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A Critical Appraisal of the Arguments for and Against Assisted Suicide

Human beings are characterized by two things: rationality and autonomy. These two concepts are intricately connected in such a way that the former serves as a precondition for the latter. This is to say that the concept of autonomy is grounded upon the concept of rationality. To explicate it further, it is precisely because human beings are rational that they are able to think and thereby, make decisions for themselves as a product of rational deliberation.

These are the reasons why we value and respect other peoples’ choices and decisions; because they are rational and autonomous beings. In Applying Ethics: A Text with Readings, Jeffrey Ollen, et al. cites a case concerning assisted suicide; whether or not the federal Judge Barbara Rothstein’s ruling to allow terminally ill patients to undergo assisted suicide is correct from both legal and ethical standpoints (223). There are two significant issues that are involved in this particular case; the legality and the morality of assisted suicide.

Rothstein’s ruling in favor of the terminally ill patients’ claim for the right to assisted suicide is ultimately based upon the idea that as human beings, these patients should be allowed to undergo assisted suicide because it is a choice that is both central to human dignity and autonomy. With regards to the aptness of Rothstein’s ruling in terms of its legality, it is clear that the issue is not met without dissent. This is to say that the issue of whether or not assisted suicide is constitutional is an issue that lacks consensus among legal practitioners.

This claim is further supported by the fact that the U. S. Supreme Court reversed Rothstein’s ruling in Washington v. Glucksberg. In terms of the morality however, of assisted suicide in general, a few positions can be taken. First, one may agree with the convictions of the Roman Catholic Bishops of Washington which affirm that life is sacred and must be protected under whatever circumstances and that the duty of the medical profession is the preservation of life and not its termination (Ollen, et al. 223).

Second, one may agree with Rothstein and maintain that every human being deserves a kind of life that is dignified. This is to say that aside from considering that every human being has a right to life, critics of assisted suicide like the Roman Catholic Church should also take into careful consideration that it is also important to consider the quality of life that a human being leads. A person who cannot even make important decisions in his life cannot be said to be living that kind of life.

If this is correct, then by not allowing a terminally ill patient to undergo assisted suicide in the event that they want to put an end to their suffering, then the state is denying the patient of his right to decide for himself. More importantly, the state is forcing the individual to live a kind of life which he did not choose. From my personal standpoint, Rothstein’s position is more preferable than that of the Roman Catholic Bishops of Washington.

This should not be taken mean that if one adopts the second position one has no respect for life. On the contrary, the second position is a more moderate and practical position to take. The medical field offers a lot of examples to prove this point. In the event that one can only choose between the life of the mother and the life of the baby inside the mother’s womb, how are we suppose to choose if we are to take the first position?

It is absurd to say that if the mother chooses the life of her baby over hers then, what she did is morally wrong, because by doing so she committed suicide. In the final analysis, Rothstein’s position outweighs that of the Church because it takes into consideration that the capacity of making choices and acting upon them is definitive of what it means to be a human being. Works Cited Ollen, Jeffrey, et al. Applying Ethics: A Text with Readings. US: Wadsworth Publishing. 2007.

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