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Physician Assisted Suicide

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Physician-Assisted Suicide

Physician Assisted Suicide has been a controversial issue long before Jack Kevorkian assisted Janet Adkins commits suicide using his homemade suicide device in the 1990s. Physician Assisted Suicide occurs when a individual with a terminal and sometimes excruciating disease expresses a desire to end their life to a doctor who then helps them commit suicide. Medical breakthroughs are common around the world every day. The advancement of medicine has given people with a disease like cancer a second chance at life when treatments are successful. More and more people are winning the fight against cancer every year. Unfortunately there are many people who are still lose their battles with terminal diseases and are condemned to a life of misery and pain. For these individuals suicide is often a solution. These people sometime turn to a doctor who like Kavorkian can give them a lethal injection to end their life.

Since the 1990s the morality of assisted suicide has been a legal and political argument. Groups such as The Hemlock Society have been formed with a sole purpose of promoting the legality of Physician Assisted Suicide. Groups like this one argue points stated in the constitution that they interpret to give a person the legal right to end their life. One such example is the Fourteenth Amendment, under the Due Process Clause a person is have the right to intimate and personal choices. Also the constitutional privacy law was made to limit the government's right to control personal choices. Arguments like these have been argued before the Supreme Court but have failed to get a ruling in favor of Physician assisted suicide.

While medical breakthroughs can keep people alive longer it cannot always ease the pain and suffering. In 2005 the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality reported that 66,000 people were hospitalized for suicide attempts with medication. This does not include suicide attempts using other means such as attempts with firearms that make up 60%-70% of suicide attempts every year. The statistic that is the most staggering is only about a quarter of suicides are successful. The only state that PAS (Physician Assisted Suicide) is permitted under the law is Oregon, but is controlled under very strict conditions. In North Carolina, Wyoming, and Utah it is not mentioned specifically any where in the law that PAS is illegal, but the rest of the states do have laws against it. With the remainder of the United States having laws against PAS there are still many cases of it. Washington State conducted a survey in 1996 of 828 physicians. Out of all the physicians 207 reported of having request for PAS by a patient. Nearly a quarter of the patients received a prescription that would assist them in suicide. This survey was done on a very small scale compared to the entire United States. The amount of suicides in the United States is tremendous. Calculating the exact number of PAS is impossible, but with the numbers of suicides and attempted suicides it is apparent that it is a very present issue in society.

While power to legalize physician assisted suicide is left to the states the issues have been taken before the Supreme Court. Even after legalization of the Death with Dignity Act in November of 1997 the case was appealed. This act legalized PAS and making Oregon the first and only state to legalize PAS. In order to get this act passed it took three years to over come a legal injunction put in place by the Supreme Court that was lifted in 1997. A few years later the act acquired a new obstacle by the name of District Attorney John Ashcroft. Ashcroft has been a contender of the act since 2001 when he issued a new interpretation of the controlled substance Act. This interpretation made it illegal for physicians to prescribe medication for PAS. A restraining order was put on Ashcroft's judgment by the U.S. district court. Ashcroft's judgment was eventually thrown out, but he has continued to take legal action in attempt to make PAS illegal. In 2004 he requested the Supreme Court



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