Essay Against Physician-Assisted Suicide

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Legalizing doctor prescribed death is much like putting fire into a paper bag: it cannot be controlled. Here are some reasons to oppose it:

  • The "Choice" of Physician-Assisted Suicide Is an Illusion.

Laws allowing it are ripe for abuse. For instance, once the lethal prescription is handed to the patient, there is no accountability of what takes place next. A third party (including someone who stands to benefit financially from the patient's death) could administer the drug to the patient without patient consent, even if the patient changed her mind and struggled against the overdose. Laws do not require consent at the time of death, only consent to obtain the lethal prescription - a distinction which can give someone other the patient the power to decide when death occurs. In reality, there is no protected "choice" as proponents claim.

For example, Sen. Ted Kennedy's widow, Victoria, opposed Massachusetts' 2012 ballot measure to legalize assisted suicide, saying it would turn her husband's "vision for health care for all on its head by asking us to endorse patient suicide – not patient care- as our public policy for dealing with pain and the financial burdens of care at the end of life. We're better than that."

  • Physician-Assisted Suicide Is Not A Private, Personal Act.

Doctor prescribed death involves more than the patient. It necessitates a host of participants, including a doctor, a pharmacist and the state. It's a public act that requires medicine, law and society approve a lethal prescription that crosses the line between caring and killing.

  • Acceptance of Physician-Assisted Suicide Sends the Message that Some lLives Are Not Worth Living.

Social acceptance of physician-assisted suicide tells elderly, disabled and dependent citizens that their lives are not valuable. Doctors who list death by assisted suicide among the medical options for a terminally or chronically ill patient communicate hopelessness, not compassion.

  • Physician Assisted Suicide Creates Legal Opportunity for Hidden Elder Abuse.

Elder financial abuse is a documented fact, costing victims an estimated $2.6 billion each year and can serve as a catalyst for other types of elder abuse. Society-approved death puts elders at risk for abuse through include being coerced, pressured or even forced into suicide.

  • Doctor Prescribed Death Compounds the Discrimination Experienced by People with Disabilities.

Disability rights groups are some of the strongest voices against physician assisted suicide based on the experience of their community. According to disability rights leader, John Kelly, "As people with disabilities, we are already on the front line of a broken, profit-driven health care system which will naturally see a below $100 prescription as a cheaper alternative to experimental [and life extending] drugs."

What's to prevent a prescription from becoming the treatment of choice to offer terminally or chronically ill patients? Doctor prescribed death will always be the cheaper option.

  • The Practice of Physician-Assisted Suicide Creates A Duty to Die.

Suicide is not medical care.

Escalating health-care costs, coupled with a growing elderly population, set the stage for an American culture eager to embrace alternatives to expensive, long-term medical care. The so-called "right to die" may soon become the "duty to die" as our senior, disabled and depressed family members are pressured or coerced into ending their lives. At a time when health insurance coverage is in flux for millions of Americans (due to ObamaCare), discussions of legalizing doctor prescribed death seems especially dangerous. In a dollar-driven environment, it's too tempting for death to become a reasonable substitute to treatment and care when medical coverage is uncertain and medical costs continue to rise.

In Oregon, at least two patients receiving medical care under the state-funded Oregon Health Plan report being denied chemotherapy but offered assisted suicide.

Story of Barbara Wagner

Story of Randy Stroup

  • There Are Better Medical Alternatives.

Palliative Care specialist, Dr. Dan Maison, says, "One phrase that gets under my skin and breaks my heart is when someone says, 'Well, they told me there is nothing more they could do.' There's always more we can do." Regarding Brittany Maynard, ""Actually, we take care of folks like her all the time, and we're able to keep almost all of them very comfortable," he said.

  • The Practice of Physician-Assisted Suicide Threatens to Destroy the Delicate Trust Relationship Between Doctor and Patient.

Every day patients demonstrate their faith in the medical profession by taking medications and agreeing to treatment on the advice of their physicians. Patients trust that the physicians' actions are in their best interest with the goal of protecting life. Physician-assisted suicide endangers this trust relationship by making physicians actors in a patient's death.

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Argument Against Euthanasia


        A considerable size of society is in favor of Euthanasia mostly

because they feel that as a democratic country, we as free individuals,

have the right to decide for ourselves whether or not it is our right to

determine when to terminate someone's life. The stronger and more widely

held opinion is against Euthanasia primarily because society feels that it

is god's task to determine when one of his creations time has come, and we

as human beings are in no position to behave as god and end someone's life.

