Is it ethical to allow patients on their deathbed the option of death? In 2005, a man named Greg Sims died slowly and miserably when he developed brain cancer. His family had to stay idly by and watch him suffer throughout his illness.
He endured over a year of excruciating pain only to die, leaving his family and loved ones traumatized. This brings forward the question, is assisted moral and ethical, or should society continue to let their dying patients suffer for long periods of time. This question has been a major point in controversy for years; however, as medicine continues to advance, the general public’s opinion fluctuates. Some of the top subjects that cause debate are the history of assisted suicide, whether or not it should be legalized, and limitations on the subject. According to Ian Dowbiggin, author of A Merciful End: The Euthanasia Movement in Modern America 2003, assisted suicide has been practiced since the Greek and Roman times.
It was anything but uncommon for doctors in that time period to euthanize their dying patients. There was an oath however that stated doctors couldn’t kill their own patients, yet few doctors followed this. Furthermore, Dowbiggin goes on to say that it was widely supported until Christianity arose. This goes further into saying that euthanasia was not made illegal until religious ideals were established.
This doctor concludes that in previous dates, euthanasia was never an issue in society until religious practices were introduced into civilization. Following these ideals, Rosie DiManno author of “Euthanasia” 2003 implores that euthanasia is immoral and dangerous. She states that it is dangerous that major countries such are Canada and the Netherlands are making the decision to legalize Euthanasia without getting the general public’s vote.
She goes on to express her disappointment by saying that, “dying is a part of living” and, “it has intrinsic value as a part of life’s journey”. Dimanno feels that it is better to have a natural death, rather than controlled and that it is not the individual’s decision. She continues to add that it is barbarous that society is even considering euthanasia and controlling something that should not be controlled. This author infers individuals are not getting the decision for the legalization of euthanasia and that dying should be a natural event for patients, rather than a controlled and intentional one. Contradicting this, writer Kevin Drum indicates that as medical advances grow, the general public is more acceptable towards assisted suicide. Euthanasia has increased since 1947 and has not stopped since. Drum supports this because it gives patients the choice of how and when they die.
He also feels that it is a more peaceful way of dying. If a patient with rapid declining health wants to die quickly without pain, euthanasia is a controlled and humane option of dying. It also better benefits they family of the dying to not see their loved ones suffer for prolonged periods of time. Drum considers that with the possibility of euthanasia being legalized, it would better benefit people in a better way, giving them the choice of a peaceful departure or prolong their death to a more painful one. However, author Chethan Sathya disagrees with this.
She claims that doctors and physicians should not be performing assisted suicide because it would be poor for all patients and doctors. Sathya asserts that physicians were trained to save lives, not end them. It would be more efficient if doctors worked on saving lives instead of trying to end the already dying. She also believes that it would do more damage to doctors because of their human connection to their patients. To intentionally kill their patients would mentally affect doctors and physicians in a negative way. Patients may even be pressured into euthanasia due to feeling guilt about their condition. They could feel that their families and even the doctors would want them to die because of their deteriorating condition.
She adds that if it was legalized, it could be potentially abused. Doctors could kill their patients without their consent or force them to do so. This adds even more pressure to their patients. In conclusion, this author feels as though doctors should not play a role in assisted suicide. It would not only do emotional damage to the physicians, but also their patients. Opposing this, authors Claire Andre and Manuel Velasquez, from the University of Santa Clara, say that while we have medical advances that sustain the lives of dying patients, that would not be what is better for them, especially when they are losing their sanity and motor control.
It is torture for not only the patient but to their families and their physicians. Standing by watching the patient die slowly not only increases the family’s debt towards the hospital, but also traumatizes everyone that witnessed the death, including doctors.