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Some people consider physician-assisted suicide as being a good death. According to the American Geriatrics Society (AGS), Physician-assisted suicide (PAS) is sometimes referred to in the following way: “[It is] when a physician provides either equipment or medication, or informs the patient of the most efficacious use of already available means, for the purpose of assisting the patient to end his or her own life,” (Lachman 123). To be more specific, some terminally ill patients desire to have the right to die a “good death,” in order to live with dignity in their last days. Finally, PAS is allowed in Canada for some cases.
A normal life is not about experiencing pain or seeing doctors all the time. Some terminally ill patients may not only suffer physically, but they may also have gone to courts to try to change the law for the right to die. For example, according to Douglas Todd, Gloria Taylor, a terminally ill patient with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), has gone to courts for the right to die. She would rather be awake for her final goodbyes than end up in a sedated coma, a vegetative state. A B.C. judge accepted Taylor’s request and struck down the law against PAS, (Todd). This was an honor for her and made Canada a more democratic country. Thus, physician-assisted suicide should be allowed in Canada because, for terminally ill patients, ending suffering is sometimes more important than extending life. Moreover, terminally ill patients have the right to decide the way to end their life.
Living with pain?
What is mercy? People usually have sympathy for somebody living in a very poor environment, or somebody who is suffering from famine. To these merciful people, they may donate money or food. According to CMAJ 2011, “If health care professionals not only can, but must, adhere to the wishes of a patient who no longer wishes to be treated, does it not stand to reason that they should also be permitted to assist that patient in dying?” (Dying a ‘Good Death’). Doctors are like these merciful people. Doctors do their best to heal their patients, but doctors cannot help terminally ill patients become healthy again. So should doctors just watch their terminally ill patients live with the unimagined pains till they die? If ending suffering takes priority over extending life, doctors should do their best to help their terminally ill patients die.
Human rights vs. PAS Act
Since June 16, 2012, a B.C judge has struck down the law banning physician-assisted suicide in Canada. It shows that human rights is treated more seriously. It is a huge success that all terminally ill patients now have the right to consider a “good death” in a legal way. Although PAS is now legal, some people may consider that legal assisted suicide will lead to abuse of seniors and other vulnerable people. However, in Oregon, PAS was legalized in 1997, and according to Linda Ganzini, a psychiatrist at the Oregon Health and Science University, “Between 1997 and 2010 in Oregon, only two out of every thousand dying residents had a physician-assisted death,”(Hall). In other words, between 1997 and 2010, the abuse of physician-assisted suicide did not happen. Furthermore, the Safeguards and Guidelines in the Oregon Act (see table 1), shows how judges audit a person who wants to commit PAS.
Safeguards and Guidelines in the Oregon Act
|1. Requires the patient give a fully informed, voluntary decision.|
|2. Applies only to the last 6 months of the patient’s life.|
|3. Makes it mandatory that a second opinion by a qualified physician be given that the patient has fewer than 6 months to live.|
|4. Requires two oral requests by the patient.|
|5. Requires a written request by the patient.|
|6. Allows cancellation of the request at any time.|
|7. Makes it mandatory that a 15-day waiting period occurs after the first oral request.|
|8. Makes it mandatory that 48-hours elapse after the patient makes a written request to receive the medication.|
|9. Punishes anyone who uses coercion on a patient to use the Act.|
|10. Provides for psychological counseling if either of the patient’s physicians thinks the patient needs counseling.|
|11. Recommends the patient inform his/her next of kin.|
|12. Excludes nonresidents of Oregon from taking part.|
|13. Mandates participating physicians are licensed in Oregon.|
|14. Mandates Health Division Review.|
|15. Does not authorize mercy killing or active euthanasia.|
Cited in “Physician-Assisted Suicide: Compassionate Liberation or Murder?” Table 1
In addition, some terminally ill patients may experience family pressure or have low self-esteem, so they may think pessimistically, making them eager to choose PAS. With these 15 safeguards, the terminally ill patients are protected from abuse of PAS. Oregon has allowed PAS for the last 15 years. Terminally ill patients have the right to die and their choice is always respected. Although Canada just allowed PAS, and Taylor may be the first person allowing PAS, it is a big step that Canadians move forward to be a more democratic country.
Terminally ill patients have the right to decide how to live the rest of their days. No matter what decisions they made, doctors should do their best to help terminally ill patients, and people have to respect their choices. With the 15 safeguards in Oregon as model, certainly Canada can be successful in implementing PAS without the abuse of the system.
Dying a “Good Death”. Canadian Medical Association Journal, 2010. 183.18. Print.
Hall, Neal. B.C. Judge Strikes Down Law Banning Assisted Suicide in Canada. Vancouver. Vancouver Sun. 2012. Print.
Lachman, Vicki. Ethics, Law, and Policy. MEDSURG Nursing, 2010. 121-125. Print.
Todd, Douglas. Winning the right to die. Vancouver. Vancouver Sun, 2012. Print.