What is Physician Assisted Suicide?
Physician assisted suicide is an option for people that have been diagnosed with a terminal illness. If a person has received such a diagnoses than they may choose that they do not want to wait for their death, butt hasten it instead. If this is the case, physician assisted suicide is an option for a way out. A patient who wants to participate in physician assisted suicide would inform his or her lead physician. The physician would then make sure that the patient is informed of and fully understands all his or her options. If this is the case and the patient is sure of his or her decision then the physician may provide the patient with a lethal dose of barbiturates that the patient would administer to oneself.
Current Options For Terminally Ill Patients
- Accelerating opioids for pain or dyspnea: Opioids are used to treat pain and dyspnea in patients and the amounts vary depending on the severity of pain. Opioids can sometimes lead to sedation or respiratory depression, but this doesn't happen very often.
- Stopping or not starting potentially life-sustaining therapy: A patient is allowed to decline any form of life sustaining therapy as long as they are fully informed of the situation. A patient can choose this option for any reason, even if the reason is to hasten death. The patient can even make this decision if the patient would live with the treatment and die without it.
- Voluntary stopping of eating and drinking: For the patient, forgoing eating and drinking would be similar to the results of any healthy person. The patient still experiences hunger and thirst and chooses not to act upon them. A patient who chooses this option will most likely lose mental clarity as death approaches. Like the last, this option is available no matter the reasoning of the patient.
- Palliative sedation: In this case powerful sedatives are used to relieve a patient’s pain. The sedatives are used at the minimal amount needed to suppress the pain of the patient, but often result in an unconscious state.
- Physician-assisted suicide: This option is currently only legal in the states of Oregon and Washington. If this option were to be chosen, a physician would provide a lethal dose of barbiturates to the patient who is required to administer the substance without assistance.