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How Does Assisted Suicide Greatly Impact Society?

Lauren Skinner

American Government/P

Mr. Hawkins

14 December 2016

Assisted suicide has been a world-wide debated issue that many citizens, patients, and

doctors have argued over. Many opinions have been given as to whether the process of assisted

suicide negatively or positively affects society. Evidence and statistics show how the simply
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thought of process can lead to harmful results. Over the course of decades, research has

provided facts as to why assisted suicide is not a considerable option to end a life, The act of

assisted suicide can impact the patient, family, and the medical field. The patient can be affected

by the acts availability to non-terminal patients, their the patient/doctor relationship can be

harmed, and their quality of life can be negatively affected. The family can be affected by the act

of assisted suicide that provides emotional distress, financial problems, and negative family

dynamics. Lastly, the medical field can be affected because assisted suicide affects the

physicians emotions, the way people view the medical field, and the use of assisted suicide by

physicians in the future. These reasons provided, along with evidence, leave a considerable

amount of questioning as to if assisted suicide should be practiced in the medical field. Assisted

suicide should not be considered when ending a life, but in turn, should be avoided to save the

patients life instead of ending it abruptly.

Sub Topic #1

How does assisted suicide negatively affect the patient?

The topic of assisted suicide has been debated on whether or not each individual state

should allow and accept this life-taking act. Opposers and supporters have long argued over the

importance and necessity of both hospice care and assisted suicide. Assisted suicide, over time,
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has provided more harm than good when it comes to the patients value and care. This distressing

act that provides relief to the patient can actually provide availability to non-terminal patients,

affect the patient/doctor relationship, and have an impact on the patients quality of life.

Numerous people who undergo assisted suicide are not considered terminally ill; but

instead, they have an illness or disease that does not support this act of assisted suicide. Over the

course of thirty years, [n]early 95 percent of those who kill themselves have been shown to

have a diagnosable psychiatric illness in the months preceding suicide. The majority suffer

from depression that can be treated (Always Care, Never Kill). Instead of going through

assisted suicide, depression can be treated through evaluations, depression therapy, prescribed

medicine, and counseling. Assisted suicide has taken the lives of individuals who show the

promise of a cure for their illness. Another reason why the act of assisted suicide is harmful is

because no treatment or evaluation is provided before a physician administers the drug. When a

person believes they have an illness that could be potentially terminal, they might lean towards

the easy way out of assisted suicide. Safeguards in Washington and Oregon, where

physician-assisted suicide is legal, are failing to protect patients, as there are no

requirements that patients receive psychological evaluation or treatment prior to receiving

lethal drugs (Dangers of Assisted Suicide). The patients calls for help are not heard and are

not given the right treatment for their curable illness. Lastly, this procedure could be prematurely

given to a patient who is suffering through family struggles. There have been documented

accounts of individuals committing suicide under pressure and/or duress from family

members, friends, and/or suicide advocates present at the ingestion of lethal drugs

(Dangers of Assisted Suicide). In todays society, and even centuries ago, family issues have

made an impact on individuals and their decision to end their life. In 2010, only 1 out of 65
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patients in Oregon who died as a result of physician-assisted suicide was referred for

psychiatric or psychological counseling (Dangers of Assisted Suicide). Their illness may not

be terminal, but it can be addressed through therapy and counseling. Instead of finding help for

the issues with their family, patients took the easy way due to pressure. Assisted suicide should

not be the end result of the problem, but a red flag for a possible solution. Not only does the

availability of the treatment to non-terminal patients harm their value and care, but it can also

harm the patient/doctor relationship.

The patient/doctor relationship and trust values are respected in the medical field. When

the issue of assisted suicides arises, a strong relationship between the patient and physician could

diminish and harm the patients treatment. In Washington in 2010, half of the patients had a

relationship with their physician of only 3 to 24 weeks. This lack of a long-term

relationship between doctor and patient precludes a doctor from truly understanding a

patients psychological condition (Dangers of Assisted Suicide). Over the course of the

treatment, a physician should develop a professional and caring bond with their patient. The lack

of this connection can result in a lonely process, with the physician not caring for the persons

well-being or providing hope for a solution. If this bond does not form, the physician cannot

connect personally with the patient and therefore cannot understand their patients condition with

the illness or disease. Another reason why assisted suicide is harmful to the doctor/patient

relationship is the physicians are not always present or up-to-date with the patient, and therefore

are not meeting their needs. Oregon nurses reported that the inadequacy of meeting

patients needs had increased up to 50 percent and that [m]ost of the small hospitals

studies have revealed that when offered personal support and palliative care, most patients

adapt and continue life in ways they might not have anticipated(Dangers of Assisted
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Suicide). The number of patients experiencing neglect during their treatment is only increasing.

