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A Patients Right To Die - With A Free Essay Review
Imagine that you are lying in the hospital bed and the past months have brought nothing but agony and pain to you. Tears and sadness can be seen on the faces of your family and friends wishing there was something they could do for you. Then, your doctor informs you that what you have is incurable and will only get worse. Would you be able to live on with the pain and try to make the most of your lifes situation? For years, doctors have been prohibited from helping patients to take their own lives. I believe that a terminally ill patient should have the right to decide if they have had enough. By legalizing euthanasia, also referred to as physician assisted suicide, tremendous misery and anguish of patients can be saved. The right to die should be a fundamental freedom to each person (Gorsuch, 2008).
Patients should have to right to die with their dignity intact rather than have their illness leave them as merely a shell of their former selves. Some say assisted suicides will open a whirlwind response to non-critical patient suicides and other abuses. It is the pain and anguished experienced by the patients and their families that ultimately can be protected. When do we agree with the person going through this anguish first hand and allow them to determine their own destiny? Assisted suicide is done in order to put a stop to a patients agony and suffering. Working with the state government would help nurses and hospitals gain a clearer definition of what assisted suicide covers in order to prevent the abuse of this practice.
Physician assisted suicides, also referred to as euthanasia, have been in existence for hundreds of years. One name more known with this subject is Jack Kevorkian, but he was not the first practitioner of assisted suicides. If we look at Romeo and Juliet, we see how a reluctant sells a vial poison to Romeo, who uses the vial to kill himself after learning of Juliets death. These types of deaths have been seen as honorable in past events. New and often expensive medical technologies have been developed that prolong life. However, the technologies also prolong the dying processes, leading some people to question whether modern medicine is forcing patients to live in unnecessary pain when there is no chance they will be cured. Passive euthanasia when a feeding tube is removed or a respirator is disconnected has become accepted as one solution. However, someone who overdoses on pills remains controversial. Assisted suicide is known as a type of active euthanasia where a doctor provides a lethal prescription dose to a patient who is responsible for performing the final act. Even though changes in modern medicine are continuous, attitudes toward assisted suicide among the legal system are not as unceasing.
Another argument we see in opposition of assisted suicides is that it violates medical ethics. The American Nurses Association (ANA) position statement reads, "A nurse must not act deliberately to end a person's life" (Kjervik, 1996). The Hippocratic oath also states; "I will give no deadly medicine to anyone if asked, nor suggest any such counsel" (Pretzer, 2000). These are two of the most respected and acknowledged documents in the medical field. What both of these statements are doing is prohibiting any partaking of a patient's life or helping a patient in his or her death. Health care professionals work hard on developing a caring and trusting relationship with their patients, giving support while providing the medical care necessary for the patients well-being. We are working so hard on the relationship than we must also ask ourselves, when is it right to make the patient most comfortable with in incurable and painful disease?
Those against assisted suicide question and bring religious views into play arguing that life must be sanctioned by all means as life is most sacred. Another position seen from the opposition is that when a patient is undergoing medical treatment, they must be made to stay alive for as long as possible no matter what they may want because only God can decide when one may die. We can look at the Terri Schiavo as one example in relation (Quill, 2005). Terri was far beyond life based on an examined life and a medical basis; most philosophers would say she could be considered no longer a person. At what point do we take the best interest of the patient into hand and heart? We see how patients can have a say whether to live off of a machine or to have it unplug and this is justified legally. Because these people cannot speak up for themselves, but those that can and are suffering are unjust in their reasonings.
In summary, everyone is going to have an opinion in this matter just as each case is unique in nature. We can see how one case of someone who is suffering from stage four pancreatic cancer can be sympathized with verses reaching out and trying alternative ways to help a patient with extreme depression wanting to end their life because of what their depression is telling them to do. We have seen changes in the form of more and more hospice and homes in communities and this high need of hospice nurses nationwide. This is a struggle that will be within the medical field for years to come as there is no legal end in sight. The power to protect our civil liberty which is the right to die should lie within us.
