The Issue of Medically Assisted Suicide
While recognizing life as the highest and absolute value, we must realize its natural and inevitable finiteness. And this necessitates an ethical and humanistic understanding of dying – this “borderline situation” – the final phase of life. In this regard, the problems of the essence of life and death, the definition of their criteria and boundaries, become relevant. First of all, what do we call death? It is known that death is the cessation, cessation of the vital activity of the organism (Stabile & Grant, 2016). However, death is not the opposite of life, not the absence of life, but its end, completion, it is a natural process of transition from a living state to a nonliving one.
Thus, death is a natural phenomenon, another side of a person’s life. Life is limited by conception and death, and all people are equal in the face of it. Therefore, the most important ethical tasks: first, to develop emotional and rational mechanisms of protection (not from death, but the fear of death), and secondly, to ensure a person the right to a dignified death. Social bioethics regards this right as the same natural human right as his right to a dignified life.
Taking into account the above rationale, laws against death with dignity or medically assisted suicide are unjustified laws, in my opinion. I believe there if the “victim” has made the decision and has a valid cause, such as terminal illness, for wanting to end their life with the assistance of a medical professional, there should be no legal ramifications for the doctor. Their job is to do what is in their patients’ best interest and help them through their suffering. While their oath may state “no harm” by forcing their ill, possibly physically making patients suffer, they are causing them more harm than good (Sanburn, 2015). As long as the death is consensual and the patient has made the decision in a sound mind, then the medical staff assisting should not be held responsible for doing what is right in the interest of their care.
It should be stated that the issue may be understood from the perspective of an ethical system that asserts that the assessment of any action should be carried out primarily based on its consequences – its ability to bring positive results. According to this system, medically assisted suicide appears no longer as a choice of an individual but a choice of society (Richardson, 2002). In this case, society proceeds from the fact that, firstly, the costs required for the treatment of patients with protracted diseases requiring expensive medications are a heavy financial burden, and secondly, the economic means that such treatment requires could be reserved for the treatment of those patients who, after recovery, can return to normal work activities.
It seems apparent that within the scope of the perspective given, the cost-benefit criterion is essential and meaningful, which implies that laws against death with dignity can be considered inappropriate. According to the described approach, a rule (or a system of rules) can be morally justified unless there is another rule, the adoption of which would be of great benefit to society. From this point of view, allowing medically assisted suicide could be beneficial as it would eliminate the unbearable pain in several patients.
It is controversial to indicate that the prohibition of euthanasia and (or) assisted suicide infringes upon the dignity of the human person. Indeed, many believe that the right to commit suicide is an integral part of human dignity. In the United States, for example, proponents of the right to assisted suicide point out that state law does not punish the act of suicide (Dolgin, 2020).
Everyone is free to decide whether to live or die. The vulnerability of this position, from the conflict perspective, lies in the fact that it will have to be recognized that the right to euthanasia or assisted suicide is possessed not only by terminal patients but in general by all people who have reached the age of majority. After all, not only patients are interested in making sure that the decision concerning such an important issue as leaving life is an integral part of their human dignity, an extension of their will, which is evident from many legal cases (Miller, 2006). It will not be a great exaggeration to say that granting adult, mentally full-fledged individuals the right to assisted suicide threatens to degenerate autonomy into arbitrariness.
Although I suppose that laws against dignity are to be changed, it should be admitted that the belief that compliance with the legal procedures required by the regulations will guarantee the individual’s autonomy in terms of medically assisted suicide is an illusion. The fact is that any legal process is carried out in certain social conditions (Berry, 2013). At the same time, as experience shows, domestic violence against frail old people and the lack of qualified palliative care are spread and important phenomena.
The choice of medically assisted suicide in such conditions may outwardly reproduce the features of an independent will, although, in reality, it is not a desire to die behind it but a request for help. Hence, I assume that the primary adjustment that should be implemented is the requirement to investigate the social environment in which a patient exists. If such provision is fixed in the law, medically assisted suicide may be recognized as appropriate by society.
Berry, P. (2013). Giving dying people what they want. British Medical Journal, 347(7921), 17.
Dolgin, J. L. (2020). Medical disputes and conflicting values: Is there a “right to die” later? BYU Law Review, 2020(2), 95–143.
Miller, N. (2006). Death with dignity or criminal act? ETC: A Review of General Semantics, 63(1), 106–109.
Richardson, A. E. (2002). Death with dignity: The ultimate human right? The Free Library. Web.
Sanburn, J. (2015). The last choice. Time, 186(12), 48–51.
Stabile, B., & Grant, A. (2016). How do we die? Politics and the Life Sciences, 35(2), 69–74.