The Death with Dignity Act, which is currently passed in six states and Wash. D.C., allows for physician assisted suicide by euthanasia to terminally ill patients. D.C.. Recently, debate has risen over whether more states should adopt the law.
It is true that doctors take an oath to never take a life and only heal, but when all options have failed, it is morally unethical for the physician to walk away from a suffering patient.
In her New York Times article “The Last Thing Mom Asked,” author Sarah Lyall recounted her experience of helplessly watching her mother suffer excruciating pain from stage 4 lung cancer. Lyall described herself as feeling powerless, unable to do anything as her mother begged for help to commit suicide.
According to the Death with Dignity National Center, a nonprofit organization that promotes the freedom of terminally ill Americans’ end-of-life decisions, the most commonly mentioned end‐of‐life concerns are the loss of autonomy, the inability to participate in activities and the loss of dignity. Assisted suicide eliminates the need for people to suffer. In 2014, under the provisions of the Death With Dignity Act, 105 terminally-ill adults in Oregon received and ingested medication, dying peacefully. On the other hand, reports found that patients who did not request lethal drugs exhibited increased symptoms of pain, depression, anxiety and fear of death.
“it is up to the terminally ill patient and their caregiver to judge if assisted suicide is ethical when the decision to undergo this process can greatly reduce suffering in multiple ways. It is a highly personal decision and it should reflect the views and best interests of those directly involved.” said Junior Smera Patil.
Although opponents of assisted suicide claim that legalizing assisted suicide may lead to an increase of people choosing to die, studies from 2016 by Death With Dignity, a website with stories and news supporting assisted suicide for the terminally ill, says otherwise. In all of Ore., Wash. and Calif., 68 percent of 643 people with prescriptions under their state laws chose to end their life, but they were only 0.3 percent of the total increasing deaths in those states. People have also claimed that patients might opt for assisted suicide when failing to find sufficient painkillers, but in Ore., studies show that only 25.2 percent of patients chose assisted suicide because painkillers did not meet their needs, while 78.8 to 91.6 percent chose it because they felt their life was lacking quality and dignity.
Stephen Hawking once said, “We don’t let animals suffer, so why humans?” Though people are allowed to put down their pets to end their suffering, many are forced to watch their loved one bound in bed, strung up to a heart rate monitor and hooked up to an IV monitor until they die. It is illogical that many patients do not have the right to end their pains and must continue “living” painfully and unwillingly. Robin Hargreaves, the senior vice-president of the British Veterinary Association, claimed that many of his clients, upon putting their pet to sleep, wished that a deceased relative could have experienced “an equally peaceful end.”
Even though euthanasia is touted as a merciful death with by proponents, many fail to see that euthanasia creates both moral and pragmatic complications. Assisted suicide is legal in several European countries such as Belgium and the Netherlands, where it accounts for 4 percent of all deaths, but remains a heavily controversial and illegal practice in almost all other countries.
A 2010 study in Belgium found that 32 percent of all assisted suicides were performed without explicit patient request and that at least 20 percent of euthanasia deaths were not reported as euthanasia. Euthanasia is easily abused by people or organizations, even if they have good intentions. Many cases of involuntary euthanasia administration—considered murder under most law systems—happen those deemed unfit to make their own decisions for the termination of those suffering mental disorders.
Doctors often do not report assisted suicide cases because the physician “did not perceive their act as euthanasia” or see filing reports as an administrative burden. Underreporting stops research groups from collecting data of euthanasia abuse cases, so even though few cases of this type of abuse have been taken to court, it does not mean that this corruption does not exist. The risk of abuse and corruption that comes with the legalization of euthanasia is far too great to be outweighed by the moral benefits.
Nonetheless, the moral benefits can be contested. Although the goal of euthanasia is to relieve the terminally ill of their pain, a study by the American Psychological Association noted that the desire to die stems not from pain, but from hopelessness and depression. Patients suffering from a terminal illness who are diagnosed with depression are four times as likely to choose euthanasia; the decision to die may not be the product of genuine free will, but of a preventable psychological disease. Furthermore, research by the U.S. Health Division revealed that no patients cited dire pain for the reason of their desire to stop living.
“It should be someone’s choice to keep living or die if they have no chance of recovery. However, if they have even a small chance to live, then providing euthanasia would be like enabling suicide,” Sophomore Noora Soroushnejad said.
Legalizing assisted suicide may even push society onto a slippery slope in which death is a fitting solution to psychological distress. Already, the rates of death by assisted suicide have climbed steadily in Belgium and Luxembourg since its initial legalization. Belgium’s policies loosened from only allowing terminally ill adults to request death, to allowing terminally ill children to request it, to allowing anyone to undergo euthanasia for reasons like depression, deafness, or even gender dysphoria
.In the end, the ability for someone to choose to die on their own terms sounds appealing and morally correct, but the logistics of the legislation are at best unclear. The moral risks that come with allowing such a heavy decision to be made are simply far too many for legalizing euthanasia to be an ethical decision.