The “Right to Die”
Through the years, patients have been accorded various rights, some regarded as universal. Nevertheless, the “right to die” as an equal right to the patients has faced opposition and support from various circles of life. While various states in the US are embracing it, the “right to die” has been the subject of debate. The “right to die” presents terminally ill patients with the right to commit suicide with or without the assistance of medical practitioners. The physician-assisted suicide requires a doctor to have the patient’s full consent before administering the lethal medication to terminate his/her life. On the other hand, a patient may decide to withdraw from life-sustaining machines or medication to quicken his/her death. For the supporters of the “right to die,” the patients should have equal rights over their lives, like other people, and therefore, they should decide when, how, and by whose support they die. The opposition argues from the ethical and religious position that life is sacred, and only God should take it. Besides, ethics would argue that although the deceased would get saved from much suffering, the family and relatives would be exposed to higher suffering; hence, undesirable. This paper, however, establishes higher support for why the “right to die” should be under the law’s safeguards as against denying those rights.
The rights of patients, just as the rights of all human beings are well enshrined in the Federal Constitution (Stefoff, 2009). Therefore, as a patient, one has some fundamental rights that are well stipulated and protected by the law. Among other rights entitled to every patient include the right to the medication, the right to access a copy of own medical records, and the rights to keep the private medical records (Stefoff, 2009). However, the rights of patients are equally enshrined in the state laws. However, they may show some disparities from one state to another. Besides, the health care facilities have the mandate to run a parallel bill or rights for patients, but in conformation to the stipulations of the state and the federal laws (Stefoff, 2009). The most important right to any patient as provided for by the law is the informed consent. As such, the law stipulates that whenever an individual requires any form of medication, the person is entitled to full information from the doctor to assist him/her in making the right decisions (Stefoff, 2009). Therefore, according to the “right to die” it would be illegal to have medical practitioner hide information from the patient, since this is important in facilitating the process of making medical decisions. Currently, many hospitals have advocates to assist patients whenever legal issues arise. A state ombudsman office is the creation of the law in the states to help the patients whenever the legal needs arise, especially in the cases of long-term care (Stefoff, 2009). All patient rights as practiced across the world reflect the spirit of “Universal Declaration of Human Rights,” which stipulates the inherent dignity of human life, the inalienable and equal rights for all people (Stefoff, 2009).
As indicated in the introduction, people receive basic rights, especially in matters of health. This paper, however, presents qualitative research on the “right to die,” which is arguably an unknown area.
The “right to die” should get embraced as a universal right to dying patients, especially the terminally ill, a situation that accords them a dignified death and assist them to reduce the suffering in the period of illnesses.
The Right to Die
There is a common moral principle based on the supposition that human beings should be allowed to commit suicide through own means or voluntary euthanasia (Dorman, 2010). If there were a correct interpretation of the principle, it would mean that patients suffering from terminal conditions may have the approval to take own life at will or even assist them to remove the long-prolonging treatment programs by medical practitioners (Dorman, 2010). However, central to the argument of whether the law should have such provisions is the question of whom or which profession should be allowed to empower the patients in making such decisions against the medical profession ethics.
The “right to die” regards to some issues that relate to whether a person should die when he/she could continue living with the assistance of the life supporting systems or even in enfeebled capacity (Stefoff, 2009; Dorman, 2010). The aspect of “right to die” encompasses the debate of whether a patient suffering from a terminal condition should be enabled to terminate own life even before the death is near. While the concept indicates, “dying with dignity,” a heated debate has emanated from the same with some people supporting it while others are opposing the right (Dorman, 2010).
It is worth noting that the patients anticipating death are empowered to make own decisions through the “living will” or even through the “do not resuscitate orders” made while one is in the right state of mind and the presence of witnesses (Dorman, 2010). As such, the tag between the rights that one can have concerning own death would face such challenges as are presented by the provisions of the law on patients right to live under the will or such life orders. While the patient may not be in a position to make the informed decision of death as indicated on the “right to die” provision, the patient orders, and living wills is used in confirming the intention of the patient to die at particular stages of their ailment (Dorman, 2010).
