9 November 2012
Life is simply a matter of freedom – to live, prosper, fail and even die. For three decades, doctor-assisted suicide has been a hotly debated topic. From the beginning of mankind, suffering has always been within human existence. In contrast to popular belief that euthanasia is a recent phenomenon, doctor-assisted suicide was first introduced at the time medicine was invented. Since then, it has created countless ethical dilemmas, none of which have proven successful to this day. Physicians have an obligation to relieve pain and physical suffering of dying patients in their care. Although other cheaper methods and alternatives to euthanasia are present in the world today, doctor-assisted suicide should be made legal in the United States because it could save a drastic number of vital organs that can be used on other crucial patients, alleviate an endless amount of physical pain and suffering and preserve the personal right to suicide.
Matthew Donnelly loved life. But Matthew Donnelly wanted to die. For the past thirty years, Matthew had conducted research on the use of X-rays. Now, skin cancer riddled his tortured body. He had lost his nose, his left hand, two fingers on his right hand, and part of his jaw. He was left blind and was slowly deteriorating. The pain was unrelenting. Doctors estimated that he had a year to live. Lying in bed with teeth clenched from the excruciating pain, he pleaded to be put out of his misery. Matthew wanted to die now. His pleas went unanswered. Then, one day, Matthew's brother Harold, unable to ignore Matthew's repeated cry, removed a .30 caliber pistol from his dresser drawer, walked to the hospital, and shot and killed his brother. Harold was tried for murder.
Rapid and dramatic developments in medicine and technology have given us the power to save more lives than was ever possible in the past. Medicine has put at our disposal the means to cure or to reduce the suffering of people afflicted with diseases that were once fatal or painful. At the same time, however, medical technology has given us the power to sustain the lives (or, some would say, prolong the deaths) of patients whose physical and mental capabilities cannot be restored, whose degenerating conditions cannot be reversed, and whose pain cannot be eliminated. As medicine struggles to pull more and more people away from the edge of death, the plea that tortured, deteriorated lives be mercifully ended grows louder and more frequent. Californians are now being asked to support an initiative, entitled the Humane and Dignified Death Act, that would allow a physician to end the life of a terminally ill patient upon the request of the patient, pursuant to properly executed legal documents. Under present law, suicide is not a crime, but assisting in suicide is. Whether or not we as a society should pass laws sanctioning "assisted suicide" has generated intense moral controversy.
Supporters of legislation legalizing assisted suicide claim that all persons have a moral right to choose freely what they will do with their lives as long as they inflict no harm on others.