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Assisted Suicide shoud be legal in Virginia

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Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 11/29/2013 Category: Health
Updated: 2 years ago Status: Post Voting Period
Viewed: 636 times Debate No: 41424
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Today, I am here to argue that Virginia should adopt a Death with Dignity Act. I am advocating physician-assisted suicide. Euthanasia refers to the killing of another in order to relieve dire suffering. Physician assisted suicide is a practice in which a physician provides a competent, terminally ill patient with a prescription for a lethal dose of medication, upon the patient's request, which the patient intends to use to end his or her own life.
Over the weekend I watched a documentary titled "How to Die in Oregon". This documentary told the stories of several Oregonians diagnosed with terminal diseases, nearing the ends of their lives. Cody Curtis was one of these people. Cody was a mother of two beautiful children and a wife of nearly 30 years. She loved hiking, cooking, gardening as well as spending time with her family. At the age of only 52 she was diagnosed with cancer of the bile duct which runs through your liver. She underwent an operation that removed 60% of her liver. One year later the cancer returned and metastasized to her liver, lungs and lymph nodes.
Cody faced unbearable shoots of pain throughout her body. She became weaker by the days. She soon looked pregnant from the nearly 4 liters of fluid sitting in her belly. She had a drawer filled to the top in medications which did nothing for her pain. She did what she knew was the right decision for her, and that is ask her doctor about the Death with Dignity option. She was prescribed a lethal dose of Secanol. Cody said herself "I"ll know when life"s not worth living any more. It"s really nice to have a way out, to die in comfort and with dignity. I don"t want to die bed-ridden and weighing seventy pounds. I want the children to remember me as I am now, in peace and not in pain. .No one should have to die in a hospital all tangled up with tubes and wires and needles and in the kind of fear." Cody did not immediately use the medication, she waited because she would know when the time was right, but it was a comfort to have it at her side. She had it for nearly a year, outliving her less than 6 months to live expectancy. She was planning to spend another Christmas with her family, however near the beginning of December 2009 the pain became too much for Cody and she could not continue on anymore. She picked a date and on December 7, 2009 Cody drank a Secanol mixture. Within 5 minutes Cody was in a peaceful sleep and within 15 minutes she was pronounced dead.
Cody had the opportunity to die surrounded by her closest friends and family. They sang songs together and were able to joke around in the moments leading to her death. Cody was able to choose a peaceful happy death to an inevitable ending in her near future.
I firmly believe that death with dignity should be legal in the state of Virginia and I have three main reasons as to why.
My first point is that with this act, patients will be able to die with dignity, free from pain and a possible long, suffering death. According to the Oregon DWDA Report of 2013, nearly 98% of all patients who chose DWD were able to die at home at a time they found was right for them.
Being able to die with dignity is important. Especially for family and loved ones. Imagine if Cody had been your mom, your aunt, or your friend. Would you prefer to see her suffering, only knowing each day it will get worse not only for her, but also for you to watch. Or would you support her decision to decide when she knows life isn"t worth living. Carl Wellman, professor of philosophy says "One"s life is a biography experienced as a drama with a beginning, middle and end such that the intrinsic value of each part is determined much more by one"s awareness of its significance for the whole than by its felt pleasantness or painfulness. " He goes on to say that the friends or family are "condemned to live on with distressful memories of the death of their loved one". Wouldn"t you support a peaceful, graceful death for your loved one?
My second point is that physicians should assume their roles in relieving the sick from suffering. Once medical treatment is exhausted, other options need to be considered. Dr. Quill a specialist in palliative care says "Although palliative care is highly effective, some patients still experience severe suffering toward the end despite our best efforts. The vast majority of patients will not require last resort options if they receive excellent palliative care, but some will. Clarity about what options are available requires that we work together to provide the best possible response to the worst possible circumstances."
It follows from this that dignity is a function of someone"s personal qualities and that a death with dignity is a personal achievement; it is not something that can be conferred by others, such as health care professionals. By contrast, indignities are affronts to personal dignity. They are things that prevent or impede someone from living with dignity, mainly because they prevent him from taking an active, reasoned part in his own life. Health care professionals have a twin role here; the first is not to impose such indignities, the second is to minimize them, wherever possible

