The Instigator
Sebastian_Ley
Pro (for)
Losing
0 Points
The Contender
Sapphique
Con (against)
Winning
8 Points

Should doctor assisted suicide be legal?

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Post Voting Period
The voting period for this debate has ended.
after 2 votes the winner is...
Sapphique
Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 3/6/2015 Category: Philosophy
Updated: 1 year ago Status: Post Voting Period
Viewed: 1,057 times Debate No: 71268
Debate Rounds (4)
Comments (7)
Votes (2)

 

Sebastian_Ley

Pro

This is my first debate, so I figured I would start off with a subject that is both fascinating and controversial.
Doctor assisted suicide is the process of a medical professional euthanizing a patient to relieve them from pain, be it mental or physical.
The debate will be structured as such: Round 1 is acceptance, round 2 is your main points, (no rebuttals), round 3 is rebuttals, and round 4 is closing statements.
I am debating for the Pro side of this debate. I hope to have a good debate, and the best of luck to my opponent!
Sapphique

Con

I accept. As this is also my first real debate, we will be on equal footing. Thank you, pro, and I look forward to an interesting debate :)
Debate Round No. 1
Sebastian_Ley

Pro

First off, in response to your comment; Yes, I do indeed mean physician assisted suicide. Here is the definition of what we are debating over as stated by Merriam Webster:
"suicide by a patient facilitated by means (as a drug prescription) or by information (as an indication of a lethal dosage) provided by a physician aware of the patient's intent"
http://www.merriam-webster.com...

In the context of this debate, this term can also apply to a physician directly administering the lethal dose if a patient is consenting and physically unable to do so themselves. Sorry for the misleading wording.

On to the debate-
My first argument is that all humans have a fundamental right to choose when we die. Our bodies and minds are our own, are they not? It can be said that if all humans have a right to life, then surely we must have a right to decide the time, place, and circumstances of our own deaths. Many terminally ill patients are forced to live in extraordinary pain, knowing that they will be burdened with it for the rest of their lives. Not only that, but they also know that they have little time left to live anyways. Should they not be allowed to die painlessly and quickly rather than face prolonged suffering?

My second argument is all about dying with dignity. It is a popular concept in the pro-PAS community. Patients who are terminally ill often live extremely debilitated lives, unable to take a shower, use the bathroom, or even stand without aid. And, to put it simply, it is humiliating for them. Many patients have attested to feeling shame and humiliation due to their condition, and some die alone without their family due to their deaths coming earlier than expected. Why make them suffer, when, if they would like to, they could die in their own surrounded by their loved ones.

My third argument is quite simple. It may seem cold and uncaring for me to use it, but it is true. PAS is far less costly than continued care for the terminally ill. While drugs used for physician assisted suicide cost $30-$50, care for the terminally ill can cost tens of thousands of dollars or more. Don't get me wrong, if the patient wants to continue to live for as long as possible, they have every right. But if they want to die, it's their choice.

Finally, The Hippocratic Oath states that physicians will "Do no harm."
By forcing patients to live in pain, is that not indirectly doing harm? Although physicians providing lethal doses to patients with their consent could be considered harming them, I would argue that it is far less harmful than making them live in pain and humiliation against their will.
Sapphique

Con

Thanks to my opponent for the clarification. Once again, I apologize for the delayed response. My contentions are as follows:

Many, if not all religions, are opposed to suicide in any form. PAS and euthanasia violate the commonly held belief that life is sacred and that the circumstances of one’s death should be left to God. To illustrate are quotes from the Bible, the Torah, and the Qur’an, respectively, as well as the Hindu perspective:
“Be not overly wicked, neither be a fool. Why should you die before your time?” (Ecclesiastes 7:17, ESV)
“Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.” (1 Corinthians 6:19-20, ESV)
“No man has power to retain the spirit, or power over the day of death. There is no discharge from war, nor will wickedness deliver those who are given to it.” (Ecclesiastes 8:8, ESV)
“In the second book of the Pentateuch it is stated: Thou shalt not murder (Exodus 20:13)… And he that smiteth any man mortally shall surely be put to death (Leviticus 24:17)” [1]
When their time comes they cannot delay it for a single hour nor can they bring it forward by a single hour. (Qur'an 16:61)
And no person can ever die except by Allah's leave and at an appointed term. (Qur'an 3:145)
Most Hindus believe that "the doctor should not accept a patient’s request for euthanasia as the soul and body will be separated at an unnatural time. The result of it will damage karma of both doctor and patient." [2]
These are but several examples, and I am able to provide more if my opponent so wishes.

