Assisted suicide is mostly associated with doctors, whereby; a medical doctor intentionally makes the means available for a patient to kill him or herself. Enormous health challenges make patients contemplate suicide and do request their physicians to assist them make the suicide possible. Doctors can provide the means to death usually through an overdose of prescribed medication; hence, the individual dies because of a drug overdose rather than from natural causes (Battin, 1995). This is commonly referred to as physician-assisted suicide. However, assisted suicide is not an action primarily limited to physicians. Any other individual providing the means to death to a patient is also considered assisting in suicide (Battin, 1995).
The issue concerning assisted suicide is an extensively debated ethical affair. The debate stems from different viewpoints first concerning when the act is considered appropriate and then what the resulting consequences would look like if the act were permissible (Lo, 2005). Ethical decisions in assisted suicide are debated along the lines concerned with the worthy nature of life and on what is entailed in a life that is worth living and consequently, who ultimately decides this. Many religions, however, hold that life is Gods’ gift, which should not be interfered with let alone be destroyed (Lo, 2005).
Nurses, for instance, are often confronted with ethical dilemmas when they interact with patients suffering from life threatening diseases (Snyder, 2002). The demoralizing effects of these diseases are devastating to the nurses, the patients, and the patients’ families. Nurses, therefore, may choose to facilitate a dignified death over preserving life. In such a case, it is essential for nurses to recognize their own feelings of fear, sadness, and discouragement. They should, therefore, understand the influence these feelings can have on their clinical decision making process (Snyder, 2002). The agonizing scenarios may make the nurses want to consider hastening the death of a patient out of human compassion, though, their professionalism advocate against it.
When taking a stand on ethical dilemmas, for instance, nurses, it is crucial for one to take a neutral stance and do what is expected of them. Ethical decisions are mainly about doing what one is ought to do. In this case, one is only deemed to do what is expected of him or her. This enables one to fulfill legal obligations and be ethical at the same time (Lo, 2005). Nurses, for instance, make their ethical decisions based on the framework of the code for nurses. An individual, therefore, does not make a biased decision that may have negative ramifications in the future. The principles of autonomy, doing good, avoiding harm, confidentiality, telling the truth, fidelity and justice should always guide one when taking non judgmental stances on ethical decisions, even on ethical decisions concerning assisted suicide (Lo, 2005).
In the case of physician-assisted suicide, much has been debated with most of the focus rightly being on the person choosing to die. Most people tend to forget the emotions experienced by the family members that are left behind. Suicides in most circumstances cause emotional damage to the families. Even though the one that passed away is no longer in pain and turmoil, feelings of guilt, anger, regret, and grief can inflict immense suffering after the suicide of any family member. Snyder, (2012) continues to note that there exist ample reasons for us to continue arguing concerning the ethics of choosing a physician-assisted death, but what is needed now the most is careful laws across the states. Remember- we all have the right to live, this should include the right to choose how we want to die.
Battin, M. P. (1995). Ethical issues in suicide. Englewood Cliffs, N.J: Prentice Hall.
Flight, M. (2011). Law, Liability, & Ethics for Medical Office Professionals (Fifth Edition ed.). Clifton Park, NY: Delmar.
Lo, B. (2005). Resolving ethical dilemmas: A guide for clinicians. Philadelphia, PA: Lippincott Williams & Wilkins.
Snyder, L. (2002). Assisted suicide: Finding common ground. Bloomington, IA Univ: Press.