Introduction– The argument surrounding Physician Assisted Suicide (PAS) hasbecome a lot more controversial throughout the years, and will continue to doso.
According to the current law of the Suicide Act 1961, under section 2 it isa criminal offence to assist another person in the act of committing suicide inany way.1 Theperson in question “need not need be a specific person (or class of persons)known to, or identified” by the one wishing to commit suicide.2This therefore means that a doctor facilitating PAS would be liable of acriminal offence underthe suicide act and would be “liable to imprisonment for a term not exceeding14 years”.3This controversial topic has many strong arguments for legalisation as well asmany strong arguments against legalisation. Arguably the strongest viewpointfor legalisation is the respect for the patient’s autonomy, and the strongestviewpoint against legalisation is the ‘slippery slope’ argument.4Upon an intense consideration this essay will explain in detail why botharguments are just as flawed as each other and should be rejected. Respect of the Patient’s AutonomyFirst of allthe doctor would be relieving numerous kinds of suffering, including physical,psychological, interpersonal, and also existential.
5If the patient is suffering from physical pain the medicine provided may notalways relieve said suffering which leads to the moral issue of leaving thepatient in a state of unbearable pain. Interpersonal suffering includes thepatient feeling as though they are a burden on their family, as it is up to thefamily to not only provide the funds for medication and facilitation, but alsogive up time in their day to visit/care for the patient. Existential sufferingwould include the patient being unable to enjoy life at all as they are bedridden with a critical condition, and therefore questioning their actualexistence within the outside world.
As apatient, there is a legal right to deny treatment in which carries thepossibility to increase death. It can therefore be argued that a patient shouldhave the equal right to request such treatment that can expedite death. Howevera flaw with this argument is that it could cause some patients to request suchmedication in order to relieve close ones, such as family, any financial andtime burdens. The patient would therefore not be requesting PAS through his/herown will but due to being under pressure, which again would be extremelyimmoral to allow. It would however be completely up to the patient to requestthe medical intervention, and they may do so due to preferring PAS compared toheavy sedation or even a withdrawal of life support.
In addition it can beargued that a choice between life and death is personal, and so should not beregulated by the government at all.Although theargument presented above for the legalisation of PAS directly affects thepatient themselves, it also will have direct effects on others such as thepatients family, the doctors involved, and other members of the communitywhether they are terminally ill or not.Aspreviously discussed, the patients family members may be relieved that thepatient is no longer suffering, which can also lead to a relief of financialburdens and time burdens for those in question, however there may also be manynegative impacts on the family.
Firstly, they would obviously be leftdevastated, which in itself could lead to close ones of the patients beingsubject to not only emotional distress but also psychological harm. This couldbring about the family having ‘suicidal’ thoughts due to becoming depressed oremotionally vulnerable.6This shows that in most cases it is the close family members who are actuallysubject to major emotional issues rather than the patient.7Doctorscould also be directly affected by PAS as the actions may conflict with notonly their moral but also personal beliefs. These conflictions could lead tothe doctors feeling guilty of supplying the lethal injection to the point wherethey could be subject to emotional distress and psychological harm. Although incountries where PAS is legal the doctors taking part in the activity only do soif they voluntarily want to. This means that no doctor would have to be a partof PAS if he does not wish to, which severely weakens the previously mentionednegative effect on doctors.
However the argument is still there as some doctorswho have been through PAS themselves have stated that there are cases in whichthe patients actually pressure and intimidate the doctors into carrying outPAS.8In addition, the doctor would only supply the lethal substance and so thereshould be no need for them to feel any kind of guilt, however this would stillhappen in some cases. Finally, the doctor may find what he is doing morallycorrect as he is helping the patient in becoming relieved of pain andsuffering, which could cause the doctor to feel good about themselves.Finally,other people such as elderly and terminally ill people can be affected by thelegalisation of PAS. The previously mentioned people may be under pressure togo through PAS as they feel as though they are a burden to others around them.
This in itself could cause severe emotional distress. It can however, be arguedthat everyone including elderly and other terminally people should have a rightto end their life if they are suffering or are subject to pain.1 Suicide Act 1961, s 22 Suicide Act 1961, s 2(1A)3 Suicide Act 1961, s 2(1C)4 Danny Wong, ‘The Argumentsand Criticisms Surrounding PAS’ (DartmouthUndergraduate Journal of Science, 18 March 2013) < http://dujs.
dartmouth.edu/2013/03/physician-assisted-suicide-the-arguments-and-criticisms-surrounding-pas/#.Wk-uoN9l_a9> accessed 03 January20185 Danny Wong, ‘The Argumentsand Criticisms Surrounding PAS’ (DartmouthUndergraduate Journal of Science, 18 March 2013) < http://dujs.dartmouth.edu/2013/03/physician-assisted-suicide-the-arguments-and-criticisms-surrounding-pas/#.Wk-uoN9l_a9> accessed 03 January20186 Margaret Pabst-Battain, “Manipulated Suicide,” BioethicsQuarterly 2 (1980), pp. 123, 1347 Johnston B P, Death as a Salesman – What’s Wrong withAssisted Suicide (New Regency Publishing, 2nd edition, 1998)Ch. 2 p.
178 Stevens KR Jr.,’Emotional and Psychological Effects ofPhysician-Assisted Suicide and Euthanasia on Participating Physicians’,(2006)Volume 21 Issues in Law & Med. 187