Should the U.S. legalize physician-assisted suicide? – CON

Story By: Lauren Baker, Arts & Entertainment Editor, Art Director

We are taught from an early age that violence is never the solution to a problem, that calling it quits, no matter the circumstance, is taking the easy way out. Why should physician-assisted suicide be any different?

I know that some  would argue that assisted suicide from a medical standpoint is necessary for those that  would go on suffering needlessly.

I can see the point in this, but in the same light still can’t step on the other side of the fence. We live in a time with the most medical advances we’ve ever had to date. We possess the strongest forms of morphine and other similar drugs necessary to keep patients that are terminally ill comfortable.

Using assisted-suicide methods would certainly be of value if we were still living in the Middle Ages when any kind of serious condition was typically treated with amputation, or worse, with no painkillers of any kind.

According to northwestern.edu, there are two differentiating definitions of physician-assisted suicide. “Physician-assisted suicide” is the act of a physician providing the means for a patient to end his or her own life whereas “euthanasia” is the instance where the physician will commit the act for this patient themselves, contingent with a case of personal sympathy and terminal illness.

A doctor is supposed to preserve life, not enable the ending of one. More than anyone, certainly you or I, a doctor should understand that a patient who is weak, vulnerable and initially suicidal may only be this way as a side effect of strong medication. There have been countless cases of patients in surgery who were not properly administered anesthesia and were able to feel doctors cutting into their bodies, but were unable to react because they were paralyzed. Could this not also apply to suicidial patients,  by principle, though perhaps on the opposite end of the spectrum?

General anesthesia has been shown to have a number of negative consequences on the human body that can affect cognitive decision-making skills.

Research has shown that complications such as cardiovascular collapse, hypoxic brain damage, idiosyncratic reactions and even hypothermia are very possible realities when going under the knife. Collective data on patient.co.uk shows that 0.2 percent of patients that undergo surgery with anethesia have experienced a feeling of awareness during surgery. The site also claims that this is even more common in patients  having  cardiac or obstetric surgery.

Knowing that something so commonly believed as safe, such as the use of anesthesia, could be so harmful and  damaging to one’s cognitive capabilities, is it so far-fetched to believe that a patient who may never otherwise consider suicide as an option be doing so as a direct influence of being overly-medicated?

Across the board, physician-assisted suicide is not a popular endeavor. Only four states in our entire country have made physician-assisted suicide legal, whereas the other 46 have made it illegal. Facilitation of assisted-suicide is considered a felony in California. According to euthanasia.org., many other states consider the act worthy of manslaughter charges. While not every seemingly unanimous decision made by a national majority is always a stride in the right direction, certainly this should be a movement implemented by all 50 states.

The only instance where something of this nature is a little more acceptable is with DNR individuals. DNR stands for “do not resuscitate,” which is for people who have documentation that specifies a desire for any medical personnel to avoid performing CPR on them in the event that their heart stops beating, they stop breathing, or they suffer cardiac arrest. While this is still to some degree a little disturbing to me, it’s widely accepted and respected as a personal decision on behalf of the individual. At least it’s a choice made by the patient when they are of sound mind and capable of making their own decisions about their health.

I know how it feels to have a loved one in the hospital suffering from an illness. Of course I wished there was more that could be done to make their days on earth more comfortable. It’s awful having to watch someone you love deteriorate before your eyes. It’s nice to still have those last moments to share conversations with the loved ones that you can never have again.

Overly medicating and essentially allowing doctors to “play God,” so to speak, lessens your chances of having this, and that’s not a risk I’d be willing to take.

Click to read the PRO side.