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Assisted Suicide Essay Examples
Types of assisted suicide essays.
- Argumentative Essay: An argumentative essay on assisted suicide requires the writer to take a stance on the topic and provide evidence to support their argument. This type of essay should clearly state the writer's position on the topic and provide evidence to support it.
- Persuasive Essay: A persuasive essay on assisted suicide is similar to an argumentative essay, but the writer's goal is to persuade the reader to their side. This type of essay should provide compelling evidence and present a strong argument to convince the reader to agree with the writer's position.
- Research Essay: A research essay on assisted suicide requires the writer to conduct extensive research on the topic and provide evidence to support their argument. This type of essay should present a balanced view of the topic and provide evidence to support both sides of the argument.
Physician assisted suicide essay: arguments you can use
Arguments for assisted suicide, arguments against assisted suicide, how to write an assisted suicide essay.
- Choose a Topic: Select a specific topic related to assisted suicide, such as the ethics of assisted suicide, the right to die, or the legal aspects of assisted suicide.
- Research: Conduct extensive research on the topic to gather relevant information and evidence to support your argument.
- Create an Outline: Create an outline of your essay, including the introduction, body paragraphs, and conclusion. Use headings and subheadings to organize your ideas.
- Write the Introduction: The introduction should provide an overview of the topic and clearly state the purpose of the essay. It should also provide background information on assisted suicide and introduce the main arguments.
- Write the Body Paragraphs: The body paragraphs should provide evidence to support your argument. Use examples and statistics to back up your claims. Use headings and subheadings to organize your ideas.
- Write the Conclusion: The conclusion should summarize the main points of the essay and provide a final perspective on the topic of assisted suicide. It's important to reiterate the thesis statement and emphasize the key arguments made throughout the essay.
Hook examples for assisted suicide essays, anecdotal hook.
Imagine a terminally ill patient, wracked with pain and suffering, faced with the choice of ending their life on their terms. This is the ethical dilemma of assisted suicide.
Should individuals have the right to decide when and how they die? Delve into the complex and controversial issue of assisted suicide.
"Dying is not a crime." — Jack Kevorkian. Explore the viewpoints of advocates like Kevorkian who argued for the right to assisted suicide.
Statistical or Factual Hook
Each year, thousands of terminally ill patients grapple with the decision of whether to pursue assisted suicide. Examine the prevalence and legality of this practice worldwide.
What exactly is assisted suicide, and how does it differ from euthanasia? Explore the nuances of these terms and their ethical implications.
Rhetorical Question Hook
Is assisted suicide an act of compassion or a slippery slope towards unethical practices? Analyze the moral dilemmas surrounding this end-of-life choice.
Trace the history of assisted suicide, from ancient civilizations to contemporary debates, to understand the evolution of public opinion and legislation.
Contrast the perspectives of patients seeking assisted suicide with those of medical professionals, religious leaders, and lawmakers who may oppose it.
Step into the shoes of a terminally ill patient considering assisted suicide, and explore the emotional and ethical challenges they face in making this decision.
Shocking Statement Hook
Prepare to confront deeply divisive ethical questions about the right to die with dignity. Assisted suicide is a topic that sparks passionate debates and raises profound moral concerns.
Physician-assisted Suicide (pas)
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Analysis of The Arguments for and Against Assisted Suicide
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The Issue of The Legalization of Assisted Suicide
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- Ann Med Surg (Lond)
- v.75; 2022 Mar
Euthanasia and assisted suicide: An in-depth review of relevant historical aspects
Yelson alejandro picón-jaimes.
a Medical and Surgical Research Center, Future Surgeons Chapter, Colombian Surgery Association, Bogotá, Colombia
Ivan David Lozada-Martinez
b Grupo Prometheus y Biomedicina Aplicada a las Ciencias Clínicas, School of Medicine, Universidad de Cartagena, Cartagena, Colombia
Javier Esteban Orozco-Chinome
c Department of Medicine, RedSalud, Santiago de Chile, Chile
Lina María Montaña-Gómez
d Department of Medicine, Keralty Salud, Bogotá, Colombia
María Paz Bolaño-Romero
Luis rafael moscote-salazar.
e Colombian Clinical Research Group in Neurocritical Care, Latin American Council of Neurocritical Care, Bogotá, Colombia
f Department of Intensive Care, Regions Hospital, Minnesota, USA
g Independent University, Dhaka, Bangladesh
End-of-life care is an increasingly relevant topic due to advances in biomedical research and the establishment of new disciplines in evidence-based medicine and bioethics. Euthanasia and assisted suicide are two terms widely discussed in medicine, which cause displeasure on many occasions and cause relief on others. The evolution of these terms and the events associated with their study have allowed the evaluation of cases that have established useful definitions for the legal regulation of palliative care and public policies in the different health systems. However, there are still many aspects to be elucidated and defined. Based on the above, this review aimed to compile relevant historical aspects on the evolution of euthanasia and assisted suicide, which will allow understanding the use and research of these terms.
- • The history of euthanasia and assisted suicide has been traumatic.
- • The church and research have been decisive in the definition of euthanasia.
- • The legal framework on the use of euthanasia and assisted suicide has been strengthened.
Euthanasia and assisted suicide are two topics discussed throughout history, mainly because they fall within the scope of life as a human right, which has been universally defended for many years [ 1 ]. However, the mean of the word euthanasia as good death generates conflicts at social, moral, and ethical levels. Mainly because death is a loss, it is difficult to understand it as something positive and; additionally, several historical events such as the Nazi experiments related the term euthanasia more to murder than to a kind and compassionate act [ 1 ]. More current texts mention that euthanasia is the process in which, through the use or abstention of clinical measures, the death of a patient in an incurable or terminal condition can be hastened to avoid excessive suffering [ 2 ].
