Physician Assisted Suicide and Ethics Essay

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Is physician-assisted suicide ethical if the patient requests medical assistance in terminating his or her own life?


In the U.S., the Supreme Court ruled in Washington v. Glucksberg (1997) that physician-assisted suicide is not protected by the Constitution. However, in other parts of the world, physician-assisted suicide is accepted socially and legally; and in the U.S., a patient who is terminally ill may engage in assisted-dying procedures, which are legal in six states and are legally differentiated from suicide (Buiting, Dieden et al., 2009). If one sets aside the legalistic parameters differentiating physician-assisted dying from physician-assisted suicide, can one say that the former is more ethical than the latter?

In other words, is physician-assisted suicide ethical if the patient requests medical assistance in terminating his or her own life?

Position Statement

In spite of what is permitted under the auspices of physician-assisted dying procedures, this paper will argue that physician-assisted suicide is, ultimately, unethical because it goes against the essence of the Hippocratic Oath that is at the heart of care giving.

Supporting Reason

The Hippocratic Oath maintains that a care provider will do everything in his or her power to sustain life. Deliberately causing the cessation of life is a violation of this Oath and goes against the essence of care giving.
Even if the patient wants to die, suicide is defined by the DSM-5 as self-destructive and therefore should not accepted as a rational act or desire. From a philosophical standpoint, the preservation of life can be seen as the greatest good that can be achieved. To willfully and deliberately set about destroying life, even if it is at the will of a patient and the life is the patient’s only and no other person can be identified as a victim, the care giver should still be viewed as philosophically, morally and ethically prohibited from engaging in any type of behavior that will result in the deliberate and willful termination of life.

Opposing Reason

Someone who might like to oppose this argument may counter with the objection that a person has the right to determine his or her own quality of life. A person who is terminally ill in body may be no different from one who feels terminally ill in mind or in soul. Such a person should have the right to decide to end his or her life, because it is no different from….....

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Buiting, H., Dieden, J., et al. (2009). Reporting on euthanasia and physician-assisted suicide in the Netherlands. BMC Med Ethics, 10(18), 10-18.

DSM-5. (n.d.). Suicidal behavior disorder. Retrieved from

Kamisar, Y. (1998). Physician-assisted suicide: the problems presented by the compelling, heartwrenching case. Journal of Criminal Law and Criminology, 88(3), 1121-1146.

Washington v. Glucksberg. (2015). CaseBriefs. Retrieved from

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