La Cañada High School

Opinion: Should assisted suicide be legal?

What follows is a dialogue between two parties representing typical arguments for and against assisted suicide. The black text represents someone advocating for the legalization of assisted suicide, while the blue text will represent an argument against it. 

Life is sacred and should be preserved at all costs. People have a fundamental right to life which even they cannot forfeit. 

Doesn’t quality of life matter too? If assisted suicide improves the quality of life for the patient and their loved ones, who are we to dictate what is best for them? Why should we impose our values onto them?

I control my life, so it’s only natural that I should control my death. After all, it is mine. 

Patients who request euthanasia are often terminally ill and in intense amounts of pain. Medical bills can pose a significant financial burden to them and their families. Would you rather suffer through their final moments if they do not wish to? 

Should we let those with mental illnesses die by suicide then? After all, don’t they have just as much of a right to control their deaths?

Of course not. Those with mental illnesses are not in the right state of mind to evaluate to make that call. Their mental state clouds their judgement so they cannot make such a decision with the necessary perspective.

But are they not just as sick as those suffering from physical illnesses? Are they not experiencing pain of their own? If the mentally ill cannot be allowed to die, why should the physically ill? 

And when are you ever “ready” to make that call? When am I in the right state of mind to decide whether I want to live or die? Am I ever? 

The effects of euthanasia are permanent. As you said, these people are often experiencing intense pain and stress. In order to prevent people from making a irreversible choice while in an emotionally painful situation, it is necessary that euthanasia is made illegal. 

Assisted suicide is currently only legal in nine states and the District of Columbia for patients who have six months or less to live, according to CNN. Rest assured, neither physicians nor patients take the decision of euthanasia lightly.

In order to get approved, patients must first make an oral request to a licensed physician who must also inform them of alternatives and ask to notify your next-of-kin of the prescription request, according to nonprofit Death with Dignity.

A second physician must then confirm the diagnosis, prognosis, and your mental competence. If either physician determines that your judgment is impaired in any way, e.g. by a mental illness or depression, they must refer you for a psychological or psychiatric evaluation. This is followed by a minimum waiting period of 15 days, according to Death with Dignity.

Patients must then make a second oral request followed by a written request, potentially followed by another 48-hour waiting period for the physician to write the prescription. Californians are required to fill out a Final Attestation Form. Finally, when patients decide the time is right, they may drink a large dose of a sleeping medication to end their life.

Human life is not treated flippantly. It is only after significant deliberation, discussion, and paperwork that euthanasia is performed. Therefore, we can be almost certain that this is what the patient wants, regardless of their temporary emotional state. 

Furthermore, the unnecessary suffering of the patient and their family brought by refusing them access to euthanasia is cruel. These people are already in much pain, both physical and emotional, so why rub salt in the wound? Assisted suicide allows patients to die on their own terms and can give their family a sense of closure. 

What if a cure comes the very next day after you kill yourself? There’s always a chance you could get better. Just because something might be painful now does not mean it always will. We should not create a precedent in which people are given total power to kill themselves, because in doing so we normalize an irreversible course of action which may not be best for all patients. 

Patients are aware that they have a chance of survival, however slim, when they make the decision. Whether that likelihood is enough is up to the patient. Some patients will likely not think so and opt for assisted suicide, and it is their prerogative to do so as they are fully informed when they make the decision.

Assisted suicide proposes an uncomfortable “slippery slope” which jeopardizes human life during a turbulent time. Patients are in no position to make such a drastic decision, and we cannot condone this legislation given these uncertainties. 

At the end of the day, the terminally ill should have the right to die. To decline them of this right is to cruelly submit an unwilling patient to continue living when it may be immensely painful to do so. Assisted suicide enables people to die on their own terms, bringing them and their loved ones closer to closure.