Voters in Switzerland recently went to the polls on a referendum billed to decide on whether to allow Physician Assisted Suicide (PAS) in that country. Illustrative of how voters in that country value the existence of an option for the terminally ill to end their own lives, voters in that country resoundingly rejected the proposal to ban PAS. Close to 80 percent of the votes cast were in opposition. Here in the U.S, the debate about PAS has been very controversial only the states of Oregon, Washington and Montana allowing the practice. This paper argues that PAS should be a legal option for the terminally ill people.
Opponents of PAS normally take recourse on the fact that the government has a duty to preserve life. That argument is not wrong in situations where the lives that are being preserved are those of a healthy people. One would be the most unreasonable if a policy that allowed healthy people to end their lives were to exist. The analysis becomes markedly different in situations where the lives in question are those of people with terminal illnesses. In most cases, these people often find themselves in situations where they would prefer dying than being in such states. The Fourteenth Amendment to the U.S Constitution provides that individuals are guaranteed the right to liberty as well as that to control their lives. The Supreme Court in Roe v Wade interpreted this provision to grant women the right to decide on procuring abortion (Standler, 2005). There is no marked difference between procuring abortion and seeking PAS. People should therefore be given the right to control their own deaths.
The cost of medical care in the country has long been out of reach to many families. These costs are in most cases met by medical insurance. Where such insurance is available, it often happens that not all Americans are able to afford. The situation is made worse when the person in need of care is suffering from a terminal disease. Diseases such as cancer in their advanced stages require expensive treatment options such like chemotherapy. In addition to its exorbitant cost, chemotherapy does not always relieve all the pain that often accompany cancer (Standler, 2005). At a time when getting the appropriate medical care is way beyond the means of most terminally ill, the responsibility to care for them often falls on members of their families. Such responsibilities can sometimes be daunting both financially and otherwise. It even becomes gloomy to the family members knowing that the person they are caring for will never recover. The terminally ill themselves may often not like to see family members endure the suffering.Legalizing PAS would therefore relieve the family members of this responsibility.
Critics of PAS also argue that its legalization may open the floodgates to euthanasia. Now, it should be noted that there is a marked distinction between PAS and euthanasia (Standler, 2005).PAS takes cognizance of the intentions of the patient whose life is to be ended while euthanasia is a general term implying the ending of a life considered not worth living. In that regards, it may be of little use whether the patient actually wants to live or not. This feature has often rendered euthanasia more amenable to abuse. Arguments that legalizing PAS would open room for euthanasia do not however hold. This is so because legalizing something is not the same as simply allowing it in the general term. An appropriate legalization policy can therefore find a way of checking abuses.
Having discussed the first three questions and found that PAS should be legalized, the fourth question becomes moot. Prosecutions are normally reserved for offenses. Prosecuting doctors who have performed PAS does not arise in a situation where the practice has been legalized.
From the foregoing, this paper has made a good case for making PAS a legal option for the terminally ill.
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