The difference between euthanasia and assisted suicide is that in the latter, the patient takes the final action; however, both practices can be combined in the term assisted death [ 2 ]. At present, several countries authorize assisted death, including Holland, Luxembourg, and Canada [ 3 ]. Belgium and Colombia have regulations that decriminalize only euthanasia; other places where assisted suicide is legal are Switzerland and five states of the United America states, specifically Oregon, Vermont, Washington, California, and Montana [ 2 , 3 ]. Spain recently joined the list of countries that have legislated on euthanasia through the organic law March 2021 of March 24 that regulates euthanasia in that state in both public and private institutions [ 4 ]. The fact that more and more countries were joining the legislation on euthanasia and assisted suicide has brought to light the opinion of thinkers, politicians, philosophers, and physicians. Several nations have initiated discussions on the matter in their governmental systems. Latin America is trying to advance powerfully in this medical-philosophical field. Currently, in Chile, the “Muerte digna y cuidados paliativos” law, which seeks to regulate the issue of euthanasia and assisted suicide in the country, is being debated in Congress [ 5 ].
It is essential to know the point of view of physicians on euthanasia and assisted suicide, especially taking into account that these professionals who provide care and accompany patients during this moment, which, if approved, would involve the medical community in both public and private health systems. Although it seems easy to think that physicians have a position in favor of the act of euthanasia because they are in direct and continuous contact with end-of-life situations, such as palliative care, terminally ill, and critically ill patients. It is important to remember that the Hippocratic medical oaths taken at the time of graduation of professionals are mostly categorical in mentioning the rejection of euthanasia and assisted suicide [ 6 ]. Furthermore, it is also important to note that many of the oldest universities in the Western world originated through the Catholic Church; and just this creed condemns the practice of euthanasia and continues to condemn it to this day. This situation generates that many medical students in these schools have behaviors based on humanist principles under the protection of faith and religion and therefore reject the possibility of euthanasia [ 7 , 8 ].
The relevance of the topic and the extensive discussion that it has had in recent months due to the COVID-19 pandemic added to the particular interest of bioethics in this topic and the need to know the point of view of doctors and other health professionals on euthanasia and assisted suicide.
2. Origin and meaning of the term euthanasia
The word euthanasia derives from the Greek word “eu” which means good, and the word “thanatos” which means death; therefore, the etymological meaning of this word is “good death”. Over time the evolution of the meaning has varied; even as we will see below was considered a form of eradication of people categorized under the designation of leading a less dignified life. Assisted suicide is a condition in which the patient is the one who carries out the action that ends his life through the ingestion of a lethal drug but has been dispensed in the context of health care and therefore called assisted. This care is provided by a physician trained in the area. However, it requires the prior coordination of a multidisciplinary team and even the assessment by an ethics committee to determine that the patient is exercising full autonomy, free from coercion by the situation he/she is living and free from the fatalistic desires of a psychiatric illness [ 9 ]. In a more literary sense, the word euthanasia meaning of “giving death to a person who freely requests it in order to free himself from suffering that is irreversible and that the person himself considers intolerable” [ 9 ].
Some authors go deeper into the definition and consider that for the meaning of euthanasia, are necessary to consider elements that are essential in the word itself; such as the fact that it is an act that seeks to provoke death and that carried out to eliminate the suffering in the person who is dying. Other elements with a secondary character in the definition are the patient's consent (which must be granted respecting autonomy and freedom in the positive and negative sense; that means the fact must be not be coerced in any way). Another element is the terminal nature of the disease, with an irreversible outcome that generates precariousness and a loss of dignity. The third secondary element is the absence of pain of the death through the use of drugs such as high-potency analgesics, including opioids, high-potency muscle relaxants, and even anesthetic drugs. Finally, the last element is the health context in which the action is performed (essential in some legislations to be considered euthanasia) [ 10 ]. According to the World Health Organization, the union of these two components is the current definition of euthanasia, which describes as “the action performed by a person to cause the painless death of another subject, or not preventing death in case of terminal illness or irreversible coma. Furthermore, with the explicit condition that the patient must be suffering physical, emotional, or spiritual and that affliction is uncontrollable with conventional measures such as medical treatments, analgesics, among others; then the objective of euthanasia is to alleviate this suffering” [ 11 ]. Unfortunately, the term euthanasia has been misused over the years, and other practices have been named with this word. An example of this situation occurred during the Nazi tyranny when the word euthanasia concerned the murder of people with disabilities, mental disorders, low social status, or gay people. At that time, euthanasia was even a simultaneous practice to the Jewish genocide [ 11 ].
Not only has the term been misused; also exists an enormous variability of terms to refer to euthanasia. For example, the laws created to regulate euthanasia have different names around the world; in the Netherlands (Holland), the law that regulates this practice is known as the law of termination of life; in Belgium, it is called euthanasia law, in France, it is called euthanasia law too. In Oregon (USA), it is called the death with dignity act; in California, it is the end of life option act. In Canada is called the medical assistance in dying act. Victoria (Australia) is the voluntary assisted dying bill, but all these denominations refer to the already well-known term euthanasia [ 11 ].
3. Evolution of euthanasia and assisted suicide: digging into historical events
To understand the evolution and relevance of these concepts should analyze the history of euthanasia and assisted suicide; from the emergence of the term, going through its first manifestations in antiquity; mentioning the conceptions of great thinkers such as Plato and Hippocrates; going through the role of the Catholic Church; mainly in the Middle Age, where following the thought of St. Thomas Aquinas, self-induced death or death contemplated by own will, was condemned. Later, with the renaissance age and the resurgence of science, technology, and the arts, the term euthanasia made a transition to a form similar to what we know today from thinkers such as Thomas More and Francis Bacon. Finally, the first signs of eugenics were known in London, Sweden, Germany, and the United States in the twentieth century. There was a relationship with the term euthanasia that was later used interchangeably, especially in the Nazi regime, to denote a form of systemic murder that sought to eradicate those who were not worthy of living a life.