I'll begin with your second paragraph, since I've little to say about your first paragraph (but note that some readers prefer a more elaborate thesis statement than the one you offer; i.e., some teachers may want your thesis statement not only to state your view but also to summarize your reasons for holding that view). The second paragraph deals with the topic of patient dignity and with the slippery-slope argument against legalizing euthanasia. Generally, try to keep to one topic per paragraph. I think it would be a good idea, in any case, to devote a paragraph to the question of "patient dignity." It's a fairly vague concept on its own, but it shouldn't be too difficult to make it more concrete. You try to do that by referring to the fact that patients become "merely a shell of their former selves," but really that's just a cliche. Don't be afraid to talk about the actual conditions under which terminally ill patients sometimes must live. For instance, some patients need help eating, washing, and going to the toilet. Some patients wear diapers and need others to change their diapers. Others throw up on themselves, or wet their beds. And so on. That kind of stuff is perhaps unpleasant to write about, but writing about it will allow you to clarify what you mean about dignity.
The third paragraph also deals with more than one topic: the history of euthanasia; the impact of life-prolonging technology; passive euthanasia; assisted suicide properly speaking. One of the problems with having a bunch of different topics in one paragraph is that it is difficult to keep track of your argument; you move very quickly from one assertion to another without pausing to clarify how each assertion contributes to the demonstration of the truth of your thesis. What do we learn from the history of euthanasia, for instance, that might help us rethink our resistance to euthanasia today? (I especially don't understand, by the way, the relevance of the reference to Romeo and Juliet, since its subject is a matter of fiction, not history, although you could argue that it reflects the values of its time). With your reference to modern medical technology, you seem to want to argue that we, in modern times, have all the more reason to be receptive to the idea of euthanasia, but you don't actually, explicitly, make that argument, but instead rush headlong towards your next topic.
So slow down. Divide the topics you actually want to discuss, and want to draw conclusions from, into separate paragraphs. Note that you could devote one paragraph to the difference between historical attitudes and modern attitudes to euthanasia, thus making one topic, that difference and its implications, out of what was originally two topics (the history of euthanasia; modern medical technology). What you want to aim for, in other words, is a paragraph that is argumentatively coherent. To achieve that aim, you will need to know in advance what you want the paragraph to argue. So ask yourself that question every time you go to write a paragraph: what exactly do I want to argue here?
Your next paragraph does deal with one topic: medical ethics. So as a paragraph it is better, more coherent, than the previous paragraph. Note, however, that the paragraph does not culminate in an argument related to your thesis, but rather in a question. It is almost always better to make your claims explicit, instead of relying on your reader to come to the conclusion of you would want the reader to reach. Readers are unreliable!
I don't quite understand what you are trying to say in the last two sentences of your paragraph on the religious opposition to euthanasia. They are worded very awkwardly (the last sentence is not, grammatically speaking, a sentence at all). Revise those sentences with a view to making a compelling case why the religious view is less ethical than the view that favors giving patients the right to physician assisted suicide.
The first sentence of your conclusion is a bit banal, but the second sentence makes a good point, although again not explicitly enough. It may be crucial to the success of your argument that we believe it is possible to tell the difference between cases where euthanasia is justified and cases where it is not. It's not a bad idea to emphasize in your conclusion the point that you make in that respect.
Submitted by: Jinkers02
The right to assisted suicide is a significant topic that concerns people all over the United States. The debates go back and forth about whether a dying patient has the right to die with the assistance of a physician. Some are against it because of religious and moral reasons. Others are for it because of their compassion and respect for the dying. Physicians are also divided on the issue. They differ where they place the line that separates relief from dying--and killing. For many the main concern with assisted suicide lies with the competence of the terminally ill. Many terminally ill patients who are in the final stages of their lives have requested doctors to aid them in exercising active euthanasia. It is sad to realize that these people are in great agony and that to them the only hope of bringing that agony to a halt is through assisted suicide.When people see the word euthanasia, they see the meaning of the word in two different lights. Euthanasia for some carries a negative connotation; it is the same as murder. For others, however, euthanasia is the act of putting someone to death painlessly, or allowing a person suffering from an incurable and painful disease or condition to die by withholding extreme medical measures. But after studying both sides of the issue, a compassionate individual must conclude that competent terminal patients should be given the right to assisted suicide in order to end their suffering, reduce the damaging financial effects of hospital care on their families, and preserve the individual right of people to determine their own fate.
