Physician Assisted Suicide
 

 

 

 

 

 


What is Meant by Physician Assisted Suicidea?

Assisted suicide, also known as assisted dying, is suicide undertaken with the aid of another person.

The term usually refers to physician-assisted suicide (PAS), which is suicide that is assisted by a physician or other healthcare provider.

Once it is determined that the person's situation qualifies under the physician-assisted suicide laws for that place, the physician's assistance is usually limited to writing a prescription for a lethal dose of drugs.

In many jurisdictions, helping a person die by suicide is a crime. People who support legalizing physician-assisted suicide want the people who assist in a voluntary death to be exempt from criminal prosecution for manslaughter or similar crimes.

In most of those states or countries, to qualify for legal assistance, individuals who seek a physician-assisted suicide must meet certain criteria, including having a terminal illness, proving they are of sound mind, voluntarily and repeatedly expressing their wish to die, and taking a specified, lethal dose of drugs themselves.

Suicide is the act of killing oneself.

Assisted suicide includes anyone materially helping another person die by suicide, such as providing tools or equipment.

Physician-assisted suicide involves a physician (doctor) "knowingly and intentionally providing a person with the knowledge or means or both required to commit suicide, including counseling about lethal doses of drugs, prescribing such lethal doses or supplying the drugs".

Euthanasia, sometimes referred to as mercy killing, is killing a person, with or without consent, to stop the person from suffering further. Killing a person who is suffering with consent is called voluntary euthanasia.

Killing the person when they are unable to provide consent is called non-voluntary euthanasia. Killing a person who does not want to die, or who is capable of giving consent but whose consent has not been solicited, is the crime of involuntary euthanasia.

Right to die is the belief that people have a right to die, either through various forms of suicide, euthanasia, or refusing life-saving medical treatment.

Assisted dying vs assisted suicide

Some advocates for assisted suicide strongly oppose the use of "assisted suicide" and "suicide" when referring to physician-assisted suicide, and prefer the phrase "assisted dying".

The motivation for this is to distance the debate from the suicides commonly performed by those not terminally ill and not eligible for assistance where it is legal. They feel those cases have negatively impacted the word "suicide" to the point that it bears no relation to the situation where someone who is suffering irremediably seeks a peaceful death.

Arguments for

Arguments in support of assisted death include respect for patient autonomy, equal treatment of terminally ill patients on and off life support, compassion, personal liberty, and transparency.

When death is imminent (half a year or less) patients can choose to have assisted death as a medical option to shorten what the person perceives to be an unbearable dying process.

Many current assisted death laws contain provisions that are intended to provide oversight and investigative processes to prevent abuse.

This includes eligibility and qualification processes, mandatory state reporting by the medical team, and medical board oversight.

These safeguards include proving one's residency and eligibility. The patient must meet with two physicians and they must confirm the diagnoses before one can continue; in some cases, they do include a psychiatric evaluation as well to determine whether or not the patient is making this decision on their own.

The next steps are two oral requests, a waiting period of a minimum of 15 days before making your next request. A written request which must be witnessed by two different people, one of which cannot be a family member, and then another waiting period by your doctor in which they either say you're eligible for the drugs or not ("Death with Dignity").

Support organizations

Listed below are some major organizations that support medical aid in dying:

Compassion and Choices

Compassion and Choices is a nonprofit organization in support of end-of-life care and claims to be the biggest nonprofit in the United States to do so. Created over 30 years ago, the group provides patients with legal assistance as well as advice and information about medical aid in dying.

Death with Dignity National Center

The Death with Dignity National Center

A mentally competent, and terminally ill adult patients can determine if they want to receive prescription medication so they can die in a humane and peaceful way.

Medical ethics

The most current version of the American Medical Association's Code of Ethics states that physician-assisted suicide is prohibited. It prohibits physician-assisted suicide because it is “fundamentally incompatible with the physician’s role as healer” and because it would be “difficult or impossible to control, and would pose serious societal risks”.

It is widely acknowledged that physicians must play some role in the process of assisted suicide and voluntary euthanasia (as evident in the name "physician-assisted suicide"), often putting them at the forefront of the issue.

Free vs. manipulated will

If the suicidal person is not acting out of his own free will, then assistance is punishable by any of a number of homicide offences that the criminal code provides for, as having "acted through another person".

Action out of free will is not ruled out by the decision to end one's life in itself; it can be assumed as long as a suicidal person "decides on his own fate up to the end and is in control of the situation".

The punishment for participating in physician-assisted death (PAD) varies throughout many states.

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