PAS is not the only option—indeed; it is not even the best option. Advocates of PAS insist that patients undergoing great pain or who fear undergoing such pain need the option to die. However, “most experts in pain management believe that 95 to 98 percent of such pain can be relieved.” [3] “Very few” of those who are instead offered “personal support and palliative care” actually end up choosing suicide. Alarmingly, because of the legalization of PAS in Oregon has led to the decline in this critical method of treatment. “Most of the small hospitals in the state do not have pain consultation teams at all.” [4]

Legalizing PAS will be the first step in a downhill trend ethically and legally that has been characterized as the “slippery slope”. To show this, it is useful to draw examples from countries in which PAS or euthanasia has already been legalized. In the Netherlands, ‘“Consent,” defined as a voluntary, persistent, and considered request to die, was obtained from only 3,100 of the 8,100 patients who were administered pain killing drugs. The 8,750 who died from withholding or withdrawing treatment and the majority of patients who had died from administration of pain killing drugs (5,000) had not consented.’ [5] There is more information that I would like to include, but because it is lengthy I will only briefly summarize, and I would trouble my opponent to refer to the source listed below, specifically pages 10-12 of the pdf file. [5] In short, according to Dutch law, children as young as 16 may request PAS or euthanasia without parent approval. In addition, the law allows physicians to determine when a patient’s suffering is “lasting and unbearable”, thus removing any individual choice in the matter. The way that legalizing PAS and euthanasia has developed in the Netherlands should serve as a warning to illustrate what can happen if we start to take steps in this direction.


1 : http://www.myjewishlearning.com...
2: http://www.vpmthane.org...
3: http://www.aul.org...
4: http://www.internation-altaskforce.org...
5 : https://www.healthlawyers.org...
Debate Round No. 2
Sebastian_Ley

Pro

Rebuttals-

In regards to your first argument; You state that many religious documents have passages that are blatantly against PAS, however many religious documents such as the Qur'an and The Old Testament also have anti-homosexual passages, and do you agree with them? I would argue that many religious documents are outdated to anyone except for religious fundamentalists, and thus can not be taken into account in the context of this debate.

You say that many physicians believe that pain can often be neutralized, but although it is possible, in many cases, (at least in the United States,) it will never happen. As I have stated before, prolonged care can be extremely expensive, and if the patient and their family don't have good healthcare then they simply can't afford to pay for the care. Not only that, but the patient's quality life will be severely affected by the treatment due to the number of painkillers the patient would have to be on all of the time. In short, to keep the patient alive their family would have to pay an amount they can't afford for their family members life to be prolonged, despite the fact that their quality of life will be extremely limited.

And finally, you claim that PAS will lead to what is essentially legalized murder, using the Netherlands as an example. I would say that perhaps the Netherlands can serve not as a warning against PAS, but rather as a lesson about how we could do it right this time. We could examine their mistakes and ensure that we don't make them.
Sapphique

Con

Thanks for bringing up some interesting points. As confirmed in the comments, I will be addressing your rebuttals in the final round. Below are my own rebuttals. Quotes from my opponent are in quotation marks and italicized.

“…all humans have a fundamental right to choose when we die. Our bodies and minds are our own, are they not? …surely we must have a right to decide the time, place, and circumstances of our own deaths.”

The problem with saying that we all have a right to die is that it could quickly become not just our right, but our responsibility to die. If PAS were legalized, then suicide would be viewed as an acceptable alternative to suffering, depression, etc. Not just to the terminally ill, but also for the disabled, the depressed, or the elderly. The value of a life would merely be judged based on its utility to society. I will elaborate a little more on this in the final round, as it ties into the defense of one of my contentions.


“Many patients have attested to feeling shame and humiliation due to their condition, and some die alone without their family due to their deaths coming earlier than expected. Why make them suffer, when, if they would like to, they could die in their own surrounded by their loved ones.”

And indeed they can. But the solution here is not PAS. Rather, it is better palliative care. According to Dr. R. Sean Morrison, president of the American Academy of Hospice and Palliative Medicine, ‘“When high-quality palliative care is provided, people are comfortable, they live longer, they spend time with their families and the worries that drive somebody to say 'I would like assisted death' typically vanish”’. [1] The quesiton then becomes, why should we allow patients to descend into oblivion when the rest of their lives may be spent in comfort together with their loved ones?


“It may seem cold and uncaring for me to use it, but it is true. PAS is far less costly than continued care for the terminally ill.”

