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Physician Assisted Suicide and Euthanasia

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Physician Assisted Suicide (PAS) and euthanasia raise ethical questions about the medicalisation of death (J Hardwig, 2006; Kavanaugh, 2000) and whether it is worse to kill a patient, or to let them die through omission of treatment (Kavanaugh, 2000). All have the same outcome – the death of the patient – the ethical dilemma arise when considering how the patient’s death occurred (Rachels, 1975). Allowing a patient to die from the cessation of bodily function can be a distressing process and can extend the suffering of that patient (Brock, 1992) However, ending a patient’s life prematurely appears to contradict the medical profession’s objective, namely the Hippocratic Oath, and has further reaching consequence in the community.

The increasing ability to prolong life has created an effect termed ‘the medicalisation of death’ (J Hardwig, 2006; Stringer, 2007). In ‘The Hour of Our Death’, Aries (Aries, 1981) discusses the changing conceptions of death as more often a patient is perceived as being surrounded by tubes and machines instead of in more comfortable surroundings when they die. The concept of an idyllic death leads us to question when and how the best time to die is. Through having control of our deaths, euthanasia instils the idea that a more pleasant death is achievable.

Rachel’s (Rachels, 1975) argues the inappropriateness of the Hippocratic Oath for the reason that being allowed to die can be a slow process. Therefore, by not killing the patient, the physician and caregivers are causing suffering to that patient. In certain circumstance I would agree that the intention of the killing, for being to relieve suffering, absolves the physician or caregivers of guilt normally associated with the act of killing.

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...ing people to be killed instead of aiming to heal.

Personal judgements regarding others choice to die of natural causes or to be euthanized should be reserved, especially if the patient is choosing to no longer be a burden on their loved ones because this too is a valid reason in some circumstance. We all die in an innumerable amount of ways and our autonomous decision to choose Active Euthanasia or PAS should be respected as should our choice to refuse euthanasia. The act of killing a patient, who has chosen to have a quick death, in my opinion, does not have the same ethical implications as letting a patient die when that patient can no longer bear living. I conclude that it is usually better to kill a patient if their life has become unbearable and they foresee no recovery of an acceptable quality of life, rather than to prolong the life which is unwanted.
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