Physician Assisted Suicide Jeremy Burnett PHI208: Ethics and Moral Reasoning Prof. Whitney Easton January 21, 2018 Physician Assisted Suicide “In the context of physician-assisted suicide, right actions are those deemed to result to a greater degree of happiness rather than unhappiness”(Card,2004). Physician assisted suicide is when a physician assists in the death of a terminally ill person because the patient requests for him/her to do so (Medical Definition,2018).
It is often confused with Euthanasia. The difference is that with Euthanasia the physician will administer the lethal drug and with Physician assisted suicide the patient will administer it. The patient would have to have only three months or less to live for this option to be available to them. The physician would then discuss with his patient which drug would be administered and how he/she will react to the drug (Assisted Suicide,2017). Physician assisted suicide is legal in the U.S.
in Washington, California, Vermont, Oregon and Montana (Assisted Suicide,2017). According to a health poll(Hensley,2012) that was done in 2011, in Massachusetts, on physicians assisted suicide. Fifty five percent of Americans were for it and forty-five percent were against it. It is highly debatable if physician assisted suicide should be allowed for someone who is terminally ill.
But from a terminally ill patients point of view, he/she could argue that it’s their life and they should have the option to die peacefully or live with agonizing pain. This paper will illustrate how a utilitarian might argue that someone with lung cancer and only a short time to live would be happier with physician assisted suicide than with living through the pain. Utilitarians believe that whatever makes people the happiest is the choice that should be made. “The doctrine that the basis of morals is utility, or the greatest happiness principle, holds that actions are right in proportion as they tend to promote happiness, wrong in proportion as they tend to produce the reverse of happiness”(Mill,2005). One would say that everyone prefers to be happy than sad.
But the problem which lies in this, is that everyone is different and we are all not happy by the same things. To counter that, Utilitarian’s say that the greatest number of people that are happy about a certain situation should be chosen. In other words, majority rules. But what if ninety-nine people decided that stealing was ok and one didn’t, would stealing be ok then? The utilitarian theory also states that everything you do will have a positive or negative outcome. If, one was to treat people good they would receive good and if one was to do the opposite they would receive bad. In other words, treat people as you want to be treated.
It would be great if everybody actually followed this analogy, but their will always be a bad apple in the bunch. I would feel a whole lot better driving to work, if everyone made the decision that they would refrain from using their cell phone because of the accident or fatality it could cause. When, applying the utilitarian theory to something as serious as providing physician assisted suicide to someone who is terminally ill.
One could argue that a terminally ill patient, who’s dying and has two months to live. Would be happier, if his/her physician assisted in their suicide more than they would if their physician helped them live as long as they could, even if the pain was unbearable. A lot of terminally ill patient’s will ask their physicians to end their suffering, so that they could pass on with some self-respect, believing that this is the only option that they have.
“Moreover, this action could save the patient’s family prolonged grief and mounting medical expenses. Out of fear of incapacitation due to terminal illnesses, patients opt to take their lives when they still can or decide to seek help from a trusted friend or physician”(Dell Orto and Power,2007). I don’t think a person would want to leave their family with a burden like expensive medical bills, they already have to deal with the pain of their death.
Their death could also save numerous lives, by the organs that will be donated. The objection here is that some believe that physician assisted suicide is inappropriate and unprincipled. “The act is a violation against the Hippocratic Oath of doing no harm to patients in any way. Helping patients to commit suicide is more like causing harm to them and violating the oath”(youngman,2013).
Physician assisted suicide might make the patient happier, but what about how the physician feels about it? From a physician’s perspective it is their duty to heal their patient’s pain and suffering, not hurt them. It also, could go against one’s religious beliefs, thou shall not kill! Could you imagine going to the doctor for chest pains and he/she says I’ve tried everything to stop the pain and nothing seem to be working? But I can prescribe you with this lethal drug and help you take your life away. Your life will end, but your pain will too! I’m no doctor, but I can see where this option would go against everything one was taught. In conclusion, physician assisted suicide is highly debatable. From a physician stand point it is unethical and goes against the Hippocratic Oath. To someone who is religious it could go against one’s own religious beliefs. But to a terminally ill person it would help he/she be free from the pain, stop their family from occurring more medical debt and die with dignity.
It doesn’t matter what side of this argument you’re on, it’s the terminally ill patient’s life, so since it’s their life it should be their decision to make. References Assisted Suicide. (2017). Retrieved from https://https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Assisted_suicide Medical Definition of Physicians-assisted-suicide. (2018.
). Retrieved from https://www.medicinenet.
com/script/main/art.asp?articlekey=32841 Hensley, S. (2012, December 28). Americans Support Physician-Assisted Suicide for Terminally Ill. Retrieved from http://www.npr.org/sections/health -shots/2012/12/27/168150886/americans-support-physicians-assisted-suicide-for- terminally-ill Dell Orto, A.
E., & Power, P.W. (2007). Ethical debate on Assisted Suicide through “The Utilitarian Theory”. Retrieved from https://sites.
google.com/a/starkstate.net/michael-w-youngman/weekly- Blog/ethicaldebateonassistedsuicidethroughtheutilitariantheory Card, R. F. (2004). Ethical debate on Assisted Suicide through “The Utilitarian Theory”. Retrieved from https://sites.
google.com/a/starkstate.net/michael-w-youngman/weekly- Blog/ethicaldebateonassistedsuicidethroughtheutilitariantheory Mill, John Stuart. (2005). Utilitarianism, by Jonathan Bennett.
Retrieved from www.earlymoderntexts.com Youngman, M. (2013).Ethical debate on Assisted Suicide through “The Utilitarian Theory”. Retrieved from https://sites.google.com/a/starkstate.net/michael-w-youngman/weekly- Blog/ethicaldebateonassistedsuicidethroughtheutilitariantheory