Is Medically Assisted Suicide Ethical?

Maryland’s House of Delegates moved forward a bill which would legalize medically assisted suicide on March 7. Individuals who are terminally ill, have less than six months to live and are at least eighteen years old now are able to obtain prescribed medications that will end their lives. This decision has sparked much debate about the ethics of assisted suicide.

Providing terminally ill people with the power to make this choice can give them a sense of autonomy when they have lost control over so many other things, including their bodies and lifestyles in general. Furthermore, this legalization could prevent terminally ill people from committing failed, dangerous suicide attempts on their own. It seems very reasonable to me that medically assisted suicide should be a decision that they make themselves, especially because they are the only ones who truly know and feel the full extent of their conditions.

On the other hand, it makes sense that one would want to do everything in their capacity to keep their loved ones alive, but when considering situations like these it is necessary to try to put oneself in the position of the sick person. It could even be considered selfish to keep somebody alive who is experiencing excruciating pain. I think it is almost cruel to force somebody to die painfully with no other option. Why prolong somebody’s suffering if they are terminally ill and do not want to endure it any longer?

In a sense, it feels strange to even label this as ‘suicide’, especially because it is only an option for people who are already nearing their deaths. It seems more reasonable to think of it as somebody putting an end to their suffering prematurely rather than ending their life. Is it even really living if you are constantly suffering?

It is my hope that this legislation does not impact healthy people’s thoughts on suicide, especially impressionable youths. I do not want to sound like I am supporting suicide in general- this is just one specific circumstance. The argument that it is an important option for terminally ill people as a way to end their suffering could theoretically apply to anybody who is experiencing pain, whether it be physical or mental. This is why the condition that one must have six months or less to live is so important.

Some argue that medically assisted suicide is “against God’s will” because killing oneself is altering God’s plan for one’s life. This is a weak argument, because keeping somebody on life support and not letting them pass away is also a way of denaturalizing life and death as well.   

Overall, it has been difficult for me to take a strong position on this issue because I am not terminally ill, and it is virtually impossible for me to put myself in those shoes. I do understand why it would be difficult for those close to a person who chooses medically assisted suicide to see it happen. However, this bill will help free people from pointless suffering and it is important for people who are dying painfully to have this option.

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