Patients should have the right to choose death


I have spent countless hours in hospitals. I have visited multiple patients and even had the privilege of speaking with some of them. My father is a doctor and growing up he would bring me along when he had to make his rounds in the hospitals and nursing homes.

I have experienced first-hand the interaction between doctor and patient. From dire illnesses to minor afflictions, I watched my father help the patients heal. Every step of the way, he would stop and ask the patient how they felt. Nothing was done without the full disclosure to the patient first.

My friend has been assigned the topic of physician-assisted suicide for a speech class and asked me what my thoughts were on the end-of-life practice. Growing up, I heard my parents talking about this issue. I was too young to understand what they were discussing so I would tune it out and go back to dinner.

Now, I find my mind constantly visiting the topic and trying to figure out just how I feel about it. Originally, I was adamantly opposed to the idea of physician-assisted suicide but I have come to understand the reasoning behind it.

Oregon passed the Death With Dignity Act on Oct. 27, 1997 allowing terminally ill Oregon residents to end their life when they saw fit. A table released Feb. 29 by the Oregon Public Health Division gives a break down of the 596 patients that received this treatment including race, age, illness and end of life concerns.

Ninety percent of patients shared one common concern: losing autonomy. The medical definition for autonomy is the state of functioning independently, without extraneous influence. This includes actions like walking, eating and bathing.

This morning, as I was getting ready for class, the physician-assisted suicide episode of Dr. Oz was playing. I was glued to my chair as I watched two wheelchair-bound patients give very opposing views of the procedure.

One patient, diagnosed with a degenerative nerve disease that robbed her of her athletic lifestyle, expressed her interest in pursuing the practice. She said she has had enough and her children offered her support in ending her suffering.

The other patient, diagnosed with chronic progressive multiple sclerosis in 1988, testified to overcoming his illness and finding the love of his life after his wife left with their kids. He is in strong opposition of physician-assisted suicide and chose instead to become an activist for disabled rights.

I believe it should be the terminally-ill patient’s choice how and when they die after exhausting all possible treatments. When death is staring them in the face, I think they should then call the shots. I value human life above all else. But when someone says they have had enough and they are “living in hell,” I think doctors should listen and assist when the situation calls for it.