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Allyson Schmelter

May 2, 2016
Professor Alva
Is Death a Right?
Death is a very serious topic of discussion in almost every culture. In America, the
citizens have three basic rights, which include Life, Liberty and Property. With these basic rights,
wouldn’t one expect the right to death as well? Assisted suicide is illegal in forty-eight of our
fifty states. However, with the right to life shouldn’t one be able to choose death over life?
In the state of Oregon, there has been a law that legalized assisted suicide in 1997.
However, with this law, there are very strict rules on who is allowed to participate in the
program. Some examples include that the patient must be over the age of 19, patient must meet
with both their personal physician and a consulting physician, and the patient must be able to
make cognitive decisions on their own. I believe that all of these are great measures to take in
order to protect people from perhaps making the wrong decision.
Some people have argued that the legalization of assisted suicide in Oregon has allowed
more deaths to occur. However, in reality, only 1173 people have been given the drugs to
complete the task and of those 1173 people, only 752 people have died from the use of the actual
drugs. I feel that this shows that because the option was given to the patient they may have
rethought their decision when the time came. A report shows that the age of the average person to
use the drugs is around 70. As far as I could find, there were very few people younger than 50
that were prescribed the drugs. I feel that as one approaches old age, it is okay for them to start
thinking about death, as it is something that approaches quickly at this time in their lives. This is

the reason I believe that legalizing assisted suicide would be a good decision, people would
ultimately have more freedom.
In a report that I read that was posted by the Oregon government, I read the top reasons
that people choose to complete assisted suicide. Ninety three percent of the people that had the
drugs administered decided to use the drugs due to lack of control over their bodies. Some of
these patients had good strong minds, but their bodies just could not handle it anymore.
Some doctors have shared their feelings in regards to assisting in the suicides of patients.
Dr. Timothy Quill, a palliative care physician, expressed that he felt there was no difference
between turning life support off and helping a patient actually commit suicide. I believe that this
brings up a valid point in the argument. Sometimes the best option is to relieve the patient of the
pain and suffering. In the statistics of the Oregon “Death with Dignity Act,” 73% of people used
lethal drugs to end their life because they felt they had lost their dignity. When people get to the
point that they can no longer do things on their own, it makes life worse for the patient. No one
wants to live his or her life through other people. Therefore, I agree with Dr. Quill that pulling
life support and helping with an assisted suicide are not different in nature.
In Florida, a woman named Joan found out she had lung cancer. She explained that her
husband had died from the same cancer years earlier. After watching the extreme pain and
suffering of her husband, Joan decided that if she ever became terminally ill, she would try to
find a way to die before the pain could take over her life. She also did not want her second
husband to be forced to give her extensive care. However, the only problem was that
in Florida, assisted suicide is illegal and Joan was not prepared to find a harmful way to kill
herself. Being very stubborn about choosing her death day, Joan sought out a way to peacefully
die.

Joan found a company called Compassion and Choices. They are a group that do not help
commit assisted suicide, however they advise ways to complete death on your own. Joan got in
contact with them and was very excited to finally choose her own death day. As I researched
more about this company I found it very surprising that this was actually a legal practice. The
website and the consultants tell their clients what drugs and dosages they need in order to
complete the task, however they never help them take the drugs. This is how they get out of legal
issues, because the company is not actually administering the drugs it is not considered assisting.
As I thought about this story, I started feeling more that assisted suicide should remain illegal. I
believe that the choice of suicide should remain up to an individual and not to a company that
advises people.
This brings up an argument for legalizing the issue however. Because there are not any
regulations for joining the program, it would be safer for assisted suicide to be legalized
everywhere so that the regulations keep people from making hasty decisions. I believe that
legalizing assisted suicide would not mean that more people would do it; I believe that it would
save people and their families from immense heartbreak.
After I found out there were companies out there that advised suicide I looked into more
companies similar to Compassion and Choices. I found another organization that also assists in
suicide, but in a less humane way. They are called “Final Exit”. This is what really opened my
mind to not allowing assisted suicide to be legal. With this company, the clients go to the store
and purchase a tank of helium and a bag. They then fill the bag with helium and place the bag
over their head, within a few minutes their client is dead. They then leave the person there
without contacting any family members. I think that programs like this should be illegal, if a

person does not want to be here that badly they should seek medical attention and do it the right
way.
Although I do see the benefits these organizations provide, I do not believe that they
should be trusted with the mindset of those who are on their deathbed. In more than one case,
these companies have falsely assumed that their patients were terminally ill. In cases such as
these, an innocent person dies and the person that advised them has a guilty conscience. This is
one reason that I believe assisted suicide needs to be done under special circumstances. And
although some people say that this is legal, I believe that people that are involved in situations
such as these needs to be severely punished. Many of these programs have also claimed to be
nonprofit; however, these companies could not run if they did not make any money whatsoever.
As I found out more about these companies, the more I started to think that their motivations lie
with making a large profit for the owners of the company. All of the members that are called
“Exit Guides” and they perform these duties unpaid. I think that it is unfair that they volunteer to
do it. Although, some of these people may be consulting people to try to save lives, there are still
many out there that are trying to take life away as well.
As part of this paper, I talked with a hospice care nurse to get an idea of what the last
days of people usually include and how she felt on the topic. She told me that many times the last
days of people are quite sad. Many people are not expecting to die when they do, which leaves
family behind not knowing what to expect. However, she also reported to me that some of the
most precious moments between family members happen right before a patient dies. In this
aspect, I would not wish for assisted suicide to be legalized. I wish for families to have the most
quality time together with the time they have left. However, I feel with assisted suicide, it may be
easier to have the day of one’s death already planned out. Although this would bring more stress

and perhaps more sadness, I believe it is better than having an unexpected death date. Talking to
the nurse really opened my eyes into the world of dying. When I asked the nurse a final question
about how she felt about her job, she replied that she has always loved getting to hear the
amazing life stories of others and having the opportunity to take care of great men and women
that have lived their lives to the fullest.

Over the course of my investigation of this topic, I have learned a lot, however I have not
changed my opinion on the issue. I still strongly believe that assisted suicide should be legalized;
however, I do not think that this option should readily be available to everybody. If assisted
suicide were to be legalized everywhere, there needs to be very specific conditions to obtain any
life altering drugs. If I were to write the law, people wishing to use these drugs need to confirm
with two medical doctors that they are terminal must be at least 18 years of age. Under any other
circumstances, I truly believe that the patient could recover and live a happy life. I hope to
someday find a way to have a good influence on those that feel like they cannot continue any
further.