PEPPERDINE UNIVERSITY
10/24/2014

Assisted suicide: A patient’s right, or murder?

PRO & CON

The choice of whether to live or die should be left up to suffering patients and their families, not to the federal government.
By Dylan Murphy
Staff Writer

Patients lie suffering, waiting to die in hospitals across America. Drugs are not enough.  Pain invades their bodies, and the monotonous sounds of monitors accompany the beats of dying hearts. Lying alone, they ask death to end the suffering.  Unfortunately, death does not always answer.  The suffering worsens, and life is painfully drawn out. With nothing left but death, they close their eyes and hope the darkness will last.

Why do patients with terminal diseases continue to suffer?  Only one of our 50 states is doing anything to end these patients’ horrific pain.

Oregon’s assisted-suicide law allows doctors to prescribe barbiturate cocktails to those who wish to die, but the Federal Government is trying to put an end to the law.

U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft is attempting to eliminate the right of death for the terminally ill patients of Oregon. Ashcroft claims that controlled substances, used in the cocktails, are under federal rules, and because of this, assisted suicide should end in Oregon. 

Not only is Ashcroft interfering with a state’s right, he’s trying to end a practice that should be open to all Americans, all humans. 

Whether a patient wants to continue his suffering or end his life, he will do what he wants.  With enough desire, nothing will stop a patient from ending his or her life. We shouldn’t force the terminally ill, who find comfort in death, to take their lives in a violent way. 

Should a 90-year-old with bone cancer have to end his suffering with a blade because he had no other means?  With the focus on human life, there seems to be something lost in the concern for quality of life. 

When our pets are going to die, we put them to sleep because we love them. We allow them to die and accept it as morally right.  A women can choose to have an abortion, and a judge can sentence a criminal to death. In a world where people have the right to take the lives of others we don’t even have the right to take our own.

Life is not always short, nor is life easy. People work hard to achieve their goals. When the time comes, and people reflect on their lives, sometimes they decide that they have accomplished what they wanted in life. At this point, why legally force them to suffer in their last days? The government shouldn’t force people to continue a life, in which all feeling is pain and depression. 

Terminal illness is the only case that should call for assisted suicide. It’s not fair to discredit assisted suicide by associating it with other types of suicide. There’s a big difference between killing yourself because you’re tired of life and easing yourself through what can be a painful transition into a certain death. 

If someone’s going to die in the near future, the government believes they should suffer for as long as their body can take it. This is a cruel fact, but pain that is equal to that of torture, isn’t a concern of the government.

The lives of those who are terminally ill are not the only one’s that should be taken into account. There are those who need the hospital beds, which are occupied by people who are suffering and praying for death. 

People who want death shouldn’t take the care of an ICU away from others who might live.

Assisted suicide, along with other medical issues, goes against certain religions, but this isn’t a reason to make it illegal for those who believe in it. 

Is life support illegal?  No. Is surgery illegal? No. So if you don’t agree with it, don’t be involved in it, but don’t make others suffer. In America, individual beliefs should not be imposed on everyone —  this is one of the primary foundations the country was founded on.  The U.S. is too diverse to think that every argument can be solved on a national level. 

Why not leave this one up to the citizens of Oregon, who already decided democratically how they feel about assisted suicide. Too often we allow the federal government to tell us what is wrong and right. 

Our system was set up in such a way that certain rights were given to the states, while others where reserved by the government. It is set up in this manner to ensure states have at least partial autonomy, but nowadays it seems as if this autonomy is at risk of becoming non-existent. If we continue to allow the government to butt its head into matters already decided within individual states, we run the risk of throwing off the balance that has helped this country survive for so long.

When the citizens of Oregon voted in favor of physician-aided suicide, they showed their common sense and compassion. They understood that there are certain cirumstances under which no better option can be found then death, and by doing so, made a wise decision.

