by claudialamorgese on September 9, 2013 - 9:43pm
Assisted Suicide: Unraveling a complex issue
Written by: Mark Erksek, RN, PhD.
Assisted suicide is a prominent issue that has been flooding the world of ethics with its many conflicting aspects. Mark Erksek makes use of his article to clearly define what exactly assisted suicide is, as well as show both its positive and negative contributions in modern day. Assisted suicide is demarcated as “providing a patient with the means (usually a prescription for a lethal dose of barbiturates), knowing that the patient intends to use it to commit suicide”. Erksek also states that both supporters and non-supporters of assisted suicide tend to revolve around the same ethical values when defending their sides; autonomy, beneficence and non-maleficence all come into account.
Supporters of assisted suicide bring up the idea of autonomy, which basically states that all individuals have the right to make their own decisions and have freedom of choice. This is a positive regard to assisted suicide seeing as if the patient were to feel the need to end their life due to an overload of suffering or the inability to potentially heal from their sickness, then autonomy would permit them to choose assisted suicide. Erksek also mentions the value of beneficence, which can support assisted suicide seeing as it means to do good. If a patient is truly suffering and wishes to end their own life, then it would be regarded as a beneficent act if the doctor could help the patient end his/her life. Finally, the value of non-maleficence comes into account when dealing with positive side of assisted suicide. Non-maleficence is a term that basically means “do no harm”. Erksek states that if the doctor were to refuse assisted suicide to a patient in order to relieve suffering, then that would “destroy [the] trust between the health care professional and the patient”.
Just as autonomy, beneficence and non-maleficence can be used to argue that assisted suicide is right; they also defend the negativity surrounding assisted suicide. Erksek uses autonomy (freedom of choice) as an argument against assisted suicide seeing as many people believe that the right to live and have no control over one’s time/way of death is much stronger than the ability to make one’s own choice. He also states that autonomy “doesn’t include the right to engage others (such as nurses and physicians) in immoral acts”. He goes on to say that beneficience argues against assisted suicide seeing as is stands for “to do good”. Basically, to help someone terminate their life can obviously be seen as immoral, regardless of the situation. Finally, non-maleficence also disputes against assisted suicide due to the fact that it states “do no harm”. A medical professional assisting in ending someone’s life can clearly be seen as harming another person which is damaging and destructive.
Mark Erksek clearly captures the whole controversy around assisted suicide by showing both the pros and cons of the situation. He concludes his article by mentioning the idea that if society were to open the doors to assisted suicide, then perhaps humans would be more likely to engage and support more radical ideas. He titles this idea “the slippery slope”, also known as the snow ball effect. Basically, he tries to bring to the human attention that we must make crucial decisions when it comes to medical situations that can impact a large majority of lives.
To conclude, I believe that assisted suicide should remain illegal, mainly because it can make way for much more rigorous idea’s to form in the medical world. Sanctity of life is a principle I feel strongly for, simply because I believe that all individuals were put in this world to exist and contribute to life as much as possible and no human should have control over how his or her life ends. If the world’s population were to agree with assisted suicide, it would allow for many sick people to end their life for no strong enough reason. An example was given in the article read, stating a situation of an elderly women who was victim of a sickness and felt like she was placing too much of a burden upon her daughter seeing as she had to take care of her and pay for her medical expenses; therefore the mother decided to engage in assisted suicide, to free her daughter of any encumbrances that she placed upon her. This is one of the many examples that demonstrate how extreme the legalization of assisted suicide could be. What many people aren’t aware of is that assisted suicide and euthanasia has its differences. Euthanasia could be voluntary, involuntary or non-voluntary but assisted suicide is basically the patient commiting suicide with the help of a medical professional providing the patient with his/her needs (i.e: medications). It is basically allowing for someone to commit suicide to their own wants, seeing as they are the ones who actually perform the suicide; the medical professional only helps with the attainment of the drug. I also believe that the ethical principle of “do no harm” ties into the controversial idea of assisted suicide seeing as if a medical professional were to assist in terminating or giving means that would help terminate ones life, it can be regarded as dismissing someone from their life and, simply desertion of the patient. I believe that in today’s world, there are other options that can benefit someone who is ill that does not include ending their life before they are meant to go. Such as if a patient is suffering, pain relievers can be given in daily doses, such as morphine. Terminating one’s life is a dramatic and radical responsibility that can easily complicate and create more controversy in the world of ethics. If humans were now able to decide when they could terminate their lives legally, wouldn’t it defeat the purpose of human experience?
Reference: Erksek, Mark, PhD. "Assisted Suicide: Unravling a Complex Issue." Ebscohost. N.p., Jan.-Feb. 2004. Web. 09 Sept. 2013.
- Retrieved from ebscohost
- Scholarly/peer reviewed.