Since the sixties, with emblematic cases, the path towards the decriminalization of euthanasia began in some countries, especially concerning the cessation of extreme support measures in cases of irreversible illness or a terminal condition. The practice has progressed to the appearance of laws on euthanasia in several countries.
4. Euthanasia and assisted suicide in ancient times
In book III of Plato's “The Republic”, the author stated that those who live their lives amidst illnesses and medicines or who were not physically healthy should be left to die; implying that it was thought that people in these conditions suffered so much that their quality of life diminished, which seemed understandable to these thinkers. However, other authors such as Hippocrates and his famous Hippocratic oath sought the protection of the patient's life through medicine, especially in vulnerable health conditions prone to fatal outcomes. This Hippocratic oath is the same oath that permeates our times and constitutes an argument among those who mark their position against euthanasia and assisted suicide [ 12 , 13 ].
Other texts that collect thoughts of Socrates and his disciple Plato point out that it was possible and well understood to think of ceasing to live in the face of a severe illness; to consider death to avoid a long and torturous agony. This fact is compatible with the conception of current euthanasia since this is the end of this health care procedure [ 13 ].
In The Republic, the text by Plato, the physician Heroditus is also condemned for inventing a way to prolong death and over manage the symptoms of serious illnesses, which is currently known as distanasia or excessive treatment prolongs life. This kind of excessive treatment prolongs the sick person's suffering, even leading him to maintain biological signs present but in a state of alienation and absolute dependence on medical equipment such as ventilators and artificial feeding [ 13 ]. However, the strongest indication that Euthanasic suicide was encouraged in Greece lies in other thinkers such as the Pythagoreans, Aristotelians, and Epicureans who strongly condemned this practice, which suggests that it was carried out repeatedly as a method and was therefore condemned by these thinkers [ 12 , 13 ]. According to stoicism, the pain that exceeded the limits of what was humanly bearable was one of the causes for which the wise man separates himself from life. Referring to one of the nuances that euthanasia touches today, that is, at a point of elevated suffering, the dignity and essence of the person are lost, persisting only the biological part but in the absence of the person's well-being as a being. In this sense, Lucius Seneca said that a person should not love life too much or hate it; but that person should have a middle ground and end their life when they ceased to perceive life as a good, worthy, and longed-for event [ 1 , 12 ].
During the Roman Empire and in the territories under its rule, it was believed that the terminally ill who commit suicide had sufficient reasons to do so; so since suicide caused by impatience and lack of resolution to pain or illness was accepted, when there was no access to medicines. In addition, there was little development in medicine during that time, and many of the sick died without treatment [ 12 ]. This situation changed later with the emergence of the Catholic church; in this age, who attempted against own life, was deprived of burial in the ground. Saint Augustine said that the suicide was an abominable and detestable act; from 693 AD, anyone who attempted against his physical integrity was excommunicated. Rejecting to the individuals and their lineage, depriving them of the possibility of attending the funeral and even expelled from cities and stripped of the properties they owned [ 12 , 13 ].
4.1. Euthanasia and assisted suicide in the Middle Age
During the Middle Age, Catholicism governed the sciences, arts, and medicine; the sciences fell asleep. Due to this solid religious tendency and the persistence of Augustinian thought, suicide was not well seen. It was not allowed to administer a lethal substance to a person to end the suffering of a severe or terminal illness [ 9 , 12 ]. People who took their own lives at this time could not be buried “Christianly”; therefore, they did not have access to a funeral, nor to the accompaniment of their family in a religious rite. Physical suffering and pain were then seen as a path to glorification. Suffering was extolled as the form that god purified the sin, similar to the suffering that Jesus endured during his Calvary days. However, a contrary situation was experienced in battles; a sort of short dagger-like weapon was often used to finish off badly wounded enemies and thus reduce their suffering, thus depriving them of the possibility of healing and was called “mercy killing” [ 12 ].
5. Euthanasia in renaissance
With the awakening of science and philosophy, ancient philosophers' thoughts took up again, giving priority to man, the world, and nature, thus promoting medical and scientific development. In their discourse, Thomas More and Francis Bacon refer to euthanasia; however, they give a eugenic sense to the concept of euthanasia, similar to that professed in the book of Plato's Republic. It is precise with these phylosophers that the term euthanasia got its current focus, referring to the acceleration of the death of a seriously ill person who has no possibility of recovery [ 12 ]. In other words, it was during this period that euthanasia acquired its current meaning, and death began to be considered the last act of life. Therefore, it was necessary to help the dying person with all available resources to achieve a dignified death without suffering, closing the cycle of life that ends with death [ 13 , 14 ].
In his work titled “Utopia”, Thomas More affirmed that in the ideal nation should be given the necessary and supportive care to the dying. Furthermore, in case of extraordinary suffering, it can be recommended to end the suffering, but only if the patient agrees, through deprivation of food or with the administration of a lethal drug; this procedure must be known to the affected person and with the due permission of authorities and priests [ 12 , 13 ]. Later, in the 17th century, the theologian Johann Andreae, in his utopia “Christianopolis”, contradicts the arguments of Bacon and Moro, defending the right of the seriously ill and incurably ill to continue living, even if they are disturbed and alienated, advocating for the care based on support and indulgence [ 15 , 16 ]. Similarly, many physicians rejected the concepts of Plato, Moro, and Bacon. Instead, they focused on opposing euthanasia, most notably in the nineteenth century. For example, the physician Christoph Hufeland mentioned that the doctor's job was only to preserve life, whether it was a fate or a misfortune, or whether it was worth living [ 16 ].
