Legalizing physician-assisted suicide is one of the most controversial issues of modern times. There are arguments that people with certain illnesses experience a great deal of suffering which could be alleviated with physician-assisted suicide. Whilst this may be the case, there is evidence which supports the view against legalizing the practice, including the moral issues behind it. The purpose of this argumentative paper is to cover the arguments for and against physician-assisted suicide to give a fair overview of the topic. However, it will become evident with consideration that there are too many potential risks associated with the legalization of this practice for physician-assisted suicide to be a valid legal option.
One of the main reasons for legalizing physician-assisted suicide is that, with the right consent, many people feel that they would be better off preventing pain by committing suicide (Dworkin 99). This is usually because they are paralyzed or have some long-term fatal illness which will cause them endless pain. However, there are always risks that doctors could exploit their power to use assisted suicide if legalized. For example, vulnerable patients could be experimented upon after giving permission for assisted suicide. Additionally, there are risks that physicians could even complete the act without permission from the individual or their family members, causing endless pain to relatives left behind (Kopelman & Ville 54).
Although we can assume that most physicians are good people, there is definitely the risk that power could be abused. Physicians could pressure family members into giving permission because of the financial costs of ongoing treatment if the ill is kept alive on medication (Kopelman & Ville 54). Additionally, family members themselves may decide to go down the route of physician-assisted suicide for financial reasons because their medical care would not support ongoing treatment. There is also the issue of whether medical care insurance would even cover physician-assisted suicide – a minor point but still necessary to take into consideration.
One argument for the use of physician-assisted suicide is that the Hippocratic Oath states that the physician should do no harm and remove all sources of pain where possible (Dworkin 104). Although it may be the case in some patients that assisted suicide would be a kinder option, some argue that the very statement “do no harm” would prevent doctors from physically administering drugs for assisted suicide (Kopelman & Ville 14). Evidently, killing someone – even with their permission – may cause moral problems for some medical staff and thus keeping the practice illegal removes this issue completely. A final similar point to consider is that for many people, assisted suicide is against their religion. This is not limited to patients, but many physicians would not be able to carry out the practice for a similar reason (Kopelman & Ville 18).
In conclusion, it is clear that some cases may warrant physician-assisted suicide, but the risks of this practice going wrong and causing more harm than good far outweigh these benefits. The main reasons against physician-assisted suicide is that some doctors may abuse their privileges and use patients for research. Additionally, medical insurance issues may prevent the practice being offered equally and could cause pressure financially on family members. Finally, the Hippocratic Oath states to “do no harm” and many believe that physician-assisted suicide is a moral violation of this oath. Similarly, many religious beliefs are morally against the practice also, suggesting that it may be more beneficial for patients and society to keep the practice illegal to prevent future problems and reduce risk.
- Dworkin, Gerald. Euthanasia and Physician-Assisted Suicide. Cambridge University Press, 1998. Print.
- Kopelman, L. M., and K. A. Ville. Physician-Assisted Suicide: What Are the Issues? Springer, 2001. Print.