When humans take it upon themselves to shorten their lives or to have

others to do it for them by withdrawing life-sustaining apparatus, they

play god. They usurp the divine function, and interfere with the divine



        Euthanasia is the practice of painlessly putting to death persons

who have incurable, painful, or distressing diseases or handicaps. It come

from the Greek words for 'good' and 'death', and is commonly called mercy

killing. Voluntary euthanasia may occur when incurably ill persons ask

their physician, friend or relative, to put them to death. The patients or

their relatives may ask a doctor to withhold treatment and let them die.

Many critics of the medical profession contend that too often doctors play

god on operating tables and in recovery rooms. They argue that no doctor

should be allowed to decide who lives and who dies.


        The issue of euthanasia is having a tremendous impact on medicine

in the United States today. It was only in the nineteenth century that the

word came to be used in the sense of speeding up the process of dying and

the destruction of so-called useless lives. Today it is defined as the

deliberate ending of life of a person suffering from an incurable disease.

A distinction is made between positive, or active, and negative, or

passive, euthanasia. Positive euthanasia is the deliberate ending of life;

an action taken to cause death in a person. Negative euthanasia is defined

as the withholding of life preserving procedures and treatments that would

prolong the life of one who is incurably and terminally ill and couldn't

survive without them. The word euthanasia becomes a respectable part of

our vocabulary in a subtle way, via the phrase ' death with dignity'.


        Tolerance of euthanasia is not limited to our own country. A court

case in South Africa, s. v. Hatmann (1975), illustrates this quite well. A

medical practitioner, seeing his eighty-seven year old father suffering

from terminal cancer of the prostate, injected an overdose of Morphine and

Thiopental, causing his father's death within seconds. The court charged

the practitioner as guilty of murder because 'the law is clear that it

nonetheless constitutes the crime of murder, even if all that an accused

had done is to hasten the death of a human being who was due to die in any

event'. In spite of this charge, the court simply imposed a nominal

sentence; that is, imprisonment until the rising of the court. (Friedman



        Once any group of human beings is considered unworthy of living,

what is to stop our society from extending this cruelty to other groups? If

the mongoloid is to be deprived of his right to life, what of the blind

and deaf? and What about of the cripple, the retarded, and the senile?


        Courts and moral philosophers alike have long accepted the

proposition that people have a right to refuse medical treatment they find

painful or difficult to bear, even if that refusal means certain death.

But an appellate court in California has gone one controversial step

further. (Walter 176)


        It ruled that Elizabeth Bouvia, a cerebral palsy victim, had an

absolute right to refuse a life-sustaining feeding tube as part of her

privacy rights under the US and California constitutions. This was the

nation's most sweeping decision in perhaps the most controversial realm of

the rights explosion: the right to die...


        As individuals and as a society, we have the positive obligation

to protect life. The second precept is that we have the negative

obligation not to destroy or injure human life directly, especially the

life of the innocent and invulnerable. It has been reasoned that the

protection of innocent life- and therefore, opposition to abortion, murder,

suicide, and euthanasia- pertains to the common good of society.


        Among the potential effects of a legalised practice of euthanasia

are the following:


        "Reduced pressure to improve curative or symptomatic treatment".

If euthanasia had been legal 40 years ago, it is quite possible that there

would be no hospice movement today. The improvement in terminal care is a

direct result of attempts made to minimize suffering. If that suffering

had been extinguished by extinguishing the patients who bore it, then we

may never have known the advances in the control of pain, nausea,

breathlessness, and other terminal symptoms that the last twenty years

have seen. Some diseases that were terminal a few decades ago are now

routinely cured by newly developed treatments. Earlier acceptance of

euthanasia might well have undercut the urgency of the research efforts

which led to the discovery of those treatments. If we accept euthanasia

now, we may well delay by decades the discovery of effective treatments

for those diseases that are now terminal. (Brock 76)


        "Abandonment of Hope". Every doctor can tell stories of patients

expected to die within days who surprise everyone with their extraordinary

recoveries. Every doctor has experienced the wonderful embarrassment of

being proven wrong in their pessimistic prognosis. To make euthanasia a

legitimate option as soon as the prognosis is pessimistic enough is to

reduce the probability of such extraordinary recoveries from low to zero.


        "Increased fear of hospitals and doctors". Despite all the efforts

of health education, it seems there will always be a transference of the

patient's fear of illness from the illness to the doctors and hospitals

who treat it. This fear is still very real and leads to large numbers of

late presentations of illnesses that might have been cured if only the

patients had sought help earlier. To institutionalize euthanasia, however

carefully, would undoubtedly magnify all the latent fear of doctors and

hospitals harbored by the public. The inevitable result would be a rise in

late presentations and, therefore, preventable deaths.


