Doctor-assisted suicide is gradually becoming lawful in America

Credit: Pixabay

Assisted suicide refers to suicide committed with the aid of another person, sometimes a physician and is becoming more common and lawful in America. On June 9th, California became the 5th state to legalize doctor-assisted suicide, where 75 percent of the population support this way of ending one’s life, out of one’s own will.

It must be remembered, that this is different from the term euthanasia, that refers to the practice of intentionally ending a life in order to relieve pain and suffering and is governed by different euthanasia laws in every country.

Doctor-assisted suicide  simply refers to the act of a medical practitioner (i.e. physician or surgeon) in bringing about the voluntary death of a patient suffering from a terminal illness or incurable disease. It is also crucial that the patient making this decision is of a sound mind before the physician or doctor administers the drug to them.

The End of Life Options Act in California allows such terminally ill patients who have less than six months to live to receive the drug dosage, which is prescribed to end their life.

This method of dying has sparked many debates. Proponents of doctor-assisted suicide will argue that it is up to one’s personal discretion on whether he or she wants to live his life. They may perceive it as an issue of human rights- the fundamental right that every individual person has to live his or her life the way they want it to be.

There are also certain reasons why such forms of doctor-assisted suicide are increasingly preferred by patients:

  • Unbearable pain or suffering caused to patient
  • Recurrent physical conditions (i.e. Nausea and vomiting, paralysis, difficulties in breathing and swallowing)
  • Psychological or emotional factors (i.e. Depression, feeling like a burden to loved ones)

Infact, according to several studies, more than half of the oncologists polled in a survey, have received requests from a patient wanting to end their life.

President of National Right to Life, Carol Tobias, said that this law however, demeans and disregards the lives of Californians.

This strongly suggests that there are ethical implications of assisted suicide to be considered and raises ethical arguments and debates on the right to live, since lives are being forcefully ended or stopped.

In Singapore, assisted suicide, is deemed illegal unlike the US. However, there is an Advance Medical Directive (AMD) which is a legal document that people sign to indicate that they do not want the use of any medical assistance or life-sustaining treatment which would prolong their life, in the event the person becomes terminally ill and unconscious and where death is imminent.

However, AMD is slightly different in the sense that it does not directly end one’s life, but slowly causes death eventually.

Singapore is known for its rapid ageing population over the years. With the falling birth rates and increasing life expectancy, the proportion of elderly in our population is increasing. The government is taking many measures to lighten this increasing burden on our society, families and instead promote active ageing.

Should it become lawful in Singapore too? Well, any talk associated with death is considered as taboo in many cultures and Singapore is no exception. The views remain polarised, as expected. Only time will tell.

According to Wiki, as of June 2016, human euthanasia is legal in the Netherlands, Belgium, Ireland, Colombia, and Luxembourg. In Asia, Japan is the only country to have approved voluntary medical euthanasia. On the other hand, Assisted suicide is legal in Switzerland, Germany, Japan, Albania, Canada, and in the US states of Washington, Oregon, Vermont, Montana, and California.

This article was written based on a recent article by The Economist  dated 13th June 2016