Ethical and Legal Issues with Physician Assisted Suicide and Euthanasia

Ethical and Legal Issues with Physician Assisted Suicide and Euthanasia

ABSTRACT: Medical professional have long prohibited physician involvement in assisting a patient's suicide. However, despite ethical and legal prohibitions, calls for the liberalization of this ban have grown in recent years. The medical profession should articulate its views on the arguments for and against changes in public policy and decide whether changes are prudent. In addressing such a contentious issue, physicians, policymakers, and society must fully consider the needs of patients, the vulnerability of particular patient groups, issues of trust and professionalism, and the complexities of end-of-life health care. Physician-assisted suicide is prominent among the issues that define our professional norms and codes of ethics. The American College of Physicians-American Society of Internal Medicine (ACP-ASIM) does not support the legalization of physician-assisted suicide. The routine practice of physician-assisted suicide raises serious ethical and other concerns. Legalization would undermine the patient-physician relationship and the trust necessary to sustain it; alter the medical profession's role in society; and endanger the value our society places on life, especially on the lives of disabled, incompetent, and vulnerable individuals.



The word ‘euthanasia’ is derived from the Greek work for ‘good death’ and originally referred to intentional mercy killing.   Applied to our society, euthanasia is the merciful ending of life to release a person from unendurable pain and suffering, a terminal disease, or an undignified death.   The act of euthanasia can be active or passive as well as voluntary or involuntary.   An example of active euthanasia is when a doctor gives a patient a lethal dose of medicine.   Passive euthanasia is when measures to prevent death are not taken, like declining life support.   Voluntary euthanasia is when a person asks directly to die.   When a person is not competent to make decisions, for example in a coma, ending his/her life...

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