Medical ethics:Doctor-Assisted Suicide

Medical ethics:Doctor-Assisted Suicide

Medical ethics:Doctor-Assisted Suicide


Physician-assisted suicide refers to the deliberate act of competent individuals terminating their lives via lethal injections provided by physicians. According to the New England Journal of Medicine (2013), physician-assisted suicide is very different from euthanasia. This is because apart for being a necessary evil and also a violation of the fundamental tenets of medicine, physician-assisted suicide has its opponents and proponents. Therefore, I support Physician-assisted Suicide because it is better than suffering.

There are various reasons appertaining as to why I argue in support for doctor-assisted suicides. For instance, physician-assisted suicide grants and ensures patient’s autonomy, which is a key component of beneficence principle. According to Quill and Greenlaw (2008), patients should have the freedom and right to influence the circumstances of their lives, determine how much suffering is enough and decide their time of death. They also have a right to decide the cause of their death. Therefore, physician assisted-death grants patients this autonomy to choose how long to withstand pain and when to terminate their lives. In so doing, it ensures that terminally ill patients die with the dignity they deserve by providing the necessary aid to facilitate a death of their choice. Moreover, a painful death characterised of much suffering is never termed as dignified, given the fact that the Belmont principle is established on the “categorical imperative”, or the intent to do good and the principle of beneficence.

One of the fundamental tenets of medicine is to alleviate suffering by easing the pain or completely eradicating it. However, when the suffering of terminally ill patient fails to be relieved via the use of state-of-the-art palliative care, then it is the moral responsibility of doctors to do everything at their disposal to ensure that the patient suffers no more. In their article: Physician-assisted death, Quill and Greenlaw (2008) argue that hastening the death of the terminally ill patients is the best alternative of alleviating pain because it completely ends it. It also acts as a sign of mercy and compassion to the suffering patient because it respects the patient’s choice and also ensures that they would not be abandoned. According to Snyder, J.D & Sulmasy (2001), abandonment is one of the greatest fears experienced by terminally ill patients. It serves as one of the greatest causes of existential suffering and thrives on the bases of indignity and hopelessness. Many are the times when sick patients anticipate the experience of being abandoned, and this even causes more suffering.

After comparing and contrasting the suffering endured by terminally ill patients with their assisted painless death, one can argue that supporting physician-assisted suicide is justice and promotes transparency and honesty (Coggon, 2006). Moreover, the principles of Justice requires that like cases be treated as unlike. Just as competent, terminally ill individuals possess the legal right to accept medication, they also have the legal right to decline taking medication that would lengthen their deaths. For suffering patients independent of life support, such as dialysis and respirators, refusing treatment will not suffice to hasten death (Cogon, 2006). Therefore, in order to equitably treat these patients, individuals should permit assisted death because it is their only option to hasten death and alleviate suffering.

In conclusion, death is much better than the long-term severe suffering experienced by terminally ill patients. Therefore, physician-assisted suicide should be allowed because it allows the patient’s autonomy to choose their time of death, and acts as a sign of mercy and compassion to the terminally ill patients. It also ensures that terminally ill patients are justly treated in granting their request to terminate their lives.

Reference List

Coggon, J. (2006). Arguing about physician-assisted suicide: a response to Steinbock. Journal of Medical Ethics, 32, Pp. 339-341.

Quill, T., & Greenlaw, J. (2008). Chapter 30: Physician-Assisted Death. Retrieved from:

Snyder, L., J.D., & Sulmasy, D. (2001). Physician Assisted Suicide. Annals of internal medicine, 135 (3). Pp. 209-216.

The New England Journal of medicine. (2013). (368):1450-1452. Physician-assisted suicide.

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