Should Doctors Help Terminal Patients Commit Suicide?

Published: 2021-07-02
1988 words
8 pages
17 min to read
Boston College
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Recently, many terminal patients decided to give up treatment, and they apply for assistance suicide to the doctor. Should doctor help terminal patients commit suicide? One example of Doctor-assisted Suicide posted by Ralph Slovenko in 1990; Dr Jack Kevorkian of Michigan connected Janet Adkins, age 54, to a suicide machine he invented. Janet Adkins touched a button, releasing an anesthetic followed by lethal injection; later, she died. She wanted to die rather than live through the agony of Alzheimers disease. And Ralph Slovenko believes that suicide is not a crime in Michigan. First, when the hopeless patient dies, then he or she may donate their useful organ to other patients who needs the organ to extend life. Second, as everyone knows the medical fee is very expensive, so the patient family will reduce the economic burden when the patient dies. When the terminal patients decided to assisted suicide, should the doctor respect their desire and help them commit suicide? Or the doctor should follow the law and keep saving the patient life. This discussion is explored deeply in this paper in which the author takes the proponent side, supporting that terminally ill patients should be assisted to pass on as long as they request it.

Terminally ill patients should be assisted to die because continuing to let them live is extending their suffering (De La Torre 1). De La Torre notes in her article The Right to Assisted Suicide that with the medical technology that has recently overtaken the society, many lives are saved; thus, prolonging their existence in the society. Some of the fatal disease such respiratory illnesses today can be controlled with the help of technological equipment designed to support patients with failing respiratory systems. The author further notes that, with the advanced medicines that can sustain the patients physiological systems, many people are today able to live longer than when the technology had not advanced this much (De La Torre 2). However, this cannot be case for the terminally ill patients who may see this as prolonging their suffering which they continue to endure as long as they are alive. Medicine is supposed to reduce or minimize the patients suffering. However, when it becomes a suffering, it is no longer seen as the help. Technology may not assist sometimes to help or alleviate the pain of dying patients. It is important to release them from that suffering that may take away all the pain they are feeling due to agony that is caused by the medication process. Continuing medication for a disease that does not have cure is hopeless and painful that dying patients should not be subjected to.

According to Neuberger, Julia in her article Dying Well: A guide enabling a good death, dying patients go through traumatizing situations during their last moments while they struggle to live a life with unbearable pain. This can be reduced as the cases scenario of doctor assisted suicide in 1990 where Dr. Jack Kervorkian of Michigan helped ease the pain of his patient who argued was going through pain and agony (Slovenko 1). Janet Adkins, a 54 year old patient was connected to the suicide machine which Dr. Jack invented and she touched the button that released the lethal injection into her system ending her life (Slovenko 1). The discussion that has seen majority of Americans divided along opinions and beliefs has since 1990 expanded to various sectors; from political to academic arena. Suicide assisted is not a crime in Michigan; therefore, someone who is engaged in such activity like Dr. Jack Kevorkian who became famous after his encounter with Mrs. Janet Adkins, cannot be held accountable for the death of patient (Slovenko 1). The matter was taken to court and the judge of the Supreme Court of Michigan ruled in favor of the doctor stating that if the principal is not guilty, so is the accessory. The person who assists the patient ends his/her life when he/she is going through unbearable pain and suffering should not be blamed on the accessory as Dr. Kevorkian was not held accountable for his participation in the death of Janet Adkins. Their last moments of the dying patient should not be suffering. Therefore, ill patients should be allowed to have the honor of assisted suicide because it is in their best interest to die peacefully without experiencing pain.

Again, dying patients should be given the honor and privilege to die at the time they chose to. Some people have questioned the legality of assisted suicide. As Bahuniak and Arthur report in their article Physician-assisted suicide: The anatomy of a constitutional law issue, most of the states in the U.S. do not support assisted suicide. However, it is unreasonable to claim that when a doctor helps the patient end his/her life is illegal when refusal treatment laws are still applicable. Refusal treatment is where patients are allowed legally to refuse any medication even when their lives are at stake (Bahuniak & Arthur 9). The law allows them to refuse the recommendation given by the care provider; for example, blood transfusion and chemotherapy. The law also guarantees the patient the right to voluntarily stop eating and artificial administration of nutrition (Bahuniak & Arthur 9). All these expose the patients health to risks of ending his/her life and yet the law allows them. Therefore, what is the need of questioning the legality of the assisted suicide if it is the consent of the patient?

