Should Physician assisted suicide be legal
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.
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.
alex1075 forfeited this round.
Arguments extended. Thank you for this debate.
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