The Physician-Assisted Suicide Argument

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A policeman witnesses a man trapped underneath a burning truck. Desperate and in pain, the man asks the policeman to shoot him and save him the pain of dying a slow and insufferable death. As a result, he shoots. The policeman’s dilemma is commonly referenced in support of physician-assisted-suicide, or PAS. Euthanasia and assisted suicide are interchangeable terms which both lead to the death of an individual. Voluntary PAS is a medical professional, usually a physician, who provides medication or other procedures with the intention of ending the patient’s life. Voluntary PAS is the administration of medicine with the explicit consent from the patient. In terms of this paper, we focus on voluntary physician-assisted suicide in the elderly, 65 and older. Assisted suicide raises the complex issues of moral, religious, cultural and legal issues. Laws against assisted suicide are present in 37 states the majority clearly define assisting suicide is a crime. The law is ambiguous in nine states and in two states civil penalties are the punishment for assisted suicide (Rubin). The only two states that have legalized PAS are Oregon and Washington.
A recurring theme surrounding the debates is the legalization of physician-assisted suicide will result in a slippery slope, thus pressuring and the inevitable abuse of “vulnerable groups”. Vulnerable groups are those who are vulnerable to prejudice (i.e. women, immigrants, minorities, terminally ill, and the elderly), or those whom view themselves as not worthy of care (Battin 2007). In order to assess the increased risk of PAS in vulnerable groups- specifically the old, data from Oregon and the Netherlands, the only two locations in which euthanasia and PAS are legal, were analyzed. There ...

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