February 26, 2015
The Right to Life- The Beginning and End
Imagine living a long fulfilling life then being told you would die soon. Not only are you going to die soon but it will be slow and painful, all from a terminal illness. Many Americans are faced with this reality every day. If a patient is mentally competent and is able to give written and verbal consent, they should have the choice of ending their own life. Terminally ill patients who are dying a miserable and painful death should have the right to choose when they want to end their life. By legalizing PAS, terminally ill patients will have the right to choose immediate death instead of suffering through a terminal illness which will ultimately cause unbearable pain and suffering for the patient and family. The patient can die with dignity rather than becoming a shell of their former selves. Without PAS people may commit suicide in a messy, horrifying or traumatic manor. Physician assisted suicide (PAS) is not for everyone, but for someone who wants to end their life because of a terminal debilitating illness, they should have that option with the help of a knowledgeable physician.
Physician assisted suicide is defined by the American Medical Association as “when a physician facilitates a patient’s death by providing the necessary means and/or information to enable the patient to perform the life-ending act” (AMA). In most instances a physician will prescribe the patient a lethal dose of medications and instruct them on how to take the medication. This puts the choice in the patients hand, the patient may change their mind at any time.
Over the last hundred years medical technology has advanced so remarkably in extending the lives of humans. For example respirators can now help support a person’s failing lungs, and the advancement in surgeries can now prolong a person’s life when before they may not have had the chance. This is wonderful news for people who have a great chance of living a long life, but for people who have been diagnosed with a terminal illness these life prolonging advancements are only lengthening their suffering. When some terminally ill patients feel they can no longer suffer through the pain any longer they go to their doctors and ask for assistance in dying. For Brittany Maynard, a 29 year old school teacher diagnosed in 2014 with an aggressive terminal brain Cancer, her only option for choosing a physician assisted suicide was to uproot her home from California to Oregon. Oregon is one of five states in the United States that legally authorizes death with dignity. Brittany was already suffering through excruciating migraines, increasingly longer seizures, and debilitating head and neck pain; these symptoms were only going to get worse for her. Through Oregon’s death with dignity act Brittany Maynard was able to ask her doctor for an end of life medication; which was able to give Brittany the sense that she could now take control of her life and end it as she choose instead of letting her terminal brain cancer torturously and slowly kill her. Brittney took her end of life medication at home in her own bed comfortably, surrounded by people who loved and cared for her (TheBrittanyFund.org). Some people might argue that there is medication that can control the pain for terminal ill patients until they pass away naturally, but according to Dr. Joel Potash if patients take morphine for a long time, they may become tolerant to the morphine (hospicenet.org). In some instances pain medication no longer suffices. In the book Between the Dying and the Dead, Dr. Kevorkian recalls one of his patients, Dr. Khalil, who was coincidently a pain specialist doctor who could have gotten his hands on any pain medicine he wanted to ease the pain from his bone cancer, but instead sought out Dr. Kevorkian for help to end his life. Dr. Khalil mentioned that he had in the past often dismissed patients’ complaints of pain and