Topic Review: Does a patient have the right to choose how he or she dies?

While euthanasia has been around for hundreds of years, it has recently gained a lot of attention due to the advancement of technology and capable means of carrying out its purpose. Although generally perceived with a negative connotation, the true significance and appeal of euthanasia—especially in the medical community— lies in its ability to provide the patient with an end-of-life choice, in circumstances where pharmacological or interventional medicine cannot offer an acceptable quality of life. It is for this reason that the concept exists. From the beginning of their clinical careers, healthcare professionals are sworn to “first, do no harm” to the patient. In many instances, the choice to do no harm on the part of the physician seems obvious; however, in cases of euthanasia, this raises more ethical considerations. Are you stripping away the patient’s chance for palliative care and good quality of life by offering this option? Are you providing the patient with the only cure possible for chronic pain? Or are you acting in a certain manner, as the physician, based on your personal beliefs about euthanasia that stem from your religion or culture? There is not and may never be one simple answer to any of these questions.

The practice of medicine is becoming more patient-centric every day, and the autonomy of the patient is at the forefront of the healthcare system, playing an immense role in the way we currently practice and train students in their respective disciplines. So, it is my belief that euthanasia should fall into this category of patient-centric care. Currently, the patient, with guidance and proper advice from the physician, is allowed to make his or her own health-related decisions. Physician-assisted suicide is a polarizing topic that requires much more discussion. In the end, I feel that it is the quality of life with which we should be most concerned. At what point do we deem the quality of life to be below this threshold for the will to live? Well, that is something that may need to be concluded in the near future if we wish to legally incorporate euthanasia as a treatment option in all fifty states. However, as of now, it remains an ethical battle on many fronts and justifiably so, as we try to provide the best possible patient care.

By Nadav
Barry University School of Podiatric Medicine
Class of 2020

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