If Physician-Assisted Suicide (PAS) is to become a commonly accepted practice in society, it must come with very strict guidelines and severe punishments for violations. Everything tends to go overboard and suffer some degree of abuse in today's society, so very tight reins should be attached to PAS. There is an alarming number of clinically depressed people in today's society and PAS could easily become an attractive alternative to navigating the tough times and responsibilities that we all must face. Abortion is a prime example of what PAS could become.
Euthanasia and physician-assisted suicide are legal in a couple states right now. However, such practices should only be allowable for the terminally ill. Letting other categories of people qualify for euthanasia would cause plenty of problems. The system isn't designed to deal with loopholes and whatnot, so it should be limited in scope.
Certain criteria must be met if euthanasia and physician-assisted suicide is to become legal in the United States. Terminally ill patients in huge amounts of pain is the place to start. Someone must sign a legal document while still in their full mental capacity before agreeing to have assisted suicide as one of their treatment options. Terminally ill patients are the only ones who should have the procedure as anyone else's life can be reasonably saved until their body gives out due to disease, accident or sudden death such as a heart attack.
There are circumstances which exist, where a patient is going to face unbearable pain for the rest of their lives, only to be influenced by drug use. The drugs vary in ranges of effectiveness and side-effects. There are powerful IV drugs like morphine, which leave one confined to bed rest, and there are prescription drugs to be taken orally, which vary in effectiveness and side effects. When the choice is bed rest or excruciating pain, the choice isn't much of one. In this case, euthanasia and physician-assisted suicide should be permitted. Additionally, physician assisted suicide and Euthanasia should be allowed for people who would be overcome with complications, making a normal life impossible, if there is no one that would like to care for them. This would include mental retardation to varying degrees and other deformations. Euthanasia and Physician-Assisted suicide should only be allowed for the terminally ill.
Physician Assisted Suicide or euthanasia should be an option, but only to those patients with terminally illnesses. No doctor should be required to provide these services, but patients should have the right to seek the services out. Because terminally illness can become painful and unbearable, it is best to let a person go, that has come to terms with their own passing.
Most new laws permitting patients to choose death require them to be in a terminal condition already, that is actively dying, likely to be dead within 6 months. But some forms of decline towards death will take longer than 6 months. For example, patients with Alzheimer's disease should not be prevented from having life-ending decisions made for them just because they could be kept alive for a period of years. See a response to this safeguard here: http://www.tc.umn.edu/~parkx032/SG-TERMI.html
The terminally ill should take precedence in physician-assisted suicide, but it should be an open option to others. We are told that our bodies are our right and that they belong to us, and if we believe that it is better to end it, we should have that right. Allowing a doctor to do it is the most humane action.
Of course euthanasia and physician assisted suicide should be allowed if someone has a diagnosis of terminal illness with the attendant suffering. However, anyone who is in chronic and severe pain that is not likely to end should be given the same privilege. We do not allow our pets to suffer after all.