Your argument here is indeed cold and uncaring. Precisely because it is cheaper, the legalization of PAS can lead to hospitals and insurance companies cutting corners on costs and strongly encouraging it even when not completely necessary in order to save money. In addition, people have an inclination to sacrifice their lives for the benefit of others. Therefore, if there is no law against it, those for whom PAS is legalized will feel expected or inclined to seek euthanasia rather than continued care in order to prevent being a burden on their families or their state.


“Although physicians providing lethal doses to patients with their consent could be considered harming them, I would argue that it is far less harmful than making them live in pain and humiliation against their will.”

The Hippocratic Oath clearly forbids giving any lethal drug to patients. According to a worldwide poll, approximately two-thirds of the respondents, the vast majority of whom are doctors, are opposed to PAS. In addition, 67% of US respondents opposed PAS. [2] And despite what my opponent says, “the main reasons provided for opposing the practice were that it violates a doctors' oath to do no harm and that it would likely lead to the legalisation of euthanasia, a far less palatable practice.”

1: http://health.usnews.com...
2: https://www.lifesitenews.com...

Back over to you, pro.
Debate Round No. 3
Sebastian_Ley

Pro

Sorry for the late response, I've been quite busy recently.

In response to your rebuttals;

"The problem with saying that we all have a right to die is that it could quickly become not just our right, but our responsibility to die. If PAS were legalized, then suicide would be viewed as an acceptable alternative to suffering, depression, etc. Not just to the terminally ill, but also for the disabled, the depressed, or the elderly. The value of a life would merely be judged based on its utility to society."

You say that assisted suicide would become a societal norm, but there is evidence to the contrary.
"In 2013, 0.21% of all deaths in Oregon were due to the Death With Dignity Act, and the latest data (from 2012) on assisted deaths in Washington is very similar at 0.23%."

Source: http://www.theguardian.com...

If your argument were indeed valid, then the number of people in Oregon/Washington choosing PAS would be far higher, no? Especially considering that if you do the math, in Oregon that's only roughly 89 people out of the 33,931 people who died in 2013. If your argument is correct, than many more people should have died from PAS than did. In this situation, your argument is based upon conjecture, whereas mine is based on fact.

Death count source: https://public.health.oregon.gov...

You then go on to state that palliative care can ease pain, and that is true- however, it is costly for the patients, and it just doesn't quite do the job. Dr. Donald Low discovered that he had cancer in his brain stem, and stated that although his palliative care has eased his pain, it just doesn't get the job done and finished. As I have said earlier, it's not just about the pain. The humiliation and frustration that terminally ill patients feel is not something that can be fixed, seeing as palliative care can not do anything about, for example, paralysis or loss of bowel control.

Link to Doctor Low's Plee for PAS: www.youtube.com/watch?v=q3jgSkxV1rw

In your third rebuttal you again state that PAS could become a slippery slope down to people being pressured into suicide by society, however again I have evidence on my side, and will simply refer the reader back up to my first defense paragraph.

Finally, you state that the Hippocratic oath expressly forbids PAS, however the oath you are thinking of was written more than 2,400 years ago. Many medical schools today us a revised and much different version which I would like to refer you to, particularly to this passage; "But it may also be within my power to take a life". Based on this evidence I would say that the original version is outdated and therefor irrelevant to our debate, as I did with your argument about religious reasons for being against PAS. Not only that, but I looked further into the worldwide poll you spoke of, and found this quote by the polls authors: "online voting . . . is prone to bias and is likely not to be scientifically valid." I would say that based on this quote alone we can disregard the poll.

Source: http://consumer.healthday.com...

Original hippocratic oath: http://www.imagerynet.com...

Revised Hippocratic oath: http://guides.library.jhu.edu...

Conclusion: While things such as palliative care can ease people's passing, they do not complete the job. No relevant religious texts or oaths expressly forbid PAS. Terminally ill patients see PAS as a good thing, sometimes even when provided with high quality palliative care. Evidence shows that PAS does not usually become a road to legalized murder, as shown by both Washington and Ohio State. Finally, many terminally ill patients who just wish to end their lives quickly do not currently have the ability to do so legally, when there is just one simple and cost effective change that could be implemented to change this; Legalize Physician Assisted Suicide.
Sapphique

Con

Rebuttals con't and closing statements. I thank my opponent for this engaging debate. Quotes from Pro are once again in quotation marks and italicized.