5.1. Euthanasia in the 20th century
Before considering the relevant aspects of euthanasia in the 20th century, it is vital to highlight the manuscript by Licata et al. [ 17 ], which narrates two episodes of euthanasia in the 19th century. The first one happened in Sicily (Italy) in 1860, during the battle of Calatafimi, where two soldiers were in constant suffering, one because he had a serious leg fracture with gangrene, and the other with a gunshot wound. The two soldiers begged to be allowed to die, and how they were in a precarious place without medical supplies, they gave them an opium pill, which calmed them until they died [ 17 ]. The second episode reported by Licata et al. [ 17 ] was witnessed by a Swedish doctor named Alex Munthe; who evidenced the pain of many patients in a Parisian hospital. So he decided to start administering morphine to help people who had been seriously injured by wolves and had a poor prognosis; therefore, the purpose of opioid use was analgesia while death was occurring.
It is also important to highlight the manuscript entitled “Euthanasia” by S. Williams published in 1873 in “Popular Science Monthly”, a journal that published texts by Darwin, Edison, Pasteur, and Beecher. This text included the report for the active euthanasia of seriously ill patients without a cure, in which the physicians were advised to administer chloroform to these patients or another anesthetic agent to reduce the level of consciousness of the subject and speed up their death in a painless manner [ 16 ].
Understanding that euthanasia was already reported in the nineteenth century, years after, specifically in 1900, the influence of eugenics, utilitarianism, social Darwinism, and the new currents of thought in England and Germany; it began in various parts around the world, projects that considered the active termination of life, thus giving rise to euthanasia societies in which there were discussions between philosophers, theologians, lawyers, and medical doctors. Those societies discussed diverse cases, such as the tuberculous patient Roland Gerkan, who was considered unfit and therefore a candidate to be released from the world [ 16 ]. The scarcity of resources, famine, and wars were reasons to promote euthanasia as a form of elimination of subjects considered weak or unfit, as argued in texts such as Ernst Haeckel's. However, opponents to the practice, such as Binding and Hoche, defended the principle of free will in 1920 [ 16 ].
5.2. Euthanasia in the time of the Nazis
As mentioned above, the term euthanasia was misused during this period; approximately 275,000 subjects (as reported at the Nuremberg International Military Tribunal 1945–1946), who had some degree of physical or mental disability, were killed during Adolf Hitler's Euthanasia program [ 13 ]. However, the Nazis were not the first to practice a form of eugenics under the name of euthanasia, since the early 1900s in London had already begun the sterilization of the rejected, such as the blind, deaf, mentally retarded, people with epilepsy, criminals, and rapists. This practice spread to different countries like Sweden and the United States [ 13 , 16 ].
For the Nazis, euthanasia represented the systematic murder of those whose lives were unworthy of living [ 13 ]. The name given to this doctrine was “Aktion T4”. At first and by law, from 1939, the hospitals were obliged to account for all disabled newborns, which led to the execution of more than 5000 newborns utilizing food deprivation or lethal injection [ 12 , 18 ].
A year before that law, in 1938, one of the first known cases of euthanasia in children arose in Germany. That history called the story of child K, in which it was the father of the minor who asked Hitler in writing for euthanasia for his son because the child had a severe mental disability and critical morphic disorders. Hitler gave his consent to carry out the procedure on child K, and thus the program began to spread throughout the Aleman territory. Since then, physicians and nurses had been in charge of reporting the newborns with alterations, arising the “Kinderfachabteilugen” for the internment of children who would be sentenced to death after a committee's decision [ 12 , 18 , 19 ]. A list of diseases and conditions that were considered undesirable to be transmitted to Hitler's superior Aryan race was determined; thus, any child with idiocy, mongolism, blindness, deafness, hydrocephalus, paralysis, and spinal, head, and hip malformations were eligible for euthanasia [ 19 ].
Subsequently, the program was extended to adults with chronic illness, so those people were selected and transported by T4 personnel to psychiatric sanatoriums strategically located far away. There, the ill patients received the injection of barbiturate overdoses, and carbon monoxide poisoning was tested as a method of elimination, surging the widely known gas chamber of the concentration camp extermination; this situation occurred before 1940 [ 12 , 19 ]. Again, physicians and nurses were the ones who designated to the patients to receive those procedures; in this case, these health professionals supported Nazi exterminations. They took the patients to the sanatoriums, where psychiatrists evaluated them and designated with red color if they should die and with a blue color if they were allowed to live (this form of selection was similar in children) [ 12 , 13 , 19 ]. In this case, the pathologies considered as criteria for death were those generating disability such as schizophrenia, paralysis, syphilis with sequelae, epilepsy, chorea, patients with chronic diseases with many recent treatments, subjects of non-German origin and individuals of mixed blood [ 19 ]. Once in the sanatoriums, they were informed that they would undergo a physical evaluation and take a shower to disinfect themselves; instead, they were killed in gas chambers [ 12 , 13 ]. Despite the church's action in 1941 against Nazis and after achieving suspension of the Aktion T4 project; the Nazi supporters kept the practices secretly, resuming them in 1942, with the difference that the victims were killed by lethal injection, by an overdose of drugs, or left to starve to death, instead of the use of gas chambers. This new modified form of euthanasia, which did not include gas chambers, became known as “savage euthanasia” [ 12 , 13 , 19 ].