Medical technology today has achieved remarkable feats in prolonging the lives of human beings. Respirators can support a patient’s failing lungs and medicines can sustain that patient’s physiological processes. For those patients who have a realistic chance of surviving an illness or accident, medical technology is science’s greatest gift to mankind. For the terminally ill, however, it is just a means of prolonging suffering. Medicine is supposed to alleviate the suffering that a patient undergoes.Yet the only thing that medical technology does for a dying patient is give that patient more pain and agony day after day. Some terminal patients in the past have gone to their doctors and asked for a final medication that would take all the pain away— lethal drugs. For example, as Ronald Dworkin recounts, Lillian Boyes, an English woman who was suffering from a severe case of rheumatoid arthritis, begged her doctor to assist her to die because she could no longer stand the pain (184). Another example is Dr. Ali Khalili, Dr. Jack Kevorkian’s twentieth patient. According to Kevorkian’s attorney, “[Dr. Khalili] was a pain specialist; he could get any kind of pain medication, but he came to Dr. Kevorkian. There are times when pain medication does not suffice”(qtd. in Cotton 363). Terminally ill patients should have the right to assisted suicide because it is the best means for them to end the pain caused by an illness which no drug can cure. A competent terminal patient must have the option of assisted suicide because it is in the best interest of that person.
Further, a dying person’s physical suffering can be most unbearable to that person’s immediate family. Medical technology has failed to save a loved-one. But, successful or not, medicine has a high price attached to it. The cost is sometimes too much for the terminally ill’s family. A competent dying person has some knowledge of this, and with every day that he or she is kept alive, the hospital costs skyrocket. “The cost of maintaining [a dying person]. . . has been estimated as ranging from about two thousand to ten thousand dollars a month” (Dworkin 187). Human life is expensive, and in the hospital there are only a few affluent terminal patients who can afford to prolong what life is left in them. As for the not-so-affluent patients, the cost of their lives is left to their families. Of course, most families do not consider the cost while the terminally ill loved-one is still alive.When that loved-one passes away, however, the family has to struggle with a huge hospital bill and are often subject to financial ruin.Most terminal patients want their death to be a peaceful one and with as much consolation as possible. Ronald Dworkin, author of Life’s Dominion, says that “many people . . . want to save their relatives the expense of keeping them pointlessly alive . . .”(193). To leave the family in financial ruin is by no means a form of consolation. Those terminally ill patients who have accepted their imminent death cannot prevent their families from plunging into financial debt because they do not have the option of halting the medical bills from piling up. If terminal patients have the option of assisted suicide, they can ease their families’ financial burdens as well as their suffering.
Finally, many terminal patients want the right to assisted suicide because it is a means to endure their end without the unnecessary suffering and cost. Most, also, believe that the right to assisted suicide is an inherent right which does not have to be given to the individual. It is a liberty which cannot be denied because those who are dying might want to use this liberty as a way to pursue their happiness. Dr. Kevorkian’s attorney, Geoffrey N. Fieger, voices the absurdity of curbing the right to assisted suicide, saying that “a law which does not make anybody do anything, that gives people the right to decide, and prevents the state from prosecuting you for exercising your freedom not to suffer, violates somebody else’s constitutional rights is insane” (qtd. in Cotton 364). Terminally ill patients should be allowed to die with dignity. Choosing the right to assisted suicide would be a final exercise of autonomy for the dying. They will not be seen as people who are waiting to die but as human beings making one final active choice in their lives. As Dworkin puts it, “whatever view we take about [euthanasia], we want the right to decide for ourselves . . .”(239).
