Matthew Donelly appreciated the life he was given. But unfortunately, Matthew wanted to die. After losing his nose, two fingers, and jaw due to skin cancer, Donelly was left blind and slowly deteriorating. Donelly begged to be put out of his misery, but no one ever answered. So one day, his brother Harold used a .30 caliber pistol from his closet and shot Matthew. Harold was tried for murder not long after. It is extremely devastating to watch a loved one suffer and ultimately die from an incurable disease, But the real question is why should they have to go through that? Why is the act of commiting suicide no longer a crime, but Assisted Suicide is?
As of right now, Assisted Suicide is only legal in seven states of the U.S. It is an option given to those in the District of Columbia, Hawaii, Oregon, Vermont, and Washington. But even with that, the states requires that the individuals have a terminal illness and as well as six months to live (“Physician-Assisted Suicide Fast Facts”). Some proponents assert it is a privilege to have states where treatment such as Euthanasia is an option; however, conflict still remains on whether or not assisted suicide should be a legal option in all 50 states. This debate comes at a time when incredible medical advances and the promise of cancer cures also come with shocking price tags that reach as well as $100,000 per patient. The average cost of cancer drugs has grown from about $50,000 per patient in the mid-1900s to about $250,000 today- which to emphasize, is four times the median U.S household annual income (Belluz). Because of the financial implications of incurable diseases, It is imperative that Assisted Suicide be legal in all States of the U.S. these Financial implications also contribute to a patient’s loss of dignity as they feel like they are a burden to their family/caregivers. Ultimately, legalizing assisted suicide in all states will put many patients with incurable diseases out of their pain and misery that they shouldn’t have to be experiencing in the first place, If they are about to die anyway.
In the U.S and also in countries around the world, Innovation is prospering especially in the medical field, and with these outstanding medical advancements and promises of cures, large financial implications come with it. Keeping a patient on life support in an intensive care unit costs, at a minimum, 2,000-4,000 per day and can run much higher depending on the patient’s condition (Ehrenfreund). If the patient has no real chance of surviving the terminal illness, the cost of medical care accumulates quickly, just for them to die later. Usually patients have some knowledge of this and are well aware that the cost will be left to their families after they pass. If keeping the patient alive is causing financial implications of the patient’s family, they may feel as if they are a burden. Most families do not give thought to the amount of money that has accumulated to to the medical care of the terminally ill patient, but for patients the thought of not only leaving their family but also leaving them in debt is not exactly heartwarming especially if they know they are sure to die anyway. For instance, a treatment for cancer may offer a chance for a cure, but only 1 or 2 out of 100 (“What Cancer Survival Rates Can -and Can’t- Tell You”). Although it is good to hold some hope of being cured, Chances of recovery from chronic diseases are very slim if not impossible.
Patients with chronic dialysis have confirmed that being a burden on their family is one of their significant concerns about the end of their life (Johnson). Patients with terminal illnesses fear about their future and the emotional toll that their death will put on their family members thus contributing to the loss of dignity that these patients experience. Assisted suicide will allow patients to practice autonomy and make one final personal choice in the life before they die.
Furthermore, Legalizing assisted suicide in all states of the U.S Patience to put an end to excruciating pain caused by an illness that is incurable and has no chance of recovery. In the 2014 survey called “patient concerns while seeking life-ending prescriptions”, 49.5% of patients said that their main reasons for resorting to assisted suicide was losing control of their bodily functions, and 31.4% of patients said it was because of inadequate pain control (“Assisted Suicide in The United States”). For someone that has a realistic chance of outliving their illness, Life supports such as respirators etc. are seen as a blessing. But for someone who has been diagnosed with a terminal illness, using medicine and respirators is seen as just prolonging the pain they will be in before they die. A medical patient may not want to indulge in medical technology that will prolong their life because at times pain medication does not suffice for a terminally ill patient and the only thing that medical technology does is prolong the pain and agony they are in. Assisted Suicide is also supported by ethical principles in that supporting Physician Assisted Dying shows compassion for fellow citizens.Some patients continue to experience physical symptoms and Psychological Distress despite the best that Palliative care can offer (Mercier). Most doctors focus on controlling the symptoms of the patient, rather than holistic care. Assisted suicide take into account the emotional, physical, and spiritual needs of patients in palliative care.
Many opponents of assisted suicide cite that it is an act of murder and that the act is inherently against a physicians “do no harm” principle (Sathya). However when one looks at the situation from a patient’s point of view, the doctor is not “harming” them but taking away the pain they are in. Murder differs from Assisted suicide in that it does not violate a patient’s Autonomy. If a patient has made a voluntary request for medical aid in dying and they have been informed of their prognosis and of all of the other options available besides assisted suicide, then a physician’s willingness to comply with that request cannot compromise the patient’s autonomy (Sathya). Therefore, while murder harms victims by stripping them of future life that would have had value to them, Physician Assisted Suicide saves patients from the continuation of a life that would have been full of suffering thus having no value to them.
Brittany Maynard was a 29 year old diagnosed with stage four brain cancer. After being told her death would be prolonged and painful Maynard moved to Oregon in order to take advantage of their “Death with Dignity’ law. She died as she intended — peacefully in her bedroom, in the arms of her loved ones (Shoichet). It is clear that assisted suicide being legalized in all states of the U.S will benefit terminally ill patients financially and physically.