The following paper stresses the ultimate necessity to help the patients exercise their rights to die in peace using medical assistance rather than suffer or try to commit suicide on their own. The paper also emphasizes the stress and financial issues that the patients’ families might undergo. For that sake, the relevant literature on the subject is reviewed, encompassing different perspectives and drawing examples from real-life cases. It is asserted that the conditions and circumstances may differ, and the key aspect of end-of-life care is that the patients be informed of their opportunities. Conducted upon the patients’ request and general agreement, euthanasia is thus deemed the most humane means of ending suffering and rights endorsement.
The problem of euthanasia is highly debatable as it encompasses subsequent issues of the right to die and the right to live, human dignity and medical ethics, etc. Indeed, the polarity of euthanasia stands out when discussed from ethical, theological, and civil perspectives. While religious stance is respectable in a sense, the strictly pro-life approach that theologists deploy can hardly be regarded as the ultimate code of conduct when making decisions concerning personal autonomy and human rights (McEvoy, 2015). Nor is it the prerogative of ethicists to dictate the optimum solutions in the cases that cannot be answered easily. Illness and infirmity might take various forms, and disorders might be accompanied by severe pains, vegetative states, or financial issues. At that, assisted suicide allows the patient to exercise their right to make decisions, as well as maintain dignity in death, and provides a humanitarian way out of suffering for patients and families.
Whether the medical community is in the right to assist the patients’ suicide has long been debated. The pro-life perspective subsumes the preservation of life as the ultimate goal of every practitioner, bidding them prohibit assisted suicide. Such arguments are somehow overlooking the voluntariness of the process, as well as the patients’ right to make decisions concerning their lives that all people share. That said, patients should undoubtedly be given the possibility to make such decisions, especially if the chance that they overcome the illness is minuscule or nonexistent.
The right to decide is densely connected with the patients’ approval of the measures that are to be taken in each case. Practitioners and physicians are supposed to provide their patients with all the necessary information about either of the possible decisions, be it palliative sedation or assistance in dying (Have & Welie, 2014). The provision of non-biased information is the cornerstone of medical ethics, with awareness as the key concept in endorsing the patients’ right to decide for themselves. Also, psychiatric estimation of the patients’ decision-making capabilities is a must (Levy, Azar, Huberfeld, Siegel, &. Strous, 2013). Thus, given that the patients are well-informed of all the variants and outcomes of their end-of-life care program, the decision is theirs to make. At that, forced living maintenance in case of non-responsiveness or constant pain does not quite conform to ethics.
As if in support of the idea of forced living, it is believed that medical practitioners are to improve the patients’ condition and encourage them to live. Literature, however, suggests that in most cases, euthanasia-requesting patients suffer from morbidities that are extremely painful in the terminal stage, such as cancer (Steck, Egger, Maessen, Reisch, & Zwahlen, 2013). Thus, the major point of weakness in the pro-life argument is the pain that terminally ill or disabled patients experience.
The pain either requires palliative care to keep the patient delirious and unaware of anything – or instant and permanent relief. A consequential point of concern here is that patients who do not receive instantaneous and physician-controlled help might choose to end their lives on their own, provided that they are physically capable of doing so, or ask for third-party help. The desired result is probably going to be achieved anyway, but it is worth considering that conventional ways of ending one’s lives are rather painful and put the patients’ dignity under jeopardy. Contrastingly, physician-assisted suicide is painless and does not compromise the patients, thus embodying their right to maintain dignity in death.
Indeed, the symptoms can be agonizing. Still more agonizing it is, however, for the terminally ill to have their relatives see them in such condition. The concerns that the dying has for their relatives put them under unnecessary stress. On the other side, caring for a relative at the terminal stage of cancer or artificially maintaining life in a vegetated family member is devastating for the dying one’s relatives as well. The case of Terri Schiavo, who has spent 15 years in a persistent vegetative state, has raised significant controversy featuring the arguments for the right to die as opposed to the right to live.
The agony that her relative suffered was largely predetermined by the fact that Terri had never expressed either verbally or in writing what she wanted to be done in case of such illness (Quill, 2005). In cases such as this, the ethicality consists of relieving the crucifixion of both the patients and the families who are not only forced to witness their loved ones’ expiration but to pay bills for artificial life preservation. It is true, such statements might seem inhumane. On the other hand, the humanitarian concerns should be more focused on the sensation of encumbering their relatives that terminally ill patients have, as well as the actual financial situation. Thus, once the agreement is reached, the right to die in dignity and peace can be regarded as the most humane way under a no-way-out condition.
To recapitulate, the debate over the issue of assisted suicide is ever so complex. The complexity of the issue can be explained by the fact that voters for and against euthanasia regard it from diametrically different perspectives. Turning to observation and empiricism seems to provide a more humane solution to the issue rather than basing the arguments on what is dictated by the lore of spirituality. It is worth considering the patients’ suffering and the stress that their families experience as well as the right to die gracefully that is shared universally by all human beings to come to the right solution.
Have, H., & Welie, J. V. M. (2014). Palliative Sedation Versus Euthanasia: An Ethical Assessment. Journal of Pain and Symptom Management, 47(1), 123-136.
Levy, T. B., Azar, S., Huberfeld, R., Siegel, A. M., &. Strous, A. D. (2013). Attitudes Towards Euthanasia and Assisted Suicide: A Comparison Between Psychiatrists and Other Physicians. Bioethics, 27(7), 402-408.
McEvoy, P. (2015). Euthanasia, ethics, and the Gordian Knot: is the Hippocratic Code obsolete? British Journal of General Practice, 65(641), 624-625.
Steck, N., Egger, M., Maessen, M., Reisch, T., & Zwahlen, M. (2013). Euthanasia and Assisted Suicide in Selected European Countries and US States: Systematic Literature Review. Medical Care, 51(10), 938-944.
Quill, T. E. (2005). Terri Schiavo – A Tragedy Compounded. The New England Journal of Medicine, 352, 1630-1633.