Death with Dignity in the United States
There is one thing that can be absolutely guaranteed to anyone who is alive and that is they will one day die, whether caused by accidents, crime, disease, or just age; eventually all lives must end. Sometimes the means of that death may stem from an illness that cannot be cured, cannot be improved, and will progressively get worse leading to an inevitable and painful death. There are diseases in the world that lead to physical impairments that permanently limit a sufferer’s mobility, function, and ability to care for themselves and live a meaningful form of life. Many people would prefer, when faced with such an unenviable diagnosis, to end their own lives and “skip” to the end and avoid the inevitable miserable and horrific end that the disease has in store for them. This has and continues to be a controversial issue that sparks a great deal of ethical debate. Some people believe wholeheartedly that to end one’s own life or to be aided in doing so, is a religious sin and should essentially be treated as a crime, no less than murder. However, other Americans, feel that an individual should not be forced to suffer based on the belief systems of others and governmental policies that make it difficult for any individual to choose for themselves to “die with dignity.” It is entirely unjust and unethical to force anyone to suffer until whatever end is to come finally arrives, and forcibly and legally require them to suffer; there can never be balance and ethical equality in that scenario.
When people hear the statement “physician assisted suicide” the first thing that comes to people’s minds is the image of Jack Kevorkian, who was arrested, convicted, and jailed for his involvement in offering terminal patients euthanasia as an alternative to the fate that a terminal illness has in store for them. Many Americans see him as a murderer or, at least, an accessory to it (Ali 1). However, not everyone is opposed to the doctor’s, and other physicians like him that, support a patient’s right to die with dignity, free of pain and further and potential suffering. We see that support in some states in the United States like Oregon, as well as, in international lands as well (Golden 1). Sweden has adopted death with dignity legislature and thus far, it has not caused the downfall of human society, as many in the opposition would have people believe. This is not to say that the laws are perfect. In fact, recently, it was necessary to define exactly in what instances that would warrant the “prescription” for suicide; making certain that the law cannot be taken advantage of or used for non-lethal, non-qualifying diseases (The Swiss Information Channel 1). Today the bulk of “physician suicide” is done with a prescription for a potent drug that will essentially put the patient to sleep when self-administered. That said it is absolutely necessary to make sure such euthanasia measures are taken appropriately.
There are many people, in opposition to the allowance of physician assisted suicide, who believe that all people die differently and that is the way it is supposed to be. If someone is supposed to die peacefully in their sleep then that is their good fortune and if they do not, and must suffer long periods of time and feel incredible pain before they die, then they must deserve to die that way (ProCon Organization 1). This is what makes the argument so controversial and it makes no sense logically or ethically. When we have a beloved pet that has grown old and sick, there are no measures that will restore or improve the animal’s life. We often choose to have them “put to sleep” because it will spare them suffering and because it is the “humane” thing to do; in other words the right and human thing to do. Then do we not owe the same compassion and consideration to human beings who are suffering in the same ways with no hope of improvement.