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Legalize Assisted Suicide

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Live Transcript
  • Ethics Between Assisted Suicide or Removing a Ventilator

    Clip: Experts debate the ethical differences between assisting a patient with suicide and removing life support from a terminally ill patient.

  • Changing the Healthcare System to Give Patients Control

    Clip: President of the British Medical Association Baroness Ilora Finlay and clinical psychologist Andrew Solomon debate whether changing the American medical system would give patients more control.

  • What Happens When Excruciating Pain Becomes Untreatable?

    Clip: Professor of Medicine and Ethics Dr. Daniel Sulmasy and Baroness Ilora Finlay answer the hypothetical question of what to do when excruciating pain becomes untreatable.

Debate Details

In 1994, Oregon voters passed the Death with Dignity Act, which legalized physician-assisted suicide for the terminally ill. Since then, it has become legal in 4 more states, including New Mexico, where the state court ruling that it is constitutional is under appeal. Is it, in the words of the American Medical Association’s code of ethics, “fundamentally incompatible with the physician’s role as healer”? Will these laws lead to a slippery slope, where the vulnerable are pressured to choose death and human life is devalued? Or do we need to recognize everyone’s basic right to autonomy, the right to end pain and suffering, and the right to choose to die with dignity?

The Debaters

For the motion

Peter Singer

Philosopher & Professor of Bioethics, Princeton University

Peter Singer is the Ira W. DeCamp Professor of Bioethics in the University Center for Human Values at Princeton University. He specializes in applied... Read More

Andrew Solomon

Author, <em>Far From the Tree</em> & Prof. of Clinical Psychology, Columbia University

Andrew Solomon is a writer, lecturer, and a professor of clinical psychology at Columbia University. Solomon's newest book, Far From the Tree: Parents... Read More

Against the motion

Baroness Ilora Finlay

President, British Medical Association & Member, House of Lords

Baroness Ilora Finlay, a leading palliative care physician, is president of the British Medical Association (2014-15), president of the Chartered... Read More

Dr. Daniel Sulmasy

Prof. of Medicine and Ethics, University of Chicago & Member, Presidential Bioethics Commission

Dr. Daniel Sulmasy is the Kilbride-Clinton Professor of Medicine and Ethics in the Department of Medicine and Divinity School at the University of... Read More

Where Do You Stand?

For The Motion
  • The right to die as one chooses—and to decide when life is no longer worth living—is integral to human freedom, liberty, and personal autonomy. Neither the government, nor religious institutions, should impose their own conceptions of morality upon individuals who are not harming others.
  • As an option in end-of-life care, aid in dying would allow terminally ill, mentally competent individuals to retain dignity and bodily integrity in the face of insurmountable pain and suffering.
  • In places where assisted suicide is legal—namely, Oregon and the Netherlands—there is no evidence that the law is being abused, that vulnerable populations are being targeted, or that patients are being coerced by doctors and/or their families to choose death.
  • If physician-assisted suicide remains illegal, lesser and more dangerous alternatives—shooting oneself, enlisting doctors or family to break the law, DIY suicide—will spread in its place.
Against The Motion
  • If assisted suicide is legalized, we will be led down a slippery slope towards pervasive medical killing, endangering vulnerable populations—disabled, elderly, minority, or poor—whose lives are seen as a burden on society.
  • If pain is treated effectively, there is no need to treat the patient as if the patient were the "problem to be eliminated."
  • Starting with the Hippocratic Oath, medical professional codes prohibit killing, holding the intrinsic value of human life and dignity above all other ethical principles. Assisted suicide erodes the doctor-patient relationship and has grave potential for misuse and abuse.
  • Many physicians do not want to have God-like power over others, and they should not be pressured, against their own convictions, to assist in a patient's suicide.

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The Research

The Research

Physician Aid-in-Dying

University of Washington School of Medicine
April 1, 2013

Physician aid-in-dying (PAD) refers to a practice in which a physician provides a competent, terminally ill patient with a prescription for a lethal dose of medication, upon the patient's request, which the patient intends to use to end his or her own life.

Opinion 2.211: Physician-Assisted Suicide

American Medical Association Code of Medical Ethics
June 1, 1996

Physician-assisted suicide is fundamentally incompatible with the physician’s role as healer, would be difficult or impossible to control, and would pose serious societal risks.

Compassion &amp; Choices

December 31, 1969

<a name="compassionandchoices" id="compassionandchoices"></a>Compassion &amp; Choices is the leading nonprofit organization committed to helping everyone have the best death possible.

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