Physician-Assisted Suicide Versus Euthanasia

Physician-assisted suicide is defined as death that occurs when a doctor assists a patient get rid or their life by providing them with the necessary tools or expertise. For instance, the doctor may give sleeping medications and knowledge regarding the deadly dose to a patient likely to commit suicide. Euthanasia, also known as mercy killing, refers to any simple and painless death or the deliberate cessation of a human’s life at their desire who is struggling with an irreversible or agonizing sickness. Several things differentiate euthanasia from physician-assisted suicide since euthanasia is legally allowed as long the patient and their family agree about it. In contrast, in physician-assisted suicide, the patient requests help and expertise to terminate their life. (Herx, 2015).

Euthanasia can be classified into different types depending on how it happens when done with the patient’s agreement; it is called voluntary euthanasia. Non-voluntary euthanasia is when euthanasia is done on a patient who cannot consent because of their health condition. In this instance, based on the accuracy of pain and health, another appropriate person takes the ultimate choice on behalf of the patient. Involuntary euthanasia occurs when a competent person to give valid consent refuses to do so, maybe because they do not want to die or since they were not asked. Because it is frequently done against the person’s will, this is referred to as murder. Two major known procedures are followed during euthanasia: passive euthanasia is the first procedure is that is performed by doctors withholding life-sustaining activities to the suffering patient, and the second procedure is known as active euthanasia, which involves using fatal drugs or any other painless processes to end the life of a patient, whether the patient or someone else is doing it.

Assisted suicide and euthanasia are becoming increasingly controversial. The push to legalize PAS and VAE is gaining traction in the United States. In recent times when the Supreme Court of the United States first addressed the issue in 1997, the Supreme Court upheld legislation prohibiting assisted suicide. (Masterstdt, 2003)Assisted suicide was legal. PAS is now allowed in California, Hawaii, Colorado, Montana, Oregon, Vermont, Washington, Maine, New Jersey, and 15 other Districts. International patterns have also changed. PAS and VAE have gained a ground course of events that have not been linear. Lately, some countries have made efforts to legalize assisted suicide or enhance laws that have been rejected—prohibiting assisted suicide. Assisted suicide has been outlawed in some nations. However, there is a subtle but steady movement in favor of legalization. (Rosenfeld, 2004).

Furthermore, following a lengthy time of increased stability on the subject, public opinion appears to be shifting in support of assisted suicide in recent years. However, in the United States, this shift toward legalization has not been prompted by court rulings. The courts in the United States have mostly been examples of judicial restraint regarding assisted suicide. Various lower courts struck down statutes prohibiting assisted suicide in the mid-1990s. These judges used the infamous phrase from Planned Parenthood. “The heart of liberty is the right to define one’s own sense of existence, of meaning, of the world, and of the mystery of human life,” the joint decision stated in Casey.

These lower courts overlooked the resistance to assisted suicide in our state. Casey’s abstract discourse was used to appeal to history and tradition. The wide phrasing was seen as “very informative” and “nearly prescriptive” in settling the assisted suicide problem in these rulings. However, when the subject reached the United States Supreme Court in 1997, the Court dismissed constitutional arguments to state statutes prohibiting assisted suicide in Washington v. Glucksberg and Vacco v. Quill. The Court dismissed the notion that assisted suicide is a fundamental constitutional right in doing just that. Instead of relying on Casey’s broad interpretation, the Court examined if there was any evidence that a right to assisted suicide was deeply ingrained in the nation’s history and tradition.

One advantage of this act of judicial modesty is that it allows the continuing discussion to be influenced by the practice of jurisdictions that have allowed assisted suicide. States are being used as testbeds for new ideas. Regarding the legislation on assisted suicide, prior knowledge in other jurisdictions is crucial. However, there are numerous perceptions of what the evidence indicates and the consequences. Numerous courts, for instance, have addressed the notion that laws prohibiting assisted suicide are essential due to the potential for misuse if assisted suicide were permitted in a limited manner. Several courts have cited this concern in rejecting constitutional arguments against assisted suicide laws. A recent major decision from New York’s highest Court assessed empirical proof almost the same way. Judge Fahey’s concurrence opinion was very forceful on this point. “Independently to expand on specific hazards that would be linked with adopting PAS in New York and that necessitate its ban,” he wrote.

