Should assisted suicide be legal?
The question of whether a person should have the right to choose when to die has gained significance within the public domain not only in the United States but across boarders with different nations and individuals taking varying stances. Is it wrong to die? Is death a crime? Should people be assisted to die and commit suicide? These are among questions which have remained controversial in the understanding of the concept of assisted suicide. It is clear that everybody has the right to live. Many laws and constitutions always protect the life of citizens under whichever circumstances. However, there have been arguments that people should be allowed to terminate their lives under certain conditions as defined by assisted suicide proponents (Marzilli, 2004). The question of whether assisted suicide should be legalized has always been based on existing advantages and disadvantages of the practice. Why should a person be helped to die when they have the right to live? Most laws in the world prohibit assisted suicide with very few nations allowing Euthanasia as a way of relieving people from incurable illnesses. How ethical or unethical is assisted suicide? It is in this regard that this paper explores facts and reasons for and against the practice as argued globally
As mentioned above, the concept of assisted suicide is one of the most controversial debates in human history. How important is human life? When should it be terminated? Who should decide when a person should die? The understanding of these questions is quite essential in the comprehension of the legality of assisted suicide commonly referred to as euthanasia.
Why assisted suicide should not be legalized
Medicine is one of the professions with dignity and respect in the world. Many lives have been saved by doctors through committed and sincere service delivery. On the other hand, countless people have lost their lives in the hands of doctors. Like other people employed in different departments, doctors have a code of ethics which determine their actions especially with regard to the life of a patient. A major component of doctors’ code of ethics is the Hippocratic Oath which is usually signed by every doctor immediately after receiving a degree (Jonsen, 2006). The basis of the oath is to ensure that doctors do not perform any form of harm to patients. If the code of ethics for doctors does not allow harm to patients, what would legalization of assisted suicide do to patients? Assisting suicide would be nothing but a violation of the oath which guards the rights of patients from being harmed by doctors. This would further lead to the disintegration of doctor-patient trust which has been witnessed throughout history. The main purpose of the oath was to reassure patients that doctors had no intention of doing harm to them other than giving treatment in a safe and professional way. Such legalization would dump patients in the valley of hopelessness and wonder.
Additionally, assisted suicide erodes the value of human life which is so precious and whose value cannot be precisely determined. Human life means much more than just choosing to live or die (Hillyard & Dombrink, 2001). There is mourning when lives are lost for several days and months. Considering the loss of over 3,000 people during the 9/11 attack in the United States, there were condolence messages from every part of the world together with donations. These are true indicators of the value of life and how human beings have to respect and guard it from any form of harm. On the other hand, life is not valued in some nations and among certain groups of people. There are people and groups which celebrate when life is lost through blasts and other terror attacks. Many terrorists consider life as a simple science experiment which can be tested and discarded. This completely undermines the sanctity and purpose of life. Contrary to many believes, life is not just a combination of biological cells. Legalization of assisted suicide would therefore promote unwarranted deaths and killings. There would be enormous cases of suicide bombers since life would loose the meaning it has (Bergen, 2009).
In addition, Euthanasia legalization would lead to an increase in the number of patient suicide cases and other related abuses. By lessening assisted suicide laws, many patients and other individuals would misuse it through misinterpretation leading to careless loss of life. For example, there are countless people around the world who are suffering from psychological problems and illnesses which are manageable. In the presence of such law which allows assisted death, such people would convince doctors to qualify for induced death. It may lead to random committing of suicide without any justifiable reason. Moreover, many patients would not be patient enough to go through the healing and recovery processes some of which take a long period of time (Harris, 2005). For example many patients would prefer to die than to endure suffering and pain caused by treatable diseases which may require longer time for complete recovery to take place. As a result, the time for the patient to spend with his or her family is eliminated leaving. It may also deny doctors and other medical practitioners time for them to identify and correct the errors made during the entire process of treatment.
