Assisted Suicide and the Right to Die

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Assisted Suicide and the Right to Die

The basic dilemma surrounding the subject of assisted suicide is who has the right to choose when someone dies? There are many layers of questions and varying opinions surrounding this right. How can our own self-determination be considered morally wrong when taken in the context of the opinion of others? In a society that stresses individual freedoms why is it that Congress continues to hinder doctor-assisted suicide (Keminer, 2000, p. 8)?

First some terms require clarification. Suicide is considered the intentional killing of one's self. Homicide is determined to be the intentional killing of one person by another (Savulescu, 1978, p. 31). Euthanasia (Greek: good death) is the intentional killing of one person (or animal) by another for the former's benefit. Assisted suicide is when an individual aids another person in killing him/herself. Poison is a substance (as a drug) that in suitable quantities has properties harmful or fatal to an organism when it is brought into contact with or absorbed by that organism (Webster's Third New International Dictionary, 1994).

The pertinent question is, where does one's individual rights cease when a matter reaches the point of a life or death decision? Proponents of assisted suicide say that individuals have free choice, individual rights and moral autonomy. They have the right to act and govern themselves in accordance with their own private beliefs, values and choices, without interference, as long as their behavior does not harm others. Physician-assisted suicide is a natural extension of the constitutionally protected right to privacy and the moral right of self-determination. Opponents of this argument claim that th...

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...hysician needs to be able to provide information that is pertinent to the patient making this decision. Any patient would feel more at peace if provided with all the necessary information to make the final decision themselves. This decision should be the patients', because in the end they will be the ones judged.


Humphry, D. & Clement, M. (1998). Freedom to Die: People, Politics, and the Right-to-Die Movement. St. Martin's Press.

Kaminer, W. (2000). When Congress Plays Doctor. The American Prospect, 11(4), 8.

Oregon's Death with Dignity Act Report for 2014

Savulescu, J. (1997). The Trouble with Do-Gooders: The Example of Suicide. Journal of Medical Ethics, 23,108-113.

Thomson, J. J. (1999). Physician-Assisted Suicide: Two Moral Arguments. Ethics, 109(3), 497(1).

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