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Honors English 1
18 May 2010
On Physician-Assisted Suicide:
On March 26, 1999, a man by the name of Dr. Jack Kevorkian was charged with first-degree homicide and the delivery of a controlled substance to Thomas Youk, a man terminally ill with Lou Gehrig’s disease (Braddock). This disease made the man physically incapable of moving, so Dr. Kevorkian himself had to insert the lethal injection into the patient. His previous patients, however, were mostly able to inject themselves (Kevorkian). Kevorkian, being hailed as the champion of the right-to-die movement and denounced as a ghoulish cheerleader for suicide, has helped lead over 130 people to their deaths (Kevorkian). Due to his eight year imprisonment, some rejoiced, but others were outraged. Some held rallies for keeping him in jail while others tried to change the law to legalize physician-assisted suicide and get him out.
At points like this is where the controversy of physician-assisted suicide arises. Because physician-assisted suicide alleviates familial suffering, can be constructed to have reasonable laws which still protect against its abuse and the value of human life, and alleviates patient suffering nearing the end of their life, physician-assisted suicide should be legalized in the United States.
The alleviation of familial suffering is one of the vital reasons for why physician-assisted suicide should be legalized. The family and friends of patients often suffer emotionally and psychologically because of the patient’s suffering. When the patient eventually dies, it is sudden and there may not be time to say goodbyes, but with physician-assisted suicide, the family and patient can say their goodbyes in a healthy and less stressful way and die peacefully (Messerli). In addition, consider the huge cost of keeping a patient alive for several months. The expenses for however many x-rays, lab tests, drugs, hospital overhead, and medical staff salaries can prove to be costly (Messerli). It is not unheard of for medical costs to equal $50,000-100,000 (Messerli). Physician-assisted suicide helps keep a financial burden off the caregivers of the terminally ill patient (“Why People Killed”). In addition, some patients may want to leave their children or grandchildren with inheritance money, so they would be able to save up more for that. On top of that, patients without physician assistance like these may be tempted to commit suicide in a traumatic way; damaging the surrounding families for a long time (Messerli).
Another vital reason for why physician-assisted suicide should be legalized is because physician-assisted suicide can be constructed to have reasonable laws which still protect against its abuse and the value of human life. Physician-assisted suicide compliance forms for the state of Oregon demonstrate that there
be a required approval of two doctors, verifying that the patient has been identified as terminally ill, plus a psychologist, who verifies that the patient has the mental capacity to make the right decision in regards to affirming physician-assisted suicide. In addition to this, the patient
have two non-related witnesses when signing the compliance forms, who must also verify that the patient has a sound mind (Request for Medication) .The patient must also be indentified as terminally ill so they wouldn’t be able to find their way around the laws just to find a way to die (Oregon State. Oregon Task Force) In addition, laws can be arranged to prevent doctor abuse by limiting certain doctors to the practice of physician-assisted suicide.
Finally, physician-assisted suicide alleviates patient suffering nearing the end of their life. During Dr. Kevorkian’s imprisonment, he received letters from numerous people seeking his help for physician-assisted suicide (Kevorkian). Because he was imprisoned, he could not give the people advice on how to do it. Some terminally ill patients feel as if there is no point to life which has lost all quality and there is no point to living when one has lost all personal autonomy (“Why People Killed”). People who have chosen physician-assisted suicide killed themselves because 84 per cent feared losing autonomy, 47 per cent were concerned about losing their bodily functions, and 37 per cent were concerned about burdening their family ("Why People Killed"). If the patient stayed alive, they would be forced to endure months and months of numerous ailments such as certain types of cancer (Messerli). It would be much more humane to give the patient the option to say when enough has been enough. No purpose would be served to suffer physically or psychologically until the body gives out.
In conclusion, physician-assisted suicide alleviates familial suffering, can be constructed to have reasonable laws which still protect against its abuse and the value of human life, and alleviates patient suffering nearing the end of their life; this is the reason physician-assisted suicide should be legalized in the United States. If patients are denied their rights to die, this country would be doing an injustice towards all citizens of this nation.
“We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.”
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