Physician Assisted Suicide

Published: 2021-09-11 06:55:11
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Category: Suicide

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In the medical field there are massive amounts of treatments for various diseases. Some treatments are going to help the patient feel more comfortable; however, some are going to counteract the problem, and others are going to help kill the patient. Physician assisted suicide is defined by medterms. com as “the voluntary termination of one’s own life by administration of a lethal substance with the direct or indirect assistance of a physician.  Any person wishing to undergo assisted suicide in Oregon must be at least 18 years of age and have a terminal illness.
This illness must be within its final stages and leave the patient with less than six months to live. Within these six months a patient can request the treatment, but must orally request twice, and provide a written request once as well. In order to receive this treatment, however, a second physician must give a second opinion on the length the patient has to live. In her article, “Physician-Assisted Suicide: Compassionate Liberation or Murder? Vicki Lachman talks about the option that patients have to request a lethal dosage of medication. She explores the moral conscience of nurses, the ethical and moral issues, and the legal issues that surround a patient’s request for lethal dosages. Similarly in her article, “Physician-Assisted Suicide: Development, Status, and Nursing Perspectives,” Theresa F. Rose gives background on the history of physician assisted suicide. She investigates the perspectives that nurses have on the issue and their personal views on the subject.
Joris Gielen and his coworkers show a different angle in their article, “Religion and Nurses’ Attitudes to Euthanasia and Physician Assisted Suicide. ” Their goal was to find the viewpoint of nurses on physician assisted suicide in regards to their religious beliefs. There are many different viewpoints on physician assisted suicide and they come from many different sources. Although physician assisted suicide may seem like a personal liberation from suffering for the patient, it is emotionally stressing on healthcare professionals.
Within the healthcare spectrum the nursing staff is the closest to the patient and must deal with the moral feelings caused by physician assisted suicide. Nursing staff are going to have the closest contact with patients and their families, and therefore, will become attached to the families. This makes it difficult to live with such a decision. According to Lachman, “nurses who frequently care for dying patients did tend to be less supportive of euthanasia. ”(124) Personally I can say that caring for a dying patient is very difficult.
The patient may be struggling and having trouble breathing or swallowing, but they are still hanging on. In this case it is the nursing staff that tries to make the patient as comfortable as possible, but there is no thought of helping them die. There is a conscious thought to always have the patient’s comfort first place, and any other behavior would go against the moral standard set by many medical professionals. Assisting with suicide also violates the Code for Nurses with Interpretative Statements as well as any other ethical code put into place by established nursing associations.
Doctors also have a moral issue in dealing with physician assisted suicide. Although the nurses generally have more contact with the patients, the doctors are still very present with patients. While nurses have the connection with patients that would be very difficult to harm, physicians have a very difficult job as well. The physician has to fulfill the wishes of the patient and prescribe the needed medication. This in itself seems unethical because the doctor is prescribing a lethal dosage of medication that will ultimately kill their patient.
Furthermore, doctors must recite an oath that ensures they are only practicing to help patients, not harm them. The Hippocratic Oath is recited by new physicians stating they will practice medicine ethically. In the original version it says, “I will neither give a deadly drug to anybody who asked for it, nor will I make a suggestion to this effect. ” This statement goes strictly against any physician assisted suicide plans. Ultimately physician assisted suicide goes against moral and ethical judgment that is placed within the “hands” of a practicing physician.
Moral behavior of a murderer is considered lacking in many cases, but how are physicians who administer a lethal dosage of drugs any different? There are many physicians who are participating in assisted suicide, but they all have lives within their hands. They are responsible for the lives they have been entrusted with. In Norway any physician that helped with assisted suicide was charged with “accessory to murder. ” In the United States there are many laws regarding murder, but accessory to murder is also a charge.
A person who is considered an accessory to murder is “not typically present at the scene of the crime, but contributes to the success of the crime before or after the fact. ” This statement creates a controversial wave within the country. Those physicians who are prescribing deadly doses of medication are knowingly providing a means to kill someone. Even though the physician does not administer the drugs themselves, the patient is still being killed because of the physician’s prescription. The immorality of prescribing lethal drugs may be heavily felt by the prescribing physician after administration.
Many physicians are affected by the procedure after it has taken place. They are held responsible, but not liable, for the patient and their death. They provided the needed prescription to cause death to a patient. In a survey mentioned in an article by Kenneth R. Stevens, Jr. , M. D. , FACR, it was stated that, “53% of physicians received comfort from having helped a patient with euthanasia or PAS, 24% regretted performing euthanasia or PAS, and 16% of the physicians reported that the emotional burden of performing euthanasia or PAS adversely affected their medical practice. It is obvious that the effects of such a traumatic experience are hard on any physician. The act of killing someone, even if it is just prescribing the needed medication, is hard on the conscious mind of any psychologically sound person. Although it would seem that the physicians practicing physician assisted suicide should know what kind of psychological battle they are getting into, some are finding it more difficult than they first believed. These physicians have to prescribe a drug that will kill their patient, the one they have tried to keep as healthy as possible.

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