The arguments in support of the proposed right argue that every person has absolute rights to his/her body; hence, a person can terminate his/her as one will or dispose of the body as one pleases (Dorman, 2010). Nevertheless, the opposition raises the concerns of the legitimate responsibility of the state in preventing irrational deaths as would be caused by suicides. However, it is worth noting that the debate has as equal opposition and the support, not only from the state law but also from the cultural values of the people. For instance, while the sovereign law emphasizes the inalienable right to living as encompassed in the universal declaration of the human rights, the Hindus approach is different because the precepts of Hinduism allow them to die if tormented by terminal illnesses or even when one has no desire or ambition to continue living (Dorman, 2010). Besides, many other religions tolerate death by choice.
The primary questions guiding this research paper are as follows.
- Should the law allow death at will through the “right to die”?
- What arguments support the “right to die” debate?
- Which arguments are opposed to the “right to die’ debate?
- What are the ethical and professional concerns that pertain to live and which the “right to die” provision infringes, as alluded to in the debate?
While these questions will guide the paper in understanding the “right to die” as proposed, the paper will evaluate the different perceptions and the provisions of the different legal institutions across the globe.
The History of “Right to Die”
Suicide had various interpretations and perceived differently across the different cultures and systems of faith (Meisel, 1989). For instance, the Anglo-Saxon traditions have the law, which treats suicide as illegal, sinful, immoral, and sometimes as a repudiation of God (Meisel, 1989). Besides, many customs abhor death and, therefore, the idea of intentional death gets a huge opposition. However, modernity has brought about divergent views on the subject with more legal paradigms allowing multiple and different perspectives about death (Meisel, 1989). Euthanasia has been one greatly debated topic. By definition, it is causing death to a person due to the motive of easing one’s pain or suffering (Meisel, 1989). As such, divergent views on the subject arise with much of the current debate triggered by a school of thought that perceives death as a right. Accordingly, the supporters of the thoughts argue that as living is a right for all human beings, so is death, and therefore, everybody should be granted the right to choose the best way to terminate own life (Meisel, 1989). However, the process of integrating the different views as shown by the legal perceptions and the traditions proves challenging while applying the law to the world.
The Euthanasia, the Right to Die or Murder?
The majority of the legal infrastructures in the modern world still ascribes to the traditional Anglo-Saxon paradigms embedded in the cultural values as well as the religious practices (Healey, 2008). However, irrespective of the foundation of the legal regime, it is evident that all humans are born at some time, and they must die at particular times (Healey, 2008). While natural occurrences, accidents, suicides, or even illnesses may cause death, many legal jurisdictions have certain clauses concerning the same. Often, many people face the reality of extreme pains from illnesses and at some time it is expected (Healey, 2008). However, death would be arguably undesirable to all people, and, therefore, some people decide to hasten death before due time. Therefore, euthanasia is the processes by which the people hasten own deaths before the actual time with the aim of reducing suffering. Among other countries where the practice is common, include the Netherlands, Belgium, Luxemburg, and some states in the United States such as in Montana, Washington, and Oregon (Healey, 2008). However, the practice is against the law and, therefore, interpreted as a criminal act if any person assists one to die. In fact, the UK law is explicit in the interpretation. In fact, any offense associated with supporting any person to kill him/herself attracts a fourteen-year jail imprisonment (Healey, 2008).
There are various processes that undertake euthanasia, which include lethal injections, refusal to take medication, and withdrawal from life support machines or systems (Healey, 2008). The primary arguments arising from the process are that euthanasia allows a person to terminate life more peaceably with reduced suffering as results from such issues as terminal illnesses (Healey, 2008). Nevertheless, in other countries, the euthanasia is a criminal offense, and the law interprets it as a form of murder or intentional killing of a person.
Arguments for and Against Euthanasia
Every person has the voluntary intent in life, a situation, which implies that the person should decide when, how, as well as under whose hands he/she dies (Healey, 2008). From the moral perspective, a person should be allowed to choose how to terminate own life, even if through the assistance of another person so long as no harm get caused to another person (Healey, 2008). Therefore, euthanasia is a personal right if the process would facilitate the realization of the patient’s best interests and when the process does not violate the rights of other people.
In some other instances, a patient may not have consent into the process of euthanasia and, therefore, whenever a medical practitioner or even a relative induces the process that get perceived as being against the patient’s right to life (Healey, 2008). For instance, a doctor would be guilty of murder if found inducing euthanasia without a patient’s consent (Healey, 2008). As such, the law in the countries where euthanasia is allowed would interpret the process as criminal and in such instances, euthanasia is undesirable (Healey, 2008). However, in the countries where euthanasia is illegal, but there is the recognition of “living wills” and “do-not-resuscitate orders,” a patient would have the liberty to demand the termination of life whenever deemed necessary.
