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Theory & Practice: Physician Assisted Suicide

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Week 5 Assignment: Final Paper on Ethics: Theory & Practice: Physician Assisted Suicide

Kendra Jones

SOC 120: Introduction to Ethics & Social Responsibility

Prof. Donna Falloon

Monday, February 06th, 2012

Physician-assisted suicide has been a controversial topic within the medical sector. Over a prolonged period of time, employees within the medical field have maintained a long tradition of making sure that the life of a patient is protected no matter the cost. However, there has been a shift in this tradition over the recent past. Some medical practitioners have begun to embrace the decisions of patients about what they would like to do with their own lives. This accounts for the reason as no why many doctors have been known to aid patients in their death. The embracement of physician-assisted suicide has aroused heated debates both in the medical industries and in the public domain. The main reason for this debate lies on the ethicality of this medical practice. This paper intends to argue that physician-assisted suicide is a practice protected by the constitution of many countries for example the United States. This paper therefore intends to use the deontology and emotivism to support the idea that every patient has a right to dictate what they would like to be done with their lives. In addition, this paper intends to support the idea that forces that dissent the practice of physician-assisted suicide are shaped by emotivism which is deeply rooted in the cultures and societies across the world.

First of all, it is important to understand that over the past century, the world has undergone a series of technological and social changes. The world the existed back in the 1800's cannot be compared with the world we live in the 21st century. Back in the 1800's health facilities were rare; most people did not go to any health facility once they began to suffer from an ailment. Instead most people stayed at home while they recovered from illness. The methods of treatment that were present at this time were mostly traditional and often done at the comfort of the patient's home (Weir, 2007, p. 64). This means that it was difficult to understand how people died during this time. However, technological advancements that were realized at the turn of the century introduced health technologies where people have to go to hospitals to enjoy them. This means that most people die in hospitals as they undergo treatment compared to the past where most people died at home. This poses the question of whether assisted suicide took place in the past. Critically, there were no definite records in the past to list down the way people died. However, it remains clear that some of the diseases that some people contrasted were deadly and highly communicable. In order to avoid the spread of these diseases across the society, the ill people had to be isolated from the rest of the community. These people were left helpless and ended up dying in sad circumstances. The idea of leaving patients to die in this way is not much different from incidences of assisted suicide that exists within health facilities today. For example, physicians often detach patients from medical apparatus that might be aiding a patient to accomplish physiological processes like breathing. After detaching a patient form these aiding tools the patient ends up dying. In both cases, a second party is involved in helping a patient to die. Therefore, these two incidences would be treated as being cases of assisted suicide.

This brings in the idea that assisted suicide existed even in the past. The only thing that has changed today is that improvements in technology have allowed people to understand that this occurrence happens in many places across the world. It is hence worthwhile to allude that the current cases that arise today of people resenting the practice of physician-assisted suicide is driven by emotivism. The societies that people live in today are not ready to take in the idea that assisted suicide has been around for a long time in many parts of the world. In addition, some of the people in the world today that are against physician-assisted suicide are more concerned with the act of dying (Ondrey, 2006, p.74). They believe the life is something that should be left in the sphere of the deity.

Second, it is important to understand that the medical world is driven by a code of ethics. Therefore physicians follow a given set of rules as they administer different kinds of medical services. One of the key provisions within the medical field in the United States is that physicians are asked to respect the decision of the patient provided the patient is of mentally sound and has an age of twenty one years all more. The concept that is given to this phenomenon within the medical field is patient autonomy. Physicians believe that the patient is the one who holds the final say of what they would like to be done with their body. Therefore, if a patient requests that a physician to withdraw any medical aid from him or her and allow her to die, the physician has the obligation to extend this right to the patient. This inclination by the medical field is a clear indication that the needs of a patient and their rights are well protected. However, people who are opposed to such an action forget that the patient is the one who is subjected to pain. Therefore, if the patient feels that the pain that he or she is experiencing is unbearable, then the patient has a right to request for the termination for his or her life.

From a utilitarian perspective, one might consider the action of helping a patient to commit assisted suicide as being immoral but the fact remains that the consequence that is derived from refusing to aid a patient in assisted suicide is not positive(Marzilli, 2005, p.45). It leaves the patient in pain and agony. Clearly leaving a patient under pain is not moral. Assisting somebody in whatever way that makes them happy during challenging moments is what constitutes morality. It is purely immoral to watch as patient begs for assisted suicide due to the pain that they are experiencing yet the person who has the capacity to reduce their agony and pain is not willing to help. Provided an action is in accordance with the law then the action is moral in that law is not made by a single entity. It is formulated by people who sit down and rely on the highest levels of intelligence to come up with legislation. In fact, most of this legislation is formulated through a codification process in which the legislature makes statutes from court decisions. This means that before a law in such a sensitive topic such as physician assisted suicide is



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