“…many religious documents such as the Qur'an and The Old Testament also have anti-homosexual passages, and do you agree with them? …many religious documents are outdated…and thus can not be taken into account in the context of this debate.”

Whether or not I agree with anti-homosexuality passages in these texts is entirely irrelevant to this debate. The fact of the matter is that these texts are sacred to those who believe in them. My opponent offers no support beyond his own opinion to show that religious documents such as these are outdated. Nearly 70% of the world population is either Christian, Muslim, or Hindu. [1] Also consider Buddhism, which places “great stress on non-harm, and on avoiding the ending of life” [2], and you have approximately 84% of the world population whose doctrine is explicitly against suicide in any form. This is not a statistic I would consider irrelevant. Furthermore, if such a large percentage of the world is religious, and most of these religions are against suicide, consider the impact on the families of those who have committed PAS—they would always live with the belief that their loved one would end up in Hell, or get bad karma, or whatever tragic fate that religion ascribes to those who take their own lives.

“…prolonged care can be extremely expensive, and if the patient and their family don't have good healthcare then they simply can't afford to pay for the care. Not only that, but the patient's quality life will be severely affected by the treatment due to the number of painkillers the patient would have to be on all of the time.”

My opponent’s rebuttal here appears to be twofold: 1) some families may not be able to afford extended care, and 2) the lowered quality of life they would gain from medications may not be worth the cost. However, there are many resources that exist to aid those in need of financial support. “Hospice is covered under the Medicare Hospice Benefit, the Medicaid Hospice Benefit, and most private health insurance plans. Palliative care may be covered by your loved one's Medicare, Medicaid, or private health insurance or long-term care insurance plan, HMO, or other managed care organization. If they don't have insurance, or their insurance does not cover hospice…it is a tradition of hospice to offer services based on need, rather than on the ability to pay.” [3] As for the quality of life that the patient would have under palliative care, my opponent makes the assumption that it would be extremely limited. This is not the case. Palliative care is singularly dedicated to improving the quality of life by “preventing and relieving troubling symptoms and side effects of serious illness. In the case of cancer, palliative care can address such problems as pain, nausea and vomiting, poor appetite and weight loss, constipation, bowel blockage, breathing problems, and even emotional concerns like depression and anxiety.” [4] Patients who otherwise would have been in extreme mental, emotional, and physical distress can instead live in the comfort of their own homes, together with family and an experienced medical team to provide additional support.

“…perhaps the Netherlands can serve not as a warning against PAS, but rather as a lesson about how we could do it right this time. We could examine their mistakes and ensure that we don't make them.”

Assuring ourselves that we will never make the same mistakes as the Netherlands did is all well and good, but the crucial point is this: it is unavoidable. If PAS is legalized, we can assume that at first it will simply be limited to competent, terminally ill patients. Over time, however, those who are not terminally ill but are unable to self-administer the drug, mentally ill, depressed, or merely elderly will also demand the right to die. They will do so for the very same reasons as the terminally ill: they are in pain; they don’t wish to be a burden; they want to die with dignity. And then people will say, “Who are we to deny them their rights?” And PAS will become legal for them too. Where do we draw the line? Where can we put our collective foot down and say that only certain people have the right to die? We simply can’t. Already, in the Netherlands, “more than half of euthanasia and assisted-suicide-related deaths were involuntary in the year studied”. [5] Once legalized, it will be impossible to keep PAS limited to the terminally ill and the competent. That is why we cannot allow ourselves to take even the tiniest first step in that direction. Con merely suggests that this situation can be avoided, without mentioning any specific way this may be done or providing evidence of a long-standing PAS system that has not slipped down the slope. Programs in the United States such as the one in Oregon are still relatively new—while the Death with Dignity Act was only passed in 1997, physician-assisted suicide has been around in the Netherlands since the 1970s. [6][7] Thus, the Netherlands provides a better illustration of the long-term consequences of legalizing PAS.

Closing Statements

My opponent’s arguments focus primarily on the rights of the dying. Is it not cruel, he argues, to force them to suffer when we may instead allow them to end the pain on their own terms? Perhaps so. But it is crueler still to force the patient’s loved ones to live with the knowledge that their beloved may be destined for an eternity of condemnation. What of the anguish that they will carry for a lifetime, long after their loved one has passed, that maybe, just maybe, there could have been a cure? Furthermore, even if the patient is adamant about letting go, there are far better options than PAS. Palliative care is a cheaper and entirely viable alternative that not only offers patients relief from the majority of their pain, but also the important benefit of being surrounded by their loved ones. And contrary to what my opponent believes, there is empirical evidence that I have cited proving that the cumulative effects of legalizing PAS are not theoretical—it is a very real danger that will only continue to grow if we allow ourselves to slip even an inch down the slope towards legalized murder. In this world, there is nothing more valuable than human life. Where there is life, there is hope, and that is why we must do our best to preserve it.

