Individuals who suffer from degenerative, terminal, or painful conditions that deny them the opportunity to lead a healthy life should be granted a right to euthanasia or assisted suicide. Today, there are heated debates regarding the legalization of euthanasia. Ethicists, religious people, and pro-life activists view assisted suicide as unethical and against the essence of life. On the other hand, proponents of assisted suicide argue that it is not up to religious persons and pro-life activists to determine the fate of terminally ill patients. Doing that amounts to infringing on their rights. According to Campbell and Black (2014), the sick have the right to make autonomous decisions regarding their life. Therefore, they may choose euthanasia in the event that life becomes unbearable. Campbell and Black (2014) argue, “Having access to physician-assisted suicide allows the patient to maintain control over their situation and to end life in an ethical and merciful manner” (p. 142). Terminal illness is a burden to both the patient and the family members. People spend a lot of money taking care of the sick and endure emotional distress. Assisted suicide comes as a relief to both the patient and family members. It provides a compassionate way out of suffering for the sick and their relatives.
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Relief from Pain
A majority of the terminally ill patients endure lots of pain such that they are willing to end their lives. They do not prefer to use painful, costly, and unbearable treatments aimed at extending their lives artificially. As per Cohen-Almagor (2013), the patients find it helpful for physicians to recommend a lasting solution to their suffering. Research indicates that many terminally ill patients try to end their lives through unconventional methods. Some patients opt to commit suicide to alleviate pain. In such a situation, assisted suicide serves as the best alternative and humane way of ending suffering. The challengers of assisted suicide claim that doctors have a duty to preserve the life of the patient through all means possible. They argue that the medical community should encourage the patients to push on despite their health condition. They forget that there comes a time when it is hard for patients to recover from their illnesses. Such times call for the medical personnel to guarantee that patients live and die in a dignified manner.
Allowing patients to continue suffering while there is an alternative way to end their misery is indecorous. Using technology to prolong the life of the terminally ill patient is inhuman, particularly if the sick suffers from excruciating pain. One may argue that the doctors ought to let a patient decide when to end his/her life. Patients should be allowed to take their life by disconnecting artificial life support machines or tubes. However, enabling patients to take such drastic measures may increase and prolong their suffering. Thus, the physicians should let the patients know that there are other easy ways of ending their suffering in a humane manner.
Individuals opposed to euthanasia claim that it is pitiless and atrocious as doctors are supposed to treat patients and not to kill them. Hendry et al. (2013) argue that the alternative to assisted suicide is intrinsically brutal since the terminally ill persons are compelled to live against their will in incredible pain. Assisted suicide is not administered to all patients, but only those with untreatable health conditions such as advanced cancer, motor neuron disease, and severe heart conditions. Patients with such conditions seek relief from assiduous pain.
Relief from Financial Burden
Doctors use expensive treatment procedures to extend the life of terminally ill patients artificially. Therefore, lengthening the life of a seriously sick person comes with financial implications on family members. Hendry et al. (2013) allege, “It may seem callous to consider financial implications of keeping a loved one alive” (p. 51). Nonetheless, there is no need to spend a lot of money on a patient that is hard to save. According to Macleod (2012), terminally ill patients spend a lot of money in their last months of life. As one’s health condition deteriorates, the cost of health care needs increases. Unfortunately, the patients are not capable of contributing financially to the family. Currently, there are numerous hospice and palliative care facilities that serve terminally ill patients. The challengers of assisted suicide argue that families can enroll their patients to palliative care or hospice services rather than recommending euthanasia (Macleod, 2012). The problem with the hospice facilities is that they are extremely expensive. Confining a loved one in a hospice facility would only increase the financial burden to the family. The only way to prevent a family from incurring huge expenses that may become a burden to them in the future is letting the patient die a dignified death. Most patients who suffer from chronic, incurable, and agonizing conditions that would ultimately result in death agree that the only humane way out of suffering for themselves and relatives is euthanasia.
Macleod (2014) maintains that euthanasia relieves the patients and family members from the suffering attributed to attempted suicide. Before the discovery of euthanasia, most terminally ill patients tried to kill themselves as a way to end suffering. For instance, some patients would disconnect the life support machine, which led to a slow and painful death. In other words, the patients turned to alternative ways of ending their lives, which were extremely inhumane. Assisted suicide is an efficient, compassionate and established method of alleviating the suffering that brings tranquility to both the patient and family members. The family members are assured that the sick did not suffer in his/her last days in life. On the other hand, the patient does not go through suffering in an attempt to end his/her life through inhumane ways.
According to Vamos (2012) assisted suicide alleviates suffering amid the family members and friends and facilitates closure. Relatives find it difficult to come to terms with the suffering and eventual death of a loved one. Vamos (2012) posits, “Watching loved ones suffer for months before their death can sometimes postpone the healing process” (p. 85). Before the doctors administer euthanasia, they contact the patient’s relatives and prepare them psychologically. It gives family members adequate time to bid farewell the loved ones, which goes a long way towards facilitating closure. The death of the loved ones does not happen as a shock.
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Assisted suicide offers a humane way out of suffering for patients and families. It helps to alleviate pain amid patients who are severely ill. Some treatment methods used to extend the life of patients add to their agony. Prolonging the life a critically ill patient requires a lot of money. Hence, the family members are forced to dig deeper into their pockets to cater for medical bill. At times, the patient dies leaving the family with a huge medical bill to offset. Assisted suicide saves families from incurring medical bills that are hard to clear. It also protects the patients from contemplating suicide, which might add to their suffering. The family members get adequate time to bid farewell their loved ones. Consequently, they do not have problems reconciling with the death of a relative.
Campbell, C., & Black, M. (2014). Dignity, death, and dilemmas: A study of Washington Hospices and physician-assisted death. Journal of Pain and Symptom Management, 47(1), 137-153.
Cohen-Almagor, R. (2013). An argument for physician-assisted suicide and against euthanasia. Ethics, Medicine and Public Health, 1(4), 431-441.
Hendry, M., Pasterfield, D., Lewis, R., Carter, B., Hodgson, D., & Wilkinson, C. (2013). Why do we want the right to die? A systematic review of international literature on the views of patients, carers, and the public on assisted dying. Palliative Medicine, 27(1), 45-68.
Macleod, S. (2012). Assisted dying in liberalized jurisdictions and the role of psychiatry: A clinician’s view. Australian & New Zealand Journal of Psychiatry, 46(10), 236-247.
Macleod, S. (2014). Euthanasia and physician-assisted death. The New Zealand Medical Journal, 125(1367), 127-131.
Vamos, M. (2012). Physician-assisted suicide: Saying what we mean and meaning what we say. Australian & New Zealand Journal of Psychiatry, 46(2), 84-86.