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Physicians Assisted Suicide - Research Paper Example

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This article is about assisted suicide, that otherwise known as euthanasia or mercy killing and has been a controversial subject for many centuries. Proponents of the practice believe that individual freedoms of choice that exist in life also extend to the end of life…
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Physicians Assisted Suicide
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Download file to see previous pages In addition, the practice would lessen the urgency to develop new medicines designed to prolong life. Those who oppose the practice on religious grounds argue that it is ‘playing God’ therefore sinful. Health care professionals cite the Hippocratic Oath which forbids them from carrying out this procedure. This paper will examine the moral and ethical concerns surrounding euthanasia, clarify the meaning of the term, present arguments both for and against the practice and conclude with a recommendation to resolve the issue.
The word euthanasia is from Greek origin meaning ‘good death.’ Writers of 1700’s Britain referred to euthanasia as a being a preferential method by which to ‘die well’ (“Definition”, 2007). Euthanasia describes a situation in which a terminally ill patient is administered a lethal dose of medication, is removed from a life-support system or is simply allowed to die without active participation such as by resuscitation. A doctor’s involvement in the procedure could be to either prescribe a lethal dose of drugs with the express intent of ending a life or by intravenously inserting a needle into the terminal patient who then activates a switch that administers the fatal dose (Naji et al, 2005). Physicians, lawmakers, and philosophers have debated the notion of euthanasia since the beginning of recorded history but the wide public debate regarding its legalization has only surfaced over the past four decades. In the 1970’s it became lawful to draft ‘living wills’ which allows a patient to refuse ‘heroic’ life saving medical assistance in the event they were incapacitated and could only survive by artificial means (Rich, 2001). In other words, it gave the next of kin the right to direct doctors to ‘pull the plug’ if the patient’s condition was considered hopeless, a practice which is now broadly accepted.
The unfortunate reality is the majority of people in the U.S. die a ‘bad death.’  A study determined that “more often than not, patients died in pain, their desires concerning treatment neglected, after spending 10 days or more in an intensive care unit” (Horgan, 1996).  Most Americans (53 percent) believe euthanasia to be not only compassionate but ethically acceptable and 69 percent would support the legalization of euthanasia according to a Gallup Poll conducted in 2004 (“Public Grapples”, 2004).  Opponents of a doctor-assisted suicide law often cite the potential for doctor abuse.  However, recent Oregon and UK laws show that you can craft reasonable laws that prevent abuse and still protect the value of human life.  For example, laws could be drafted that requires the approval of two doctors plus a psychologist, a reasonable waiting period, family members’ written consent and limits the procedure to specific medical conditions. 
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