Physician-assisted dying (PAD) is a controversial matter of concern due to the conflicting moral, ethical, legal, professional, and religious points on the issue. In fact, it comes down to helping a patient end their life by prescribing a lethal medication. It is commonly seen as a demonstration of disrespect for the sanctity of human life because it could be easily and eagerly brought to an end by a licensed physician at the patients’ request. However, to determine a stance on PAD, it is essential to understand both pro and con positions. Reviewing them in detail, along with sharing personal values and beliefs related to the issue, will be the focus of the paper at hand. Specifically, it will be shown that nurses and physicians should assist patients who want to end their life and it would be professional and ethical in the case of terminal illness characterized by physical and mental suffering.

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Physician-assisted dying (PAD) is among the most controversial issues in the modern health care sector. It stands for providing a potentially lethal medication to a patient helping them to relieve suffering from a terminal disease (Quill & Sussman, 2018). Medication is given to the patient at their request and at a specified time; though, they are free to change their mind at this time and not take it.

Legally, PAD is referred to as the physician-assisted suicide, and it is a subject of several bills developed and offered recently. However, regardless of the commonality of addressing this matter of concern in the legal and professional dimensions, only a few states in the United States offer it as an option given to patients. These states are Oregon, Vermont, Colorado, Washington, and District Columbia. There, it is the right guaranteed and protected by the state legislation. Besides, in Montana, this option can be given only if the court makes a respective ruling. Still, to obtain this option, a patient should be terminally ill with a prognosis of six or fewer months left (“Physician-assisted suicide fast facts,” 2018). For each territory, the specific method of PAD is different, though they are all similar in one way – a licensed physician should make a prescription that would be later approved by the state. Statistics in these states as well differ: 1,275 deaths out of 1,967 prescribed in Oregon (as of 2018); 1,364 deaths out of 1,401 prescribed in Washington (as of 2017); 53 prescribed deaths in Vermont (as of 2017) (“Physician-assisted suicide fast facts,” 2018). One interesting point is that not all states issue official reports on PAD.

In New York, a bill supporting this option was introduced in 2017. However, as for now, this bill is opposed by the Medical Society of the State of New York, although around 63 percent of the state citizens believe that it should be passed (“New York,” 2018). In Hawaii, respective legislation will go into effect in 2019 (Quill & Sussman, 2018).

For the most part, physician-assisted dying as an option provided by licensed physicians is supported by those believing in the right to death with dignity. This one can be reflected in numerous ways, with the main point coming down to the ability to die among the loved ones in the patients’ right mind as well as minimize the suffering related to the terminal disease. The idea here is to pass away peacefully as a result of one’s own choice to end their life. Another vital point commonly expressed by PAS supporters is that it is the act of mercy because suffering is brought to an end. However, considering all of these pro points, it is essential to note that they are viewed from the perspective of terminal illnesses only, nor the cases when people with medically satisfying conditions seek ways to commit a legally supported suicide. From the perspective of ethics, nurses are responsible for providing end-of-life care and making it as comfortable and effective as possible, and PAD can be seen as a part of this care, as it is commonly fallen upon when other treatment and pain management strategies are ineffective. Also, physicians are ethically obliged to consider requests regarding any medication the patient might need. In this way, in the states where PAD is legally guaranteed, providing this option may be a way to care for the patient and support their end-of-life needs.

On the other hand, there are numerous opponents of the PAD initiative. For the most part, their arguments are based on religion and morality. Specifically, PAD is perceived as killing the patient, even though it is done at their request. It means that satisfying this request is a sin if viewed from the perspective of religion and an immoral act in terms of public moral standards (even if physicians are not to be considered guilty of killing the patient in states protecting the right to PAD). Regardless of the perspective taken, opponents are mainly driven by the sanctity of human life as a central argument, and, in this case, the needs, interests, and wellbeing of the person with a terminal illness are not taken into consideration. In terms of professional ethics, PAD is a violation of a key standard – physician integrity – that comes down to avoid the conscious harm to patient, as prescribing a potentially lethal medication is a direct harm. Also, it is commonly assumed that effective end-of-life care never includes PAD and it is not professional (Quill & Sussman, 2018).

Considering all of the abovementioned arguments, my point is that nurses and physicians should help patients who want to end their lives. However, it could be done only in accordance with the clearly developed legal procedure that involves all medical tests proving that end-of-life care is ineffective and open communication with the patient to make sure that their decision is informed and carefully weighed. This belief is supported by the fact that each person has the inalienable right to decide what they want to do with their life and body, especially when they are diagnosed with terminal illness and are exposed to suffering – physical and mental. Besides, I am driven by the belief that one’s choice should be respected regardless of my personal values and beliefs so that it would be more morally and ethically right to make PAD legal and assist terminally ill patients in bringing suffering to life instead of making them suffer or choose more violent forms of suicide. Additionally, PAD procedure is lengthy so that families could accept the patients’ decision to end their life.

Due to the controversies of moral, ethical, religious, and professional views on physician-assisted dying, finding the right balance between the pro and con positions would be close to impossible. Still, when considering this option, each person should remember that others are free to decide how to live their lives and end them. For this reason, professional help in ending suffering could be more ethical than leaving patients in pain waiting for death caused by the disease.