5.3. Euthanasia since the 1960s
In September 1945, trials began for crimes perpetrated by Nazi supporters; the victorious Allied forces conducted these trials at the end of the war. During these tribunals, cases of human experimentation were identified and the public exposure of the Nazi euthanasia program. After the Nuremberg trials and the abolition of Nazi experiments, a series of seven documents emerged, among which the Nuremberg code containing the ten basic principles for human research stood out [ 20 , 21 ].
After these judgments, biotechnology was accelerated, with the apparition of new techniques to intervene in the health-disease process. Additionally, the increase in life expectancy and the appearance of diseases that chronically compromise the state of health of people generated a change in the conception of the critically ill patient and the terminal state of life [ 20 , 21 ]. Cases such as Karen Ann Quinlan brought to the forefront the issue of euthanasia and precisely the control of extreme treatment measures. Karen, a young American woman, was left in a vegetative state due to severe neurological damage following alcohol and barbiturate intoxication. After six months in that state and under the guardianship of a Catholic priest, Karen's parents requested the removal of the artificial respirator, arguing that in her state of consciousness prior to the incident, she had stated that she disagreed with artificially maintaining life in comatose patients. The hospital refused to remove the ventilator, arguing the legal issues for the date, and the parents went to court, which in the first instance granted the hospital the right. Nevertheless, the New Jersey Supreme Court granted Karen Ann's right to die in peace and dignity. Despite the withdrawal of the artificial respirator, he continued to live until 1985, when he finally died [  ,  ,  ].
Another important case was Paul Brophy, which also occurred in the United States. Paul was a firefighter in Massachusetts and went into a deep coma due to the rupture of a basilar artery aneurysm; initially, his family advocated for support measures but later requested the hospital to disconnect these means to allow death, as Paul had indicated when he was still conscious. The hospital refused to carry out this procedure, so the family went to court, where the removal of the support measures (gastrostomy) was initially denied. Hence, the family went to the state supreme court, achieving the transfer of Paul to another medical center where the gastrostomy was removed, leading to his death within a few days [ 23 ].
The case of Arthur Koestler, an influential English writer and activist diagnosed with Parkinson's disease and later with leukemia, who served as vice-president of the voluntary euthanasia society (Exit) and wrote a manual book with practical advice for euthanasia called “Guide to Self-Liberation”. He stood out because he applied one of his advice and ingested an overdose of barbiturates, causing his self-death. According to his writings, Koestler was not afraid of death but of the painful process of dying [ 23 ]. In this sense, it was a relevant case because it involved someone who held an important position in an association that advocated euthanasia, in addition to being the author of several works, which made him a recognized public figure [ 23 ].
Baby Doe was a case that also occurred in the United States; it was a small child with Down syndrome who had a tracheoesophageal fistula and esophageal atresia; in this case, surgery was necessary. On the advice of the obstetrician, the parents did not allow surgery, so the hospital managers took the case before a judge who ruled that parents could decide to perform or not the surgery. The case was appealed before a county judge who upheld the parents' power to make the decision, in the course of which the case became public and many families offered to take care of the child; however, before the case reached the supreme court, the child died at six days of age [ 23 ].
In the case of Ingrid Frank, a German woman who was in a quadriplegic state by a traffic accident, who initially sought rehabilitation but later insisted on being allowed to die; it was provided with a drink containing a cyanide solution that she drank. At the same time, she was filmed, which shows a kind of assisted suicide. For that reason, this is another case that deals with this issue and is important to know as background in the development of euthanasia and assisted suicide [ 22 , 23 ].
6. Current and future perspectives
The definition of brain death, the rational use of the concept of euthanasia and assisted suicide, and scientific literacy are the objectives of global bioethics to regulate euthanasia and assisted suicide, which can be accessible in all health systems [  ,  ,  ,  ,  ,  ,  ]. End-of-life care will continue to be a subject of debate due to the struggle between biomedical principles, the different existing legal frameworks, and the general population's beliefs. Medical education and preparation in the perception of death, especially of a dignified death, seems to be the pillar of the understanding of the need to develop medical-legal tools that guarantee the integrity of humans until the end of their existence [ 31 , 32 ]. This is the reason why the new generations of physicians must be trained in bioethics to face these ethical conflicts during the development of their professional careers.
In addition, although the conception of bioethics belongs to the Western world, it is crucial to take into account the point of view of other cultures and creeds, for example, a study carried out in Turkey, where nursing students were questioned, found that many of them understood the reasons for performing euthanasia; however, they know that Islam prohibits it, as well as its legislation, and therefore they would not participate in this type of procedure [ 33 ]. Furthermore, Christianism and Islam prohibit euthanasia, but Judaism also prohibits it; in general, the so-called Abrahamic religions are contrary to any form of assisted death, whether it is active euthanasia, passive, or assisted suicide [ 34 ].
The history and evolution of euthanasia and assisted suicide have been traumatic throughout human history. The church, politics, and biomedical research have been decisive in defining these concepts. Over the years, the legal framework and bioethical concepts on euthanasia have been strengthened. However, there is still much work to educate the general population and health professionals about end-of-life care and dignified death.
It is also important to remember that life is a concept that goes beyond biology. Currently, bioethics seeks to prioritize the concept of dignity, which must be linked to the very definition of life. Although the phrase is often heard that it is not necessary to move to be alive, what is important is that person feels worthy even if they have limited movement. The person's treatment must be individualized in bioethics since each individual is a unique unit. Therefore, medical paternalism must be abandoned. Instead, the subject must be more involved to understand their context and perception of life and dignity.
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Sabrina Rahman. Independent University, Dhaka, Bangladesh. [email protected] .
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The authors declare that they have no known competing financial interests or personal relationships that could have appeared to influence the work reported in this paper.