The “physician-assisted dying” refers to the mode of hastening one’s death by the use of lethal drugs whenever requested by the patient (DuBose, 1999). Active euthanasia is another name for the practice, which differs from the process of withholding the medical treatment from a patient and, therefore, leading to death. On the other hand, passive euthanasia is the process where the medical practitioner withholds or discontinued the patient’s medication. While the passive euthanasia has a wide acceptance, it also has had great controversies as regards the patient’s rights in accepting or refusing medication. Examples of such euthanasia are turning off patient’s respirators, discontinuing food and water, failure to resuscitate, or even deliberate stopping medication.
There is a conspicuous conflict pointed out between the patient’s rights to die, the professional code of ethics, and the oath of service (DuBose, 1999). By allowing any form of physician-aided suicide, the law contradicts the principle commitment of the medical practitioners that defines them as “live savers” as against agents of death (DuBose, 1999). However, one would understand that at times, patients suffering from the terminal conditions would prefer termination of life than living with the sufferings. However, controversies would arise on physician’s involvement in the process of taking the patient’s life as against the rational role of the practitioners in saving the lives of the patients (DuBose, 1999). In fact, among other opposing views on the issue permitting any form of physician-assisted death is the one that point out to a possible increase in the risk of life, as the deceased would justify the death (DuBose, 1999). Besides, the provision would present a technical challenge if there is a control of practices by the physicians.
Jack Kevorkian adopted the title of ‘Dr. Death’ due to the many claims of the physician-assisted deaths he facilitated in the 1990s in Michigan (DuBose, 1999). However, the doctor escaped numerous charges leveled against him for his role in facilitating the deaths of at least 130 of his patients over the year because, by the time, Michigan State lacked specific laws against the physician-assisted suicides (DuBose, 1999). Accordingly, the doctor would operate own set of rules, which determined who deserved the assistance or otherwise. Nevertheless, through the years, his roles in the patients’ deaths were termed notorious, and the state’s legislature passed the law that prohibits assisted suicide. As such, the Michigan Supreme Court supported the statute that spelled out that no constitutional right existed to allow any physician to get directly involved in patients’ deaths in the form of assisted dying (DuBose, 1999). Nevertheless, with the rising concerns of the patient’s rights to medication, many other states have ratified the law to allow such forms of assisted deaths whenever a patient requests.
The Oregon state, however, has had a different opinion in the decision of an adult patient to request the assistance to die (DuBose, 1999). In fact, it was the first state to pass the law on physician-assisted dying in 1994. In the decision-making, there was a heated debate on the responsibility of a physician and a patient in the whole issue of “the right to die” (DuBose, 1999). Accordingly, the law allowed physician-assisted suicides with restrictions to certain predefined circumstances. However, the law has been clear that no physician should facilitate the physician-aided suicide. Therefore, the law allowed some conditions under which the legality of the decision to terminate one life would get evaluated (DuBose, 1999). First, a patient must have been above eighteen years of age and suffering from a determined terminal condition. Secondly, the patient must have a determined life expectancy of at most six months and that the patient makes at least two oral and one written requests for the assistance in dying (DuBose, 1999). Besides, the law would require that at least two physicians got the conviction that the patient’s requests were genuine and that the decision to terminate life was voluntary. Moreover, the confirmation of the decision must be devoid of influence from depression and as such, the physician must have the request made in a stable mental state. Finally, before consenting into the assistance, a physician must explain to the patient the other available alternatives such as pain control strategies and the hospice care (DuBose, 1999). After the verbal request, the law stipulated the aspect of observing the patient for at least fifteen days before the procedural assisted death. In essence, over the years, many doctors have become victims of the law in their attempt to prescribe lethal medicine to the terminally ill patients requesting for the physician-assisted suicides.
