“The Right to Die: Should Assisted Suicide Be Legal?” Essay Sample

Posted on November 27, 2023

Assisted suicide is a controversial social and ethical issue that raises questions about autonomy, quality of life, and the role of healthcare providers in end-of-life decisions. This sensitive topic became a subject of passionate debate because it requires careful consideration of various ethical aspects and poses complex policy challenges. The proponents of assisted suicide argue that it should be legalized since it provides individuals who endure suffering due to terminal illness or unbearable pain with a compassionate option to end their lives. However, the opponents of assisted suicide claim that its legalization can cause additional pressure on vulnerable groups, such as patients with disabilities or mental health illnesses, putting them at risk of coercion to end their lives. Despite these concerns, assisted suicide should be legalized because it allows terminally ill people to take control of their end-of-life decisions and die with dignity.

Since assisted suicide is a topic of high complexity and interest, it has become a subject of extensive research, exploring its ethical, legal, and social implications. For instance, a research study by Svenaeus explores the phenomenology of suffering in medicine and bioethics, highlighting its multi-level nature and the relevance of end-of-life care, analyzing euthanasia and assisted suicide (335). The article delves into political and existential dimensions surrounding the debate regarding assisted suicide, considering the arguments of its supporters and critics. One essential argument the reading provides in support of assisted suicide is that illnesses might significantly reduce the quality of life.

In his article, Svenaeus notes that some physical ailments can lead to the suffering associated with the loss of cherished activities and core life values (339). The author argues that not only physical pain but also emotional suffering should provide a rationale for allowing physician-assisted suicide. Moreover, the article emphasizes that the person’s identity is defined by their life story and values, so if the patient’s current state is incompatible with their aspirations (Svenaeus 340). These arguments highlight the importance of a compassionate approach to those who experience suffering and the need to prioritize dignity, autonomy, and the right to make end-of-life decisions.

Aside from the arguments that support assisted suicide, the article emphasizes the necessity to consider the position of its critics. In particular, the reading suggests that the meaning of human life should not be reduced to a pleasure-pain calculus or utility paradigm but rather involve the terms of embodied moods and shared living in the world (Svenaeus 336). Individuals who suffer from severe illnesses and conditions frequently feel they can no longer contribute to the betterment of society, so they lose the purpose of their lives, viewing them as burdensome and devoid of value. Instead of adhering to assisted suicide, such individuals should seek professional mental health support to help them overcome the challenges associated with their condition and find a new meaning in life.

Nonetheless, this argument does not explain why assisted suicides should be prohibited but rather calls for careful consideration of various factors contributing to the suffering and highlights the importance of seeking alternative solutions. The reading also emphasizes the significance of the political aspect of legalizing assisted suicides since implementing such laws can increase the risk of devaluing human lives, overlooking the importance of supporting suffering individuals (Svenaeus 341). Hence, the legalization of euthanasia and assisted suicide requires existentially aware political discussion that can inform the decisions regarding their implementation.

The article by Mroz et al. is another reading that explores the topic of euthanasia and assisted suicide, discussing the arguments of its proponents and opponents. Similarly to the previous research, this reading states that assisted suicide and euthanasia preserve an individual’s autonomy and self-determination during the end of life, allowing people to choose a death with dignity (Mroz et al. 3551). Furthermore, it argues that these practices are sometimes the only way to relieve unbearable suffering, which makes them an important option in end-of-life care, providing physicians with a safe way to facilitate death (Mroz et al. 3550). Aside from this, the article discusses several arguments of these practices’ critics, including their claims that assisted suicide violates the Hippocratic Oath and the religious principle of the sanctity of life. The opponents of these end-of-life practices also argue that suffering can be relieved with adequate palliative care and terminal sedation (Mroz et al. 3550). Nevertheless, these arguments fail to acknowledge the value of autonomy and the right of individuals to make decisions regarding their lives, especially in the context of terminal illnesses. Many terminal diseases inevitably lead to the death of the affected individual, increasing the level of suffering as they progress. In this case, assisted suicide is an empathetic approach that alleviates and minimizes suffering as much as possible for individuals in their final stages of life.

Although the main focus of the article by Mroz et al. is the arguments in favor and against assisted suicide and euthanasia, it also discusses real-life examples of their legalization. The reading provides information about 18 jurisdictions where euthanasia or assisted suicide is legally permitted, highlighting that the Netherlands, Belgium, and Luxembourg allow these practices to be utilized for individuals suffering from psychiatric disorders and dementia (Mroz et al. 3540, 3551). Mroz et al. discuss the expansion of these end-of-life practices in several regions, emphasizing the global trend toward the legalization of euthanasia and physician-assisted suicide. This information can serve as another argument for euthanasia and assisted suicide because it highlights the growing acceptance and recognition of these practices in various countries.