Reviewed by Psychology Today Staff
Physician-assisted suicide, also known as aid-in-dying or simply “assisted suicide,” is a decision made in collaboration with a medical professional to deliberately end one’s life. Most cases of assisted suicide involve a serious terminal illness, in which an individual is suffering immensely and/or has only a short time to live.
The practice is legal in some countries (and some U.S. states) only under certain circumstances. In these locations and elsewhere, however, it remains the subject of intense debate. Helping a person die by suicide, outside of a medical setting, is generally considered a crime, and some opponents of physician-assisted suicide have argued that the same principles should apply and that helping someone end their life is an affront to our moral responsibilities to one another. On the other hand, proponents of assisted suicide argue that forcing an individual (and their loved ones) to suffer serious pain with no hope of recovery is cruel. They also argue that—as with any other serious decision—each person should be granted the autonomy to make their own choices and end their life on their own terms.
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On This Page
- Understanding the Assisted Suicide Debate
- Making the Decision to Pursue Assisted Suicide
Whether someone has an ethical duty to speed the death of someone who is in terrible, incurable pain, or whether doing so would be morally objectionable, has been debated for centuries. But the modern assisted suicide debate, which questions whether doctors should be legally allowed to help terminally ill patients end their lives, dates approximately to the early 20th century. The debate, and legal action for or against assisted suicide, gained steam in the 1990s and early 2000s, and continues to this day.
Those who argue in favor of assisted suicide often base their arguments on the principles of autonomy and “death with dignity.” They argue that individuals who are suffering should have the right to choose how much pain they will endure—and for how long—and end their life on their own terms when the costs of staying alive outweigh the benefits. They argue that, when applied judiciously and empathetically, assisted suicide can be a relief both for the terminally ill individual and for their loved ones, who often bear a significant burden as they try to care for the terminally ill person in his or her final days.
On the other hand, opponents of assisted suicide often argue that the practice devalues human life and that no one should actively seek to die; some make this argument for religious reasons, though not all do. Those who are skeptical of the practice also argue that physician-assisted suicide may be a mistake in cases of human error or random luck. Someone who is told they have six months to live, for example, may have received an inaccurate prognosis and end up living several more years; in rare cases, the terminal illness in question enters an improbable remission.
Some opponents of assisted suicide suggest that patients might refuse potentially life-saving treatments and opt for assisted suicide out of fear of looking like a “burden,” not because they truly desire to die; others fear that many terminally ill individuals will be pressured into assisted suicide by caretakers or others, or may only wish to die due to depression or another mental illness that may respond to treatment.
Both arguments have merit, and experts and laypeople will likely continue to debate the ethical, legal, and moral implications of assisted suicide for years to come. In many cases, someone’s personal feelings about assisted suicide are informed by their own experiences with death and illness.
The words "assisted suicide" and "euthanasia" are often used interchangeably, though their definitions vary slightly.
"Assisted suicide" typically means that a doctor will assist a patient in obtaining the means of dying, but will not personally administer them. A doctor may, for example, prescribe a patient end-of-life medications, but would then leave it to the patient whether or not to take them; some patients who receive such medications ultimately decide not to follow through.
The term “euthanasia,” by contrast, most often refers to someone intentionally and directly ending someone’s life to spare them from pain and suffering—by, for example, personally injecting them with life-ending drugs. “Pulling the plug” on someone on life support, while technically a kind of euthanasia, is allowable in many countries—but “active” euthanasia, in which a deliberate intervention is undertaken to end someone’s life, is illegal in the vast majority of places, even many that allow physician-assisted suicide.
Assisted suicide remains relatively rare even in places where it’s legal. In Switzerland, for example—a country whose assisted dying laws are relatively liberal—there were less than 1,000 assisted suicide deaths reported in 2015, accounting for approximately 1.5 percent of the total deaths in the country that year. While some evidence suggests that absolute numbers of assisted suicides do increase each year, they typically represent a very small percentage of total deaths—in most places far less than 1 percent.
Its legality, on the other hand, is slowly becoming more common. The practice is currently legal in a small number of countries—including the Netherlands, Belgium, and Canada; other nations, such as Spain and New Zealand, are in the process of approving and implementing assisted suicide laws. Several U.S. states, such as Oregon and Washington, have allowed assisted dying for a decade or more. More recent additions include California, Colorado, Vermont, and Washington, D.C.; Maine, Hawaii, and New Jersey all enacted assisted suicide laws in 2019.
But legal progress of the practice has been slow, and many countries and U.S. states explicitly forbid assisted suicide. Some U.S. states, in recent years, have strengthened their laws against the practice—in Utah, for example, assisted suicide is now considered manslaughter after the passage of a 2018 law.
Some evidence suggests that support for assisted suicide is generally strong in the U.S. and some other Western nations; some recent surveys, for example, suggest that as many as 7 in 10 Americans are in favor of some form of assisted suicide.
But how the question is worded appears to play a role—in one Gallup poll, for example, 70 percent of respondents responded “yes” to the question, “When a person has a disease that cannot be cured, do you think doctors should be allowed by law to end the patient's life by some painless means if the patient and his family request it?” Only 51 percent, however, agreed when the question asked whether doctors should be allowed to help patients “commit suicide.” Since the former phrasing is actually contrary to how most U.S. assisted suicide laws work in practice (in that the doctor does not themself end the patient's life, but rather helps them do it themselves if they choose), the results suggest that support for assisted suicide may not be as clearcut as some polls make it appear.
