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Essay on Euthanasia and Doctor-Assisted Suicide

Understanding Euthanasia and Assisted Suicide

This paper will address some of the more popular points of interest involved with the euthanasia-assisted suicide discussion. There are less than a dozen questions which would come to mind in the case of the average individual who has a mild interest in this debate, and the following essay presents information which would satisfy that individual’s curiosity on these points of common interest.

Euthanasia and assisted suicide are legal in the state of Oregon and in the country of the Netherlands; these are the only two jurisdictions in the world where laws specifically permit euthanasia or assisted suicide. Oregon permits assisted suicide.(Oregon) The Netherlands permits both euthanasia and assisted suicide.(Review) In 1995 Australia’s Northern Territory approved a euthanasia bill.(Rights) It went into effect in 1996 but was overturned by the Australian Parliament in 1997. Also, in 1997, Colombia’s Supreme Court ruled that penalties for mercy killing should be removed.(Republic) However the ruling does not go into effect until guidelines, still to be drafted, are approved by the Colombian Congress.

The difference between euthanasia and assisted suicide is seen this way: One way to distinguish them is to look at the last act – the act without which death would not occur. Using this distinction, if a third party performs the last act that intentionally causes a patient’s death, euthanasia has occurred. For example, giving a patient a lethal injection or putting a plastic bag over her head to suffocate her would be considered euthanasia.

On the other hand, if the person who dies performs the last act, assisted suicide has taken place. Thus it would be assisted suicid…

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Medscape. Available at, citing Jamison K.R., Night Falls Fast, New York, NY: Alfred Knopf; 1999. Accessed 3/19/01.

Oregon’s “Death with Dignity Act” (ORS 127.800-897) passed in November 1994 and went into effect in 1997.

Republic of Colombia Constitutional Court, Sentence # c-239/97, Ref. Expedient # D-1490, May 20, 1997.

“Review of cases of termination of life on request and assistance with suicide” was approved in April 2001.

“Rights of the Terminally Ill Act,” Northern Territory of Australia (1996).

Wanzer,Sidney H. M.D. et al., “The Physician’s Responsibility toward Hopelessly Ill Patients: A Second Look,” 320 The New England Journal of Medicine (March 30, 1989), p. 848.

Webster’s New World Dictionary of the American Language, Second edition (1976).

Mental Health and Assisted Suicide

Mental Health and Euthanasia/Assisted Suicide

It is obvious to the TV viewer that under the banners of compassion and autonomy, some are calling for legal recognition of a “right to suicide” and societal acceptance of “physician-assisted suicide.” Suicide proponents evoke the image of someone facing unendurable suffering who calmly and rationally decides death is better than life in such a state. They argue that society should respect and defer to the freedom of choice such people exercise in asking to be killed. This essay intends to debunk this point of view on the basis of mental illness among those patients involved.

What would be the consequences of accepting this perspective? Let us examine the facts. Accepting a “right to suicide” would create a legal presumption of sanity, preventing appropriate mental health treatment. If suicide and physician-assisted suicide become legal rights, the presumption that people attempting suicide are deranged and in need of psychological help, borne out by many studies and years of experience, would be reversed. Those seeking suicide would be legally entitled to be left alone (Sullivan) to do something irremediable, based on a distorted assessment of their circumstances, without genuine help.

An attempt at suicide, some psychologists say, is often a challenge to see if anyone out there really cares(Stengel). Indeed, seeking physician assistance in a suicide, rather than just acting to kill oneself, may well be a manifestation, however subconscious, of precisely that challenge. If society creates a “right to suicide” and legalizes “physician-assisted suicide,” the message perceived by a suicide attempter is not likely to be, “We respect your wishes,” but rather…

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…TRY 455 (1973).

Neuringer, Dichotomous Evaluations in Suicidal Individuals, 25 J. OF CONSULTING PSYCHOLOGY 445, 445 (1961).

– – -, supra note 12; A. Alvarez, THE SAVAGE GOD 199 (1972) cites the case of the suicide of 17th century poet Thomas Chatterton as an example, according to some critics, of an individual possibly overrating his talent and possessing unrealistically high expectations for immediate success.

Rosen, The Serious Suicide Attempt: Five Year Follow Up Study of 886 Patients, 235 J.A.M.A. 2105, 2105 (1976).

Rubinstein, Meses

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