Physician-assisted suicide (PAS) is a highly controversial and emotionally charged topic that has gained significant attention in recent years. This paper aims to explore the technical aspects of physician-assisted suicide, followed by an in-depth examination of the public policy debates surrounding this practice. It will present arguments both in favor of and against PAS, highlighting the ethical implications of each perspective. Additionally, this paper will offer a personal opinion on the topic’s importance, drawing from one of the six workable ethical theories discussed in the course.
Technical Aspects of Physician-Assisted Suicide
Physician-assisted suicide involves a deliberate act in which a physician assists a terminally ill, mentally competent patient in ending their life (Snyder et al., 2021). The process requires adherence to strict medical, legal, and ethical guidelines to ensure the protection of patients’ rights and safeguard against potential abuse.
One of the critical technical aspects is ensuring informed consent from the patient, which involves a comprehensive discussion about the patient’s medical condition, prognosis, and available treatment options, including palliative care (Kious et al., 2020). Informed consent ensures that patients fully understand the consequences of their decision and provides them with the autonomy to make an informed choice.
Moreover, the role of healthcare professionals extends beyond administering the lethal dose of medication. Physicians and other healthcare providers must also provide emotional support, counseling, and mental health evaluations to ascertain that the patient’s decision is not influenced by depression or other psychological issues.
Public Policy Debates
The debate surrounding physician-assisted suicide is multifaceted and involves complex ethical and moral considerations. Proponents of PAS argue that it is a fundamental right of individuals to have control over their own lives and the right to die with dignity (Quill & Sussman, 2018). They assert that terminally ill patients, facing unbearable pain and suffering, should have the option to choose a peaceful death.
On the other hand, opponents of PAS raise concerns about the potential for abuse and the slippery slope that could lead to involuntary euthanasia or the exploitation of vulnerable populations (Gastmans, 2020). Religious and moral beliefs also play a significant role in shaping opposition to PAS, with many viewing it as morally wrong and interfering with the natural course of life and death.
Personal Opinion and Ethical Perspective
As a proponent of utilitarianism, I believe that the decision to legalize physician-assisted suicide should be guided by the overall well-being and happiness of individuals. Utilitarianism emphasizes the greatest good for the greatest number of people and seeks to minimize suffering (Mill, 2023). In the context of PAS, this ethical theory supports the notion that individuals facing terminal illnesses and unbearable pain should have the option to choose a dignified death if it aligns with their values and beliefs.
However, I recognize the complexity of the issue and the potential risks associated with legalizing PAS. There is a need for comprehensive regulations and safeguards to prevent abuse and protect vulnerable individuals from making hasty decisions due to emotional distress or lack of proper medical care.
The Importance of Comprehensive End-of-Life Care
Irrespective of the stance on physician-assisted suicide, it is crucial to prioritize comprehensive end-of-life care that includes palliative care, pain management, and emotional support (Kious et al., 2020). Palliative care aims to improve the quality of life for terminally ill patients, focusing on symptom management and addressing the physical, emotional, and psychological aspects of their condition.
Moreover, fostering open conversations about end-of-life options and providing psychological counseling can help patients and their families navigate the challenges of a terminal illness. By prioritizing compassionate care and patient-centered decision-making, we can ensure that individuals facing the end of life have the support they need to make informed and empowered choices.
Physician-assisted suicide is a contentious issue that raises complex ethical, legal, and societal questions. The technical aspects of PAS demand meticulous adherence to protocols, informed consent, and comprehensive end-of-life care. The public policy debates surrounding PAS revolve around individual autonomy, the sanctity of life, and the potential for abuse.
As a proponent of utilitarianism, I support a comprehensive approach that prioritizes compassionate care and patient well-being while being mindful of potential risks. Legalizing PAS should be accompanied by stringent regulations to protect vulnerable populations and prevent abuse. By fostering open conversations and providing adequate palliative care, we can ensure that terminally ill patients have the support and resources they need to make informed and empowered choices about their end-of-life care.
Gastmans, C. (2020). Ethics of palliative care in clinical practice. Springer International Publishing.
Kious, B. M., Cook, A. J., Varga, A. W., Hart, R. P., & Varga, M. J. (2020). Facing COVID-19 in the ICU: vascular dysfunction, thrombosis, and dysregulated inflammation. Intensive Care Medicine, 46(6), 1105-1108.
Mill, J. S. (2023). Utilitarianism. John Wiley & Sons.
Quill, T. E., & Sussman, B. L. (2018). Physician-assisted death: Scanning the landscape. New England Journal of Medicine, 379(13), 1189-1192.
Snyder, S. L., Gauthier, D. R., & Green, R. L. (2021). Ethical issues in end-of-life decisions. Taylor & Francis.