        "Difficulties of oversight and regulation". Both the Dutch and the

California proposals list sets of precautions designed to prevent abuses.

They acknowledge that such are a possibility. The history of legal

"loopholes" is not a cheering one. Abuses might arise when the patient is

wealthy and an inheritance is at stake, when the doctor has made mistakes

in diagnosis and treatment and hopes to avoid detection, when insurance

coverage for treatment costs is about to expire, and in a host of other

circumstances. (Maguire 321)


        "Pressure on the Patient". Both sets of proposals seek to limit

the influence of the patient's family on the decision, again acknowledging

the risks posed by such influences. Families have all kinds of subtle ways,

conscious and unconscious, of putting pressure on a patient to request

euthanasia and relive them of the financial and social burden of care.

Many patients already feel guilty for imposing burdens on those on those

who care for them, even when the families are happy to bear the burden. To

provide an avenue for the discharge of that guilt in a request for

euthanasia is to risk putting to death a great many patients who do not

wish to die.


        "Conflict with aims of medicine". The pro-euthanasia movement

cheerfully hands the dirty work of the actual killing to the doctors who

by and large , neither seek nor welcome the responsibility. There is

little examination of the psychological stresses imposed on those whose

training and professional outlook are geared to the saving of lives by

asking them to start taking lives on a regular basis. Euthanasia advocates

seem very confident that doctors can be relied on to make the enormous

efforts sometimes necessary to save some lives, while at the same time

assenting to requests to take other lives. Such confidence reflects,

perhaps, a high opinion of doctor's psychic robustness, but it is a

confidence seriously undermined by the shocking rates of depression,

suicide, alcoholism, drug addiction, and marital discord consistently

recorded among this group.


        "Dangers of Societal Acceptance". It must never be forgotten that

doctors, nurses, and hospital administrators have personal lives, homes

and families, or that they are something more than just doctors, nurses,

or hospital administrators. They are citizens and a significant part of

the society around them. We should be very worried about what the

institutionalization of euthanasia will do to society, in general , how

will we regard murderers? (Brody 89)


        "The Slippery Slope". How long after acceptance of voluntary

euthanasia will we hear the calls for non-voluntary euthanasia? There are

thousands of comatose or demented patients sustained by little more than

good nursing care. They are an enormous financial and social burden. How

long will the advocates of euthanasia be arguing that we should "assist

them in dying".


        "Costs and Benefits". Perhaps the most disturbing risk of all is

posed by the growing concern over medical costs. Euthanasia is, after all,

a very cheap service. The cost of a dose of barbiturates and curare and

the few hours in a hospital bed that it takes them to act is minute

compared to the massive bills incurred by many patients in the last weeks

and months of their lives. Already in Britain, There is a serious under-

provision of expensive therapies like renal dialysis and intensive care,

with the result that many otherwise preventable deaths occur. Legalizing

euthanasia would save substantial financial resources which could be

diverted to more "useful" treatments. These economic concerns already

exert pressure to accept euthanasia, and, if accepted, they will

inevitability tend to enlarge the category of patients for whom euthanasia

is permitted...


        "Do not tolerate killing". Now is the time for the medical

profession to rally in defense of its fundamental moral principles, to

repudiate any and all acts of direct and intentional killing by physicians

and their agents. We call on the profession and its leadership to obtain

the best advice, regarding both theory and practice, about how to defend

the profession's moral center and to resist growing pressures both from

without and from within. We call on fellow physicians to say that we will

not deliberately kill. We must say also to each of our fellow physicians

that we will not tolerate killing of patients and that we shall take

disciplinary action against doctors who kill. (Chapman 209)


        On the other hand some people strongly feel that euthanasia is not

bad and should not be looked down upon.


        Are there no conditions when life is meaningless and should be

quietly ended? If a person is subject to pain that won't stop as a result

of a disease that can't be cured, must he or she suffer that pain as long

as possible when there are gentle ways of putting an end to life? If a

person suffers from a disease that deprives him or her of all memory and

makes him or her a helpless lump of flesh that may live on for years.


        If euthanasia were legalized,it should be admitted that there

might be some abuses of virtually every social practice. There is no

absolute guarantee against that. But we do not normally think that a

social practice should be precluded simply because it might sometimes be

abused. The crucial issue is whether the evil of the abuses would be so

great as to outweigh the benefit of the practice. In the case of

euthanasia, the question is whether the abuses, or the consequences

generally, would be so numerous as to outweigh the advantages of

legalization. The choice is not between a present policy that is benign

and an alternative that is potentially dangerous. The present policy had

it's evils, too.