My third point is that DWD is the humane thing to do. If your family pet has a medical condition rendering them in pain, you make the moral and ethical decision to end their suffering. You don"t let them sit in the vet, hooked up to ventilators and tubes. They"ve lived the best parts of their lives, and just as other terminally ill men and women they are ready to pass on. No one wants to be artificially kept alive, with your soul trapped in your body as it wastes away each day. We want to die in peace. Dr. Singer says "If I"m in pain, severe pain, and the doctors can do nothing, the pain persists and there"s nothing to take the pain away, I don"t think it"s fair to let me suffer like that, or anybody." No one wants to become a vegetable, drugged up and forced to stay alive longer than necessary.
As a solution I propose that Virginia adopt a death with dignity act. Under the act the eligible adult would need to be diagnosed with a terminal illness and given under 6 months to live. They will be evaluated by one two physicians and one psychiatrist. Palliative care is first an option. If they choose DWD a representative from Compassion with Choices will come to their home to help with the final arrangements where they first ask them if they know they have the right to change their mind. And finally if they know what the medication will do to them.
Strict rules will be put in place regarding who it is available to, as in Oregon that will minimize abuse and harm to the weak, or mentally incapacitated. In Oregon, the patient must make two oral requests separated by 15 days. They must then provide written request to his/her physician signed in the presence of two witnesses. The prescribing physician and a consulting physician must confirm the diagnosis and prognosis as well as determine if the patient is capable. The physician will also inform the patient of feasible alternatives.
This will give people the legal right they deserve, giving them a safe, legal operation instead of illegal underground means.
We have the choice to remove life sustaining care. We have the choice to not seek treatment. But why don"t we have the choice as to when we know the time is right for us to die. Having a dignified, compassionate way to help loved ones pass should be an inalienable right. I"m not saying this is a must for everyone, and I"m not saying anyone needs to be forced to do this, but I have compassion and respect for those courageous enough to choose this. Cody didn"t want to die. If any of these people had the option they would choose to be healthy and happy, but I respect their courage and bravery to stand up and decide what was best for them.


I thank my opponent for proposing this topic.

I have the same objects to Physician assisted suicide as I do with Euthanasia, they are it is immoral, they are subjective, there is no right to die, it will lead down a slippery slope to other things, it really isn't voluntary, it is against any every major religion, and it degrades human life.

First lets address my opponents points.

"patients will be able to die with dignity, free from pain and a possible long, suffering death."

You mentioned Oregon's Death with Dignity Act. In Oregon you qualify for PAS if "An adult who is capable, is a resident of Oregon, and has been determined by the attending physician and consulting physician to be suffering from a terminal disease, and who has voluntarily expressed his or her wish to die, may make a written request for medication for the purpose of ending his or her life in a humane and dignified manner" [1] It makes no mention of pain. Further, "It is widely believed that there are only two options open to patients with terminal illness: either they die slowly in unrelieved suffering or they receive euthanasia. In fact, there is a middle way, that of creative and compassionate caring. Meticulous research in Palliative medicine has in recent years shown that virtually all unpleasant symptoms experienced in the process of terminal illness can be either relieved or substantially alleviated by techniques already available." [2]

Since Pain can be controlled it should not be used as a reason to kill yourself.

"physicians should assume their roles in relieving the sick from suffering"

When people receive their medical degree they have to take something called the Hippocratic oath. In the Hippocratic oath it prohibits directly or indirectly killing human beings. The oath was created in part so patients could be reassured that doctors only wanted to help them, not hurt them. [3] By violating this oath how can we know the doctor is acting in the patient's interest?

A physician's role is to kill illnesses not kill patients.

