Delaney B. California

Dying on Autonomous Terms

Physician-assisted suicide should be legalized in the United states as an optional way to die on the grounds of irreversible illness or unbearable pain.

Dear Future President,

I know that you have a lot on your plate being president, and that it isn’t always within your power to change the issues that arise in this country. However, I would like to bring up a subject that relates to everyone, everywhere. Physician-assisted suicide is a topic that raises controversy because it involves taking a life, and obviously the decision to die cannot be reversed. People often consider the option of assisted suicide when they are terminally ill or suffering unbearably.

This issue relates to everyone because anyone is a potential patient in the future, and assisted suicide should be a legal option. Today the only states that have legalized the right to die are Oregon, Washington, Vermont, Montana, and California. Oregon became the first of the United States to address assisted suicide by passing the Death with Dignity Act in 1997. It is important to raise awareness of this topic so that more states will legalize assisted suicide as an optional way to die on autonomous terms.

Opponents of assisted suicide argue that it goes against the part of the Hippocratic Oath that instructs physicians to “do no harm”, however, allowing a patient to live in misery when death is their wish is doing them undeniable harm. According to political science professor Howard Ball at the University of Vermont, man dying from amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) four years ago said that “[w]hen I can't tie my bow-tie, tell a funny story, walk my dog, kiss someone special...I'll know that life is over. It's time to be gone.” This man would rather die than live with an incurable condition causing nerve immobility. Is it truly moral to deny him the right to choose his own fate?

There have been certain cultures in the past that have supported the concept of suicide; ancient Greek, Roman, and traditional Japanese cultures all viewed suicide as an acceptable alternative to a large degree of dishonor or disgrace. In the modern day, public polls taken in 2005 by the Gallup Organization regarding the topic show that there have been trends of citizen support of the right to die. Specifically, the public shows overall acceptance of the practice of physician-assisted suicide after 1973. This demonstrates that assisted suicide is being viewed by citizens as a human right in the modern age.

In conclusion, while it is argued that physician-assisted suicide opposes the moral obligations of the Hippocratic Oath, ultimately it is successful in relieving the pain of chronically ill or otherwise suffering patients. Therefore, assisted suicide should be legalized as an optional way to die on the grounds of irreversible illness or unbearable pain.


Delaney Buchanan

Newbury Park High School

English 11IB period 2B

High school English IB course

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