Cons of Pro-Assisted Suicide Perspective Research Paper

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¶ … Against Assisted Suicide

There are few topics in medicine today as controversial as the issue of assisted suicide. Though there are perhaps fewer headlines regarding the subject than during Dr. Jack Kevorkian's heyday or the Terri Schiavo, legal and ethical battles regarding the subject are still ongoing. Several states have passed laws legalizing assisted suicide in certain situations, and many other states have considered similar measures. The question is, at what cost? Suicide has been considered wrong by almost every civilization, and proscribed against even in ancient codes of law. What does it say about our modern sensibilities that the human condition has become so degraded and devalued that the thought of another person taking their life -- and worse, that they may be assisted and even encouraged by a medical doctor in this?

Mankind has always felt the need to control its own destiny, on both the societal and the individual level. Human beings, perhaps more than any other species, are driven to obtain the knowledge, skills, and status that enable the longest, fullest, and healthiest life possible in most situations. This has developed as an evolutionary imperative; without the desire and increased ability to survive, the human species -- and any other species so poorly suited to a world of danger and scarcity -- would long since have completely died out and therefore ceased to exist.

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Suicide, whether it is assisted or not, flies in the face of millions of years of evolutionary progress, and it makes even less sense for a society to actively condone such an act than it does for an individual to commit it. We must continue to grow, adapt, and evolve as a species, and letting ourselves be killed off -- even choosing death -- will not help our species to achieve this end, but rather serves as a detriment to those close to the suicide and humanity as a whole.

Research Paper on Cons of Pro-Assisted Suicide Perspective Assignment

The body is an amazing group of systems that work in conjunction with one another to hopefully achieve a long and healthy life. It has developed over the millions of years of evolution with one over-riding purpose: ensuring the survival of the individual. It is true that all humans, and all living bodies, must eventually die, but the systems of the human body are designed to stave off this inevitable fate for as long as possible. This has caused certain social aspects in human beings that have become an inherent part of our species and each individual member in it; though the systems themselves are biological and the suffering they cause may have little to do with the mind or the spirit, they still have significant psychological ramifications (APA, 2001).

When these systems are deteriorating and death is a certain and imminent outcome, then the family and friends of the suffering individual, as well as the individual themselves, are granted a period of time that is often non-existent in other situations. Though it is painful to watch a loved one deteriorate due to an end-of-life illness, it also allows time for family and friends to care for and grieve with the patient, allowing everyone involved the process of emotional healing. Assisted suicide takes away this period, which robs patients and their loved ones alike of a very important and helpful step in the grieving process. In addition, assisted suicide can leave the family and friends of the patient with feelings of guilt and other emotional stresses and disturbances that extend beyond the normal period of grief (True Compassion, 2009). All of these are excellent reasons -- though not the only ones -- to disallow assisted suicide.

There are also issues of practicality. Many chronic illnesses are very near treatments or even cures, and most symptoms are manageable with current medical technologies and techniques. Even in cases where cures seem unlikely, this chance at a healthier life is certainly better than ending all chance at life altogether. While patients are alive, there is at least the slimmest chance that they can recover; once they are allowed to take their lives in any manner, medically prescribed and overseen or otherwise, all opportunities vanish along with their life.

Each year, the national and international medical and scientific communities spend billions of dollars and countless hours of research on a quest to treat and eradicate disease. The goal of society, science, and most explicitly of medicine is to sustain and protect life, not to end it. Any civilized society that allows death as an option is making an ethical error; medical ethics have been against suicide in all forms, especially when aided by a physician, for millennia (Braddock & Tonelli, 1998). In order to continue to protect and sustain life, it seems obvious that ending life should not be allowed. The two quite obviously cannot coexist.

There is also no rational way in which we can claim to be capable of making the decision of when to end life, or that we have the moral right to do so. There are other instances proscribed by law and/or circumstance in which the death of another human being is permissible, but the ethics of such cases are questionable in all instances but those that involve death by direct self-defense (APA, 2001). Even the legally accepted instances where the purposeful death of another citizen can be undertaken -- i.e., the death penalty, which is illegal in several states and has a dubious ethical -- exist as a measure of defense; generally, people subjected to the death penalty have repeatedly committed violent crimes ad are considered dangers.

If the only reason we are ever allowed to kill another is in order to protect our own lives, then there could be no reason to allow assisted suicide. The violation of ethical principles in cases of assisted suicide is especially egregious given that in most cases, decisions to simply end life-sustaining care while still managing quality of life issues such as pain and other degenerative symptoms is perfectly viable (True Compassion, 2009). In this way, death comes as a natural event whenever it was meant to come, and without conscious intervention.

Death itself, and even ending the struggle for life, is not unethical. There are instances when death might be preferable, both from purely individual motives to end discomfort and pain and for the benefit of others. There is a large and recognized difference, however, between letting someone die and causing their death (APA, 1998; True Compassion, 2009). Letting someone die by their own choice requires no action, and treating their other symptoms to make them comfortable during the end of their life would be almost universally considered an ethical act. Causing another's death, however, even if it is something that they express a desire for, requires intervention into the natural design of our bodies. Inaction is only unethical when it is purposefully ignorant of suffering, but all actions must be examined for ethical correctness.

Assisted suicide generally does not stand up to these ethical considerations. In fact, most traditional ethical systems can be applied to this situation to show the inappropriateness of assisted suicide. The wide array of views against the topic, from thinkers that posited heir theories long before the concept of assisted suicide became a social issue, lends further weight to the argument against it.

The most staunch -- and admittedly, the most controversial -- view against assisted suicide from a traditional ethical system would be that which is supplied by Kantian ethics. Immanuel Kant believed that moral laws were absolute; what was wrong in one situation was wrong in all situations: "Moral rules, then, have no exceptions. Killing is always wrong. Lying is always wrong" (Philosophy, 2001). The intent of an action, not the effects of it, is what determines moral rectitude. According to this ethical theory, which though extreme is also the one that allows for the least equivocation and therefore can be applied the most objectively and fairly, the only thing that matters is that one person is helping to kill another person. This act is simply wrong; the extenuating circumstances, though real, are not pertinent to the situation.

This argument may seem far-fetched and impractical, but in fact it can be shown to be one of the most practical solutions. A major issue in the debate over assisted suicide is the purely practical and very real problem of defining the boundary of assisted suicide if it is going to be allowed at all. What about people who suffer from purely psychological illnesses such as depression and bipolar disorder? Often, people with such problems do not respond as effectively as hoped or desired to medication, and feel as though their frustration and emotional pain will continue for the rest of their lives. If assisted suicide is allowed for other chronic illnesses, should it be allowed in the case of mental illness, too? And what about patients who do not have the mental capacity to determine the right time to die? Does someone decide for… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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