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Right to end your life if terminally ill?

Idealist
Posts: 2,520
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4/18/2014 10:11:33 PM
Posted: 2 years ago
At 4/1/2014 12:46:35 PM, savannahbhang wrote:
Should a person who is suffering from a terminal illness be able to end their life?

Yes!!! I used to have an opposite view, but then I became ill myself, and now everything has changed. I've never wanted to kill myself, but I would like to know that it's an option. I've heard others argue that euthanasia is a"downhill slope" which will likely lead to the forced suicide of those who are deemed detrimental to society, and I see the danger in this. I think that if euthanasia were legal here (as it has become in a few states) then there must be a way found to determine to a reasonable certainty that the decision isn't being forced upon the individual. My GF is a hospice nurse who has witnessed how family members will often put pressure on elderly family members simply because they want to inherit their property. It sounds cold to me, but it happens. It's a tricky question to be sure, but I think it needs to be addressed.
HunterK
Posts: 5
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4/27/2014 4:15:23 PM
Posted: 2 years ago
It is necessary for someone that is terminally ill to end their life. It cannot be a crime because it isn't physically harming anybody else. If I was terminally ill myself and I had chronic pain then I would just prefer to end it right then and there. It should be the right of that individual to decide his or her fate, not law.
Sr_William_Hardres
Posts: 6
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6/8/2014 9:42:55 PM
Posted: 2 years ago
At 4/1/2014 12:46:35 PM, savannahbhang wrote:
Should a person who is suffering from a terminal illness be able to end their life?

First and foremost, everyone commenting on/viewing this thread should understand the difference between Euthanasia and Assisted Suicide. Euthanasia is the killing of another in order to relieve dire suffering, whereas assisted suicide is a practice in which an individual provides a competent patient with assistance, but where the individual brings about their own death, such as when a physician provides 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. The real distinction between the two in regard to a terminally ill patient seeking to prematurely end his/her own life is the doctors" active/passive role in their death. Euthanasia constitutes the doctor actively ending the patient"s life by administering the fatal dose to the patient, whereas Physician Assisted Suicide constitutes the doctor providing the lethal dose to the patient and the patient administering the dose to him/herself. Accordingly savannahbhang, it would be easier to argue for/against the respective practices if you specified what mode of premature death for terminally ill patients you were asking about because the two very different practices have very different implications. In my opinion, it would make the most sense if this forum were to argue the practice of Physician Assisted Suicide because as JesseR correctly stated Euthanasia has been previously ruled upon by the U.S. Supreme Court and declared to be illegal. The U.S. Supreme Court ruled upon Assisted Suicide and it was their verdict in two cases from 1997, that physician-assisted suicide is not a "protected liberty interest under the Constitution". However, the Supreme Court did not ban assisted suicide. The opinion recognized the right of states to engage "in serious, thoughtful examinations of physician-assisted suicide." thus leaving the controversial practice to be decided upon by the respective state courts and legislatures. Since this ruling, four states (Oregon, Washington, Montana, and Vermont) have passed legislation/produced court rulings legalizing Physician Assisted Suicide and recently New Mexico has taken great strides toward becoming the 5th state to legalize Physician Assisted Suicide.
Sr_William_Hardres
Sr_William_Hardres
Posts: 6
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6/8/2014 9:45:57 PM
Posted: 2 years ago
At 4/27/2014 4:15:23 PM, HunterK wrote:
It is necessary for someone that is terminally ill to end their life. It cannot be a crime because it isn't physically harming anybody else. If I was terminally ill myself and I had chronic pain then I would just prefer to end it right then and there. It should be the right of that individual to decide his or her fate, not law.

Hunter K,
While you are not incorrect in your opinion, there are several flaws in your argument that I would like to point out. Firstly, to blanketly say "It is necessary for someone that is terminally ill to end their life" is unwise. There are many important factors that should be considered before deciding to end one"s own life or the life of a loved one. Furthermore, to say that it is not a crime is incorrect as well; because even physician assisted suicide (the more legal route of suicide with the involvement of others- as opposed to euthanasia) is a matter of great contention, and legal in only 5 of the 50 United States. Accordingly, in most states, it would undoubtedly be a crime for a physician to provide lethal dosages of drugs to a right of mind, consenting, terminally ill patient. Even in the 5 states where physician assisted suicide is legal, there are an enumerable amount of factors/parameters that must be met before a doctor is legally allowed to provide his/her patient with a lethal prescription. Otherwise, the assisting doctor can and will be tried for murder.

In your statement you address one of the most common arguments for Physician Assisted Suicide, pain. In fact, physical suffering, including pain, is a less frequent motivator for patients to request physician assisted suicide than many think. In a study conducted by Han L.J. van der Maas, (Professor and Head of Psychological Methods of the University of Amsterdam) regarding Physician Assisted Suicide, pain alone was, 1) A rare motivator in 3% of requests (by patients for PAS), 2) One of several motivators in 46% of requests and 3) Not cited as a factor at all in the remaining 51% of requests. Moreover, Advances in pain management now make it possible to control pain effectively in dying patients; only rarely is it necessary to induce sleep to relieve pain or distress in the final stage of dying. Accordingly, the chief argument " that assisted suicide is needed to avoid the excruciating pain and suffering that may accompany a terminal illness " is based on a fallacy.