“The practice of physician-assisted suicide and euthanasia in the Netherlands offers us with a terrible glimpse of what we should expect upon legalization,” Judge Fahey said. In Carter v. Canada, the Supreme Court of Canada, on the other hand, deviated from this type of argument. The Carter Court depended heavily on the trial court judge’s conclusions. “A lenient regime with well-designed and implemented protections was competent for safeguarding vulnerable individuals from misuse and error,” the trial judge decided. The trial judge dismissed the proposal that judicial prudence should be based on previous occurrences in other jurisdictions. “The fate of Canada’s legislation on this hugely important cultural and ethical matter hinged on a single trial court judge’s determination of fact, a conclusion that was, however, incorrect,” Keown said. Second, there are several prudential objections to legalization (Emanuel et al. 2016). The premise is that certain techniques must be prohibited to prevent abuse, especially among vulnerable communities, including the poor, old, and crippled. Although these activities are justified in limited circumstances, the restriction must be maintained to avoid practical and realistic pitfalls. The limited range of the right to die that the right to die advocacy intended at the outset would not be preserved. These activities would vastly extend beyond the specific instances that have garnered universal acceptance.

In regards to this topic, in my opinion, I would advocate for the legalization of physician-assisted suicide and euthanasia for patients who desired it and were diagnosed with a terminal condition, were suffering greatly, and had the mental capacity to make the decision. (Dugdale, Lerner, Callahan, 2019). According to doctors, “terminal sickness” refers to an unavoidably incurable condition that cannot be cured and is expected to result in the patient’s death within a few months. Euthanasia might free up resources that could be put to better use in helping those who are still alive. Relatives and close friends would spare the misery of watching a loved one die slowly and painfully. When other species are in pain, society permits euthanasia as a humane gesture; the same approach should be applied to humans.

To me, physician-assisted suicide is still a massive no-no. Suicidal behavior contagion, a harmful precedent, and the mortality of those suffering from mental illnesses could all have unintended repercussions. On the other hand, physician AID remains a contentious subject that has an impact on patient care. The Hippocratic approach controlled clinical processes for millennia. Just after the emergence of euthanasia in Europe in the second decade of the twentieth century, several doctors began to reassess their positions, yet accelerating the death of patients remains upsetting to many. Even though several health organizations have started to reassess their viewpoints, there are strong reasons both in favor and against the procedure, and physicians have an ethical obligation to be updated on this topical issue.


Dugdale, L. S., Lerner, B. H., & Callahan, D. (2019). Focus: Death: Pros and Cons of Physician Aid in Dying. The Yale journal of biology and medicine, 92(4), 747.

Emanuel, E. J., Onwuteaka-Philipsen, B. D., Urwin, J. W., & Cohen, J. (2016). Attitudes and practices of euthanasia and physician-assisted suicide in the United States, Canada, and Europe. Jama, 316(1), 79-90.

Herx, L. (2015). Physician-assisted death is not palliative care. Current Oncology, 22(2), 82-83.

Materstvedt, Lars Johan, David Clark, John Ellershaw, Reidun Førde, Anne-Marie Boeck Gravgaard, H. Christof Müller-Busch, Josep Porta i Sales, and Charles-Henri Rapin. “Euthanasia and physician-assisted suicide: a view from an EAPC Ethics Task Force.” Palliative medicine 17, no. 2 (2003): 97-101.

Rosenfeld, B. (2004). Assisted suicide and the right to die: The interface of social science, public policy, and medical ethics. American Psychological Association.

Author: Jeffery Allen
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