This trend also indicates the shifts in societal attitudes toward assisted suicide and the importance of prioritizing patient’s decisions regarding their health. Nonetheless, only three jurisdictions permit assisted suicide or euthanasia for people with psychiatric disorders and dementia. Although people with these conditions can experience extreme suffering that cannot be effectively alleviated through other means, difficulties in assessing mental capacity and voluntariness are significant concerns associated with utilizing end-of-life practices for such patients. These challenges in allowing the use of euthanasia or assisted suicide for patients with psychiatric disorders indicate the need for comprehensive research and ongoing dialogues.

The study by Nicolini et al. delves into the perspectives on utilizing euthanasia and assisted suicide for individuals with psychiatric disorders, carefully considering both arguments for and against it. A significant argument supporting assisted suicide for psychiatric disorders is the importance of equality, which involves ensuring that individuals with psychiatric disorders have the same rights and options regarding end-of-life decisions as those with physical illnesses (Nicolini et al. 5). The article also emphasizes the respect for the autonomy of the individuals with psychiatric disorders, including the ability to end their suffering by adhering to assisted suicide.

However, Nicolini et al. also discuss the challenges and concerns associated with using these end-of-life practices, including the vulnerability of individuals with psychiatric disorders to coercion, manipulation, or impaired decision-making capacity (Nicolini et al. 9). The reading also emphasizes that psychiatric disorders remain poorly understood, which may result in diagnostic uncertainty, misdiagnosis, and premature decisions to end a person’s life. Although these concerns are frequently used as arguments against permitting assisted suicide for people with mental health disorders, robust safeguards, and comprehensive psychiatric care can help address these issues. Since severe psychiatric conditions might cause unbearable suffering equal to those caused by physical illnesses, impacted individuals should also have a right to make end-of-life decisions.

Another study that explores euthanasia and assisted suicide in people with psychiatric disorders is a literature review by Calati et al., which provides data and statistics regarding this topic. One argument is that the number of psychiatric patients who request assisted suicide in the countries allowing this practice grows because such individuals prefer it to “traditional” suicides (Calati et al. 3). Furthermore, up to 52 percent of patients with psychiatric disorders who adhere to assisted suicide or euthanasia have a history of suicide attempts (Calati et al. 7). From this perspective, assisted suicide is a more empathetic approach that allows patients with severe psychiatric illnesses to end their lives painlessly. Calati et al. also note that patients who request euthanasia or assisted suicide frequently have at least two psychiatric disorders, which makes their suffering even more extensive (7). The study also highlights that psychological pain can become intolerable, just like physical pain, because these two types of pain have overlapping neuroanatomical substrates (Calati et al. 5). These findings highlight the need for careful consideration and revision of euthanasia procedures to establish specific criteria of access and guidelines for evaluating requests, focusing on unbearable suffering, decision capacity, and possibilities of improvement. The study emphasizes the need for careful evaluation procedures and the involvement of mental health professionals in the decision-making process.

The topic of assisted suicide is a complex and controversial issue that requires careful consideration of various aspects and concerns. Nevertheless, assisted suicide should be legal since it provides people with terminal illnesses and those who suffer from unbearable physical or mental pain with a compassionate option to end their lives. Assisted suicide allows individuals to maintain control over their end-of-life decisions, contributing to dignity, autonomy, and a right to choose. Despite these arguments supporting the use of assisted suicide, its implementation requires considering ethical, legal, and social implications, robust safeguards, and ensuring the protection of vulnerable individuals, the provision of informed consent, and the prevention of abuse. Such complexity highlights the need for comprehensive research and ongoing dialogue, which contribute to informed and existentially aware political discussion.

Works Cited

Calati, Raffaella, et al. “Euthanasia and assisted suicide in psychiatric patients: A systematic review of the literature.” Journal of Psychiatric Research, vol. 135, 2021, pp. 153–173. doi:10.1016/j.jpsychires.2020.12.006.

Nicolini, Marie E., et al. “Should euthanasia and assisted suicide for psychiatric disorders be permitted? A systematic review of reasons.” Psychological Medicine, Vol. 1, 2020, pp. 1–16.

Mroz, Sarah, et al. “Assisted dying around the world: a status quaestionis.” Annals of Palliative Medicine, Vol. 10, Iss. 3, 2021, pp. 3540–3553.

Svenaeus, Fredrik. “To die well: the phenomenology of suffering and end of life ethics.” Medicine, Health Care and Philosophy, Vol. 23, 2020, pp. 335–342.

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