Legalize Physician-Assisted Suicide in All U.S. States

Physician-assisted suicide is currently legal in the states of Oregon, Montana, and Washington. It should be made legal in all of the fifty states. In this paper, I will attempt to explain my views on this subject, and why I believe them.Arguments in favor of making physician-assisted suicide legal: My first argument is patient autonomy. Every patient has the right to make his/her own decision in regards to personal medical care. As a society, we do not have the right to force a person to either accept medical care or to refuse it. We should adopt the same policy with the patient’s decision to end his/her own life. My second argument is the shortage of physicians in the United States. According to the Association of American Medical Colleges website, there is a projected shortage of over 91,000 physicians by the year 2020 in our country. At the moment, if a physician in any state except for Oregon, Montana, and Washington were to knowingly prescribe medication to a patient for assisted suicide, the physician would be prosecuted and sent to prison. Also, the physician would no longer be able to practice medicine. If physician-assisted suicide was made legal in all states, this would no longer happen. Our country’s physicians could continue to help the patients that they have dedicated their lives to. Along with physicians are the friends and family members of the patient. Making physician-assisted suicide legal would mean fewer convictions for people who are trying to help their loved one. Space and funding are limited in our prison systems. If we had fewer inmates, we would have more space to house the criminals who really deserve to be there. Also, with fewer inmates to house comes less money needed to take care of them. If physician-assisted suicide was a legal action, patients would not have to attempt suicide on their own. Many patients decide that this is their only option. Oftentimes, suicide attempts are painful and can even be unsuccessful. The patients can end up in a worse situation. Physician-assisted suicide can be seen as an act of mercy. With physician-assisted suicide, patients would not have to face long years of chronic pain and/or humiliation of refusing life-sustaining medical treatment. Physician-assisted suicide is a painless end to their suffering. The cost of life-sustaining medical treatment is high. Many times insurance companies will only pay for a small portion of the medical care. The taxpayers and charity organizations pay the rest of the patient’s bill. With a decrease in patients on life-sustaining medical equipment comes a decrease in the overall cost. Physician-assisted suicide lowers the numbers of patients who are utilizing this equipment and medical care.Proposed Laws: In order to make physician-assisted suicide legal, there would have to be a new set of laws written. These laws would have to explain every aspect of physician-assisted suicide so that there would be no questions as to whether or not any part of the act is illegal. First and foremost, the patient must be an adult over the age of eighteen or be an emancipated minor. In the cases of emancipated minors, the court system has already deemed them to be emotionally stable and mature. They have been found capable of making their own decisions and should be classified in the same category as adults who are legally able to make their own decisions regarding the aspects of their lives. Second, the patient must request physician-assisted suicide once verbally, and submit a written request twice. The first written request will be submitted at least fifteen days after the verbal request has been given, but it should not be submitted after thirty days. The second written request will be submitted in the same time frame with the beginning of the fifteen-day period being the date of the first written request. If these measures are met, the patient is showing that there has been ample time to think over the decision to end his/her life. Third, the law will state that the patient must have two qualified physicians confer with both the diagnosis and prognosis. This should be done within the first thirty days after the verbal request for the ending of life has been given. This time frame ensures that the patient’s case will be handled in a timely manner, so that he/she can suffer as little as possible. The reason that two qualified physicians must confer with both the diagnosis and prognosis is to ensure that there is less of a chance for a lawsuit to be file against either one of them from someone in the patient’s family. Fourth, the patient must have two qualified psychiatrists determine the patient’s competency. The patient would also have to take part in counseling sessions by both of the psychiatrists. The time frame for these sessions will not be less than thirty days, nor will they exceed sixty days from the date of the first written request for assistance. These sessions will serve to ensure the patient’s view of his/her quality of life in regards to pain level (if there is any) and ability to participate in activities that the patient deems essential to a happy life. Also, the sessions serve to ensure that the patient is, in fact, mentally competent to make the decision to end his/her life. Fifth, the patient, physicians, and psychiatrists involved will sign release forms stating that the patient is acting in a completely voluntary manner. The signing of the release form will be witnessed and signed by a Notary Public. This serves to ensure that the patient has been in no way coerced into any acts that would end his/her life. It would also ensure that the physicians and psychiatrists involved have in no way been coerced into assisting the patient. Sixth, the law will state that at least one of the physicians and psychiatrists involved will be present at the time the medication is ingested by the patient, or at least within a few minutes thereafter. This will help to ensure that the patient does not change his/her mind after the fact. If the patient does in fact decide that the wrong decision was made, the physician will be prepared to reverse the effects of the medication in a way such as pumping the patient’s stomach to remove the medication. The psychiatrist will serve as a witness to this fact. Seventh, the law will state is that no physician or psychiatrist will be forced to participate in helping the patient end his/her life. If the doctors do not agree with physician-assisted suicide, they must provide the patient with the names and locations of physicians and/or psychiatrists that do participate. This will only be allowed, though, if there is no question of the diagnosis and prognosis of the patient. This law serves to protect the doctors involved. The patient’s autonomy will be protected under this because he/she will have the names of participating providers. The last thing the law will state is that there must be at least two physicians and two psychiatrists within a relatively close distance to each of the hospitals in the United States. This is to protect the patients who cannot travel great distances. If the patients cannot travel to the providers, the hospitals must ensure that the providers will be brought locally. All of these laws serve to protect all of the people involved. The patients’ rights will be preserved along with the providers involved. If every aspect of the laws is followed, the hospitals and physicians will be under no risk of facing a law-suit from the patients’ family. The patient will no longer have to face the pain and often humiliation of a debilitating disease.