Medical Law or Ethics Issue Euthanasia or physician-assisted suicide is one of the more controversial issues in medical practice.
The issue framed in a number of ways, from being an issue about the individual right to self-determination to an issue of the Hippocratic Oath.
For those who do take the medication to achieve a peaceful death, they have been able to cross the threshold to death in a manner consistent with their values and beliefs, and consider this choice to have enabled them to exercise a final act of autonomy consistent with how they have lived their whole life.
As noted philosopher and law professor Ronald Dworkin observed in his book (Knopf 1993): “…we live our whole lives in the shadow of death…we die in the shadow of our whole lives….
As I pointed out in my post, I have been a long time supporter of people’s rights to end their lives when they are suffering from terminal illnesses, and of the appropriateness of physicians helping them do this.
Thanks to Kathryn Tucker, I will not use the phrase physician-assisted suicide again, except to make sure people understand that the phrase carries connotations that are unnecessarily pejorative.
I cannot dispute when a terminally ill person says that describing them as suicidal is “disrespectful and hurtful.” But I can tell you this.
I did not use the word suicide with any intention to be disrespectful or hurtful.
The goal of my essay was to point out that it’s a mistake to equate a person ending their own life with the concept of dignity. It can be dignified to fight all the way to the end, with the most aggressive possible care.
It can be dignified to enroll in hospice care, and die naturally without taking any substances that hasten one’s end.