Casting a Vote: Why Assisted Suicide Should Be a National Issue

By Nisha Desai, Opinion Writer

There is an unavoidability to death.

We are not immortal like Zeus or made of steel like Superman. The truth of the matter is that we are ordinary people and as much as medicine and doctors can help fight against harm, sometimes it might not be enough.   

There are cases where terminally ill individuals endure excruciating pain. For instance, a 29–year–old woman, Brittany Maynard, diagnosed with brain cancer, suffered frequent and severe seizures and pain as her condition worsened. According to ABC News, after much thought, she decided to take lethal medication.

In these types of situations, it is highly likely that a person cannot be cured like in the terminal stages of cancer. While they can start or continue treatment, it is their choice to do so.

While, doctors have a duty to ensure the well-being and health of a patient, an individual has their own right to do what they wish regarding their own life, particularly, when diagnosed with a terminal illness. Assisted suicide should be available as an option to them.

Assisted suicide can be defined as the intentional hastening of death by a terminally ill patient with assistance from a doctor, relative or another person, according to Medical News Today.

We ought to also understand the terms, passive and active euthanasia, as they are crucial to understanding the totality of assisted suicide.

The National Center for Biotechnology Information states that passive euthanasia is to abide by the patient’s decision to refuse life-sustaining treatment like turning off life-support machines and rejecting life-extending drugs.

Comparatively, active euthanasia is when a doctor or patient carries out an action like an injection with the intention that it will cause the patient to die, if there is a consensus between the patient and their doctor, according to Medical News Today.

Once readers understand these terms, we can have an open discussion of the ethical framework built into supporting assisted suicide for terminally ill patients.

The issue of choosing to end one’s life through assisted suicide has been a continuing debate in the United States, where some claim that speeding up the dying process for an individual is morally wrong and others argue that the right of free choice and bodily autonomy includes the right to end one’s life.

When discussing this issue, we need to focus on its practical and ethical dimensions, of which include human dignity and autonomy.

Autonomy: The right to control and self-govern your decisions, is the driving factor in why assisted suicide should be legal.

This moral right should extend as a legal right, protected by law if they need to exercise it in this type of aforementioned situation of a terminal illness, where there is no hope for a chance to live without suffering.

I think we should seriously consider this act as a possibility when all real options to live have been exhausted, and few others remain. The consequences should be explained thoroughly to the patient or their caretaker, who has the mental competence and/or a living will stating their requests.

The only state to legally allow physician-assisted suicide is Oregon, which implemented the Death with Dignity Act. I believe that this law should be extended to a national level. The law backs the idea that if a terminal patient has lost their dignity and any hope to live, their right to autonomy and to decide how and when to live should be respected.

So, I ask you, when do you get the right to fully claim your life?

A version of this article appeared in the Tuesday, September 13th print edition.

Contact Nisha at

nisha.desai@student.shu.edu

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