On the other side of the issue, however, people who are against assisted suicide do not believe that the terminally ill have the right to end their suffering. They hold that it is against the Hippocratic Oath for doctors to participate in active euthanasia. Perhaps most of those who hold this argument do not know that, for example, in Canada only a “few medical schools use the Hippocratic Oath” because it is inconsistent with its premises (Barnard 28). The oath makes the physician promise to relieve pain and not to administer deadly medicine.This oath cannot be applied to cancer patients. For treatment, cancer patients are given chemotherapy, a form of radioactive medicine that is poisonous to the body. As a result of chemotherapy, the body suffers incredible pain, hair loss, vomiting, and other extremely unpleasant side effects. Thus, chemotherapy can be considered “deadly medicine” because of its effects on the human body, and this inconsistency is the reason why the Hippocratic Oath cannot be used to deny the right to assisted suicide. Furthermore, to administer numerous drugs to a terminal patient and place him or her on medical equipment does not help anything except the disease itself. Respirators and high dosages of drugs cannot save the terminal patient from the victory of a disease or an illness. Dr. Christaan Barnard, author of Good Life/GoodDeath, quotes his colleague, Dr. Robert Twycross, who said, “To use such measures in the terminally ill, with no expectancy of a return to health, is generally inappropriate and is—therefore—bad medicine by definition” (22).
Still other people argue that if the right to assisted suicide is given, the doctor-patient relationship would encourage distrust. The antithesis of this claim is true. Cheryl Smith, in her article advocating active euthanasia (or assisted suicide), says that “patients who are able to discuss sensitive issues such as this are more likely to trust their physicians” (409). A terminal patient consenting to assisted suicide knows that a doctor’s job is to relieve pain, and giving consent to that doctor shows great trust. Other opponents of assisted suicide insist that there are potential abuses that can arise from legalizing assisted suicide.They claim that terminal patients might be forced to choose assisted suicide because of their financial situation.This view is to be respected. However, the choice of assisted suicide is in the patient’s best interest, and this interest can include the financial situation of a patient’s relatives. Competent terminal patients can easily see the sorrow and grief that their families undergo while they wait for death to take their dying loved ones away. The choice of assisted suicide would allow these terminally ill patients to end the sorrow and griefof their families as well as their own misery. The choice would also put a halt to the financial worries of these families. It is in the patient’s interest that the families that they leave will be subject to the smallest amount of grief and worry possible.This is not a mere “duty to die.” It is a caring way for the dying to say, “Yes, I am going to die. It is all right, please do not worry anymore.” Further, legalization of assisted suicide will also help to regulate the practice of it. “Legalization, with medical record documentation and reporting requirements, will enable authorities to regulate the practice and guard against abuses, while punishing real offenders”(Smith 409).
There are still some, however, who argue that the right to assisted suicide is not a right that can be given to anyone at all. This claim is countered by a judge by the name of Stephen Reinhardt. According to an article in the Houston Chronicle, Judge Reinhardt ruled on this issue by saying that “a competent, terminally-ill adult, having lived nearly the full measure of his life, has a strong liberty interest in choosing a dignified and humane death rather than being reduced at the end of his existence to a childlike state of helplessness, diapered, sedated, incompetent” ( qtd. in Beck 36). This ruling is the strongest defense for the right to assisted suicide. It is an inherent right. No man or woman should ever suffer because he or she is denied the right. The terminally ill also have rights like normal, healthy citizens do and they cannot be denied the right not to suffer.
The right to assisted suicide must be freely bestowed upon those who are terminally ill. This right would allow them to leave this earth with dignity, save their families from financial ruin, and relieve them of insufferable pain. To give competent, terminally-ill adults this necessary right is to give them the autonomy to close the book on a life well-lived.
Barnard, Christaan. Good Life/Good Death. Englewood Cliffs: Prentice, 1980.
Beck, Joan. “Answers to Right-to-Die Questions Hard.”Houston Chronicle 16 Mar. 1996, late ed.: 36.
Cotton, Paul. “Medicine’s Position Is Both Pivotal And Precarious In Assisted Suicide Debate." The
Journal of the American Association 1 Feb. 1995: 363-64.
Dworkin, Ronald. Life’s Dominion. New York: Knopf, 1993.
Smith, Cheryl. “Should Active Euthanasia Be Legalized: Yes.” American Bar Association Journal April 1993. Rpt. in CQ
Researcher 5.1 (1995): 409.
--Esther B. De La Torre