Assisted suicide relieves the patients family from expensive medication expenses especially for incurable diseases (De La Torre 2). Loosing loved one in a family may be unbearable to the family as a whole. However, when the medication has failed to find a solution to the problem the patient is suffering from, it becomes a problem of the family to exhaust every means they can find. This means that they have also to exhaust all the resources they have to administer the medication that continue to support the life of the patient. Whether the medication is successful or not, the family cannot avoid the high expenses attached to the medication (De La Torre 2). It can be better for a family with good income. However, it becomes difficult for a family with low income to bear the too much cost. This is a pain that even the dying person can easily notice; with every day that he/she continues to live becomes a nightmare for the family as they wonder about how they can accomplish the high priced medication. The cost of maintaining a terminally ill patient is approximated to be between $2,000 and $10,000 a month (De La Torre 2). This is not something that any family can afford or maintain, especially after realizing that the medication has failed.

As De La Torre explains in her article The Right to Assisted Suicide, few terminally ill patients can be able to afford the cost of their maintenance at the dying time. However, majority do not have the means because they can no longer work and sometimes they do not have any savings left after exhausting in the medication process. Therefore, for such not-affluent people, the expensive cost of their maintenance is left with the family. It further becomes difficult for a family where there is only one bride winner who has to ensure that everyone in the family eat, sleeps, children taken to school. When another expense is added; let us say the maintenance cost of a dying person, the burden becomes too heavy to carry. Dying in peace is something that anyone is wishing of. However, when someone dies and realizes that he/she has left the family in a great financial constraint situation, it no longer becomes consoling to the dying person. Therefore, assisted suicide or dying can greatly help the situation since it will reduce the financial constraints that the family left behind is left to undergo through.

According to Slovenko in Doctor-Assisted suicide, the right to end life should be granted to all patients in all states across the United States. I believe that death with dignity is quite a consolation to both the family and also the patient. If someones time is up, he/she should not be kept longer suffering and waiting to die. This pain should be taken away from them by helping them to pass on. Terminally ill patients should be allowed to make the choice of whether they want to continue in the life support machines or die because they are the real victims of circumstances (Guy & Theodore 2). They are the ones feeling the pain and not the lawmakers who think what should be legal or illegal. Sometimes, good and effective decisions do not have to be pleasing to many; whether it is the most difficult choice, it has just to be made.

I think the last moments of terminally ill patients should be their own and they can decide what to do with it. Someone who is not on that death bed should not be the one to make the decisions regarding a person who has already lost hope because probably there is not cure. This applies to patients with cancer and other forms of terminal illnesses who may not wish to go through the suffering anymore longer for something that they know very well that will eventually come, death (Guy & Theodore 4). Sometimes, terminally ill patients are not given the chance to make the choice because they are believed to be mentally unable to make the hard choices. Therefore, the choice is left with the family to make.

The family may not understand the need to let the patient go because of fear to lose him/her. The family would do everything including selling all the assets they have trying to cover the medical expenses because they are afraid of making the only best decision that will eventually send the patient off happily. As Demac Ralph explains in his article Thoughts on physician-assisted suicide, doctor assisted suicide or death is the best because it allows the patient to pass on painless and within a short time. Unlike the normal circumstances where someone is left to die on his/her own. This will take, sometimes, more than three months while the patient is suffering and forced to endure the pain. Therefore, the family should be ready to accept the hardest choice to let their loved ones go without suffering and painful last moments on earth. The last minute should end on a happy note. Family and social support affect the desire for hastened death as most physicians assume that patients with close family relationships and social support can endure the stressful situation of caring for someone who may not probably make it (Demac 228); thus, the less likely they will develop the desire for assisted suicide.

As Demac explains, we live in a society where the majority of people are uncomfortable with death. Therefore, people try every day to prevent and curb the inevitable from happening not knowing that this exposes another person to a greater risk of being subjected to extreme suffering and painful situations while still looking for medication. People are unable to come in terms with the reality that they are not able to escape the inevitable like ageing and dying at long last no matter how they have kept away from such demise from which we are all bound to go through (Demac 228). However, the sooner people come to senses of the reality the better for everyone. Assisted death is sometimes referred to as self-deliverance; this was a popular term used by the Hemlock Society and Americans against Human Suffering that has tried to fight against the illegality of patient assisted suicide in California. The organization has tried to fight the laws barring physicians from helping terminally ill patients receive their self-deliverance through a peaceful and harmonious death.

According to proponents of this organization, terminally ill patients are barred from receiving self-deliverance by three main factors (Demac 228). First...

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