Aiding in suicide is a blatant disregard for the blessing of human life.  Doctors should be saving patients, not helping them die.
By Karma Salvato
Staff Writer

Suicide ranks as the 11th most common cause of death in the United States — homicide ranks 14th. That is, more Americans kill themselves than are killed by others, according to several sources gathered by the American Association of Suicidology. An average of one person every 18 minutes killed themselves in 1999, reports say. Now suicide is no longer an act only committed in isolation — patients are able to end their life with the help of physicians while their families stand by and watch. What happened to the sanctity of life? Have we, as a society, begun to embrace an idea that each individual is expendable? Let’s hope not.

A Los Angeles Times article announced that Oregon went to court “to challenge U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft’s attempt to bar doctors from prescribing federally controlled drugs under the state’s landmark assisted-suicide law.” In most states, aiding in a suicide is a crime, while suicide or attempted suicide itself is legal. The state of Oregon is the only state that has a physician-assisted suicide statute.

“In a case that could define the boundaries of physician-assisted suicide across the country, Oregon is challenging Ashcroft’s threat to revoke the licenses of doctors who prescribe powerful barbiturate cocktails to hasten death for patients suffering the ravages of incurable, painful diseases,” the Times reported.

What happened to the Hippocratic Oath that doctors are supposed to swear? Is it no longer valid? Is the statement “I will give no deadly medicine to anyone if asked, nor suggest any such counsel ... ” simply lacking the validity it once carried? The oath also states: “Into whatever houses I enter, I will go into them for the benefit of the sick, and will abstain from every voluntary act of mischief and corruption ... ” Can we no longer trust that our doctors believe human life has a special significance and should be treated with the highest regard?

Professional organizations such as the American Medical Association have argued against physician-assisted suicide on the grounds that it undermines the integrity of the profession. It also harms the public’s image of an occupation that is supposed to put the welfare of its patients above anything else.

Supporters of physician-assisted suicide may argue that it is ethically justifiable and that it is a compassionate response to unbearable suffering. They also argue that a competent person should have the right to choose death. But how is choosing death a competent, responsible choice?

Philosopher Thomas Aquinas condemned suicide because “it contravenes one’s duty to oneself and the natural inclination of self-perpetuation; because it injures other people and the community of which the individual is a part; and because it violates God’s authority over life, which is God’s gift.”

Two other philosophers, John Locke and Immanuel Kant, also opposed suicide. Locke argued that “life, like liberty, represents an inalienable right, which cannot be taken from, or given away by, an individual.”

For Kant, “suicide was a paradigmatic example of an action that violates moral responsibility.” Kant believed that “the proper end of rational beings requires self-preservation, and that suicide would therefore be inconsistent with the fundamental value of human life.” Like some contemporary opponents of assisted suicide and euthanasia, Kant argued that “taking one’s own life was inconsistent with the notion of autonomy, properly understood.”

Who are we to play God, deciding when it is okay for our life — or someone else’s — to come to an end? Though many people may disagree, God doesn’t cause suffering. But, he can use each situation for good — if we give our problems over to him and allow ourselves to hear what he has to say. With his strength, any situation can be managed. After all, how do we know that a miracle won’t occur in the midst of tribulation?

Is life really worse than death? What if God wants to use a situation to inspire others, or even the world — just look at scientific genius Stephen Hawking, or Superman, Christopher Reeve. Hawking suffers from ALS (Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis), and Reeve is a quadriplegic. They haven’t given up. “I have had motor neurone disease for practically all my adult life,” Hawking said.“Yet, it has not prevented me from having a very attractive family and being successful in my work. I have been lucky that my condition has progressed more slowly than is often the case. But it shows that one need not lose hope.”

A physician who assists a patient in the act of suicide is an accessory to murder and should have to face the repercussions of his actions.  If suicide and physician-assisted suicide become legal rights, the presumption that people attempting suicide are deranged and in need of psychological help (concluded by various studies on the issue and years of experience by practitioners) would be reversed. By legalizing these questionable acts, the message society is sending to a person thinking of attempting suicide is not that “we respect your wishes,” but rather, “we don’t care if you live or die.” Is that really the message we want to send to hurting individuals?