Physician-Assisted Suicide Is Ethical

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Physician-Assisted Suicide is Ethical

There are people in this world who live with pain and suffering everyday. This pain and suffering can be physical or emotional, and can vary in degree from person to person. Some people believe that a person who is suffering should be allowed to legally be euthanized. Euthanasia is, "the practice of terminating the life of a person because they are perceived as living an intolerable life, in a painless or minimally painful way either by lethal injection, drug overdose, or by the withdrawal of life support" (Euthanasia). When Euthanasia is performed or assisted by a Physician, it is known as Physician Assisted Suicide. Not only does Physician Assisted Suicide violate God's law, but in almost all countries in the world, it violates government laws. When discussing Physician Assisted Suicide, one should pay close attention to the views of the Catholic Church. It is important to look closely at what exactly constitutes Physician Assisted Suicide, why the Church condemns this practice, and the options the Church offers as alternatives. Also, one would be remiss to exclude investigating the ethical dilemma that Physicians face, as well as current legal issues concerning this problem in Canada.

As a Catholic, it is important to understand exactly what constitutes Physician Assisted Suicide. The Catechism of the Catholic Church states that, "Whatever its motives and means, direct euthanasia consists in putting an end to the lives of handicapped, sick, or dying persons" (CCC, 2277). To go one step further, Dr. Michael Gloth, a Professor of Medicine at Johns Hopkins University, writes, "Physician-assisted suicide occurs when a physician facilitates a patient's death by providing the necessary means and information to enable the patient to perform a life-ending act" (Gloth). Both definitions, a Catholic and secular source, define euthanasia (and Physician Assisted Suicide) as the deliberate ending of a human being's life. However, these definitions are extremely simplistic and do not examine the more complex issue of withdrawing life support. The Catechism states that by removing, "over-zealous treatment" one is not willing death, but accepting one's inability to impede it (CCC, 2278). In his Encyclical Evangelism Vitae, Pope John-Paul II defined this over-zealous treatment as "medical procedures which no longer correspond to the real situation of the patient, either because they are by now disproportionate to any expected results or because they impose an excessive burden on the patient and his family" (John Paul II). Thus, by stopping this aggressive treatment, the Physician is not actually euthanizing the patient. However, the Catechism continues to state that, "even if death is thought imminent, the ordinary care owed to a sick person cannot be legitimately interrupted" (CCC, 2279). So, while a Physician is justified in stopping extreme treatment and allowing death to occur naturally, that Physician is not justified in stopping treatment that is considered ordinary (such as removing a hydration tube). To summarize, Physician Assisted Suicide consists of the intentional ending of one's life either through direct actions, providing the means necessary, or by withdrawing basic medical ...
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