It is fair to say that most of humanity values life above all else: it is a precious gift. That being the case, the question as to why assisted suicide should be decriminalized in certain circumstances provokes much controversy and debate. When doctors swear “to do no harm,” taking the Hippocratic Oath, when many people seek to live longer and healthier lives, surely, it could be argued, assisted suicide is wrong, both legally and morally?
However, on the other side of the coin is the individual’s right to choose. After all, it is their life and nobody else’s that is the burning issue. The “certain circumstances” that allow for the decriminalization of assisted suicide are many and varied. But they all come down to the rights of that person who wants to be helped to die. For example, a living will, asking for this to happen, should be honored. Or the person dying slowly and painfully from a terminal illness deserves to be released from that pain, if they have expressed the wish to have that release.
There are cases where families have taken a loved one to Switzerland to assist them in dying with dignity. These people are brave, possibly facing criminal charges on return to their own country. Their motive is unselfish love for the dying person. In the UK, 8 out of 10 people want the law to change to allow doctors to assist with suicide, while 60% support the idea of doctors prescribing medication that will enable the dying person to end their own life, either alone or with a loved one. It would seem that when there is little hope of cure or a life of any quality, most people would want assisted suicide, or should that be euthanasia (mercy killing) to be permitted without any criminality attached. The issue may be further examined by visiting the following website: http://www.armchairadvice.co.uk/bereavement/dignity/euthanasia.htm.
The words surrounding assisted suicide, especially the idea of killing another human being, are extremely emotive and the dilemma that certain circumstances cause is never to be taken lightly. There is a genuine concern that if assisted suicide were to be legalized, some would use it to their advantage and people would actually die who did not want to do so. However, if, as mentioned earlier, the individual has chosen, has made their desires clear and is of sound mind, then surely these are the circumstances, to mention a few, that would decriminalize the act. The General Medical Council provides guidance for doctors that clarifies how Treatment and Care Towards the End of Life is a preferable course to take. This can be examined in greater depth on http://www.gmc-uk.org/static/documents/content/End_of_life.pdf
Given the enormity of the topic and the moral and legal ramifications, it would be wise to look at all sides of the argument before making any decision to decriminalize assisted suicide. But in the final analysis, the choice should be that of the individual who wants to end a life of pain and suffering and they should be allowed to die in peace, knowing that those who helped them will not be penalized. Perhaps the changes are coming soon. Certainly, there are many who hope that this is the case.