer has deteriorated their bodies, leaving them living every day in severe pain. Jim is a legal resident in the state of Oregon, meaning that if he shows competence throughout his several meetings with a physician registered in the state of Oregon, he has the option of ending his suffering through PAS. On the other hand, John lives in the state of North Carolina. While his cancer has been just as detrimental to his life, he does not have this option.

The opposition to Physician Assisted Suicide argue that there is a clear distinction in “killing” someone and “letting them die”. In the eyes of the opposition, “letting a patient die”, is morally permissible in contrast to PAS which is likened to “killing a patient”. In addition to this notion, opposers state that PAS may lead to abuse, eventually causing a slippery slope that will be impossible to recover from. This potential for abuse is believed to lead to terminally ill patients being pushed to choose PAS if they are unable to afford further treatment and the possibility that incompetent patients will somehow slip through the evaluation process, leading to the death of people that do not meet the qualifications for it to be morally permissible. I understand these views, however they fail to take into consideration the competent terminally ill population that no longer has the strength or will to live. The strongest argument in agreement with my view on the morality of physician assisted suicide is the argument for the respect of an individual’s autonomy. Every able, terminally ill human being that shows the ability to make sensible decisions should have the right to determine when their life will end. Physician assisted suicide allows for full control of one’s fate, which as stated previously, enables a humane death for those in unbearable terminal pain. Autonomy is defined as the independence from external control or influence. PAS is morally permissible because it grants patients who have exhausted all other options, the ability to put an end to their medically terminal hardships. In addition, this process is completed after three patient requests, multiple sign offs from physicians, and the patient must have less than six months of life expectancy left (How Does Physician Assisted Suicide Work?). These requirements filter out any patients that show any incompetence, voiding the opposition’s argument that PAS will lead to a slippery slope of abuse.

In conclusion, the moral permissibility of physician assisted suicide is supported by the argument for autonomy. This paired with the strict rules and regulations required in order to approve this process, void both opposing arguments. Physician assisted suicide is an ethical solution to the problem physicians face when dealing with terminally ill patients that are unable to continue living out their remaining life expectancies.

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