Hemlock Society & Foundation of Florida

Teens Speak Out: Should physician-assisted
suicide be legal?

Saturday, October 01, 2011

The Young Editorial Staff (YES) is made up of 24 high school students from 15 southwestern Michigan high schools and the Home Education League. YES is coordinated by freelance writer and editor Phyllis Rose. The students pick their own discussion topics. The views expressed are solely those of the students, not the Kalamazoo Gazette.

By Natalie Wahl

"Not one has shown an iota of fear of death. They want to end this agony," said Dr. Jack Kevorkian, the Michigan pathologist who started the fight for the acceptance of physician-assisted suicide. Kevorkian was arrested many times and he was found not guilty. At the time, there were no pre-existing cases to which his actions could be compared.  That was until 1997, when the Supreme Court ruled it unconstitutional for people who could not take their own life to be helped along the way. However, those who are physically able to end their own lives have the constitutional right to do so.

Many people incorrectly think doctor-assisted suicide is a doctor ending a patient's life. This is not the case. Instead, the doctor devises a way for the patients to kill themselves.

Assisted suicide should be a collaborative decision between medical experts and the patients. If there is any chance of recovery, then such an extreme action should not take place.

But in the case of patients, deemed terminally ill, they would know their time here is limited. Patients should then have the right to decide what happens to them. They know they are going to die in the near future. Why shouldn't they choose when?

Allowing patients to decide when to die would provide them with certain advantages. They could prepare mentally for death, would have the chance to say goodbye to loved ones and be able to avoid any physical pain they otherwise would have to endure.

I fail to see who would be hurt when those with no options left, choose to take their own life. Allowing terminally ill patients to choose when they will die would give their loved ones the peace of mind knowing that they wanted to go and went without unnecessary pain, while keeping their dignity intact.

Natalie Wahl is a senior at Comstock High School.

By Danielle Mercier

Euthanasia comes from the Greek word meaning "good death." Looked at from the aspect of terminally ill patients dying while they are still able to function, euthanasia is a good death.

When many patients consider ending their own lives, it is so their loved ones don't have to see them die an agonizing death.

The right to choose death also may give them a sense they can control their illness and die when it is their time. The controversy over euthanasia comes from its association with suicide. While voluntary euthanasia is in a sense suicide, its original meaning introduced the idea of a rightful death, one that is painless, and easy. To the patient, it is dying with dignity.

In the majority of assisted suicide cases, the patients have a condition that causes them great pain, a slow death, and eventual loss of mental ability. Voluntary euthanasia gives them an opportunity to die with minimal pain and their mental status intact.

However, many people believe that administering an overdose of morphine or some other drug to a patient is murder, as seen in the case of Dr. Jack Kevorkian, who in 1999 was convicted of second-degree murder and delivering a controlled substance in the assisted suicide of Thomas Youk.

But Dr. Kevorkian is not alone. In the United States, 46 percent of doctors believe voluntary euthanasia should be legal, and 14 percent say it depends on the circumstances. This means that over half the doctors agree with euthanasia in some form. So why is it not legal?

It should be up to the patient and the doctor to decide when it is time to contemplate other means of treatment.

But death is still a taboo so people just don't want to talk about it.

Right now, voluntary euthanasia is only legal in Belgium, Luxemburg, and the Netherlands. These countries are ahead of their time, and the United States may want to look to them for a change.

Danielle Mercier is a senior at Paw Paw High School.

By Megan Locatis

I can't see myself accepting physician-assisted suicide at any point in my life. But do I think it should be legal? Absolutely.

The heart of the matter is not whether it is right or wrong, but rather if there is some rational reason we should deprive people of the right to end their lives when and if they choose to do so.

Physician-assisted suicide (PAS) is currently legal in only three states, Oregon, Washington and Montana. Even then, the patients must be terminally ill and have less than six months to live.

Dr. Jack Kevorkian, the well-known assisted-suicide advocate, said, "We are all terminal," because we cannot keep death at bay indefinitely. Terminal is defined as a medically incurable illness, but is this the only reason we should have the ability to choose not to suffer any further?

We take it upon ourselves to see that our pets are humanely put down without protracting the affair any longer than necessary, yet we don't offer the same option to human beings, who can communicate whether they wish to continue living.

The problem with trying to make this decision for others is that we live our lives wearing one set of shoes — our own. Every bit of sensory information we process is entirely subjective and cannot possibly be used to create a universal scale.

So I say we trust this matter to the only judge available: ourselves. But I'm not suggesting we open clinics with "walk-ins welcome" signs.

I agree completely with the idea of a lengthy application, testing, and approval process to make certain the decision is made soberly and willingly, and for stronger reasons than a comparatively fleeting low point.

People should be able to choose to die with dignity, on their own terms, rather than rely on the permission of others who have no way of fully understanding the situation and no right to force them to continue to suffer.

Megan Locatis is a senior at Allegan High School.




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