Discuss physician-assisted suicide and euthanasia in the United States.
What position do you advocate? Your response should include your specific rationale, and it should be clear that you understand the difference between the two.
Please read the information below for further clarification.
Please feel free to respectfully agree to disagree.
Historical Overview: How Americans Died in the Past
In the early 1900s the average life expectancy was 50 years
Childhood mortality was high
Those who became adults could expect to live well into their 60s
Few people lived to the ages that we regard as “normal” today
Until the development of antibiotics in the mid-20th century…
People typically died quickly, often from causes such as:
Infectious diseases and accidents
As only a few remedies were available to extend life, medicine focused on caring and comfort
While customs and traditions varied across cultures, most cared for their sick at home with support from their physician, if one was available
Medicine’s Shift in Focus: Impact on Death and Dying
Many authorities have suggested that we have become a “death denying” society—
Valuing….Productivity….Youth and Independence
Devaluing…..Age….Family….Interdependent caring for one another
As of 2007 the U.S. life expectancy reached nearly 78 years (77.9), (CDC).
Over a decade, life expectancy has increased 1.4 years from 76.5 years in 1997 to 77.9 in 2007.
The physician provides the necessary means or information
The patient performs the act
In Euthanasia: The physician performs the intervention
Euthanasia is defined as “the act of bringing about the death of a hopelessly ill and suffering person in a relatively quick and painless way for reasons of mercy” (Back et al)
Arguments in favor of PAS
Respect for autonomy: Decisions about time and circumstances death are very personal. Competent person should have right to choose death.
Compassion: Suffering means more than pain; there are other physical and psychological burdens. It is not always possible to relieve suffering. Thus PAS may be a compassionate response to unbearable suffering.
Individual liberty vs. state interest: A complete prohibition on assisted death excessively limits personal liberty. Therefore PAS should be allowed in certain cases.
Arguments against PAS
Sanctity of life: This argument points out strong religious and secular traditions against taking human life. It is argued that assisted suicide is morally wrong because it contradicts these beliefs.
Potential for abuse: Assisted death may become a cost-containment strategy. Burdened family members and health care providers may encourage option of assisted death
Fallibility of the profession: The concern raised here is that physicians will make mistakes.
Oregon (since l997, physician-assisted suicide only); Oregon’s Death with Dignity Act was approved by voters in 1994 but blocked for three years by critics who challenged its constitutionality in the U.S. Supreme Court.
Pas came under attack by U.S. Attorney General Ashcroft, who threatened to revoke the licenses of doctors who assisted suicides. The law was upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court in January 2006.
The patient must have been declared terminally ill by two physicians
Must have requested lethal drugs three times, including in writing.
Washington State 2008
A state measure known as Initiative 1000 passed by a margin of 59% to 41%, making it legal for doctors to prescribe a lethal dose of medication for patients with less than six months to live.
Patients must make two separate requests, orally and in writing, more than two weeks apart;
must be of sound mind and not suffering from depression;
and must have their request approved by two separate doctors.
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