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Physician Assisted Suicide
This case study entails the analysis of Physician Assisted Suicide (PAS), especially in the three states that have legalized this practice, such as Oregon, Washington and Montana. Physician assisted suicide is defined as the situation where the health professionals either provide medications or equipments as well as informing terminally ill patients concerning the most efficacious use of already available methods, in order to assist patients to end his or her life (Lachman, 2010). In addition, the physician assisted suicide is also defined as the situation where the patient request the health physician to administer a form of treatment or medication with the intention of ending patient`s life.
In 1997, Oregon enacted a law (death with dignity act) that allowed physician assisted suicide, and this move was followed by a number of improvements in the palliative care facilities, such as the communication of patient wishes concerning life sustaining interventions, increased number of deaths occurring at home, pain management, increasing rates of referral to hospice programs as well as improved training of physicians in palliative care centers (Lachman, 2010). It is worth noting that the aspect of more deaths being encountered at home is due to the health professionals honoring the decision of some terminally ill patients, who prefer to die while at home where most family members are friends are located, rather than in the palliative care facilities.
Moreover, Washington voted for the Washington act that allowed physician assisted suicide in November 2008, but the act became effective in March 2009 (Lachman, 2010). This move was high supported by the residents of Washington as they perceived it to be better compared to the initial way of propagating PAS, as it entailed the aspect of administering lethal drugs to patients. The new law was high supported (it was voted 58 to 42 percent) especially due to the fact that it is equivalent to death with dignity (Lachman, 2010). Montana became the third state to allow health physicians to assist patients in dying in December 2009. At this time, the Montana Supreme Court ruled that the health physicians are free to make lethal prescriptions for patients who have been suffering from terminally ill diseases. As opposed to the Oregon and Washington states which legalized physician assisted suicide on the grounds of health physicians being compassionate and helping the public concerning how to make end of life decisions, the basis for the legalization of PAS in Montana was merely to facilitate dying of terminally ill patients but not death with dignity.
In all the United States, in most nurses from the states that have legalized Physician assisted suicide tends to be reluctant to meet the wishes of the terminally ill patients of hastening their death. Apparently, there is need to contemplate that if the nurses honor the autonomous right of patients of observing the wishes of patients during the treatment process, they ought to as well fulfill the patient`s right of hastening their death (Lachman, 2010). Moreover, though there are only few states in the U.S that have legalized mercy killing, active euthanasia and assisted suicide, the number of patients who prefer for assisted death is high. In Oregon, approximately 1 out of 1000 terminally ill patients prefers the use of lethal dose of medication (Oregon Department of Human Services, 2008). However, there are a number of emerging issues relating to the aspect of assisted suicide. For example, the aspect of abusing assisted suicide, especially to the vulnerable populations such as the elderly, uninsured individuals, women, the physically disabled, the poor, and the uneducated have been reported in numerous situations.
Lachman V., (2010). Ethics, Law, and Policy. Physician-Assisted Suicide: Compassionate Liberation or Murder? MEDSURG Nursing-March/April 2010-Vol.19/NO.2.
Oregon Department of Human Services (2008). Tenth Annual Report on the Death with Dignity Act. Retrieved from htt://Oregon.gov/DHS/ph/pas/docs/year10.pdf.