Life Is Precious
It has been argued that it should be made legal for patients to have doctor-assisted suicide, or mercy-killing, which is the term used to describe ending life through the voluntary self-administration of lethal medication, expressly prescribed by a physician for that purpose (DHS-Internet). By approximately a two-to-one ratio, most adults in the US agree that it should be this way. “When read a brief description of the Oregon proposition, allowing physician-assisted suicide for patients who are thought to have less than six months to live, a 61% to 34% majority said that they would favor such a law in their state”(Harris # 2). However, I myself feel, that it shouldn’t be approved for several reasons: this matter does not belong upon human beings to decide; physicians and family members, rather than patients are likely to be the real decision makers; terminally ill patients are not sufficiently conscious to make end-of-life decisions.
First of all, no one should have the right to decide about ending lives, even if it is his/her own. For the breath of life was given without being requested, therefore no one has the power to decide upon when it should end or be taken away from a person. Indeed, most Americans feel that it is fine for terminally ill patients to take away their own lives. However, if the suicide is successfully done, who will be able to say that person would not have recovered if they had waited patiently? We have all heard some cases about people who were dying and for some reason, a miracle happened which made them react and live again. I myself have a similar experience in my family. About five years ago, my brother was under no condition to live, due to a serious chronic kidney complication. He got to the point to where the doctors asked for the family’s consent to turn the machines off because there was no more chance of survival. For many diverse reasons we chose to wait upon time to see what would happen. Not very long after that, the one who was supposed to be already dead miraculously reacted and started to live again. This shows that many times though doctors seem to know the best escape, time and patience proves them otherwise. According to Stephen R. Katz M.D., the term doctor-assisted suicide may sound reassuring, almost comforting, and maybe even a peaceful alternative to a sometimes agonizing death, but the true meaning is that it is nothing but the act of taking of a life by another human (Doctor Inform-internet).
In addition, many families might, instead of support and show love to their ill member, pressure them to actually seek doctor-assisted suicide. Since the patient is sick, depressed, with very low self-esteem, s/he may feel that s/he should end her/his suffering and does not want to be a burden for the family. In addition, when people become old, confused, depressed, or disabled their relatives will nag them to “do it”, then patients will be the victims if the “right” to die becomes the “duty” to die especially for disabilities and serious chronic illnesses (Science Today- Internet). It would grant family members and others close to the patient the authority to decide about the treatment, including life-sustaining measures for individuals who are not able to decide about themselves. In my point of view, as one had the right to be born, s/he has the right to die on their proper time, naturally. Since there is a time to begin, there is a time to end everything on this earth. People do not need to try anticipating anything because in the right time everything has its fulfillment.
Supporters of the right to assisted suicide usually say that physicians will help only patients who are terminally ill or are in great agonizing pain. However, in reviewing the lives of people whose suicides have been publicly linked to Dr. Jack Kevorkian, a pathologist who has been behind bars since 1999, serving 10 to 25 years for second-degree murder, at least 60% of the 47 suicide patients were not terminal. At least 17 of them could have lived in definitively and 13 had no complaint of pain and in at least five of those cases, the people who died had histories of severe depression (Freep – internet).
Dr. Kevorkian argues that every assisted-suicide candidate underwent extensive counseling with himself before hand, but it was found that counseling was often limited to phone calls and brief meetings that included family members and friends (Free press- internet). There should be some requirements for the process of doctor-assisted suicide, for instance, every candidate for assisted suicide must be examined by a psychiatrist. But it was found that there was no psychiatric exam in at least 19 Kevorkian cases, including several in which friends or family reported that the patient was despondent over matters other than health (Free Press – Internet). In addition, he adds that before agreeing to assist a suicide he used to make a detailed review of each patient’s medical records, but it was found that Kevorkian’s access to such records varied widely; in some instances, he received only a brief summary of the attending physician’s prognosis (Free Press – Internet). He also argues that those who qualified for his help suffered from afflictions that are incurable or could not be treated without intolerable side effects. However, it was found that autopsies of at least three Kevorkian suicides revealed no anatomical evidence of disease. He finalizes saying that death should not take place sooner than 24 hours after a patient has made a final request. But, at least 19 patients died less than 24 hours after meeting him for the first time (Free Press – Internet). Those facts only show that if suicide is considered a crime, then assisted-suicide should also be, even more when cases such as Kevorkian’s happen.
Finally, according to an article in a newspaper; “While US weights right to die, many patients stay committed to life” (Dallas # 2A). Jules Lodish, a hematologist and oncologist, who has had amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), a progressive, paralyzing disease for ten years, is an example of optimism. He is able to show and let the people know that though he is passing through a hard process, with optimism he still looks forward to every day. In my point of view, patients who are terminally ill and don’t have the same natural optimism as Dr. Lodish, should receive familiar/medical support to desire to keep on living and not feel that they are a burden to their family. The person who is suffering of pain, depression, and other effects of the disease longs for dying, so the family should be very supportive and show them that they can still live as much as possible and have a positive outlook of the world around them. For instance, a 39-year-old woman Rebecca Badger, who was a mentally troubled drug abuser and had no physical disease, that obviously was not able to decide about physician-assisted suicide, was helped to end her life by Dr. Kevorkian. An autopsy showed she was mistakenly diagnosed with multiple sclerosis (Free Press – Internet).
For these reasons and others, I really feel that it should not be legal for patients to have a doctor-assisted suicide. Although it may appear better for some people, it’s against the laws and courses of nature, therefore no one on this earth has the right to decide about life or death. In the event of patients that are severely depressed, they will not be able to decide anything for themselves but to stop living, which shows us how one has to be almost out of their mind to chose such a way to end their life.
Katz, Steven R. “Doctor-Assisted Suicide-A Bad Oxymoron & a Bad Idea”
Reprinted from the Connecticut Post, Monday April 27, 1998.