“Death with dignity is about choice. Just as no

“Death with dignity is about choice. Just as no
one should be able to tell someone how to live their life, no one should be
able to tell someone how to end their life either” -Glenn Church, 2017. A
personal experience by Glenn Church, a farmer and business man, was shared last
November of 2017 by the man himself on deathwithdignity.org, an organization by
people and for people who supports assisted suicide. Church opened up about the
case of how his father was helped by assisted suicide. His father developed
several health issues, which was never determined if it was cancer or an
infectious disease. Upon experiencing the pain, his father discusses how he
wanted to use the End of Life Option Act in
California with three criteria. First
was if he wasn’t the person he used to be, second is if he is being a burden to
his family and third, if the cost of keeping him alive was an undue burden on
society, and on a beautiful day on September 2017, his father took the
medication that was emptied on a glass of orange juice, and he had a calm and
peaceful death, devoid of any pain and suffering. Another person that was
helped by assisted suicide was Peter Smedley, a British billionaire who was
suffering from several motor neuron diseases, flew all the way to Switzerland to
be able to die peacefully. Smedley upon signing the waiver, took the bitter
medication and went peacefully beside his wife. While in Canada, a woman named
Gloria Taylor who was suffering from Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis fought for
the right to die with dignity and was the first person in Canada to be granted
the right to choose when and where to die. Lastly, Alan Staples, a Vietnam
Veteran who like Taylor, developed Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis. Alan’s story
was shared by his wife Kate Staples, who was there with him through every
bitter process. On November 2012, Alan entered a nursing home, and soon he told
his wife about his decision. He warned her three days before his death to
prepare her mentally. It was on May 4, 2013 that Alan died through assisted
suicide while he is surrounded by his family, friends, and a harpist who played
before he died. As stated in Wikipedia.com, assisted suicide is suicide
committed with the aid of a doctor. Assisted suicide is commonly used
interchangeably with Physician Assisted Suicide (PAS). PAS and euthanasia are mistaken as the
same most of the time but, the difference is that euthanasia involves the
physician administering a lethal drug to the patient. While in PAS, it requires
a person with a sound mind to decide for his or her own death and upon approval
of the doctor, patients are given a drug that has to be self- administered that
will then end his or her life. Up to this day, assisted suicide had been
continuously sparking debates between people who supports the act and those who
contradicts it.

 

To receive the right to a physician assisted
suicide, a person must follow several requirements. However, these requirements
differ for each state and country. One requirement is the age, a person must at
least be 18 years of age or older. Second is that the person must be a resident
of a state or country where assisted suicide is already legalized. Countries
like Canada, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, and Switzerland have already
legalized assisted suicide. While in the United States, states such as Oregon,
Washington, Vermont, California, Colorado, Washington D.C. and Montana have
laws regarding physician assisted death. However, these states prefer their law
to be recognized as “Death with Dignity”, which can be used interchangeably
with physician- assisted death, physician- assisted dying, physician- hastened
death, physician- hastened dying, aid in dying, aid in death, physician aid in
dying, and medical aid in dying instead of using “assisted suicide”. It was
stated by the Death with Dignity Organization that the use of terms such as
“suicide”, “euthanasia”, and “physician- assisted suicide”, creates a stigma
which further misleads the public. Another requirement for assisted suicide is
that the person must be mentally capable of communicating and making health
care decisions on their own, and lastly, the patient must be diagnosed with a
terminal illness that will soon end his or her life within six months. If the
patient fulfills all criteria, he or she may proceed to make the first oral
request towards his or her physician, which will be followed by a second oral
request after fifteen days. Aside from the oral requests, a written request
must be made, after doing so, there shall be a 48- hour waiting period before a
patient can pick up the prescribed medications from the pharmacy. There are
differences in the process for each state or country, but these are the general
requirements and process needed to die with dignity.

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            The
ongoing debate over assisted suicide is due to both its benefits and drawbacks.
People support assisted suicide due to the main reason that the patient’s
tremendous amount of pain and sufferings would end early, and they get to die
with their dignity, rather than dying with only a shell of their former selves.
Financial damages can be reduced, health care professionals can move on to
another patient, whom might be needing the proper care and attention, and some
of the patient’s organs, upon authorization by the patient themselves, can be
preserved and donated to patients who are in need of a transplant, giving
several other people a better chance at life. Above all else, assisted suicide
is of help to different people, but mostly, patients get to have a peace of
mind, knowing that their suffering would end, and they were the ones who made
that choice, alleviating all worries that their family might feel guilt.
However, assisted suicide also has its drawbacks, one of the most controversial
is that it violates the doctor’s hippocratic oath, which is historically taken
by physicians, resulting to doctors hesitating on whether or not to assist in
the death of a patient. In an article by Harned for Americans United for Life,
experts believe that 95 to 98 percent of the patient’s pain can still be
relieved. In a study, results revealed that when offered personal support and
palliative care, most patients tend to adapt and continue life in ways they
might not have anticipated, meaning that assisted suicide is not the ultimate
answer to a painless death. Lastly, assisted suicide decreases the value of
human life.

           

Aside from the drawbacks, there are other oppositions
such as medical ethics and religious stances which are against the act of
assisted suicide. In the latest version of the Code of Ethics of the American
Medical Association, which was last revised in June of 2001, it states that
physician assisted suicide is prohibited for it is incompatible with the
physician’s role as a healer and it would be difficult or impossible to
control, and could pose serious societal risks.  Earlier, it was mentioned that assisted
suicide violates the Hippocratic oath of physicians. The oath from 400 BCE,
states that “I will give no deadly medicine to anyone if asked, nor suggest any
such counsel”, which is clearly the opposite of assisted suicide, where
physicians shall make a prescription for a drug, lethal enough to end a
person’s life. Though not required by most medical schools, the oath is still
followed and respected by many, which is why it is often brought up to counter
the promotion of assisted suicide. The Hippocratic oath had then been modified
into the Declaration of Geneva in 1948, with the statement, “I will maintain
the utmost respect for human life”, as a response to forced euthanasia,
eugenics, and other medical crimes performed in Nazi Germany. Another is the
statement of Marbella, adopted by the 44th World Medical Assembly in
Marbella Spain, states that “physician assisted suicide, like euthanasia, is unethical
and must be condemned by the medical profession.” Lastly, the slippery slope
argument is also an opposing factor due to experts worrying that assistive
suicide might gain access to vulnerable communities, namely people with
disabilities, who might use the law in order to reduce their feelings of
uselessness. As for religious stances, Buddhism, Catholicism, and Mormonism are
all against the act of assisted suicide. Assisted suicide and euthanasia
establishes the deliberate killing of someone, which is against the Buddhists’
fundamental principle of refraining from killing a living being, and is
considered an uncompassionate act for it causes grief towards others. In the
Catholic church, assisted suicide is regarded as morally wrong and defies the
Catholic Doctrine, for it is believed that God is the creator and author of all
life, therefore God is the only one allowed to judge when to end life. Finally,
Mormonism is against euthanasia, and anyone who participates in such act is
regarded as having violated the commandments of God.

 

Assisted suicide is mostly granted to patients
who are only terminally ill, but with the exception of some countries allowing
the psychiatrically ill patients to receive such relief. However, there are
still contradictions concerning PAS, with physicians being reluctant, for it
decreases the value of human life. However, the benefits of PAS must also be
taken into consideration. Assisted suicide, although still considered to be a
taboo topic, should be widely discussed in order to inform people and let them
know about the benefits and drawbacks of submitting themselves to this
solution. Discussing it would also help in modifying or creating laws that
would be most appropriate for the society.