When a patient considers assisted suicide, he or she experiences lonesomeness, and needs a

caring person who responds to their questions or problems. The physician needs to be accepting

and responsive to the patient and acknowledge their illness and psychological state. If patients

accepted the option of receiving support and care, their needs would be heard and their lives

could be prolonged instead of stopping short and being ignored. Lastly, patient/doctor

relationships are harmed by the lack of knowledge a physician has on caring for the patient.

They are not required, however, to be knowledgeable about how to relieve physical or

emotional suffering in terminally ill patients. Without such knowledge, which most

physicians do not have, they cannot present or make feasible alternatives available. Nor in

the absence of such knowledge are they required to refer the patient to a physician with

expertise in palliative care (Always Care, Never Kill). A physician who does not have the

skill of care treatment cannot provide the right care for their patient. This lack of knowledge

harms the patients potential of receiving accurate care for their needs. If the physician is not

knowledgeable of the patients physical and emotional suffering, they cannot recommend other

options that are beneficial towards the patients long term health. In addition to harming the

patient/doctor relationship, assisted suicide can impact a patients quality of life.

Assisted suicide can have an harmful effect on the patients quality of life. If the patient

is questioning their quality of life due to a terminal illness, and struggling with the problems at

hand, the option of assisted suicide can harm their potential for healing. Rather than

empowering individuals facing terminal illness to make their own decisions, the mere

availability of physician-assisted suicide can pressure sick, depressed, elderly, or disabled

patients to end their lives (Dangers of Assisted Suicide). Physicians and the patients family
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need to be supportive and cooperative during the troubling time. Lack of empowering the patient

can result in harming the patients view of their condition. The physician should allow the patient

to have his or her own choices in regards to his or her own life. The availability of assisted

suicide can pressure the patient into a quick end to life in lieu of care. Another reason why

assisted suicide harms the persons life is because over time, physicians have provided assisted

suicide as treatment for the patients illness. In the Netherlands voluntary euthanasia has

led to non-voluntary euthanasia (Impact of Euthanasia). Even though there is a difference

between euthanasia and assisted suicide, they share the same pressures from the physicians and

family members. Euthanasia is the physician administering the drug themselves, and assisted

suicide is the physician providing the drug for the patient to administer it themselves. In the

Netherlands, and possibly in other countries, doctors can demand that assisted suicide is the only

option; they do not consider the patients life value or feelings about the patients own illness.

The patient is a human being whose life is filled with true emotions, and taking away the

patients voice can harm their view of the medical field. One last reason why assisted suicide

harms the patients quality of life is that some physicians are ready to take the easy way out,

instead of taking time to care for the patients needs. In an interview, Dr Frank Koerselman,

told Cohen-Almagor about an 85- year-old patient with pneumonia and depression. The

man's family didn't want Dutch doctors to treat him. The patient's doctor was ready to

take the easy way out (Impact of Euthanasia). This example provides reason on how a

doctors easy way out can go against the familys or patients wishes. The patients value of

life is reduced in importance, and is a value that should instead be treated with exceptional care.

These actions listed can harm the patients quality of life; they can also provide availability to

non-terminal patients, and affect the patient/doctor relationship.

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The availability of assisted suicide can negatively impact a patients value and care.

From making the drug available to harming the patients quality of life, this treatment provides a

negative impact on the patients life. Many establishments do not take into consideration the

worth of the patient. The patients life is a treasure that should be protected and cared for with

great support. Assisted suicide not only affects the patient, but also the patients family members

in many ways.

Sub-Topic #2

How does assisted suicide negatively affect the family?

Families play an important role in a patients life during the adverse act of assisted

suicide. Not only are the patients affected by the act, but also the family, who can have a gradual

impact on the patients life and their decisions. As the patient experiences the procedure, the

family can encounter negative outcomes based on the patients situation. This act that potentially

contributes relief or comfort to the family can actually provide emotional distress, financial

problems, and negative family dynamics.

