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American College of Physicians Position Paper

Legalizing physical-assisted suicide has been providing a ground for debates in the scientific community for a long time. Some scholars assume that the legitimation of euthanasia is an ethically correct and necessary decision, while others firmly disagree that doctors should have a right to take a patient’s life. The papers are written by Kussmaul (2017) and Quill, Arnold, and Youngner (2017) are dedicated to the discussion of the American College of Physicians (ACP) position paper (Sulmasy & Mueller, 2017). The current essay provides an analysis and evaluation of the mentioned articles.

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The critical idea suggested in the paper by Quill et al. (2017) is that debates on the moral aspect of legalization and prohibition of “life-ending medical practices” should be continued (p. 598). The reason for this conclusion is that patients who suffer terminal illnesses should have a chance to be heard and understood. Medical workers should consider such people and admit that they should have the capability to make decisions concerning their lives. The authors also suppose that patients should know that they have a right not to undergo “burdensome treatments” that could not raise their quality of life but just do not let them die (Quill et al., 2017, p. 597). Besides, Quill et al. (2017) argue that incurably sick patients should have an opportunity to change their practitioner in case if the vision and moral attitudes of the latter do not coincide with the former. In other words, this means that a patient’s decision to cease life via medical means should not depend on the position of his or her doctor.

The article by Kussmaul (2017) calls the legalization of euthanasia a slippery slope and concludes that doctors under no circumstances should be involved in killing people, even terminally ill ones. The author claims that the value of humans lives is intrinsic and that “collective cultural conscience” should prevent people from legitimating physician-assisted suicide (Kussmaul, 2017, p. 596). This conclusion is underpinned by the statement that even though doctors should pay attention to the desires and requirements of a patient, they would never prescribe an illegal medicament or ineffective treatment. Consequently, it would be wrong for medics to follow the wish of a patient who wants to die. Furthermore, Kussmaul (2017) asks if it is morally right to deprive people with physical suffering of life while refusing to medically kill people with psychiatric disorders such as, for example, depression.

From this, it could be inferred that Kussmaul (2017) agrees with Sulmasy and Mueller (2017), who speak against the legalization of physical-assisted suicide. However, Kussmaul (2017) emphasizes that Sulmasy and Mueller (2017) are wrong in identifying euthanasia as euphemisms since this means that this concept is deprived of strictly negative or positive connotations. This fact, in turn, causes debates on the possibility of permission for a mercy killing.

The arguments presented in both papers are opposing since Quill et al. (2017) defends the possibility of making euthanasia a legal procedure, while Kussmaul (2017) presents argumentation that proves that physical-assisted suicide should remain illegal. Both articles assume that they regard humans lives as immensely valuable. Nevertheless, they use this statement in different manners. More precisely, Quill et al. (2017) say that since life is priceless, it is up to a patient to decide whether he or she should waste the remaining time on sufferings or could die peacefully. The argument established by Kussmaul (2017) has a philosophic subtext, as he believes that an individual could be unaware of the value of his or her life for the whole community, and it would be wrong to manage the time and circumstances of death artificially.

Another point that should be noted is that both papers use the examples of countries where the discussed procedure has already been legitimized. Nevertheless, while Quill et al. (2017) simply list these states, Kussmaul (2017) talks about the adverse outcomes of this decision. According to Kussmaul (2017), in the Netherlands, doctors legally kill people with mental illnesses, dementia, or just elderly ones. The given argumentation leads to the inference that both articles use cherry-picking data. This way, Quill et al. (2017) mention any statistics that could undermine the credibility of their position. Simultaneously, the appalling information indicated by Kussmaul (2017) presents only one situation in the Netherlands in 2015. The case of the Dutch practice of euthanasia could be an exception from the common rule and the problem of the local government and legislature rather than of the procedure itself. Besides, both articles admit that there are opposing opinions on the issue of legitimization of physical-assisted suicide. The difference is that Quill et al. (2017) assert that it is right to discuss this problem, whereas Kussmaul (2017) deems that debates on whether doctors should assist people in killing themselves are meaningless.

To conclude, it is challenging not to consider personal attitude to the discussed problem while determining which of the two articles presents a more persuasive case. Partly for this reason, one could assume the paper by Quill et al. (2017) as a more persuasive one. This article views the problem of physical-assisted suicide from the side of a patient and argues that people should be responsible for their life. Besides, this writing, in comparison with the other one, is not deterministic and leaves the reader a space to think about his attitude to the issue.

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Kussmaul, W. G. (2017). The slippery slope of legalization of physician-assisted suicide. Annals of Internal Medicine, 167(8), 595-596.

Quill, T. E., Arnold, R. M., & Youngner, S. J. (2017). Physician-assisted suicide: finding a path forward in a changing legal environment. Annals of Internal Medicine, 167(8), 597-598.

Sulmasy, L. S., & Mueller, P. S. (2017). Ethics and the legalization of physician-assisted suicide: an American College of Physicians position paper. Annals of Internal Medicine, 167(8), 576-578.

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