Euthanasia and Physician Assisted Suicide

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Introduction

Physician Assisted Suicide has been one of the most controversial subjects for years. Stemming all the way back to 1997, when the state of Oregon became the first state to legalize it. Physician Assisted Suicide is known as euthanasia and has raised many different questions throughout time.

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One of the biggest questions raised however is this; Is euthanasia ethically acceptable? Suicide in its self is considered wrong in ethical views, for one must honor the value of a human life. One must think about the terminally ill patients that are suffering though. Even if it might hurt other people, but it puts the patient at rest, is it ethically acceptable for a patient to receive physician assisted suicide? If one fully analyzes euthanasia using the ethical theory of utilitarianism, then one would conclude that John Mill would solve the dilemma by asking if this act would result in happiness free of pain.

What is Euthanasia?

Euthanasia is defined as the humane and painless killing of a patient that is suffering from a life ending and painful disease. Currently legal in only eight U.S. jurisdictions, it is a highly controversial topic. Euthanasia is only legal for the patient however. A physician may prescribe the lethal drugs, but there are no circumstances under which they are able to administer the drugs themselves. The steps to administer the medication are not sweet and simple though. There are various parameters that a patient must meet before a doctor is allowed to prescribe the life ending medication. The first rule that must be met is that the patient must be an adult. Two independent physicians must then verify the patientr’s terminal diagnosis. Both of them must be fully convinced that the patient has no hope of getting any better. A written request must then be signed by the patient in front of two witnesses. This request attests that the patient is in a healthy mental state and that they are doing this voluntarily. If there is any question about the mental state of the patient, then the physician may require the patient to be counseled. Once all of these parameters have been met, then the physician will prescribe the drug. As stated above, the physician in no case is allowed to administer the drug, but he/she prescribes it and the patient picks it up from the pharmacy. None of 1the laws on physician assisted suicide state which drug the doctor prescribes, but according to the article FAQs Physician-Hastened Death, most doctors prescribe an oral dosage of a barbiturate (FAQS-Physician-Hastened Death, par 14). Barbiturates are a drug that are used as depressants of the central nervous system (Barbiturates Drug Profile, par. 3). The brain controls the central nervous system, it tells the lungs to breath and tells the heart to beat.

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