While the patient experiences assisted suicide, the family members can experience

emotional distress. One reason why the family can experience emotional distress is because

assisted suicide can yield greater grief for the family members. In a typical case of suicide,
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the surviving family members experience anger and prolonged, abnormal grieving; dealing

with the suicide of a relative is generally much more difficult than dealing with the loss of

that relative through natural death (Family Issues). The overwhelming amount of

prolonged grieving that assisted suicide can give to families is unnecessary, and should be

considered when deciding the fate of the patient. A natural death is the way nature intended for a

persons life to end, and a physician aiding in the process of assisted suicide can leave negative

afterthoughts for the family members. Another reason why the act can produce negative

outcomes is because of how individuals view the grief the members, providing little to no

concern for their situation. A patient, Linda Henslee, went through the act of assisted suicide,

and her daughter, Dawn Henslee, provided her thoughts on the situation. "For months, we

didn't have time to grieve properly -- and people didn't treat us like we were grieving,

either," Henslee said. "The guy who came to pick up the hospital bed that mother had used,

told us: 'Normally, I would say I'm sorry, but I guess this is what she wanted.' He didn't

think this was a loss for us (Impact on Euthanasia). This inconsiderate act did not show

respect to the grieving family. Any family who goes through either an aided death or natural

death deserves the same respect from individuals. Lastly, assisted suicide can cause emotional

distress because family members may have a hard time coping with their relative going through

the process. Brian Johnston, anti-euthanasia activist, states from his book Death as a Salesman -

What's Wrong with Assisted Suicide, ...the gravely ill are emotionally vulnerable, and

depressed family members may unconsciously reinforce, or even suggest 'suicidal'

thoughts. Sometimes it is the family members who are in even greater emotional need than

the patient (Impact of Euthanasia). Even though the patient has dealt with or has been

dealing with pain physically and emotionally, individuals should take into consideration the great
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amount of pain the surviving members experience. Great care should not only be put on the

patient, but also on the relatives, with a substantial amount of concern and warmth. While the

process of assisted suicide can harmfully yield emotional distress on the family members, it can

also provide financial harm.

From the beginning to the end of the process of assisted suicide, financial problems can

come from any circumstances that arise. One problem that arises from assisted suicide is that the

family might feel a greater need for money instead of the hurting family member. Families, it

is feared, may pressure patients to choose assisted suicide to avoid spending money that the

patient otherwise could leave to the family (Impact of Euthanasia). Families may agonize

over financial burdens the patients health costs bring, but this should not be the case. The idea

of assisted suicide should be perceived as an unnecessary solution, and even though the costs of

healthcare can be daunting, the family should consider the quality of the patients life over the

financial burden. Money can change a persons perspective on a lifes value, and when a family

thinks of money rather than the individual who is suffering, their perspective can affect their

view on their own family. Another reason why assisted suicide can cause financial struggle is

that a family may feel they are providing too much money for the patients care. Family

members may exert pressure because they are spending too much of their own money

(Impact of Euthanasia). A family may feel overwhelmed with the amount of money they are

paying, and try to resort to assisted suicide. Even though the thought of assisted suicide is

looked at as a short route to a money-saving solution, the more humane resolution would be

spending quality time with the suffering family member and allowing them to peacefully go

through a natural death. Lastly, another reason why assisted suicide can affect a family

financially is because if a patient is poor, they may feel they have no other solution. If [a
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patient] is sufficiently poor, the patient may feel that [he or she] has no option but

physician-assisted suicide, that [his or her] family's financial predicament is so dire that [he

or she] has no real choice at all (Economic Motives). A family in a poor situation may

struggle with paying for healthcare, and may believe assisted suicide is the only option. There

may be other options the family has not explored that might relieve financial pressures. While

assisted suicide can cause financial problems, it can also bring negative family dynamics.

