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The Contender
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Should Physician assisted suicide be legal

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Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 10/14/2014 Category: Politics
Updated: 3 years ago Status: Post Voting Period
Viewed: 1,019 times Debate No: 63255
Debate Rounds (3)
Comments (3)
Votes (1)




Physician Assisted Suicide or PAS is defined by Merriam Webster as "suicide by a patient facilitated by means or information (as a drug prescription or indication of the lethal dosage) provided by a physician who is aware of how the patient intends to use such means or information" Two states, Oregon and Washington have already made this legal. I believe that a terminally ill patient who has undergone psychiatric evaluation and been deemed sane and competent to make their own decisions should legally be able to do so. I would like to debate someone who has an opposing opinion.


I am happy to accept, and look forward to your opening arguments.
Debate Round No. 1


In 1997 Oregon passed the death with dignity act. Since then around 750 have taken their lives from perceptions written by doctors. Oregon has safeguards in place to prevent abuse of this law by people who may be suicidal or unable to make this very important decision competently. The physician has to educate the patient on all their possible options including pain management and hospice care. The person must be a resident and deemed mentally competent. The patient must make several requests over a period of time giving them adequate time to consider the decision. Since the law was enacted Washington and Vermont have followed suit alone with British Columbia and Quebec. According to a public health publication the majority of patients who took their lives with the DWDA had baccalaureate degrees or higher and were enrolled in hospice care prior to dying. This means that the patient is educated and has tried other options. The majority of patients concerns with their terminal illness were loss of autonomy. It stands to reason that these patients did not want to be a burden to others or lose the dignity of taking care of themselves. This is a reasonable and sane argument for wanting to take ones own life.


A1: Physician-assisted suicide (I'll just call it assisted suicided henceforth) is a well thought-out policy that has many advantages

My opponent argues that the law passed in Oregon has several safeguards to ensure that patients who make the decision are in a clinically competent frame of mind, and are aware of the consequences. Furthermore, a lot of time is taken for hospital authorities to appropriately evaluate requests for assisted suicide. He also wisely cites public health reports that show that a majority of patients in Oregon who opted for the programme are educated, and therefore competent enough to make an informed decision. He concludes that the policy allows a patient to die with dignity.

Response: Not being an American citizen or an expert of any kind on medical law, I will have to cite an expert on the effectiveness of the law in Oregon. The following was published in 2008 in the medical journal Geriatric Medicine, under the website of the Anscombe Bioethics Centre:

"Oregon, whose law permitting assisted suicide (though not euthanasia) came into force in 1997 is often presented as a model for other legislatures to follow. In fact, Oregon polices assisted suicide even less than does the Netherlands: self-reporting by doctors is followed by no investigation, but merely a passive reporting by the relevant authority.[v] And although nothing like the official Dutch surveys has been carried out in Oregon, there is anectodal evidence of patients being pressured to die or undertreated on the grounds that they have a suicide prescription and need nothing more. [vi] It is worth pointing out that reported pain in Oregon has worsened since assisted suicide was legalized, [vii] and that the State, which funds assisted suicide, is less ready to fund essential medical services for those who want and need them."

This article tells us that far from the rosy picture that my adversary paints, enforcement of the law, for example, is a daunting task that the Oregon authorities are not a success story on. The safeguards that my adversary mentions look good on paper, but are very difficult to enforce, leading to the problems mentioned by the above. It is indeed disturbing to hear that it even encourages the state to push people who need medical services to consider assisted suicide.

The sources of the reference marks above are:

[v] Keown J. Considering Physician-Assisted Suicide: An evaluation of Lord Joffe's Assisted Dying for the Terminally Ill Bill. 2006; Care Not Killing Alliance, London: 11.

[vi] Keown J. Considering Physician-Assisted Suicide: An evaluation of Lord Joffe’s Assisted Dying for the Terminally Ill Bill. 2006; Care Not Killing Alliance, London: 13-14.

[vii] Fromme EK, Tilden VP, Drach LL, Tolle SW. Increased Family Reports of Pain or Distress in Dying Oregonians. J of Palliative Med 2004;7:431-442.

Aside from the above, there are some fundamental points that I disagree with my adversary on, and I shall provide reasons for these disagreements. I look forward to his responses on them.

CA 1: PAS is not taking "ones own life".

My adversary confuses Physician-assisted suicide with the conventional understanding of suicide. Oxford Dictionary defines "suicide" as "the action of killing oneself intentionally". Assisted suicide, however, cannot be looked at as an act in isolation, or a private act. Assisted suicide involves a medical practitioner facilitating the death of another person, and a wide variety of stakeholders, including these medical practitioners, patients, the patients' families and society, are affected by the ramifications of assisted suicide. I will go into just a couple of these stakeholders.

1. Doctors and medical ethics

In the words of the International Code of Medical Ethics, "A doctor must always bear in mind the obligation of preserving human life from conception". This code inspires doctors to place the foundations of their practice on the value of human life, engenders empathy for the patient, and thereby strengthens the doctor-patient relationship. Reminding doctors of the value of human life inspires them to do their best to preserve it at all costs. Legalising assisted suicide creates a dangerous precedent, that adds to the conflict in the mind of doctors.

If hastening the death of a terminally ill patient was to become a routine administrative task for a doctor, and indeed it can, then there is the potential for a lack of compassion when dealing with elderly, disabled or terminally ill people.

If the doctor is the person (or one of the people) who evaluate(s) the patient's well-being, then there is a definite possibility that a patient may begin to distrust his/her doctor. As mentioned on the website of the National Health Service in the UK, where this debate is ongoing, "They may think that their doctor would rather 'kill them off' than take responsibility for a complex and demanding case."

2. Ramifications on society, and ethical implications

All humans are said to have inalienable rights, and the right to life is one of them. "Inalienable" means that they may not be given up, nor may they have these rights taken from them, except under process of the law (meaning if they're criminals). My adversary has not given any reasons for believing that patients have any right to take their own lives, nor has he given reasons to believe that the healthcare system has the right to take the lives of others. If he does, however, believe that deciding whether to live or die is a right, then he must accept that this right cannot only be arbitrarily ascribed to the sick, or terminally ill. If it is truly a human right, then it must be made available to all people who wish for it. I am interested in my opponent's response to this.

I will not offer any further arguments at this point, because I have refuted my opponent's argument and given him plenty to refute.


It is true that assisted suicide offers dignity to people in pain. However, "dignity" can be a dangerous and misleading veneer for "convenience", either on part of the patient, the patient's family, the doctor, or as we have seen, even the Government. Assisted suicide should not be legal because of the several unpleasant effects on society, which cannot be ignored and which certainly outweigh the proposed benefits of the law.


Debate Round No. 2


alex1075 forfeited this round.


Arguments extended. Thank you for this debate.
Debate Round No. 3
3 comments have been posted on this debate. Showing 1 through 3 records.
Posted by republicofdhar 3 years ago
Voters, please also account for the arguments used in your voting. It would be very nice to get some feedback on the debate as well, rather than just points for forfeiture. Thanks :)
Posted by republicofdhar 3 years ago
At risk of forfeiture, I wish to remind my opponent to make his argument soon.
Posted by Comrade_Commisar 3 years ago
Since their life is already painful, why not just end it. It would contribute a lot to society since it reduce the pressure on the healthcare system. Also the person sane, they should be able to decide what to do with his/her body.
1 votes has been placed for this debate.
Vote Placed by lannan13 3 years ago
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Total points awarded:06 
Reasons for voting decision: Forfeiture