A Right to Die

This post is inspired by an article I read on the BBC health page about a man – Noel Conway – suffering from motor neurone disease; he had recently lost a case at the High Court, meaning he has been refused the right to an assisted death. I found this a very moving article, as I came to understand the reasoning behind Noel’s decision to challenge the law (which currently states that a person who assists someone in taking their own life could face up to 14 years in prison).

I have had numerous debates with many different people surrounding the topic of assisted suicide, and whether it should be both legally and morally acceptable, yet I still struggle to decide what I believe is right. Watching Terry Pratchett’s documentary ‘Choosing to Die’ enabled me to appreciate why assisted suicide could become so desirable for someone, especially if they are terminally ill. However, it also forced me to reflect on the implications and impact that death has on the family and friends of the deceased.

I have chosen to write about this topic because I feel it is one of the most controversial debates, especially for those considering a career in medicine. I would like to point out that the arguments and opinions expressed in this post are not my own; I am merely outlining the main arguments for and against assisted suicide.

For assisted suicide

  • Forcing a person to live a painful and uncomfortable life, in which their state of health may only worsen, is unethical
  • Terminally ill patients are going to die anyway; it is kinder to both the patient and their family to die when they choose to. This allows them to say a proper goodbye to their family and friends, enables them to set their affairs in order and means their family do not have to witness their loved one die a painful and undignified death
  • Assisted suicide allows a patient to die with dignity
  • Every person has a right to die, as they have a right to live, how they choose
  • Hospital resources are stretched to the absolute limit; the longer a terminally ill patient lives in hospital / with palliative care before they die, the more money and resources they use up. Allowing this terminally ill patient assisted suicide means these resources are free to help other patients

Against assisted suicide

  • Death of a loved one is very difficult to deal with, especially if they did not ‘have’ to die
  • What if the patient recovered from their illness – their death (and the pain caused to their family) would have been unnecessary
  • Vulnerable people may avoid seeking medical help for fear that euthanasia may be recommended
  • Vulnerable people may be exploited – forced to die to save money for example
  • Human life is priceless – it would be unethical for someone to die to save hospital money and resources
  • Religious argument – (I believe that) all religions consider life a gift from God, and that to take life away is to act as God, which humans do not have the right to do

As I said before, these arguments are not my own opinions; these are just some of the most compelling points I found whilst researching this topic – it is up to each individual to decide what they believe is morally and ethically right.

Thank you for reading!

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