Most assisted suicide laws stipulate that the patient must be at least 18 (in certain jurisdictions, like the Netherlands, children over the age of 12 can request assisted suicide with a parent’s permission). Patients must be deemed mentally competent and capable of making health decisions, and (with rare exceptions) must be diagnosed with a terminal illness that doctors believe will lead to death. In some places, this death must be forecasted to occur within a certain definable period—in the U.S., many states stipulate that it be less than six months—while in others, including many European countries, the exact prognosis is less relevant. Most jurisdictions require the patient undergo some form of psychological counseling, as well as receive a second medical opinion to confirm the terminal prognosis.
In most places, including the U.S., only those with terminal physical illnesses are able to pursue assisted suicide. In a small number of countries, however—including Belgium and the Netherlands—patients with severe, treatment-resistant psychiatric illnesses can apply for physician-assisted death . Though the number of these deaths remains small even in places where they are legal, they tend to prompt fierce debate and fears of “suicide tourism,” in which mentally ill individuals travel to a specific place for the sole purpose of taking their own life.
Proponents argue that severe mental illness can significantly detract from the quality of life and cause psychic pain comparable to that of a physical illness. What’s more, advocates often emphasize that the severely mentally ill have a right to autonomy like everyone else. On the other hand, opponents argue that psychiatric illnesses do not have the same terminal prognosis that something like cancer might have, and recovery is, in many cases, more possible than patients believe. Evidence suggests that many patients who pursue physician-assisted suicide suffered from depression—a condition that, while distressing, is capable of remitting. And many patients who died by assisted suicide reportedly refused treatment beforehand, suggesting that they had not exhausted their options before making the decision to take their own life.
Some countries, like the Netherlands, do allow assisted suicide in cases of dementia if certain strict conditions are met (including the patient filing an advance written request before their disease progresses too severely). But the vast majority of aid-in-dying laws do not cover individuals with dementia or Alzheimer’s disease because they prioritize mental competence at the time of the request. In other words, the person who wishes to die must have the cognitive capacity to make an informed decision immediately before the death, something that severe dementia, by its very nature, precludes. To some with dementia and their caregivers, this is a grave oversight because of the immense suffering that dementia can cause and the near-assured physical and emotional decline of those who live with it.
But even those who argue in favor of assisted suicide for dementia patients acknowledge that the question is fraught. Someone with dementia may still find pleasure and purpose in their life in spite of their condition, and if they are unable to articulate (or even make sense of) their own wishes, it would be much harder for physicians to determine if it was their preferred course of action or if they were being pressured into it by others.
No. Some people request assisted suicide, have their request approved, and procure the means to end their life before ultimately deciding not to go through with it. Estimates place this number between ⅓ and ½ of those who have an assisted suicide request approved. While someone's motivations for not going through with it vary, many report that just having the option granted them a sense of control that made it easier to cope with their illness or with natural death.
No one considers assisted suicide lightly. Anyone who even entertains the idea is likely facing an incurable illness, unbearable pain, or a looming loss of functioning that they find unlivable. Still, even then, deciding whether or not to formally pursue assisted suicide can be a difficult choice, and it's imperative that significant thought be given before any choice is made—often with the help of a therapist, other medical professionals, and close loved ones. Deciding to pursue assisted suicide is not without its challenges, but because of the legal and psychological safeguards in place, someone who is seeking physician-assisted death will hopefully feel confident that they are making the best choice for themselves and their family.
The vast majority of individuals who consider assisted suicide often report that despite the hand they were dealt, they wish to retain at least some degree of control over their life. By controlling the manner and timing of their death, they assert, they are better able to make peace with their own mortality and mentally prepare for the end of their life. Many are in serious, near-constant physical pain or have burdensome medical needs; in most cases, the individual feels that their quality of life has deteriorated to such a degree that hastening death would be preferable to prolonging life.
Though evidence suggests that few who pursue assisted suicide are directly motivated by financial concerns or of feeling like a “burden” to their families, many cite their loved ones’ emotional well-being as a prime motivator for their pursuit of aid in dying. Ending their life on their own terms and with advanced notice, they reason, would help their loved ones prepare for and make sense of the death; research suggests that this prediction is often correct.
In order to qualify for assisted suicide, most localities require that an individual be over 18 (in some places, 16), mentally competent, and diagnosed with a terminal illness that is strongly predicted to take their life in a short period of time. Anyone who lives in a country or state in which assisted suicide is legal should reach out to their doctor to discuss their options and get more information.
Someone considering assisted suicide should do their research—both to find out what the process entails (as it varies from place to place) and what factors they should take into account while making their decision. Most people factor in both physical symptoms—Is the pain they’re in unbearable? Is it likely to get worse? Will it become increasingly more difficult to care for their physical needs?—and their own feelings about morality, autonomy, and the sanctity of life. Some people, for example, will ultimately conclude that deliberately ending one’s life is not in accordance with their personal religious or moral beliefs; others will decide that their desire to maintain control over their life and death is their first priority, and/or that pursuing assisted suicide would be the best way to retain their dignity in their final days. Both stances are equally valid.
Only you can decide whether assisted suicide is in accordance with your values and the specificities of your illness. Though it’s always helpful to discuss options with family and other loved ones, it’s important not to feel pressured into pursuing aid-in-dying. If you suspect that others in your life are significantly more invested in assisted suicide than you are, it is highly possible that it is not the right choice for you or your family.
Most countries and states that allow assisted suicide require that the patient consult with a psychologist before the decision is approved. The therapist will typically assess the patient for depression or other potentially confounding mental health disorders. They will also ask questions to determine their mental competence, whether they are fully informed about what the decision entails, and whether they are making the choice of their own free will or are being pressured into it by others. Beyond assessing the patient’s mental state, most therapists will make an effort to understand any additional psychological factors that could inform a patient’s decision—their morals and values, for example, or their own assessment of the quality and meaning of their life.