"DWD is the humane thing to do"

This is basically saying it is compassionate to kill them because they have no hope of recovery. "A century ago, high blood pressure, pneumonia, appendicitis, and diabetes likely meant death, often accompanied by excruciating pain. Women had shorter life expectancies than men since many died in childbirth. Antibiotics, immunizations, modern surgery and many of today’s routine therapies or medications were unknown then." [4]

It is never humane to kill humans, and there is always hope for a cure.

Now to the objections

1. Immoral

One of the most famous philosophers of ethics was
Immanuel Kant. He came up with a system of figuring out if an action was moral or not called the Categorical imperative. The Categorical imperative is an unconditional moral law that applies to all rational beings and is independent of any personal motive or desire. In using the this method Kant condemned all forms of suicide by saying the purpose pain is to protect one’s life [5] , such as taking your hand out of a fire because it burns, and by using pain as a reason to end one’s life was contradictory to the purpose of pain and was therefore immoral.

We usually strive to be moral beings, so we should avoid from having immoral acts.

2. Subjectivity

Due to the laws subjectivity there are never clear answers. In the Oregon Death with Dignity act Terminal Illness is defined as “means an incurable and irreversible disease that has been medically confirmed and will, within reasonable medical judgment, produce death within six months" [1] Things such as pain, suffering, or terminal illnesses are all subjective and you could get different opinions between different doctors, and why is the limit six months for physician assisted suicide and not four or eight months? There is no sound medical reason for why six months are chosen.

Since there is subjectivity, it makes the law hard to enforce and have safeguards for.

3. Right to Die

The courts have ruled on physician assisted suicide and there was no constitutional right to die. In the case Washington v. Glucksberg the Supreme Court ruled 9-0 that Washington’s ban on physician assisted suicide was not a violation of the fourteenth amendment and there was no constitutional right to die. [6] They ruled the same in the similar case of Vacco v. Quill. As far as the courts are concerned there is currently no legal right to euthanasia or physician assisted suicide.

4. Slippery Slope

The legalization of voluntary euthanasia/physician assisted suicide would lead down a slippery slope to other non-voluntary euthanasia. The Netherlands was the first country to legalize euthanasia in 2001 but have they gone down the slippery slope? In 2004 the Netherlands passed something called the Groningen Protocol. This allows the non-voluntary euthanasia of infants. [7] So, as far as the slippery slope is concerned the Netherlands is well on their way down and there nothing stopping other countries from following.

We should not legalize PAS because it will lead to other more damaging things.

5. Voluntary?

Voluntary euthanasia is not as voluntary as you might think. The most famous euthanasia program was the one that took the lives of eleven million people in the 1940s, the infamous holocaust. The victims of the Nazis were Jews, Gypsies, Poles, Slavs, Homosexuals, Freemasons, Jehovah’s Witnesses, and people with disabilities. In particular the Nazis attacked people with disabilities with a propaganda campaign portraying them as burdens to society and their families. "The principal reason people in a 1991 Boston Globe survey said they would consider some option to end their lives if they had “an incurable illness with a great deal of physical pain” was not the pain, not the “restricted lifestyle,” and not the fear of being “dependent of machines,” but rather that they “don’t want to be a burden” to their families. Family members who support the suicide of a terminally ill patient often unwittingly reinforce the notion that the ill family member’s life has lost all meaning and value and is nothing but a “burden.”" [8] "Many elderly people already feel a burden to family, carers and a society which is cost conscious and may be short of resources. They may feel great pressure to request euthanasia 'freely and voluntarily'. These patients need to hear that they are valued and loved as they are. They need to know that we are committed first and foremost to their well-being, even if this does involve expenditure of time and money. The way we treat the weakest and most vulnerable people speaks volumes about the kind of society we are" [2] So, voluntary euthanasia/Physician Assisted Suicide is almost as voluntary as in Nazi Germany.

I look forward to my opponent's response.


Debate Round No. 1


lalaurenx3 forfeited this round.


It is unfortunate that my opponent forfeited this round. I will extend all my arguments in hope they will respond next round.
Debate Round No. 2


lalaurenx3 forfeited this round.


I was looking forward to this debate too. I wished it went differently.
Debate Round No. 3
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Reasons for voting decision: Forfeit