It is worth double emphasizing that doctors are very important people when it comes to matters of life and death. Because of their professional qualification, they are trusted to promote the health and life of patients. Consequently, legalization of assisted suicide would be giving excess powers to doctors which may be a risk factor to many people (Ondrey, 2006). Many doctors usually win the trust of not only patients but also family members and friends. If a doctor makes a death decision from a personal point of view, idea may easily be adopted by family members of the patients when there was no justifiable reason for assisted suicide. Like other human beings, doctors make mistakes in terms of diagnosis and prescription of drugs. By allowing assisted suicide, doctors may help people to die who had considerable survival chances. Secondly, some doctors may choose to play God by deciding who will die who to survive. Due to shortage of resources or manpower, doctors may choose to kill patients who are in urgent medication as a shortcut of dealing with prevailing conditions in the health system.
Although many assisted suicide argue that it is a solution to terminal illness, it would be difficult to differentiate terminal from non-terminal conditions. A good example is the definition given by Dr. Jack Kevorkian in 1992 who described terminal illness as any disease that limits life even in a single day. Other people define it as a condition which would result in death after a period of say six months. Without a concise recognized definition of terminal illness, the idea may be quiet misinterpreted and misleading. A doctor may come up with his or her own definition of terminal when the case was not justifiable to be classified as terminal. This would lead to death of people under unfair conditions. Suicide and killing of any form is against religious teachings. Many religions if not all believe in the sanctity of life and that life is a gift from God. As a result, no human being has the right of taking away a person’s life or helping patients to commit suicide regardless of the prevailing conditions. It is clear that legalization of assisted suicide would put the life of patients and devalue life significantly (Weinberg, 1998). On the other people, there are people and organizations which have always advocated for euthanasia as a way of ending patients’ life. Are there arguments justifiable? Is helping a person to die ethical?
Why assisted suicide should be legalized
Assisted suicide is seen as away of saving patients from extreme pain resulting from diseases like cancer which are incurable or take several years to heal. As a professional doctor, it is very possible to recognize curable and incurable ailments. From this analogy, it is possible for doctors to tell the end times of a patient and be able to tell that a given patient cannot survive under whichever circumstances. It would be quite painful and agonizing to vomit and cough for a whole year. It is also important to consider psychological problems from which patients are able to tell their minimal survival chances. Assisted suicide would therefore be a more humane approach of giving patients the opportunity to decide their fate (Humphrey, 2002).
It is further arguable that the right and freedom to live is a personal decision which should not be interfered by state laws. A choice between dyeing and living should be left in the hands of individual patients and their family members (Medina, 2005). This can only be effective if assisted suicide is legalized. Many pro euthanasia activists argue that loss of an individual’s life is not a national loss and should be left in the hands of victims to make final decisions. It should be considered as a fundamental right which is free from state interference. This would further help patients to die with total dignity instead of enduring pain that reduces them to mere shells and bags of pain. Many patients find it impossible to help themselves, calling for the attention of a nurse to be in charge of them. Some conditions like Alzheimer’s cause loss of memory among patients making them not have an idea of what happened in their entire lifetime. It is the desire of every family member to see their patients die with their normal dignity and self worth.
Another reason why assisted suicide has to be legalized is to promote reduction of medical care. Many people spent their salaries and resources trying to save patients who cannot survive (Balkin, 2005). Consider a case where a patient needs several surgical operations, special breathing and feeding equipment. Most of these processes are quite and yet most of these patients do not survive. Legalization of assisted suicide would ensure that such funds are used to do something else other than wasting on irreversible conditions. Similarly, doctors, nurses and other employees who spent their time taking care of such patients would be utilized in saving patients with curable medical conditions.
Assisted suicide remains a controversial topic of discussion throughout the world. However, the question of legalizing or criminalizing euthanasia remains rests on the basic understanding of humanity and origin of life. Doctors do not manufacture life; they are professionally endowed with knowledge to treat the sick. There is every need to respect life and guard it regardless of the existing conditions.