        We spend more than a billion dollars a day for health car while

our teachers are underpaid, and our industrial plants are rusty. This

should not continue. There is something fundamentally insustainable about

a society that moves its basic value-producing industries overseas yet

continues to manufacture artificial hearts at home. We have money to give

smokers heart transplants but no money to retool out steel mills. We train

more doctors and lawyers than we need but fewer teachers. On any given day,

30 to 40 percent of the hospital beds in America are empty, but our

classrooms are overcrowded and our transportation systems are

deteriorating. We are great at treating sick people, but we are not that

great at treating a sick economy. And we are not succeeding in

international trade. When you really look around and try to find

industries the United States is succeeding in, you discover that they are

very few and far between.(Lamm 133)


        There is no way we are going to come to grips with this problem

until we also look at some of these areas that aren't going to go away .

One of the toughest of these is what Victor Fuchs called "flat-of-the-

curve medicine"- those medical procedures which are the highest in cost

but achieve little or no improvement in health status. He says that they

must be reduced or eliminated. We must demand that professional societies

and licensing authorities establish some norms and standards for

diagnostic and therapeutic practice that encompass both costs and medicine.

Wer'e going to have to come up with some sort of concept of cost-effective



        Individuals have the right to decide about their own lives and

deaths. What more basic right is there than to decide if you're going to

live? There is none. A person under a death sentence who's being kept

alive, through so called heroic measures certainly has a fundamental right

to say, "Enough's enough. The treatment's worse than the disease. Leave me

alone. Let me die!". Ironically, those who deny the terminally ill this

right do so out of a sense of high morality. Don't they see that, in

denying the gravely ill and suffering the right to release themselves from

pain, they commit the greatest crime?


        The period of suffering can be shortened. If you have ever been in

a terminal cancer ward, It's grim but enlightening. Anyone who's been there

can know how much people can suffer before they die. And not just

physically. The emotional, even spiritual, agony is often worse. Today our

medical hardware is so sophisticated that the period of suffering can be

extended beyond the limit of human endurance. What's the point of allowing

someone a few more months or days or hours of so-called life when death is

inevitable? There's no point. In fact, it's downright inhumane. When

someone under such conditions asks to be allowed to die, it's far more

humane to honor that request than to deny it.(Barry 405)


        People have a right to die with dignity. Nobody wants to end up

plugged into machines and wired to tubes.


        Who wants to spend their last days lying in a hospital bed wasting

away to something that's hardly recognizable as a human being, let alone

his or her former self? Nobody. The very thought insults the whole concept

of what it means to be human. People are entitled to dignity, in life and

in death. Just as we respect people's right to live with dignity, so we

must respect their right to die with dignity. In the case of the

terminally ill, that means people have the right to refuse life-sustaining

treatment when it's apparent to them that all the treatment is doing is

destroying their dignity, and reducing them to some subhuman level of



        The reasons just stated in favor of euthanasia are often over

looked due to the following arguments that are against euthanasia.


        The way you talk you'd think people have absolute right over their

bodies and lives. But that is obviously just not true. No individual has

absolute freedom. Even the patient's Bill of Rights, which was drawn up by

the American Hospital Association, recognizes this. Although it

acknowledges that patients have the right to refuse treatment, the

document also realizes that they have this right and freedom only to the

extent permitted by law. Maybe people should be allowed to die if they

want to. But if so, it's not because they have an absolute right to

dispose of themselves if they want to.(Brock 73)


        Only a fool would minimize the agony that many terminally ill

patient endure. And there's no question that by letting them die on request

we shorten the period of suffering. But we also shorten their lives. Can

you seriously argue that the saving of pain is greater good than the

saving of life? Or that presence of pain is worse than the loss of life?

Of course, nobody likes to see a creature suffer, especially when the

creature has requested a halt to the suffering. But we have to keep our

priorities straight.


        Pro euthanasianists make it sound as though the superhuman efforts

made to keep people alive are not worthy of human beings. What could be

more respectful of human life, than to maintain life against all odds, and

against all hope?


        All of life is a struggle and a gamble. At the gaming table of

life, nobody ever knows what the outcome will be. " Indeed, humans are

noblest when they persist in the face of the inevitable. Look at our

literature. Reflect on our heroes. They are not those who have capitulated

but those who have endured. No, there's nothing undignified against being

hollowed out by a catastrophic disease, about writhing in pain, about

wishing it would end. The indignity lies in capitulation".(Buchanan 208)


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