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A Case For Dying

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Opponents of physician-assisted suicide contend that the constitution does not protect a person's right to hasten his or her death. These opponents believe that there is a legal distinction between killing and letting die. The Fourteenth Amendment declares that no state can deprive a "... person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law..."(The U.S. Constitution Online, 2005). All people have a constitutionally protected liberty to choose the medical treatment they want and to refuse unwanted medical treatment. Although the constitution recognizes the right to refuse medical treatment, it does not extend that liberty to people who want to hasten their death. Forcing people against their will to receive medical treatment could also be seen as an unreasonable search or seizure of the body, prohibited by the Fourth Amendment. Furthermore, will all competent people be treated equally in the final stages of death and be afforded equal protection of the law? Judge Roger Miner, of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit ruled that " By allowing terminally ill patients on life support to refuse unwanted medical treatment, but prohibiting terminally ill patients who are not on life support to 'hasten their deaths' ...fails to treat 'similarly circumstanced person alike'"(Rosen, 1998). Opponents of physician-assisted suicide also contend that there are no legal similarities between a woman's right to choose an abortion and physician-assisted suicide. Although both cases involve a choice of death, abortion is viewed as the killing of fetus that has not been recognized as person, therefore; it is not granted full rights. These rights include the protection and preservation of life.

In addition to the lack of constitutional rights for physician-assisted suicide, opponents also point to the difficulty of regulating such a practice. Opponents believe that legalizing assisted suicide would also lead to wide spread abuse. In the Netherlands, physician-assisted suicide is not accepted formally by the government; however, doctors are furnished with instructions on how to perform euthanasia without being prosecuted. Doctors are not allowed to perform euthanasia without the patient's consent but some physicians admitted to killing many patients without their consent. Many deaths went unreported, and "The government admits that hundreds of 'mercy killings' take place each year outside the law" (Chapmen, 1998). Doctors are required to file a report whenever a patient is put to death, but many deaths go unreported because of "mercy killings". Assisted suicide opponents point to the flaws in the Netherlands system and believe that it would be impossible to regulate. They believe that doctors would be more qualified to set regulations but not everyone in the medical community supports the idea of assisted suicide. Will the doctors that are opposed to the idea be required to take part in ending a life that they swore to preserve? These questions must be answered before regulations can be considered.

Many people that are opposed to assisted suicide also believe that is "unethical". The majority of the articles that are opposed to assisted suicide say that having the right to die would ultimately require a duty to kill. A good number of Christians (as well as other faiths) prohibit the practice of suicide or assisted suicide. They believe that is fundamentally immoral and that your life does not belong to you but is a gift given to you in trust by God. Assisted suicide demeans the value of human life. Rae (1995) states, "All life is valuable to God, regardless of its quality, and the biblical commands against killing innocent people should make society and particularly the Christian community very cautious..."(p.180). One of the Ten Commandments is "Thou shall not kill" (Exodus 20:13, NIV) and practically all religions have a law against killing.

Physician-assisted opponents also believe that it can be extremely difficult to monitor and that it will re-introduce society to the practice of private killing. Assisted suicide has great potential for abuse. It could open the floodgates for non-critical patient suicides and other abuses. Assisted suicide gives doctors too much power, which can be wrong and unethical. If a doctor tells a patient that there is absolutely no chance of surviving, the family is likely to believe the doctor. Doctors make mistakes just like everyone else. A wrong diagnosis could lead to an unnecessary suicide of a person. A person can never underestimate the power of the human spirit and medicine.

Exploring the "unknown" will always create misunderstanding and opinion. Often, the opinions are based on the "unknown" itself. For example, one could devise an unlimited supply, of unanswerable questions, by predicting an unfavorable outcome, to an individual's actions or beliefs, simply because those beliefs do not agree with the individual who is asking the questions. Whenever someone makes the decision to act on a problem, in a specific way, it will generate controversy. When deciding to take the ultimate journey to end one's life - financial, religious, legal, moral, ethical, and political reasons and beliefs come into the picture, to ensure that individual's decision is the correct decision for the circumstances surrounding his or her decision. By adhering to one's personal, political group, or religious beliefs, we, as humans, tend to ignore others' individual human and civil rights. Sometimes we are mixed up when deciding what is best for others, when actually, our personal opinion decides what is best for us. If we continue to interfere with an individual's basic human rights, we will continue to generate more problems than we can solve.

While researching the pros and cons of assisted suicide, we have discovered that those disagreeing with the act rely on the "unknown" as evidence, to further their cause: i.e. "God gave you life, God is the only one allowed to take your life" (or similar statements),- if you permit this act, you are opening doors to legalized murder and corruption - it is against my ethical and moral beliefs - you'll destroy your family - ...the list goes on and on. We all know that whatever the situation, there will always be someone around to try to financially capitalize on the decision. We want to believe that "God" is all knowing, understanding, and forgiving, and hope, God, will not sentence the dying to eternal damnation. We have to believe that the dying are living in such pain, that they are willing to take the gamble between eternal damnation and everlasting life in paradise. We have to rely upon and acknowledge professional diagnosis - and not feel the diagnosis was not formed



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