Dynamics and the growth of relationships in a family is an important quality, but having

a family member go through assisted suicide can turn the relationships for the worst. One reason

assisted suicide can bring negative dynamics is because family members may have different

opinions on this act. Conflict often arises due to differing opinions and beliefs of various

family members. A family member or friend with an Enduring Power of Attorney, or who

has been appointed Guardian, may face battles about continuing, withholding or

withdrawing medical treatment (Impact of Euthanasia). Family members who disagree on

the process of the treatment, or the treatment in general, can generate negative viewpoints or

emotions. The patients family members can be affected, and their relationships can turn to

turmoil. Another reason why a familys dynamics can be negatively affected is that the patients

relationship with their relatives can become strained. Since caring for a person with a

terminal or incurable disease is extremely taxing, the family will almost inevitably come to

harbor wishes that the patient's death will occur sooner rather than later so that their

ordeal may end. Even if these wishes are consciously suppressed or denied, they may

subtly influence the communication between the family members and the patient (Family

Issues). When a patient has a terminal illness that lasts for a long time, family members may

grow impatient, and their wishes may impact the patients view of them. A patients value should
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be considered, and wishing for the process of assisted suicide to further can be detrimental to the

relationship between the patient and family. One last reason why family dynamics can be

harmed from assisted suicide is that a family can influence negative thoughts onto the patient.

According to Death as a Salesman - What's Wrong with Assisted Suicide, written by Brian

Johnston, an anti-euthanasia activist, In addition to their own emotional needs, it is the

family and friends, more than anyone else, who will influence the mood and mindset of the

patient. They may, even unwittingly, reinforce negative thoughts and attitudes (Impact of

Euthanasia). Many family members might have different negative opinions on the patients

process through a terminal illness, and cause a patients negative thoughts to lead to assisted

suicide. Assisted suicide can divide a family, and constant negative opinions from relatives can

drive a patient to wish to end their life quickly. The act of assisted suicide cannot only cause

negative family dynamics, but can also provide emotional distress and financial problems.

From emotional distress to separating families, assisted suicide can negatively affect the

family of the patient. The family of the patient needs to focus on their relationship with their

sick and struggling relative. The connection between a family is a blessing and valued gift that

many take for granted. During the hard time of a patients illness, the family is the most essential

attribute that life can provide. Instead of providing relief for the family and patient, assisted

suicide can cause grief and separation for each relative. This act of assisted suicide not only

affects the family of the patient, but also the medical field itself.
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Sub Topic #3

How does assisted suicide negatively affect the medical field?

The medical field has provided an abundance of aid involving simple medical needs, but

the act of assisted suicide has caused the medical field to change its values when it comes to

decisions of their patients lives. Throughout the years of medical discovery, physicians have

encountered countless requests for life-ending drugs, and the decision the physician makes can

ultimately impact patients and their families negatively. Providing assisted suicide, can harm the

patients and other individuals view of the medical field. Assisted suicide can affect the

physicians emotions, the way people view the medical field, and the use of assisted suicide by

physicians in the future.

During the process of assisted suicide, the physician can experience a multitude of

emotions while doing the act or prescribing the drug. One reason why assisted suicide can affect

the emotions of the physicians is because the process can leave the physicians feeling despair or

regret. Through the years of 1995-96, 405 Dutch doctors were interviewed on the process of

assisted suicide and their role in it. Fifty percent of the euthanasias and 40% of the assisted

suicides were followed by "burdensome" feelings; and 48% of the euthanasia and 49% of

the assisted suicide cases were followed by emotional discomfort... The doctors sought

support afterwards following 43% of the euthanasia cases and following 16% of cases

involving ending life without an explicit request (Emotional and Psychological Effects).
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After going through the process with the patient, the physician can be greatly affected. As shown

in the evidence, guilt and emotional feelings of remorse can result from assisted suicide. A

physician should not experience these emotions or have to go to counseling just from doing their

job. Another reason why assisted suicide affects the physicians is their fear of failing the

patients family. Dr. Regan, who stated the first individual account in the medical literature

of assisted suicide in Oregon, wrote, On the other hand, I found even worse the thought

of disappointing this family. If I backed out, they'd feel about me the way they had about

their previous doctor, that I had strung them along, and in a way, insulted them

(Emotional and Psychological Effects). Dr. Regan felt as if he would betray the family of the

patient, even if he thought the act was wrong. A physician should not feel guilty about

performing in their job, and assisted suicide contributes to that feeling. Lastly, a reason why

assisted suicide can affect a physician's emotions is because it affects his or her overall

perception of the quality of life. A Dutch physician stated, To kill someone is something far

reaching and that is something that nags at your conscience. . . . I wonder what it would be

like not to have these cases in my practice. Perhaps I would be a much more cheerful

person (Emotional and Psychological Effects). This physicians umbrella of light hearted

emotions were dampened due to performing the act. Assisted suicide can lower a physicians

self-esteem, and give them the impression that their job can hurt patients instead of providing

relief. The act of assisted suicide not only affects the doctors emotions, but also affects a

persons perception of the medical field.

