Do No Harm
Axia College of University of Phoenix
Oregon became the first government in the world to legalize PAS when the Death with Dignity Act was established. As of 2009, Oregon is the only of America’s 50 states to permit PAS. According to The Oregon Public Health Division (2008) the Death with Dignity Act (DWDW) allows, “terminally-ill adults are allowed to obtain and use prescriptions from their physicians for self-administered, lethal doses of medications.” The DWDA was a citizen’s initiative. In 1994 Oregon voters passed the initiative by 51%. Before DWDA could be implemented it was challenged in court. This challenge resulted in a legal injunction. The injunction was lifted in October, 1997. In November, 1997 a measure to repeal the DWDA was placed on the general election ballot. Voters rejected the measure to repeal the DWDA by a margin of 60% to 40%. (OPHD, 2008) The passing of Oregon’s DWDA twice within three years affirm the public’s acceptance of PAS.
Before Oregon enacted its Death with Dignity Act, the argument was voiced that by legalizing physician-assisted suicide mass amounts of citizens would rush to take advantage of legalized “suicide”. Nothing close to that prediction has happened. Table 2 shows the number of prescriptions for lethal medication that have been written under the provisions of the DWDA since its inception.
There has indeed been a steady increase in the use of the DWDA yet the numbers represented do not constitute the rush to commit suicide that was warned of.
Legalizing PAS is likely to reduce the incentive for suicide rather than increase ill-advised suicide. When a patient is fearful of enormous suffering in the final stages of a terminal illness and has no one that he or she could turn to for help when needed they will be more likely to commit suicide at an earlier stage of the disease. If that same patient had the assurance that he or she would have help if the time came...