Thanks again to Pro for a good debate. Vote Con.

1: http://www.pewforum.org...

2: http://euthanasia.procon.org...

3: http://www.caringinfo.org...

4: http://www.cancer.org...

5: http://www.aul.org...

6: http://www.nejm.org...

7: http://www.nightingalealliance.org...

Debate Round No. 4
7 comments have been posted on this debate. Showing 1 through 7 records.
Posted by Kozu 1 year ago
Kozu
She goes on to explain that the cost of care can be pushed to the government by utilizing Medicare and Medicaid to compensate for poor families.

Overall, I must give the argument points Con, as she not only provided better sources but also a more coherent argument.

Congrats to Con!
Posted by Kozu 1 year ago
Kozu
I believe this was a good first debate for both sides.

Conduct points and grammer/spelling were upheld by both sides.

Pro essentially basis his arguments on the right to ones own autonomy and a right to be relieved from suffering or humilation. He also argues that the cost of PAS is far cheaper than the hospitals care, and assumes that this will save thousands of dollars (unsourced).

Con argues from the basis of objective moralities and insists that palliative care is a better option. She lists a source to demonstrate the number of cases in which suffering is preventable through palliative care. She goes on to explain that if PAS was legalized like it was in the netherlands, it would be abused and result in unwarrented deaths.

Pro responds to Con's argument from religion by attempting to use it against her and brings up homosexuality. However, to appeal to objective morals works against his case of ones right to personal autonomy. He goes on to state that if the U.S legalized PAS, it would be able to learn from the netherlands mistakes. This is left unsubstantiated as to why it would be any different here. But continues to affirm that the cost care is to great.

Con begins to explain why PAS is a slippery slope and would lead to the legalization of suicide as a valid method of treating suffering/depression. Reducing the value of life to a utility. She further explains that hospitals and insurance companies may attempt to profit off PAS by cutting corners, resulting in more unwarrented deaths.

Pro seems to pick up his game in the last round by adding sources, but i feel its a bit late in the debate. He refutes cons slippery slope argument by listing a source that demonstrates a small number of "death with dignity" killings as proof this would not happen. Con gets around to addressing Pro's homosexuality argument by stating it's irrelevance, while she continues on to affirm that the objective morals of the majority ought to be upheld.
Posted by Sebastian_Ley 1 year ago
Sebastian_Ley
Just realized in my conclusion I wrote Ohio state rather than Oregon, whoops. I would ask the readers to ignore this in terms of the meaning of the passage.
Posted by Sebastian_Ley 1 year ago
Sebastian_Ley
Of course. Good to clear that up.
Posted by Sapphique 1 year ago
Sapphique
In the last round, before making closing statements are we allowed to defend our arguments from the rebuttals in round 3?
Posted by Sapphique 1 year ago
Sapphique
I am rather busy this weekend with a concert as well as homework and tutoring, so I may not have time to complete and post my arguments until Monday. I apologize for the delay.
Posted by Sapphique 1 year ago
Sapphique
One clarification I would like: we're debating about physician-assisted suicide, correct? Not euthanasia? Because the two are different--in euthanasia the doctor administers the means of death, while PAS is at the request of and with the consent of the patient, who self-administers the means of death. There are also different types of euthanasia and it is not always voluntary. Could you please re-define doctor-assisted suicide?
2 votes have been placed for this debate. Showing 1 through 2 records.
Vote Placed by whiteflame 1 year ago
whiteflame
Sebastian_LeySapphiqueTied
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Total points awarded:03 
Reasons for voting decision: Pro's case just doesn't seem to have any solid impacts that I can pull through. There's something there in that these people are allowed to die with dignity, but it's unclear just how important that is to them. Con's case just as far more potent, as she clarifies in her final round. Lives saved, along with the emotional and mental states of surviving family, seem to far outweigh Pro's case. While both cases tend to get a little preachy, Con's includes more of the effective examples of impacts. As such, my vote goes to Con.
Vote Placed by Kozu 1 year ago
Kozu
Sebastian_LeySapphiqueTied
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Total points awarded:05 
Reasons for voting decision: RFD in comments.