It can be frustrating and hurtful to feel as if a decision to die by assisted suicide is not supported by family members, partners, or other loved ones. But it’s important to remember that they may have different views about morality, the meaning of life, and how death “should” occur. These views are not wrong, necessarily; they are simply different from yours. Your loved ones likely want what’s best for you, even if you disagree on what “best” means.
You don’t need to acquiesce to your loved one’s dissent and shouldn’t feel pressured to rescind your decision. But it’s best to respond to their pushback with empathy, rather than antagonism. Experts recommend telling loved ones who object that you respect their view and that while they do not have to approve of your decision, you would appreciate it if they could respect your autonomy and not interfere. Keep in mind that they may just need time—some opposing family members eventually come around to their loved one’s point of view or come to feel that it was the best decision for the family as a whole. Others may never change their minds; as long as they are respectful of your decision, despite disagreeing, you will likely be able to maintain a close relationship.
In general, experts recommend that families share their thoughts on death and dying with one another long before a terminal illness even occurs, to both destigmatize the topic (making it easier to talk about when the time comes) and to get a sense of how someone might feel if they are faced with the choice to end their own life later on. Such conversations shouldn’t be considered binding, of course—but knowing in advance that someone is generally supportive of assisted suicide may help their loved ones feel less blindsided by their decision later on.
There is no way to definitively determine beforehand how loved ones will respond to someone’s choice to pursue assisted suicide. But some research suggests that deciding to die in this manner won’t necessarily have a negative impact on surviving family members—and may even make them more accepting of the death.
One study , for example, found little difference in mental health outcomes between individuals whose family member died by assisted suicide and those who died by cancer; the rate of depression and prolonged grief was the same for both groups, and they received post-death mental healthcare at the same rate. However, those whose loved ones had died by assisted suicide were less likely to have regrets about the manner of death; they were also more likely to believe that their loved one’s choices were honored, and reported feeling more prepared for the death.
Someone who is considering or has chosen assisted suicide will benefit greatly from the support of their loved ones, both emotional and practical. Even if they are ultimately confident in their decision, it can still come with some strong and confusing emotions; they may find it helpful to talk through them with the people closest to them as they come to terms with the end of their life. On the other hand, once the decision has been made, they may prefer to talk about it as little as possible. Ask your loved one how they want to proceed, and follow their lead as much as possible.
Your loved one may need logistical support—finding a doctor who is willing to assist, planning the necessary appointments, and putting their affairs in order. If you’re able, helping them manage these necessary but at times tedious tasks can allow them to focus on what they’d like to do with their remaining time. Asking how they would like their death itself to unfold and helping them make the arrangements can be beneficial, too—some individuals ask, for example, that their loved ones visit in the days or weeks beforehand to share a few words before they go.
It’s important, too, to spend joyful time with your loved one whenever possible. They may have a sort of “bucket list” of things that they hope to do before they pass; joining them in these endeavors, if it’s OK with them, can bring you closer together and can spur the creation of fond memories that will linger long after your loved one’s death.
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Introduction: Assisted Suicide
For a long while, people have been debating over the issue of whether or not physicians should assist those who want to die. This topic is difficult for many people to discuss, as it can be emotional and heartbreaking. I mean, who actually wants to discuss the topic of death?
When issues regarding this topic arise, people begin to think about their rights at citizens. The First Amendment comes into play here. When it was established as part of the Constitution, it allowed freedom of speech for everyone from then, up until the present. People are free to express themselves however they please, but sometimes that comes with an expense; some people are not always going to be as accepting as others.
Sometimes, people get ill and spend time at the hospital; then they get better and move on with their lives. However, some people get cancer or other terminal illnesses for which there are no cures for. All they can do is follow their doctor’s treatment plan for months, hoping that they will make it through someday.
If patients cannot get any better or have gotten worse, they might believe that they will never get better and begin to lose hope. They start to turn to death as a way out, and not everyone’s family is as accepting of the decision as others are.
When physicians and doctors are asked to assist a patient in dying, they have a difficult choice to make. People’s natural reactions move toward shock and think that it isn’t right. Though think about it; Physicians and doctors’ first and foremost responsibility is to serve and help the patients by any means necessary. Then, values and beliefs do eventually come into play–compassion as well.
More about this issue will be discussed and brought to light in future blog posts.
3 thoughts on “Introduction: Assisted Suicide”
I like how you set this first post up as an introductory post. Assisted suicide has become a fairly new topic in the public spotlight over the past few years. This means that some people may not be as familiar with the topic. Setting up this post as an introduction with background information and stating both sides of the topic was a really smart move. I think it’s also great that you briefly introduced both sides of the debate. Assisted suicide is a very controversial topic so it’s important to tread lightly and show the two sides – which you have done very well so far! I’m looking forward to reading more and understanding the argument.
Last semester, in a different class, we were asked to debate hot topics relating to health care fields and so of course the idea of assisted suicide was mentioned. During that debate, both sides felt extremely passionately about the side they were defending and with increased knowledge on this topic I am excited to hear your opinions on this issue! Not only is assisted suicide very controversial right now but so is the idea of human euthanasia. Because of this, I think it was a great idea for you to make this an introductory post which really clarified the topic and how both sides have constructed their argument. I am looking forward to reading more about this deliberation.
This is a very heavy topic, so I applaud you for taking it on. I concur with your realization that this topic is a prevalent Constitutional question. Do people have the right to end their own lives? A common fear is where does this thinking stop? As soon as we begin partaking in assisted suicide, people fear that the process will be abused. I also enjoyed the way you set this up as an introductory post. Keep up the fantastic writing!
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