Many people desire longevity. However, long life increases the likelihood of an individual succumbing to the terminal and chronic diseases. It is within this context that the debate on the right of a terminally ill and competent patient to die on their terms with assistance from physicians has emerged. The death with dignity act allows patients who are capable to make health care decisions and who are terminally ill to request and receive lethal prescription medicines (Purvis, 2012). Not all states have enacted these laws. This paper discusses the fundamental aspects regarding the Death with Dignity Act (DDA) as well as the Physician-Assisted Suicide (PAS). It also states the public policy and debate concerning this act and my personal opinion on the law and physician-assisted deaths.
What is death with dignity act?
The Death with Dignity Act (DDA) sets up the procedures and safeguards related to the application and administering of the prescription medications (Smith, Goy, Harvath, & Ganzini, 2011). Additionally, the act establishes the procedures for dispensing and reporting the physician-assisted deaths and provides for the effect of such deaths on wills, annuity and insurance policies as well as contracts. The act also highlights the terms of protection from civil and criminal liabilities. Hopelessness, impaired physical functions, and tough symptom distresses constitute the essential factors that may drive an individual to seek a physician-assisted suicide (PAS).
Death with dignity in Oregon
Oregon enacted the death with dignity act on 27th October 1997, making it the first state in the U.S to allow physician-assisted suicide. The enactment followed the 1994 public ratification. The coming into effect of the law marked a controversial yet significant milestone in the American debate over patients’ right to end their life with assistance from doctors (Purvis, 2012). Under this act, an individual who decides to end their life as per the laws has not committed suicide.
Technical aspects of the Oregon law
The Oregon law sets some requirements for a patient to make a request for a prescription of lethal medication. The patient has to be an adult residing within the state of Oregon. Additionally, they must be able to make and communicate key decisions regarding their health. Only licensed Oregon physicians are allowed to give the prescription for lethal medication. Prior to being given the prescription, the patients have to provide their signatures (Purvis, 2012). The signing process has to be done before two witnesses. Apart from that, doctors are only allowed to prescribe the dosage, and it is upon the patients to self-administer the medication. The bill has weathered multiple court trials including the 2006 Supreme Court Ruling. The implementation of the act demands the absolute publication of physicians/ patients’ information and annual statistical accounts by the Oregon Health Authority (Smith et al., 2011).
Death with dignity in other states
Oregon became the first state to enact the death with dignity act. The states of Vermont and Washington became the second and third states to pass the law. In Washington, the law was passed in 2008, but it was not until 2009 when it went into force. Vermont adopted the death with dignity law in 2013. The law went into force on 20th May 2013.
Euthanasia and physician-assisted deaths
Euthanasia involves the deliberate killing of a person who is terminally ill. The primary aim of euthanasia is to relieve the patient’s pain and suffering. The practice is illegal in the United States. PAS requires the patient to administer the lethal doses on their own. On the other hand, euthanasia involves other persons apart from the patient administering the lethal prescription drugs. Pereira (2011) points out that numerous laws and safeguards have been established to prevent the misuse of these practices. However, these legislations are often ignored and transgressed. One such example is that involving Dr. Jack Kevorkian. Kevorkian administered euthanasia on more than 130 victims, attracting numerous lethal charges, an ultimate 8-year jail term, and denial of his medical license.
Public policy and debate on PAS
As mentioned earlier, physician-assisted suicide, and its implication has become one of the central themes in the American ethical debate. The proponents and opponents of PAD have raised numerous points that are difficult to ignore. According to Rollins (2014), 77% of the public endorses the doctor-assisted suicides while 23% contest them. The opponents of PAD argue that as opposed to being a choice, suicide is a tragedy. Additionally, those opposed to the death with dignity law argue that it does not value life. On the other hand, proponents are of the view that PAS leads to the elimination of the patients’ miseries, depressions, chronic pains, and lack of control.
Personally, I advocate for the legalization of physician-assisted suicides in all the states. The patients suffering from terminal illnesses have to bear with a lot of pain and suffering. I believe that they should have the right to choose whether they want to terminate their lives or not.
Pereira, J. (2011). Legalizing euthanasia or assisted suicide: the illusion of safeguards and controls. Current Oncology, 18(2). Web.
Purvis, T. (2012). Debating Death: Religion, Politics, and the Oregon Death with Dignity Act. Yale Journal of Biology and Medicine, 85(2), 271-284.
Rollins, D. (2014). The trumped up case against Brittany Maynard. Progressive Populist, 20(22), 4-9.
Smith, K., Goy, E., Harvath, T., & Ganzini, L. (2011). Quality of Death and Dying in Patients who Request Physician-Assisted Death. Journal of Palliative Medicine, 14(4), 445-450. Web.