10 Things You Should Know about Physician Assisted Suicide

The option of physician assisted suicide is becoming more prevalent across the United States.

Physician assisted suicide is more often about maintaining control than ending intractable pain and suffering. Over the seventeen years it has been legal in Oregon, participants have been asked to indicate their reasons for choosing assisted suicide. Whereas 92% have indicated a loss of autonomy (control) and 89% a lack of enjoyment of life, only 25% have indicated they are choosing it because of intractable pain or the fear of intractable pain.

 

1. The option of physician assisted suicide is becoming more prevalent across the United States.

It is currently legal in Oregon, Washington, California, Vermont, and most recently, Colorado. It is soon to be legal in Washington DC. Its legality in New Mexico is delayed due to a court challenge and it is allowed in Montana on the basis of a court order. There are legislative proposals currently being considered in roughly half of the other states.

2. Physician assisted suicide is more often about maintaining control than ending intractable pain and suffering.

Over the seventeen years it has been legal in Oregon, participants have been asked to indicate their reasons for choosing assisted suicide. Whereas 92% have indicated a loss of autonomy (control) and 89% a lack of enjoyment of life, only 25% have indicated they are choosing it because of intractable pain or the fear of intractable pain.

3. Those championing assisted suicide are choosing to call it “Aid in Dying.”

This has far reaching implications for it means their agenda will lead to eliminating the need for physician involvement and the necessity that it be a voluntary act by the individual whose life is coming to an end.

4. Physician assisted suicide will not continue to be strictly a personal, voluntary choice.

Though current laws require it to be voluntary, many anticipate on the basis of the equal protection clause in the 14th amendment that the option of aid in dying will be extended to those who are incapable of making a voluntary decision to ingest the lethal medications (or physically do so).

5. The freedom to choose assisted suicide may lead to a feeling of obligation.

Recognizing that continuing to live may be a burden on others, some may feel obligated to end their lives as a means of relieving loved ones of the burden and cost of giving end of life care.

6. Physician assisted suicide is not the only option when experiencing a difficult death.

Palliative care is coming of age in the modern world of medicine. Much can be done to relieve both physical pain and the emotional, existential suffering that can accompany it.

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