According to Wikipedia, “in the United States, assisted death is a practice by which a terminally ill person who is believed to be of sound mind and has a prognosis of six months or fewer requests, obtains and — if they feel their suffering as become unbearable —self-administers barbiturates to end their life.” Assisted death is legal in ten U.S. states – and this practice differs from euthanasia, where another person, generally a physician, causes death to a patient. Euthanasia is legal in Canada, Belgium, Colombia, and the Netherlands. In some places in the U.S., even providing the means to end a person’s life can be charged comparable to manslaughter. In the case of Michele Carter, who urged her boyfriend via text to kill himself in 2014, she is serving 2.5 years in jail for involuntary manslaughter. Her supporters claim her words and actions are protected under the First Amendment – freedom of speech.
Assisted death, in its organized form, is a good option for people who are experiencing pain and suffering – and some say that the right to die should be a matter of choice. Medicine, on the whole, exists to alleviate illness, to provide a patient with healing so that they may go back out into the world. When it comes to a dying patient, however, the goal of medicine changes. In this case, medicine becomes solely about comfort and limiting pain. With this in mind, should assisted death be an option for people who are suffering?
People against assisted death often site the Hippocratic Oath – a code of ethics historically adopted by physicians. It is the earliest example of medical ethics in the western world, and it includes ideas about confidentiality and non-maleficence, meaning “do no harm”. This is where, people argue, assisted death crosses a line. Even though, in the case of assisted death, the physician isn’t necessarily administering the killing aid – they still get put into the position of providing a patient with the tools or drugs to terminate their life. That can weigh a heavy burden on a physician, or any person. So, what is the definition of moral, here? or we force suffering people that want to die in peace, to continue their suffering while racking up medical expenses for their families? Or do we force physicians, who exist to help people, to hand over a death sentence to patients who request one?
Wikipedia, “Assisted Suicide in the United States”, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Assisted_suicide_in_the_United_States , 2019/11/14
De La Torre, Esther, “The Right to Assisted Suicide” http://www.lonestar.edu/rightto-assist-suicide.htm 2019/11/14
Bruney, Gabrielle, “Michelle Carter was Convicted of Encouraging her Boyfriend to Kill Himself”, https://www.esquire.com/entertainment/tv/a28339149/where-michelle-carteris- now-jail-i-love-you-now-die-true-story/, 2019/10/07, 019/11/14