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Medical Ethics Essay:

Physician Assisted Suicide

Julie Tran

West Coast University


Abstract Physician assisted suicide has long been a topic of controversy. It involves the patient choosing to end their life with the help of a doctor through administering drugs that would initiate the cessation of respiratory and cardiac functions. Thus, is this procedure viewed as an act of murder or is it perceived as allowing the patient to have an option to end their suffering? Moreover, are physicians abiding by their hippocratic oath to help patients when it involves the intentional discontinuation of their life? Public policy regarding this topic is still up for debate. It seems that we must first clearly define the meaning of euthanasia, the role of physicians, and the understanding of why patients would want this procedure to be performed before attaining sufficient information to form a solid public policy. Personally, I dont view physician-assisted suicides as an act of murder or killing, rather, I see it as an act of empathy and allowing the patient the option of choosing to have to no longer suffer when their condition reaches to a point in which they are no longer able to tolerate.


Physician Assisted Suicide Technical Aspect Physician assisted suicide involves the administration of a lethal dose of a drug, which hastens the death of a patient, by a physician. This is usually done at the request of a patient who has a disease or illness that is either considered terminal or presented with a marked reduction in quality of life. It is a form of euthanasia for patients in which its aim is to,Alleviate patient suffering at the end of life, thus enabling terminally ill patients the option of finding peace and relief (JAMA, 2006). The type of drug that is being administered to patients during this procedure belongs to and is regulated under Schedule II of the Controlled Substances Act (CSA). Thus, it would only be accessible to patients with a,Written, non-refillable prescription from a licensed physician who is registered with the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) under the CSA to prescribe controlled substances (JAMA, 2006). At lower doses, the drug used for physician assisted suicide is the same kind of drug that is used for alleviating pain. At a higher, more lethal dosage, its mechanism involves depression of the respiratory and cardiac systems, which, consequently induces death of the patient. Requesting to have this form of euthanasia performed is not an easy task for the patient. They must first demonstrate their previous attempts of alleviating their condition through alternative therapies which proved unsuccessful. This may include the therapy being too expensive and they lack the resources and funds to continue treatment, or that the therapy was diminishing their quality of life in which the costs outweighed the benefits. In short, it is the patients job to convince the physician that assisting them in suicide is the best course of action

Running Head: PHYSICIAN ASSISTED SUICIDE regarding their condition.

In different states, requirements for initiating physician assisted suicide are different. For example, in accordance with the Oregon state law, it is stated that,The physician must diagnose an incurable and irreversible disease that, within reasonable medical judgment, will cause death within 6 months. The law requires the attending physician to determine that the patient, who must be an Oregon resident, has made a voluntary request and that the patient's choice is informed... (JAMA, 2006). Public Policy The inability to determine whether physician assisted suicides are regarded as merciful killing, in hopes of easing the patients conditions, or murder, due to the intentional and voluntary action of ending someones life, leaves opposing arguments up for debate. In the end, it is the patient that is the one who must live with the consequences of their decisions, thus determination of whether or not ending their life is an appropriate choice can only be determined by the patients, themselves. Although regulations regarding this procedure may differ from state to state, certain regulations subsequently issued has rendered them useless. As mentioned earlier, Oregon was one of the few states that allow physician assisted suicides to be performed until,A 1971 regulation issued by the attorney general requires that a physician prescribe controlled substances only for a legitimate medical purpose . . . acting in the usual course of his professional practice, (JAMA, 2006). Since the assistance in patient suicide was not deemed a, legitimate medical purpose, doctors were no longer able to prescribe or dispense the drugs due to violation of the Controlled Substances Act. Thus, another debate entails--what is considered a legitimate medical purpose?


First off, are the duties and focus of the physician aimed at prolonging life or improving the quality of it? Their goal is to alleviate pain and suffering caused by diseases so that you are able to enjoy life, but what do they do when they are unable to relieve the discomfort? Would it be more ethical to watch a patient suffer a slow uncomfortable death or allowing relief of pain when alternative options are not viable? If the hippocratic oath is to be referenced, any rebuttal for those in favor of physician assisted suicides would cease to be vocalized. Since all physicians has recited, at one time or another in their medical career,I will give no deadly medicine to anyone if asked, nor suggest any such counsel, assisting in suicide completely contradicts the oath they once said and firmly believed in and abided by (Tyson, 2001). Personal Opinion Physician assisted suicide remains a controversial issue similar to that of abortion. Certain hesitations and uneasiness are bound to arise when the topic of taking a life is discussed. Why shouldnt it? We were raised with the concept that killing is wrong and that ending any life whether it be someone elses or your own is considered sinful in most religions. Then, this form of euthanasia is introduced presenting us with a viable option when it seems all else has failed. As with all treatments, the costs and benefits should be compared and weighed out against one another. If the benefits outweigh the cost then proceeding with treatment is encouraged. Thus, the decision of utilizing assistance in terminating ones own life can also be assessed in the same way. If you conclude that its more difficult to live and have to endure the pain and suffering than to not live and have nothing, then euthanasia should be available. It would be unethical for it not to be. No one can better assess your quality of life more accurately than yourself, and so, I feel that physician assisted suicide has valid grounds for support.

Running Head: PHYSICIAN ASSISTED SUICIDE In short, when the day arrives when you are no longer able to feed yourself, bathe

yourself, walk, or use the bathroom without requiring assistance for the basic daily tasks, the ability to live longer does not seem as alluring as it would be if you were young and independent. Ultimately, we all share one thing in common,To live in a manner worthy of our human dignity, and to spend our final days on this earth in peace and comfort, surrounded by loved onesthat is the hope of each of us, (USCCB, 2011).



Gostin L.O. (2006, April 6). Physician-assisted suicide a legitimate medical practice?. Journal of the American Medical Association, 16, 1941-1943. doi:10.1001/jama.295.16. 1941

Tyson, P. (2001, March 27). The hippocratic oath today. Retrieved from wgbh/nova/body/hippocratic-oath-today.html

United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. (2011, June). To live each day with dignity: A statement on physician-assisted suicide. Retrieved from -actionhuman-life-and-dignity/assisted-suicide/to-live-each-day/