Patients Right to Die with Physician Assisted Suicide


Physician assisted suicide entails fastening death via administeringlethal medication, following sick person’s request. It at timesrefers to euthanasia. Euthanasia is either passive or active. Inpassive euthanasia, there is no life-supporting therapy provided forthe sick individual, frequently leading in death. There are alsoinstances where the patient refutes any kind of medication, to fastentheir passing away. Active euthanasia applies more tophysician-assisted suicide because it involves the physicianconducting an active intervention, to terminate the sick individual’slife. In most instances of physician-assisted death, the patientrequests the physicians to end their treatment and in turn end theirlife.

Physicians have employed the Hippocratic Oath as a code ofethics for years. The oath is attributable to Hippocrates and itsprovision involves physicians using the treatment method, which totheir capability and evaluation benefits the sick person. Under theoath, it is expected that physicians should avoid what causes harm tothe patient. In modern times, the issue of physician-assisted suicidehas become debatable. This is partly attributable to the exposedassisted suicides by a well-known doctor, Jack Kevorkian. America’swidespread concerns over sick patients’ that suffer due to terminalillnesses, seems to partly support physicians in assisting patientsend their life at will. However, there are still individuals thatperceive that no one has the right to end life including thesuffering patient.

The paper argues in support of patients’ right to die throughphysician-assisted suicide. It argues that though the HippocraticOath may impede such actions, the oath is outdated and inapplicablein modern society. In addition, society has no right to impose theirbeliefs on the dying individual. The patient has the right todetermine whether to end their life or not.


Most individuals supporting physician-assisted suicide note that itshould happen when voluntary and in instances when the sickindividual has a fatal disease. Relieving the sick person from painand maintaining the self-determination as well as control, in thelast stages of life are propositions most frequently cited to supportphysician-assisted suicide.

Relief from pain – most individuals are apprehensive of having tosuffer immense pain and extended distress in their last stages oflife. There are patients that suffer from terminal illnesses, whichregardless of the medical intervention employed in easing the painthe patients get worse (Ardelt, 2003). In fact, patients that areterminally ill often have to undergo many treatments due to theirsusceptible states. The interventions always result in more illnessfor the patient, which has to be cured, making the entire healingprocess an unending cycle. When death is predictable,physician-assisted suicide may avail the ‘good death’, whichotherwise seems improbable. In a research conducted on terminallysick persons, researchers noted that those in pain, and requiringconstant care giving, develop depressive symptoms (Ardelt, 2003).Hence, such persons prefer to have physician-assisted suicide.

Suffering is not just experienced by the patients, but relatives aswell. Relatives have to ensure that they constantly visit the sickperson in hospital so that they do not feel neglected. In addition,are hospital and medication bills, which cater for treatment anddiagnosis of illnesses (Ardelt, 2003). In cases where the disease isknown, other illnesses may come up due to interventions used incuring the diagnosed disease. It is not easy for the patient toendure their suffering, as well as having to see their relativessuffer. Relatives may experience depression, as they are unable tocope with the situation. This is especially the case for smallchildren that do not understand why their parent cannot get well. Thechildren are usually hopeful that the parent will get better, butwhen it does not happen, they begin to feel depressed. In such acase, a patient may seek assistance from their physician in endingtheir life to ensure that relatives progress with their life. It alsomakes it possible for the patient to prepare their loved ones fortheir death.

Self-determination as well as control – the argument is thatpatients have the freedom to select a fast and painless death ininstances where their illness has no cure and has a high possibilityof causing death (Ardelt, 2003). Many sick individuals areapprehensive that an advancement of their illness will take awaytheir self-respect and mental reasoning. In addition, few people wantto become totally dependent on help from nurses, or family. They optfor death when they deem necessary instead of witnessing their healthdecline to a state of dependence and loss their self-worth. In linewith the rule of self-determination as well as control,physician-assisted suicide must be intentional, by both the sickperson and physician (Ardelt, 2003). By the time a patient opts forphysician-assisted suicide, they have already contemplated the meritsand demerits and are certain that the decision is the best. Thus,their will to die peacefully rather than lead a life they deemmeaningless needs to be granted.

Medical practitioners in support of assisted death by physiciansargue that though they may provide the best care, there still existsa sick person whose terminal illness does not allow them to benefitfrom palliative care (In Quill &ampIn Battin, 2004). Current palliative care might largelyminimize suffering, though might not always result in complete relieffrom distressing signs. Statistics depict that 80% to 89% of sickindividuals that have passed away through assisted suicide havegotten hospice care (Harris, Richard &amp Khanna, 2006). However,despite the hospice care, their illnesses did not lessen their pain.There are apprehensions that legalization of assisted suicide maydraw away from the enhancing requirement for advancing palliativecare services. Conversely, the legislation may result in the reverseeffect because all sick persons need to have palliative careengagement prior to physician-assisted death happening. Such effectsare notable in nations like America and Netherlands where legalizedassisted suicide has resulted in an enhancement and more growth ofpalliative care provisions.

