Why Physician Assisted Suicide Isn’t About Pain
Today, many terminally ill patients are searching for a way to end the suffering and agony that controls every facet of their lives. The recent controversial answer has been physician assisted suicide, or “death with dignity.” Death with dignity allows for a terminally ill patient to end their lives before their ailment reaches a more serious, even more debilitating state. Alzheimer’s, Multiple Sclerosis, and end stage cancer are all terminal diseases that cannot easily be stopped. Death with dignity is a completely humane process and has a overwhelmingly positive effect for all involved. Unfortunately, some believe that physician assisted dying is morally wrong.
Mary E. Harned, staff counselor of the Americans United for Live organization is one of those people. Mary, in her British Medical Journal entry titled The Dangers of Assisted Suicide explains that “euthanasia advocates wrongfully claim that assisted suicide is “needed” for those terminally ill patients who face, or fear, great pain. But most experts in pain management believe that 95 to 98 percent of such pain can be relieved.” First off, alluding to death with dignity supporters as euthanasia advocates is misleading. Euthanasia and physician assisted suicide are not the same. Mary actually disproves her own piece of misinformation by giving a definition of both terms at the end of her article. According to Mary, physician assisted suicide, “specifically involves the help of a physician in performing the act of suicide. Such assistance usually entails the prescribing or dispensing of controlled substances in lethal quantities that hasten death.” While euthanasia “involves the killing of one person by or with the physical assistance” There is a huge difference between assisting someones wishes, and just killing them. Those who support death with dignity simply believe that suffering isn’t humane, and something should be implemented to prevent end of life suffering. Even accepted and successful movements, such as Animal Rights Activists believe in this simple principle as well.
Even more telling than that, is her belief that the reason people choose a death with dignity is because the pain is too much to handle. It’s fair to say that nearly everybody knows that even the most severe pain can be relieved by drugs. Doctors can prescribe anyone with pain some sort of medication to ease the pain, but those painkillers don’t change the fact that the patient still has stage four lung cancer and is going to die within the next two weeks anyway. The reason so many people turn to death with dignity is so that in their dying minutes they are not so heavily sedated by painkillers that they can’t even function, or hooked up to five different life support machines as they lie lifeless on a hospice bed, but so that they can have some sense of dignity, feel surrounded with compassion from family members, and end the suffering that comes with their ailment.
“Assisted Suicide: 1. America.” BMJ: British Medical Journal 303.6800 (1991): 431. Web.http://www.aul.org/wp-content/uploads/2012/04/dangers-assisted-suicide.pdf