The California state equally enacted a law to the effect of allowing physician-assisted suicide after the legislature passed the controversial bill (DuBose, 1999). In a justification to the signing into law of the bill, the governor argued that he consulted widely and considered all arguments on the subject before he decided to consent to the right to die for such patients through the physician assistance. In fact, to him, the essence of prolonging the life of such a patient while suffering from pain would not be justified and would otherwise be against the fundamental rights of patients, especially on personal choice (DuBose, 1999). However, the bill faced the opposing views from religious leaders who argued that granting such a will would be defying God and the sanctity of life and putting the lives of the terminally ill patients at a sure risk of suffering forced deaths. However, the supporters argued that the law should only apply to people considered mentally sober for informed judgment and decision (DuBose, 1999). However, the law was clear on protecting patients from forced death and it stipulated that the patient should take the medication by self although with the approval from at least two physicians who had received written requests. Besides, the California law requires the presence of two witnesses (DuBose, 1999). However, the law is clear that only licensed physicians and willing patients should apply the law since no state has a special program to apply the law.
Dying Patient’s Rights
The extreme pain suffered by many of the terminally ill patients has been the basis of current debates on the “right to die” (Healey, 2008). Terminally ill patient may be close to death because, in most cases, the medicine has shown that the conditions are incurable. Therefore, the patients and the medical specialists know that the conditions would lead to death (Healey, 2008). Therefore, with the assurance of death in the duration of time, arguments have risen on the provision of a right to have the patients decide on death before the time of the actual death, a situation that would overcome much pain. A common stance is that the dying patients have special rights and unique needs. In fact, the hospice care focuses on these rights with the aim of improving the life the patients.
The debate on “the right to die” has necessitated for the formation of different legal frameworks, which focus on the rights of the patients (Healey, 2008). Often, the laws and the proposed focus on the provision of the right to die and often stipulate how a patient may choose to die. As such, many of the frameworks specify the persons who require assistance, especially the dying the patients. Physicians are mostly the people cited to facilitate the process by prescribing life-ending medication for at the patient’s awareness (Healey, 2008). However, ethical concerns on the practice differentiate between harmful motives and the helpful motives as are applied while considering the application of the law and the patients’ rights to die. Therefore, the concern about the purpose of the law would necessitate the asking of questions, including whether the right to die presents an opportunity for the patients to get assistance in overcoming the pain.
While different states advocate and enact the right to die laws, one must appreciate that various opposing views are against the provisions (Sharp, 2009). For the supporters, they perceive that a terminal illness has an associated effect of prolonging the suffering of the patient, therefore, perceive the rights as a positive intervention in reducing the sufferings (Neurology, 2011). Accordingly, the proponents of the right ascribe to the opinions that every person has a right to his life or body and, therefore, can decide when and how to terminate life, especially in the condition of terminal illness. The discussion, therefore, revolves around rationality and presumes that rationality would be the explanation of the assisted suicide (Neurology, 2011). Therefore, the rational argument would ask why a person should have his life in suffering prolonged through the hospice care instead of assisting him/her to die and overcome the suffering. However, one may also be concerned with the universality of the “right to die.”
Religion does not provide a guiding consensus on the topic as seen through the diverging opinions (Meisel, 1989). For instance, the Hindus appreciate the provision to have the people suffering from terminal conditions take up their lives through fasting until death (Meisel, 1989). On the contrary, the Catholic faith interprets the right to die as a sin in that life is holy and under no circumstance should anyone advocate for termination (Meisel, 1989). Accordingly, the Catholic Church argues that no person has the right to take away life or assist in the suicide mission. Other differences observed in the provisions of the laws of different countries or states show that the universality of the topic is highly debatable (Meisel, 1989). While other states legalize the doctor-assisted death in the right to die laws, others highly prohibit the provision and, therefore, have the patients suffer long before they succumb to the pain (Meisel, 1989). Furthermore, the medical practitioners appear divided on the topic with the opponents arguing that the professional code of ethics perceives the profession as meant to facilitate life as against terminating it (Meisel, 1989). Nevertheless, for the supporters, they share the belief that with the surety of death from the terminal illnesses, the patients should receive help in finding a long lasting solution from the pain through early death (Meisel, 1989). As such, ethical debates have dominated the arguments against and for the assisted suicide as advanced from the law on the “rights to die” for the terminally ill patients.