Various amounts of individuals hold their own opinion on how the medical field runs its

profession, and many individuals can change their viewpoint based upon evidence provided.

Assisted suicide can affect a persons viewpoint of the medical field is because of the standards
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they provide. Oregon assisted suicide statute creates an entirely different regime when it

comes to administering this treatment, specifically and uniquely immunizing doctors

from criminal prosecution, civil liability, or even professional discipline for any actions they

take in assisting a suicide, as long as they act in good faith (Always Care, Never Kill).

Physicians who administer the drug to the patient and are given these pleasures can lead

patients to resist trusting their actions. A physician should be held to the decisions they make,

and taking out the responsibility of their actions can lead to many people doubting the medical

fields values. The act of assisted suicide can affect a persons viewpoint of the medical field

because of the physician providing no other option but the act. Oxford legal scholar, John

Finnis, states, [W]ell over half were without any explicit request. In the United States

that would be over 235,000 unrequested medically accelerated deaths per annum A 2010

study discovered that 66 of 208 identified deaths in Belgium were administered without an

explicit patient request (Always Care, Never Kill). A physician who provides the drug

without providing hope of another solution can discourage future patients from seeking help

from them. The medical field is supposed to provide a patient with many opportunities and

allow the patient have their own voice in a situation. Not listing other options or listening to the

patients concerns, and then going to the last resort can leave the medical field having a negative

perception of their profession. Lastly, assisted suicide can affect a persons viewpoint of the

medical field due to the lack of the physicians connection with patients. During the first four

years of legalized PAS in Oregon the prescribing physician was present at the time the

patient took the lethal medication for 52% of the assisted suicides. However during the

2004 year, the prescribing physician was present for only 16% of the patients (Emotional

and Psychological Effects). Throughout the years of assisted suicide, physicians have not been
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present to support the patient. From fifty-two percent to sixteen percent, the evidence shows the

lack of the physicians concern. Assisted suicide can prevent the physician and patient from

developing a relationship, therefore providing reason for the lack of trust from future patients.

The act of assisted suicide not only affects peoples viewpoints of the medical field, but also the

future of the medical field.

The medical profession has been affected by research and medical discoveries for

centuries; but as time goes on, the field will be negatively affected by assisted suicide. One

reason why assisted suicide affects the future of the medical field is because of the lack of

palliative care programs. The United States has only one palliative care physician for every

1,200 persons living with a serious or life-threatening illness. Even with the aging

population, only 63 percent of hospitals report a palliative care program (Always Care,

Never Kill). The act of assisted suicide threatens the future of palliative care programs that aid

in the well-being of patients, and do not resort to life-ending solutions. If assisted suicide

continued its course in the medical field, palliative programs will eventually become extinct.

Another reason why assisted suicide affects the future of the medical field is because the morals

of the physicians are being questioned. [P]hysician-assisted suicide remains 'fundamentally

incompatible with the physician's role as healer, would be difficult or impossible to control,

and would pose serious societal risks (The Future of Physician-Assisted Suicide). As

assisted suicide progressively begins to seem to be the only option, more physicians appear to be

a healer to terminally ill patients. A persuading physician can lead a society of patients to look

at the act as the acceptable option, and future potential health programs can suffer. Lastly, a

reason why assisted suicide affects the future of the medical field is because of the deteriorating

relationships between the patients and their physicians. [Assisted suicide] distorts the
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doctorpatient relationship by reducing patients trust of doctors and doctors undivided

commitment to the healing of their patients (Always Care, Never Kill). As more

relationships between the patient and physician are affected, the future of potential patients for

any medical reason can be affected. The trust and bond between the patient and physician is

vital to the healing of the patient and growing of future medical patients. When this is not

produced due to assisted suicide, the lack of future patients can greatly affect the medical field.

The act of assisted suicide does not only affect the future of the medical field, but also the view

of the medical field, and the physicians emotions.

The medical field has provided research and discoveries to aid the human race for

centuries, and it should be seen as a respected field. Assisted suicide negatively impacts the

medical field -- from the physicians emotions to the future of the medical field. The medical

field should be a place of growth in health and communication, and assisted suicide takes away

that respect the field and physicians deserve. Society can be affected financially and individually

due to the pressure of assisted suicide. The medical field, along with the well-being of the

patient and family, can be affected negatively from the act of assisted suicide.

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