AP Language 5th Hour
02 February 2014
Con Assisted Suicide
We’ve all heard of the term suicide, but how about assisted suicide? Assisted suicide is defined as when a physician prescribes a patient a “prescription for fatal drug overdose” (Marker). As of now, legal assisted suicide is only available to terminally ill patients in the states of Oregon, Washington, and Montana. Many argue that assisted suicide is “not about [the] right to die” but “about [the] right to kill” (Patients Rights Council). Assisted suicide should not be legalized in the United States because it risks health complications, furthering inequity in health care, and leading to euthanasia and “treating” patients who are not terminal.
When one overdoses on medication, it is logical that that person is going to experience some complications. This fact alone takes the dignity out of the “Oregon Death with Dignity Act”. Major professional groups such as the American Medical Association and the American Geriatrics Society oppose the practice of assisted suicide, and with the fairly high risk of complications their reason for opposition becomes apparent (University of Washington School of Medicine). According to the Patients Rights Council, every 1 of 5 cases of euthanasia or assisted suicide results in complications (Patients Rights Council). Two such cases were in Oregon. In the first case, Patrick Matheny had to receive “help” from his brother-in-law, Joe Hayes, in order to die because after ingesting the lethal doth of drugs provided by Oregon Health Sciences University Matheny began to experience difficulties. According to Hayes, “It would not have worked without help”. The second case centers on a man who was taken to a local Portland hospital to be revived during his attempt at assisted suicide because the physical symptoms he experienced during were too difficult for his wife to handle; he was taken to a local nursing home and died shortly after (Patients Rights Council). Both cases resulted in the patient dying in an unwanted manner; one at the hands of family and the other in a lonely nursing home. According to Rita Maker, the executive director of the International Task Force on Euthanasia and Assisted Suicide, assisted suicide advocates attempt to hide cases like these from the public, but those against it have been able to produce documentation such as a “two-part article in the Oregonian” discussing a 911 call made by a family member reporting complications during their relative’s assisted suicide attempt (Maker). Assisted suicide is made out to be a peaceful process where one may die with dignity. How is a process that causes relatives to panic and to possibly have to aid in their family member’s death peaceful, let alone going with dignity?
Admittedly, inequity and discrimination in health care is not a new issue, but assisted suicide is another mean to further it. Those who oppose assisted suicide say that the legalization of the process is “unconscionable” because those with low-income cannot afford comprehensive medical care (Maker). You may ask “who is pushing for the legalizing of assisted suicide then?” Disability rights leader, Diana Coleman, states that it is “primarily promoted” by citizens “who are white, well-off, worried and well.” This fact does not come as a surprise when one observes that 35% of Hispanics lack health insurance along with 22% of African Americans and 21% of Asians (Maker). Even those in the minorities who do possess health insurance risk discrimination in the health care they receive. According to Sheryl Stolberg of the New York Times, some African-American cancer patients in nursing homes do not even receive aspirin due to being cruelly undertreated for pain (New York Times). Injustice does not stop in nursing homes because patients with cancer who attend clinics specialized for minorities are “three times more likely to be under-medicated