Physician Assisted Suicide | Teen Ink

Physician Assisted Suicide

September 23, 2023
By LilyScrivener BRONZE, Indialantic, Florida
LilyScrivener BRONZE, Indialantic, Florida
1 article 0 photos 0 comments

Physician Assisted Suicide 

“Elections have consequences” is something I am always hearing. And when I turned 18 I realized I would be voting this coming year. As teenagers most of our information comes from our parents, but when we start voting we need to develop our own opinions and see where we stand. And physician assisted suicide is becoming increasingly more talked about. And we need to be educated so that when we do enter that voting ballot we have our own opinion. To start, euthanasia is the practice of ending life to eliminate pain and suffering.  There are four main types: active, passive, indirect, and physician-assisted suicide. This article will focus on physician assisted suicide (PAS). You may be wondering what is PAS, well, Physician assisted suicide is voluntary suicide when a patient is terminally ill and wants to end their suffering. It is currently legal in 10 states being Oregon, Washington D.C., Hawaii, Washington, Maine, Colorado, New Jersey, California, and Vermont. Oregon the first of which in 1997.  This is a highly debated topic among politicians and medical professionals. So it's important to stay informed and educated so you can be prepared when the topic arises. 

Reasons for the Legalization of PAS

The main argument for people who believe PAS should be federally legalized say that it is the patient's decision. Choosing what to do with their body and life is their own choice. PAS is also a last resort choice, it's used only when resources have been exhausted and there is no other solution to ending a patient's pain.  Also, is forcing someone to live with unbearable pain from a terminal illness for a couple months not morally wrong?

People for legalization argue the  specific criteria for a patient to be considered and offered the PAS, that not just anyone would be allowed the choice of PAS. 

People for legalization also argue that the specific criteria needed to even be considered for PAS would keep vulnerable people safe from these types of important decisions. The criteria currently for PAS in Oregon under the Death With Dignity (DWDA) Act (DWDA) is as follows: “To request a prescription for lethal medications, the DWDA requires that a patient must be:  an adult (18 years of age or older),  a resident of Oregon,  capable (defined as able to make and communicate health care decisions), and  diagnosed with a terminal illness that will lead to death within six months” (Death with Dignity Act Requirements).  There is also a list of requirements and hoops to jump through once a patient is eligible and has decided on this course of treatment. Further, PAS is not an easy choice and is not regarded as such. The decision to exercise this right is difficult and complex. However, it offers someone a way to end their suffering humanely.

Reasons Against the Legalization of PAS

However many people disagree with this. It can put pressure on patients to “do the right thing” and cease being a “burden”. Concerns that patients will select this treatment due to reasons like ‘loss of dignity’ and ‘becoming a burden on others”. Many argue the solution is to care for people in ways that assure them that they have dignity and it is a privilege, not a burden, to care for them as long as they live. Essentially saying that offering this is a “cop out”. Additionally, offering PAS as a solution to illness could undermine the willingness of doctors and society to learn how to show real compassion and address patients’ pain and other problems. Many doctors feel that it goes against the hippocratic oath all doctors take. The oath states that “...I will practice medicine with integrity, humility, honesty, and compassion—working with my fellow doctors and other colleagues to meet the needs of my patients. I shall never intentionally do or administer anything to the overall harm of my patients…” (Sritharan).  Offering PAS is debatably harming the patient. Another concern similar to what was previously mentioned is that doctors will start to push patients toward PAS or that it will become a “slippery slope”. Arguing there are other options such as hospice or clinical trials.

Charlie and Francie

Charlie and Francie Emerick were married for 66 years, together for 70 and lived in Oregon. Charlie 87 and Francie 88 were both terminally ill. Charlie was diagnosed with Parkinson's disease in early 2012 and then was diagnosed with stage four prostate cancer and started having heart issues in 2016. He had 4 months or less to live in 2017.  Francie had a heart condition where she constantly suffered heart attacks and then was diagnosed with cancer. Francie had 6 months or less to live. Both were informed of their options and they decided they wanted a physician assisted death. It took about 15 days for them both to get approved for their request. They decided to film their thoughts and feelings on their decision with the help of their daughter for the purpose of being informative.It 's now a documentary called “Living and Dying: A Love Story”. They both held hands as they took the pills, Francie died within the first 15 minutes, which showed how weak her heart really was and Charlie within the hour. Both were painless deaths compared to the suffering they would have endured had they not chosen a PAS.

The Questions

With a topic like this, there are many questions that arise, such as what limitations do you think should be placed on physician assisted suicide? What makes a life worth living? Could physician assisted death be morally justified when the patient is incapable of giving consent? What is more important: sanctity of life or quality of life? If physician assisted death is legalized do you think it could be regulated enough to safeguard vulnerable people? Why or why not? Is there any moral difference between letting someone die and killing someone? These are all important questions that we need to ask ourselves before we get to the voting ballot. Being educated is the best way to make important decisions like these, and a large part of that is being able to see both perspectives. 




“Death with Dignity Act Requirements .” Death with Dignity Act Requirements, Oregon Government , 2022, 

Sritharan, K, et al. “Medical Oaths and Declarations.” BMJ (Clinical Research Ed.), U.S. National Library of Medicine, 22 Dec. 2001,,overall%20harm%20of%20my%20patients. 

The author's comments:

Now is the time to be informed

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