Although appearing as a popular ideology, the right to die as a pertinent issue in the whole debate about patients’ rights faces several challenges (Neurology, 2011). The end of life decisions involved faces such underlying issues as the legal concerns on the right as pertains to suicide, assisted suicide, passive euthanasia, active euthanasia, and the palliative care (Neurology, 2011). Besides, the issues in the debate have brought on board a new form of concern that regards the physician-assisted suicide.
In the UK, a legal tussle on whether to legalize the “right to die” law as legalized elsewhere has received great opposition. However, Christian values form the basis of the opposition. Simply put, the majority of the opposition argues that it is against God’s law to kill oneself (Sharp, 2009). While the opposition would be subjective in the way of applying the Christian doctrine in a matter of holistic concern even to the secular population, then no assumption is necessary because even the supreme constitution identifies the religious opinions fronted in the country. Therefore, for the people raised in the religious backgrounds, they perceive that such a law would be immoral and unlawful (Sharp, 2009). However, the majority of the dominant cultures in the UK had a special regard to euthanasia as a means to help a person overcome pain. Although this paper does not confirm that the traditional perception and habits still happen in the modern day, the argument is that although many people raise opposing opinions on the subject, it is worth noting that euthanasia is not a new practice in facilitating death for the terminally ill people.
If the early death of a patient would assist in easing the pain, loss, grief, and trauma caused by the suffering of the family or close people, then, ethics have it that it would be desirable (Sharp, 2009). Accordingly, death would be appealing if it facilitates easing of pain to the patient lessen the emotional torment to their loved ones (Sharp, 2009). However, the argument avers that without proper legal infrastructure, the right would face a sure abuse in the application. While the right is fundamental to the patients, no one should force or influence them in any way to make the choice because they also have more rights to live as provided by the law (Sharp, 2009). Therefore, if a patient chooses to die, then the law safeguards them. On the other hand, the law should also safeguard against possible abuse of innocent patients. However, one should support the right to die as a provision of the law. Therefore, no one should be prolonging the life of a suffering patient, especially if the patient would like to terminate his/her life on will
For the case physician-assisted suicide, a practicing medical practitioner takes an active role in assisting a terminally ill patient to choose a way of dying and in some instances offers the patient counseling on making the selection. Often, the suffering patient approaches the doctor for such assistance (Humphry & Wickett, 1986). It is worth noting that any patient should be aware of what he/she suffers from and the medication involved. However, some conditions are incurable and are associated with much suffering. As such, the freedom to information as a legal provision or right to the patients in many countries would support the patient’s consultation to the physicians (Humphry & Wickett, 1986). However, in the majority of countries, the law provides for such consultation, but does not provide for the rights to commit suicide by a patient. In that case, the debate over whether patients should be allowed to consult the physicians on the decision of terminating own life faces the challenge of stipulations of the law (Humphry & Wickett, 1986). In such countries, the physicians would have no basis for guiding a patient in understanding the various methods to use in committing suicide or even assist in causing the death (Humphry & Wickett, 1986). Without such clear stipulations, the law, therefore, becomes a hindrance to such an arguably fundamental right to the terminally ill patients across the world. In fact, in many countries and states where the law provides for such, the physician-assisted suicides are often many, and the physicians become instrumental in informing the patients of the right to die as a primary provision by the law.
The “right to die” provision by law has a perception that it lacks entire recognition in the world (Neurology, 2011). While some countries have well-developed legal systems that appreciate the choice of death as a fundamental right for patients, there are other countries that do not only consider the right to die as a patient right, but which also lacks the legal framework for supplication of such a right (Neurology, 2011). In fact, while the laws in such countries do not provide a criminal code on the facilitators of patients’ suicide, the law does not presume their innocence. As such, any country appreciating the “right to die” law as a fundamental right to terminally ill patients must have a clearly defined legal system, which would enable the physicians to assist the patients while, on the other hand, the law protect them (Neurology, 2011). However, the law must be clear on the provisions that support the free will to the patients who would initiate such decisions of terminating their life as a way of evading much suffering (Neurology, 2011).
Many people reason that the choice of an individual to commit suicide to evade sufferings caused by terminal illnesses would be acts of personal freedom or free will and, therefore, the law should grant it (Neurology, 2011). However, such assumptions have been responsible for having many people, especially the physicians facing legal tussles for their roles in facilitating death to individuals even when the patients ask for the assistance. However, the debate on the right to death for the terminally ill patients is always at the focal point and promises to shape the future of the contentious issue (Neurology, 2011). Different phases of the debate and associated success are coming along with the adoption of the right in various states in the United States. Indeed, many people are engaging in the debate of whether to legalize the right or not (Neurology, 2011).
