Should assisted suicide be legal? Read the Callahan article and provide your insights. - Essay Prowess

Should assisted suicide be legal? Read the Callahan article and provide your insights.


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Should assisted suicide be legal? Read the Callahan article and provide your insights.


Callahan, J. (1994). The ethics of assisted suicide. Health and Social Work, 19, 237-244.

The ethical dilemma surrounding assisted suicide is indeed a lofty one. A core social work value committed to promote client self-determination will influence many workers to support assisted suicide. Also at play here is the obligation of practitioners to respect the dignity of their clients which can be compromised by an inability to care for themselves when confronted with terminal or chronic illness. Proponents of assisted suicide claim all persons can exercise their right to choose between life and death as long as no harm to others is inflicted. Their argument posits that people who are unable to end their life as a result of their condition should be extended the same right.
Opponents of assisted suicide, such as the authors of “The Ethics of Assisted Suicide” argue that client’s well-being outweighs their wish to die. The authors support evidence which indicates suicidal individuals possess impaired judgment associated with depression or mental illness rather than having a coherent wish to die. Although in agreement with the authors in their belief that hopelessness contributes to a desire to die, I disagree with their discourse stating “the client’s wish to die is most likely motivated by irrational, emotional, and changeable factors…” (p.9).
The article considers suicide contagion and de-stigmatization as phenomena’s which proclaim assisted suicide unethical. Personally, despite being wary that legalizing assisted suicide may create a slippery slope toward a diminished respect for life, I support clients’ self-determination in choosing between life and death when confronted with terminal and extreme chronic cases.

Donna… good synopsis of the article, and it appears that you have a pretty clear moral guideline for yourself w/regard to what is correct and why.

I agree with what you are saying…..BUT…. I think it is super important to distinguish between someone with a terminal or chronic medical condition and depression or mental illness. I think there is a clear difference when a person makes a rational decision to end their own life because the pain of their medical condition or how much it disrupts the life of others around them has become unbearable and when a person is having auditory hallucinations telling them to end their own life. To some extent mental illnesses like depression impair the ability to see a hopeful future and can lead to someone taking their own life when it is treatable and could get better.
On the other hand, the pain is unbearable in both and the client definitely has the right to self determination and should be able to make the decisions of what to do with their own life if they want. Not to get extremely ideological but the intrinsic value and respect for life seems arbitrary, the idea of valuing something that belongs to someone else more than the owner of it in an attempt to make decisons about what is best for them seems incredibly pedantic and arrogant.
The legalization of assisted suicide can open the floodgates of litigation and muddy the waters fro practitioners because to legalize it across the board seems preposterous. A lawsuit would sprout every time it happened and people would be arguing about what the deceased really wanted/ wasn’t in their right mind.

Absolutely Gavriel, I believe it a moral and professional responsibility for social workers to distinguish whether a person’s wishes for assisted suicide is based on a terminal medical condition or is symptomatic of a mental illness. I hadn’t thought of mental illness in relation to the article but agree that it would be essential to consider.