July 4, 2009

College, physician assisted suicide essay example

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Physician Assisted Suicide

The last thing anyone wants to think about is death. The thought of death is frightening, saddening, and worrisome to most people. It is inevitable to everyone and yet still is the most unfamiliar aspect of life. Death occurs every day, but to anyone facing death it seems to be everything but common. Although there are endless questions surrounding the mysterious occurrence we call death, there is a lack of an abundance of answers. For these reasons, the issues of how to handle death are always complex and never easy to deal with. Most of the problems that are created by death are very personal. Death affects each individual differently, whether you are the one dying or you are a family member, friend, or loved one of the dying. It is not usually easily discussed nor is it easily resolved and since the issue is so personal in its nature, it makes it very difficult to reach any comfortable decisions regarding the death of an individual. The difficulties of making the crucial life or death decision have caused some of the most heated and heartfelt debates in America today.

One of the most controversial issues that have risen from these debates is the practice of physician-assisted suicide. Currently, Oregon is the only state in America where this practice is legal. Prior to the legalization of physician-assisted suicide in Oregon, for most Americans the issue was not really an issue at all. The practice was not discussed primarily because it was illegal. Any discussion of a patient wanting to be assisted by a doctor to commit suicide was kept private and confidential, and so the American public did not get involved with such a concealed matter. The controversy did not reach the agenda of the American public until the news of a Michigan doctor, Jack Kevorkian, helping over 100 people end their lives, broke out in the mainstream media. Once the general public became informed about the issue, people began discussing the dilemmas of a person’s right to die and the practice of physician-assisted suicide.

So, what did Americans decide? Well, Americans were torn in many different directions. Public opinion polls revealed that Americans feel that the issue is more complex than simply whether the practice of physician-assisted suicide should be legal or illegal. About 70% of Americans support the help of a doctor to painlessly end a terminally ill patient’s life at the request of the patient and their family. Although it sounds like a majority of the American public supports physician-assisted suicide, public opinion polls reveal that when asked, do you think it should be legal or illegal for doctors to help terminally ill patients commit suicide by giving them a prescription for fatal drugs?, only 40% of those asked thought it should be legal and 48% felt it should be illegal. Changes in the wording of the questions resulted in variations of the answers given. These varying results show that most Americans do not take a clearly defined stand on this issue and feel the issue is very complex.

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