It’s a matter of life and death. Could you take someone’s life, if it meant ending their misery? This is the dilemma faced by millions of doctors around the world as assisted suicide, the suicide of a patient using doctor prescribed medication, takes a stance in current politics. However, the Hippocratic Oath, taken by all doctors, promises that all lives will be protected and preserved, and is a direct contradiction to the idea of assisted suicide.
Those in the medical field tend to base their ethics on two different base ideas, Deontology and Consequentialism, and they can both be related to the Hippocratic Oath. Deontology is the belief that society is based of a set of rules that can never be broken, whereas Consequentialism is the belief that actions should be decided by their outcomes, whether positive or negative (Stearman 12). Doctors who take a Deontology standpoint on the oath, believe that all measures should be taken to preserve life, and that assisted suicide makes no attempt to do so. Consequentialists however, decide on a patient-by-patient basis, based on the expected prognosis and standard of living. This contrast in ideas can lead to ‘doctor shopping,’ where patients choose their practitioner based solely on who is more likely to approve their assisted suicide wish.
In addition to varying viewpoints on the role of doctors in end-of-life decisions, the medical field itself is unpredictable. In this risky profession, prognoses, and diagnoses, cannot always be made with absolute certainty. Death is hard to predict, and prognoses are often inaccurate. Doctors often give their patients an estimated life expectancy, but there is never a guarantee that these predictions are accurate. A patient who is given a shorter time than expected, may feel more pressured to end their life by assisted suicide (Mumford). This unreliability in the health system can lead to a large and unnecessary loss of life.
Many governments worldwide have already enacted a policy of assisted suicide. However, the results haven't always been positive. These governments include, Switzerland, Oregon (U.S.), The Netherlands, Belgium, and Luxembourg (“Assisted Suicide Laws Worldwide”). Australia also enacted the policy for a short time, but quickly overturned it. Nonetheless, a majority of countries still don't allow assisted suicide, despite a poll in many western countries, showing that there is strong support for the procedure.
Oregon’s Death with Dignity Act of 1997, legalizing the process of assisted suicide, resulted in 292 deaths in nine years alone, and 700 by 2010 (Stephens).