Physicians backing assisted death frequently relate to the greaterpublic opinion on the matter, which appears to support helpingwilling patients end their own life (Harris, Richard &amp Khanna,2006). In reaction to the apprehensions of people refuting the act,supporters note that it will result in an improvement in theprotection of patients. For instance, when a patient consents toassisted suicide, the physician must involve a counselor and morephysicians to ensure that the sick individual is in the appropriatestate of mind to make such a decision. Worries that aided suicidecould be unwillingly imposed on susceptible individuals have not beenconfirmed. In the state of Oregon, where assisted suicide is legal,individual that opt for death are young, have above averageeducational qualification, high social standing and not intrigued bypoor social help (Harris, Richard &amp Khanna, 2006). Likewise,there is a 14-day minimum period amid the sick person’s decisionand execution of assisted suicide, which permits sick persons toreflect on their decision and make changes if need arises (Harris,Richard &amp Khanna, 2006).

Physicians against the practice argue that it is not ethical, andmorally unacceptable. There is also the general belief that it goesagainst the Hippocratic Oath to terminate life knowingly,regardless of if the sick person makes the request (Miles,2005). The oathrefers to the function of the physician as a healer. In addition isthe argument that patients may become unable to trust doctors allowedto end their lives. Since the Hippocratic Oath directsphysicians not to administer a ‘deadly drug’, there have beenconclusions that physicians through moral obligation and instruction,should refute to aid death (Miles,2005). This is nottrue because the provision in the oath, which restricts the provisionof a ‘deadly drug’, fails to be reflective of authorized medicalwork in Greek. During the period of passing the oath, followingrequest, a physician would give a lethal drug to suffering sickpeople.

Essentially, physicians that avail help in death are obeying anestablished comprehension of the medical practice scope. Thisinvolves providing care and meeting the demands of patients at allstages of their illness (Snyder,2002). Importantly, the actions undertaken by a physician inaiding suicide are similar to those of a physician that stopstreatment. Medically, it is not possible to differentiate the act ofwithdrawing treatment form assisting in suicide. Hippocrates fails toprovide a moral statement on the morality of euthanasia (Miles,2005). This meansthat the oath cannot be employed in determining whether it is ethicalto provide euthanasia to patients. In addition, the oath was enactedduring a historic period and should not be employed currently. Therehave been advancements in the medical field, which help inguaranteeing that terminal diseases are terminal. Thus, physiciansattempt all medical interventions prior to terming a patient asterminally ill.

The past of euthanasia argument in reference to the oath, make itimprobable to refer to the concept of physician-assisted suicide. Theoath notes that physicians should not administer deadly drugs(Devettere &amp EbooksCorporation, 2010).This applies to physicians treating patients and the need to ensurethat the drugs given to sick persons are appropriate for the illness.In such cases, the patient has no consent over what medication to beadministered since the doctors decide which treatment is mostappropriate to the illness. All patients can do is trust that themedication given is suitable.

Arguments against assisted dying suppose that improved terminal careadvancement is what is required. Notably, terminally ill persons areprovided with advanced care to ensure that their pain is reduced.Under the Human Rights Act, it is mandatory to safeguard thelives of all people through law and society is obliged to lessenconditions they deem intolerable (Harris, Richard &amp Khanna,2006). The argument contradicts itself by stating the need to lessenintolerable conditions. For patients opting for physician-assistedsuicide, it is a manner of lessening their condition. Despite theterminal care provided, death still acts as the only means toalleviate suffering completely. Although it is difficult to foretellprognosis, sick persons have ample time to decide on the course oftheir treatment. It is difficult to agree on if physician-assistedsuicide should be lawful or unlawful. This is because physicians andsociety progress to differ on its ethical and medical basis.


Ardelt, M. (2003). Handbook of Death and Dying. Thousand Oak,CA: Sage.

Devettere, R. J., &amp EbooksCorporation. (2010).&nbspPracticaldecision-makingin health care ethics: Casesand concepts.Washington, D.C: Georgetown University Press.

Harris, D., Richard, B &amp Khanna, P. (2006). Assisted dying: theongoing debate. Postgraduate Medical Journal, 82(970),479-482.

In Quill, T. E., &amp In Battin,M. P. (2004).&nbspPhysician-assisteddying: The case for palliative care andpatient choice.Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press.

Miles, S. H. (2005).&nbspTheHippocratic Oath and the ethics of medicine.New York: Oxford UniversityPress.

Snyder, L. (2002).&nbspAssistedsuicide: Finding common ground.Bloomington: Indiana University Press.