There’s a difference between assisted suicide and euthanasia, and even if both of these mean the ending of someone’s life, one is legal and another is not. The Euthanasia is the deliberate act to end a patient’s life with the intention to end his suffering. The assisted suicide represents the death of the patient as a direct result of the aid that the doctor gives him. Regardless how this is called, there are still many ethical problems, because it can never be right to kill someone, even if there is the intention to alleviate suffering.
The principle of the inviolability of death adopted in all medical codes and the declaration of human rights states that killing is illegal, but it does not specify that life must be maintained at all costs in situations like invasive or aggressive treatments. It’s the conditions of assisted ventilation when the patient doesn’t wish for it, or when the treatment is futile, as the aggressive chemotherapy for difficult cancer situations.
The doctors need to decide whether a treatment is proportionate or not, and the doctor will usually find the best treatment after an accurate analysis of the degree of complexity, risks, and costs. Once this takes place, the doctors will compare the elements with the expected results, bearing in account the overall state of the sick person and the physical and psychological resources. If the patient refuses to use an aggressive treatment, it is not considered suicide.
Most Common Problems
Many believe that legalizing the assisted suicide might seem attractive, as it can have profound adverse side effects, already noted in the countries where it is legal.
Once started, it won’t be stoppable. In some situations, the assisted suicide might be possible even for those patients that don’t want it. This can also imply a pressure on those who are terminally ill or on those who feel like the illness, old age or infirmity can transform them into someone useless or a burden for the society. They might feel morally compelled to accept it, which is less costly that – for example – cancer treatment. Now, it is allowed to practice it on very senior citizens, persons with severe handicaps, invalids, depressed people or new-born children with malformations.
What Can Happen
There was a situation in Canada when the assisted suicide was legally debated in court. Carter vs. Canada (Attorney General) is a landmark Supreme Court of Canada decision where the prohibition of assisted suicide was challenged as contrary to the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms by several parties. One of those several parties was the family of a woman named Kay Carter, who was suffering from an illness called degenerative spinal stenosis, and another woman called Gloria Taylor, who was suffering from amyotrophic lateral sclerosis.
Because many people sustained this decision, in February last year – in 2015, the Court gave the Canadian adults the possibility of dying with dignity. Those individuals who are mentally competent, but who also suffer from a terminal illness can now suppress their lives with the help of a doctor.
This decision limits now the assisted suicide to those who can give their consent clearly and have a grievous and irremediable medical condition, including illness, disability or disease that causes intolerable suffering.