Arguments in Opposition to the “Right to die”
As illustrated above, the topic of the universality of the adoption and application of the right to die has faced considerable opposition from different circles in then society.
First, the majority of the religious doctrines led by Christianity argue that life is sacred, and no one has the right to terminate it (Willis, 1981). The argument, therefore, shows that even the patient has no right to considering dying because of sufferings associated with the terminal condition. Moreover, according to the Buddhism system of beliefs, people should refrain from killing fellow human beings. Accordingly, the Buddhists believe that death results to suffering for the living and that it often causes challenges in the spiritual development of the people left and, therefore, it is undesirable (Willis, 1981). Therefore, according to the religious beliefs and practices of the Buddhists, the right to die ought to be a provision in the law because it would save the people left much pain. Besides, the Buddhists believe that any person who kills himself for suffering would realize higher suffering in the afterlife, and therefore, people get assistance in committing suicide in spite of the suffering experienced.
The “slippery slope” argument advanced by the medical practitioners caution against then legalization of the “right to die” on some contentious grounds (Willis, 1981). First, the argument supposes that when there is the legalization of this right, the physician-assisted suicide will come into effect. The physician-assisted suicide may be prevalent in the terminally ill patients, but with time, the effects may spill to other human populations like the persons with disabilities and the results would be detrimental to human existence. Furthermore, such populations may be the subject of such of the death triggering medications without their consent as informed by such issue as economic factors. Therefore, the primary concern while considering legalizing the right should be on how to protect the “rights” of individuals to avoid possible abuse by both the practitioners and the society (Willis, 1981). The slippery slope argument becomes a fundamental opposing argument to the debate over legalization of the right to die as a fundamental patient right.
Finally, another evident opposition to the right as pointed out in the argument indicates that the right would subject the public to higher risks while in the hands of the medical practitioners (Willis, 1981). Accordingly, the argument points out that the practitioners would be committing deliberate errors in administering the lethal medication and argue that the patients requested for the same. Furthermore, the law would hamper the relationship between the doctors and the patients as established and guided by the ethics in medical practice (Willis, 1981). First, one must appreciate that physicians perceive saving life as their priority in practice and, therefore, any other interest that would override this aspect would be unintended. The public would also lose the confidence and trust held in the medical practice with the assumption that a practitioner would deliberately facilitate one’s death, sometimes without own consent.
Arguments in Support of the “Right to Die”
Advance directives in the medical have been a common feature as shown by the “living will” and the “do not resuscitate order” applied in the cases of dying persons. The provisions of the law that allows the decisions of the dying patients be respected become the foundation upon which the right to die debate have gotten its basis on many occasions (Willis, 1981). The proponents of the right to die argue that in certain conditions, patients should have the support of the law to withdraw from living through life-sustaining medication or support machines. First, all humans have an equal right to live in dignity and to live comfortable lives without much suffering. Nevertheless, in some instances, the patients would be suffering a lot and with the certainty of death, then the patients would prefer to die early; hence, overcome living with prolonged pain. Therefore, the arguments fronted in the support of the right are focused on the quality of life lived as against the length.
As provided for by other advance directives, the right to die provides the dying patients the opportunity to choose the mode of dying, the time, or the option of dying as well as by the help of which person (Willis, 1981). While the palliative medical care only offers an opportunity to prolong life, it does not provide the patients with solutions to the sufferings. As such, the supporters of the “right to die” reason that such a law would enable the patients develop a long-term solution to the suffering through death.
Secondly, the law would enable the patients to consult the physicians who would later facilitate the suicide by administering life-terminating medication without possible legal challenge. It is worth noting that in the states where the right to die gets practiced, the medical practitioners follows some set rules while applying the law with, including the informed consent and verification of the patient through writing and also through witnesses (Willis, 1981). Therefore, besides covering the patients, the law would also provide a legal cover for the physicians involved.
Third, the right would provide structures to safeguard the interests of innocent patients from possible exploitation and death from the physicians or the caretakers. In fact, the traditions of many cultures show that the right to die has had application for many years although with some guidelines for safeguarding the interests of both the practitioners and the patients.
