Pro Assisted Suicide Essay

The Universities of Oxford and Cambridge held the 2013 Varsity Medical Debate on the motion “This House Would Legalise Assisted Dying”.This article summarises the key arguments developed over the course of the debate.As the average life expectancy has increased, so too have the rates of debilitating chronic illness – particularly coronary artery disease and cancers [2].

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Consider that any request for suicide from a patient with clinical depression is generally categorised as a manifestation of that mental disorder, thereby lacking capacity.

It is arguably impossible to separate out the natural reactions to terminal illness and clinical depression.

However, there is concern that such distinction may be unrealistic in practice because medical practitioners could find themselves with a patient who had failed to successfully end their own life and was subsequently left in a state of greater suffering.

Were such a patient no longer able to give consent, a heavy burden would then be placed on the physician regarding how to proceed.

Although healthcare systems have sought to adapt to such changes, aiming to prevent and treat such disease wherever possible, debate has arisen regarding those patients in the latter stages of chronic, incurable, terminal conditions [3, 4].

Moreover, there is increasing recognition that the patient must be at the centre of health care decision-making, such that outcomes must be tailored to their individual needs and views.Addressing the technicalities of ‘assisted dying’ requires distinction between ‘physician-assisted suicide’ (offering patients medical actions or cessation of actions by which they can end their own life) and ‘euthanasia’ (whereby the medical practitioner actively induces death).In light of the strong hostility of the medical profession towards active euthanasia, this proposed model, as with previous attempts to legalise assisted dying, permitted only the former [8–10].Indeed, there is evidence that major depressive disorders afflict between 25% and 77% of patients with terminal illness [16, 17].Any protocol for assisted dying must first determine what qualifies as a ‘fit mental state’ for a terminal patient.Assisted dying could only be considered under circumstances in which a patient of legal age is diagnosed with a progressive disease that is irreversible by treatment and is “reasonably expected to die within six months” [7].Registered medical practitioners would make such decisions for patients with terminal illnesses.The strictness of such criteria has parallels to a similar double-physician requirement when procuring a legal abortion under the 1967 Abortion Act.The stated aims of the provision in both cases are as follows: first, to check the accuracy of the prognosis upon which the decision was being made; second, to ensure that the situation meets the required criteria; and third, to check that such a decision was taken by the patient after full consideration of all available options [11, 12].Overly pessimistic forecasts occur in 17.3% of prognoses; hence we must decide whether the one in six patients making a decision based on an inaccurate prognosis is too high a cost to justify the use of this system.Patients requesting an assisted death often cite future expectations of dependency, loss of dignity, or pain [14].


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