Euthanasia, or assisted suicide, is a subject that is currently at the center of intense debates in the United States. While suicide is no longer considered to be a crime, doctor-assisted suicide is illegal in the majority of states. It is common for people to fear death and to hope that further medical advances will allow them to remain alive for longer periods of time. However, individuals that are suffering from terminal illnesses These situations have sparked intense argument about the morality of assisted suicide. Some would argue that as long as they do not endanger another human being, individuals have the right to determine how to live their lives, and likewise, when and how to end their lives. As noted, if an individual wishes to prematurely end his/her life through suicide, there is no legislation prohibiting this behavior.
However, in the large majority of states, assisted suicide is strictly prohibited, and individuals responsible for providing this assistance will be held criminally liable. Offenders who have led assisted suicide will usually face murder charges, despite the fact that their actions were only employed at the requests of the victim, with the sole intention to end his/her suffering. Individuals who support doctor-assisted suicide further argue that patients illnesses’ often strip them of the physical ability to end their lives with dignity. Supporters assert that no individual should be required to regularly suffer through intense pain when there is no chance of him/her being cured or ever reestablishing what he/she perceives to be a suitable quality of life. However, individuals that oppose doctor-assisted suicide argue that it is the duty of human beings to preserve and protect human life, and assisting in the destruction of human life would be immoral and unethical.
Another serious issue that is often addressed during this debate is the obligation that laws permitting assisted suicide would place on doctors. Many doctors would not be able to cope with the idea of taking another individual’s life, or would be altogether morally opposed, and thus requiring them to do so would be unfair and unjust. A few states, such as Oregon and Washington, have legalized doctor-assisted suicide; however, there are strict conditions governing this practice. In general, in order for a doctor to escape criminal culpability, a patient would be required to verbally ask the doctor for assistance to die and also provide a declaration of his/her wish in writing. Despite the strict laws that regulate doctor-assisted suicide, there will likely always be individuals who oppose this practice, and therefore, this procedure will continue to be argued over.