Finally, many people argue that an individual has a higher right to his/her body and life than it is to others and the government (Willis, 1981). As such, every person should be accorded the right to choose the manner in which to terminate own life when deemed necessary, especially in terminal illnesses. Therefore, the argument would get support from the overriding interests of realizing the highest gain for one’s life as against considering the rights of others (Willis, 1981). Therefore, besides suicide helping the patient realize higher value for own life, the suicide would enable other people close to the patient to live more happily or comfortably. Therefore, the law should support personal decisions in terminating own life instead of prolonged suffering with a sure death.
Much of the concern, however, has been on the legal protection offered to the physicians who facilitate or help patients to die because, in many states where the “right to die” lacks legalization, they risk prosecution on criminal charges. In fact, many have had to face criminal charges on homicide and manslaughter for assisted suicide to terminally ill patients.
The “Right to Die” in Islam
In the Islamic culture, health receives high regard and value (Sachedina, 2008). On the other hand, Islam perceives diseases as an evil, and the Muslims believe that individuals should look for all possible legitimate means to cure it (Sachedina, 2008). Therefore, Islam highly regards Medicine because it presents a cure for the afflicted. Therefore, a Muslim physician is primarily responsible for providing care for the patients and ensuring that there are minimal sufferings because of illnesses. As such, the decisions to terminate the life of terminally ill patients even at their request are beyond the moral and legal obligations for the physicians in Islam (Sachedina, 2008). In fact, the Quran teaches that a person is only to die at an appointed time by God. Therefore, it is against the teachings of Islam to facilitate the death of any person (Sachedina, 2008). Therefore, the law in Islam forbids even the purposeful termination of one’s life even in the extreme of sufferings. In fact, the Islamic culture and beliefs present one of the challenges that the debate on the “right to die” faces in the modern day (Sachedina, 2008). To the culture, the right to die through physician-assisted means or even through deliberate withdrawal from the life supporting system is against God and would not be granted even by law (Sachedina, 2008).
The concept of the “right to die” to patients,, as evaluated in this paper, is not currently a well-developed concept. Nevertheless, in many United States regions, the “right to die” is already operational, thereby setting precedence to many other countries and states that are considering the provision of the law. In fact, the adoption of the right in many countries depends on current debates relating to the legal basis of the provision of “right to die” and the ethical concerns associated with the law. By the definition of the right, patients suffering from extreme pain from terminal illnesses would be accorded the right to voluntary terminate own life through withdrawing from life sustaining systems and medication or being assisted by medical practitioners through lethal prescription medicine. If these rights are provided, the patients should decide the time to terminate life, the method of suicide, and the person who would assist them in the process.
Often, even in the countries where the provision of these rights is not evident, the patients normally decide to quicken their death by refusing medication or withdrawing from the sustaining machines, especially when they are at extreme suffering and are sure that they will die. In the case of physician-assisted suicide, the patient’s request the assistance of the attending physicians by writing and in the presence of witnesses to confirm the willingness and avoid possible coercion. In such instances, the doctor then explains the available options and the patients chose the preferred medication and the process of administration. However, the practice and the rights have faced equal opposition and challenges as the opponents reason that the right denies the patients’ right to live besides being against the will of God. However, there have been different opinions on the applicability of the right to die to the patients across the countries. There are at least five states in the US where the “right to die” is legal. In fact, the physician-assisted suicide in these states receives protection by law. Other topics considered in the discussion are euthanasia and the voluntary withdrawal from the life-sustaining machines by the dying patients. This paper, however, supports the “right to die” on the grounds of terminally ill patients because it offers an opportunity to the patient to die with dignity and avoid experiencing much suffering from the conditions. However, countries considering ratifying the “right to die” must have well instituted legal frameworks. In this aspect, the law would safeguard the interest of the terminally ill patients and other vulnerable groups from the possible exploitation by malicious physicians and caretakers that would lead to administration of lethal medicine.
However, this paper has established that among other challenges that face the provision of the “right to die” is the cultural practices and systems of religious beliefs. Indeed, the majority of these groups argue in opposition to the “right to die” provision. Nevertheless, with the increased campaigns in support of the “right to die,” there is a higher likelihood that many countries will embrace it as a fundamental right to the patients and, therefore, create the appropriate legal infrastructure to facilitate it.
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