One of the important areas that the US healthcare is looking into today is the justification of whether euthanasia and Physician-assisted suicide should be permitted in patients suffering from terminal illness. This has been a topic of debate in recent years. I do feel that suicide and physician assisted suicide (PAS) should not be permitted under the law, as there are chances that the law can be abused, often forcing patients into this option. New Oregon has adopted a Statue that legalized performance of PAS under certain circumstances. It adopted PAS Laws in 1997.
Since then, more than 200 people who were terminally ill have ended their life under the physician’s assistance (Liptak, 2004). The state however, does not permit euthanasia. PAS is a procedure in which, the patient who is suffering from a terminal illness, is given an option of ending their life. The physician would arrange all the equipment required for ending the patient’s life. However, the pateitn and not the physician perform the last act that would finally result in the death of the patient. For example, a patient suffering from a terminal illness such as cancer, would be meeting the end within 6 months.
The physician to ensure that the patient is comfortable and does not suffer permits PAS. The patient is informed of the process by which PAS would be performed. He/she is then given a pill containing a drug in overdose, which once consumed, would result in death. However, studies have shown that PAS is not always effective in bringing about the death of the patient. Only in one-quarter of the patients, PAS would instantly result in death. The remaining suffer between life and death for the next few days, and end up being killed by the physician by the process of euthanasia.
Hence, many people consider that having a PAS law would automatically increase the number of illegal euthanasia cases in the US (Marker, 2004 & Longmore, 1997). Let us now consider the situation in the Netherlands. Earlier the Dutch has a PAS law and did not permit euthanasia (in which the physician himself would directly perform a procedure to end the life of the patient). However, it was found that in about 20 % of the patients, who were given overdoses of barbiturates, the drug did not work to end the life even after four hours.
In such cases, the physician was forced to inject a lethal dose of a drug in order to end their life and reduce all sufferings. Having a PAS law may be disastrous as people may be left suffering. Another problem that is experienced in the US is that terminal illness may be difficult to define in any condition. The New Oregon law considers any condition that would produce death within 6 months to be terminal. However, physicians feel that in about 25 % of all cases, death may not follow within 6 months of the terminal illness (Maine Right to Life, 2006).
As it may be difficult to predict death in a terminal illness and it may also be difficult to have PAS alone as a law to end the sufferings of the patient, I do feel that the New Oregon PAS law should not permitted and declared unconstitutional. There are also chances that the person suffering from a terminal illness have an associated mental disorder, and my not be in a position to give a reasonable decision. The physician and the family members may force the patient who does not intent PAS into the procedure. Instead there have been a lot of advancements in the field of hospice care and palliative care medicine.
These processes would help to reduce the pain and sufferings of the patients. In these systems of management, the patient is given holistic therapy including spiritual and religious care so that the quality of life towards the end stages is improved. The patient would die a death with respect and value (Rakel, 2002).
Liptak, A. & Kershaw, S. (2004, May 27). Ruling upholds law authorizing assisted suicide. The New York Times. http://query. nytimes. com/gst/fullpage. html? res=9903E2DF133EF934A15756C0A9629C8B63&sec=health&spon=&pagewanted=1 Longmore, P. (1997). Reasons to Oppose PAS.
Retrieved November 4, 2007, from Z-Net Web site: http://www. zmag. org/content/showarticle. cfm? ItemID=2092 Maine Right to Life (2006). Euthanasia. Retrieved November 4, 2007, from Maine Right to Life Committee Web site: http://www. mainerighttolife. com/euthanasia. php Marker, R. L. & Hamlon, K. (2004). Euthanasia and Assisted Suicide: Frequently Asked Questions. Retrieved November 4, 2007, from International Task Force on Euthanasia and Assisted Suicide Web site: http://www. internationaltaskforce. org/faq. htm Rakel, R. E. (2002). Textbook of Family Medicine, Philadelphia: W. B. Saunders.