Physician Assited Suicide Essay

2169 words - 9 pages

The advancement of technology in the medical field has prolonged the lives of individuals, but certain terminal illnesses lead to inevitable death. Health care team members working in end-of-life care are being faced with the ethical dilemmas introduced by the physician-assisted suicide legalization, also known as the Death with Dignity Act, in the United States (Lachman, 2010). Physician-assisted suicide, or euthanasia in some texts, allows mentally competent, terminally ill individuals, with less than 6 months to live, a choice to self-administer physician prescribed medication, which assists in death (Friend, 2011; Harris, 2014; Lachman, 2010). Although the patient administers the ...view middle of the document...

In 1930, Britain sought for the legalization of euthanasia, but the death camps created by Nazi’s during World War II had created a world-wide opposition to euthanasia (Friend, 2011). In 1980, the Hemlock Society was founded in the United States by Derick Humphry, a British journalist, who modernized the term euthanasia into physician-assisted suicide (Friend, 2011). Humphry built the Hemlock society after watching his first wife die from terminal cancer and believed that “the ultimate civil liberty is the right to choose to die when in advanced terminal or hopeless illness” (Friend, 2011, p. 111). The Hemlock Society evolved over the years, combining with other organizations, to eventually form the Compassion & Choices organization used today (Friend, 2011). Humphry was not the only memorable motivational supporter of legalization of physician-assisted suicide. In the 1990’s, Dr. Jack Kevorkian became nationally known after he was arrested and charged with second-degree murder for assisting the terminally ill to die, and relieve their suffering (Friedstein, 2012). The organizations, originating from the Hemlock Society, and Dr. Jack Kevorkian’s “right-to-die,” led way to the legalization of physician-assisted suicide in Oregon, with the Death with Dignity Act on October 27,1997 (Death with Dignity, n.d.; Friedstein, 2012, ¶ 1; Friend, 2011). Upon reviewing research of Oregon’s Death with Dignity Act, other states followed Oregon’s example by legalizing physician-assisted suicide: Washington in 2008, Montana in 2009, Vermont in 2013, and New Mexico in 2014 (Compassion & Choices, 2014; Friend, 2011). Hawaii, however, has no law for or against the use of physician-assisted suicide, where the rest of the fifty states currently are awaiting the passage of bills (Compassion & Choices, 2014). With the all fifty states debating the legalization, or accepting legalization of physician-assisted suicide, one must look at the reason such a law would be supported.
The greatest argument in support of physician-assisted suicide is autonomy, or the right of an individual to self-govern and make his or her own decisions (Friend, 2011; Harris, 2014; Lachman, 2010). Individuals have a choice in their health care and treatment options; therefore, should also have a choice in their end-of-life options (Friend, 2011; Harris, 2014). Mary L. Friend, MN, RN (2011) believed that individuals have the right to make a voluntary decision, and ask for help to hasten death when all other options have failed to relieve suffering. The right should be offered to everyone no matter their culture, race, or social economic status. Timothy E. Quill (2012), a physician of palliative care, discovered that of the individuals who opted to end their life, in legal states, all were mentally stable, highly educated Americans, with 97.5 % being Caucasian and 98.7% receiving health insurance. The rights of individuals are the most important factor in legalization of...

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