The last point you make regarding the necessity for personal autonomy in deciding one"s own death trumping law is also one of the topmost arguments for Physician Assisted Suicide. The Oregon Health Division's Fifth Annual Report on Oregon's Death with Dignity Act indicated that 84% of those who requested Physician-Assisted Suicide cited loss of autonomy as the dominant reason/motivation for their request. This fear of disability/lack of autonomy typically underlies assisted suicide. Said one assisted suicide advocate, "Pain is not the main reason we want to die. It's the indignity. It's the inability to get out of bed or get onto the toilet ... [People] ... say, "I can't stand my mother " my husband " wiping my behind.' It's about dignity" (Leiby, 1996). But as many thousands of people with disabilities who rely on personal assistance have learned, needing help is not undignified, and death is not better than reliance on assistance. Have we gotten to the point that we will abet suicides because people need help using the toilet?

Furthermore, Assisted suicide purports to be about free choice and self-determination. But there is significant danger that many people would take this "escape" due to external pressure. For example, elderly individuals who don't want to be a financial or caretaking burden on their families might choose assisted death. In Oregon's third year Report, "a startling 63% of [reported cases] cited fear of being a "burden on family, friends or caregivers' as a reason for their suicide" (United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, 2001). While the proponents of legalization argue that it would guarantee choice, assisted suicide would actually result in deaths due to a lack of choice. Real choice would require adequate home and community-based long-term care; universal health insurance; housing that is available, accessible, and affordable; and other social supports. In a perverse twist, widespread acceptance of assisted suicide is likely to reduce pressure on society to provide these very kinds of support services, thus reducing genuine options even further.

Still, many who oppose PAS readily recognize that the ability to decide one"s own "time" can be extremely fortuitous. However, such an ability must be measured and balanced with the possible implications/consequences. We must separate our private wishes for what we each may hope to have available for ourselves some day and, rather, focus on the significant dangers of legalizing assisted suicide as public policy in this society as it operates today. Assisted suicide would have many unintended consequences.

Perhaps the most significant example of these consequences, and the innate problems of PAS is the deadly mix between assisted suicide and profit-driven managed health care. Again and again, health maintenance organizations (HMOs) and managed care bureaucracies have overruled physicians' treatment decisions. These actions have sometimes hastened patients' deaths. The cost of the lethal medication generally used for assisted suicide is about $35 to $50, far cheaper than the cost of treatment for most long-term medical conditions. The incentive to save money by denying treatment already poses a significant danger. This danger would be far greater if assisted suicide is legal.

Another problem with PAS regards designation of eligible patients. Assisted suicide proposals are based on the faulty assumption that it is possible to make a clear distinction between those who are terminally ill with six months to live, and everyone else. Everyone else is supposedly protected and not eligible for assisted suicide. But it is extremely common for medical prognoses of a short life expectancy to be wrong. Studies show that only cancer patients show a predictable decline, and even then, it's only in the last few weeks of life. With every disease other than cancer, there is no predictability at all. Prognoses are based on statistical averages, which are nearly useless in predicting what will happen to an individual patient. Thus, the potential effect of assisted suicide is extremely broad, far beyond the supposedly narrow group its proponents claim. The affected group could include many people who may be mistakenly diagnosed as terminal but who have many meaningful years of life ahead of them. Furthermore, Proponents claim that assisted suicide will be narrowly limited to those who are terminally ill, but these so-called "narrow" proposals will inevitably be expanded. The New York State Task Force on Life and the Law wrote in 1997: "Once society authorizes assisted suicide for ... terminally ill patients experiencing unrelievable suffering, it will be difficult if not impossible to contain the option to such a limited group. Individuals who are not (able to make the choice for themselves), who are not terminally ill, or who cannot self-administer lethal drugs will also seek the option of assisted suicide, and no principled basis will exist to deny (it)" (New York State Task Force, 1997).
Sr_William_Hardres
Sr_William_Hardres
Posts: 6
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6/8/2014 9:46:45 PM
Posted: 2 years ago
At 4/27/2014 4:15:23 PM, HunterK wrote:
It is necessary for someone that is terminally ill to end their life. It cannot be a crime because it isn't physically harming anybody else. If I was terminally ill myself and I had chronic pain then I would just prefer to end it right then and there. It should be the right of that individual to decide his or her fate, not law.

(continued from prior post)

Ultimately, PAS has an innumerable amount of shortcomings. I hope I have exemplified to you, Hunter K, and all who read this thread the important ramifications of the potential legalization of PAS. There are no clear-cut parameters to qualify one"s predicament as appropriate for PAS. Legalizing PAS will serve more harm than good, as it will open the floodgates to non-critical patient suicides and other abuses. Government and insurance companies will put undue pressure on doctors to avoid heroic measures and/or recommend the assisted-suicide procedure. Doctors and families may be prompted to give up on recovery much too early. In conclusion, a person who is suffering from a terminal illness should not be able to end their life by means of legalized PAS.
Sr_William_Hardres