Essay Physician-Assisted Suicide and Free Will

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Physician-assisted suicide (PAS) is a topic, which proponents often support by the affirmation of patient free will or as the exercise of patient autonomy. The purpose of this paper is to examine this argument further from an inter-disciplinary approach, regarding PAS from medical, ethical and legal standpoints and to examine the concept of free will from the philosophical discipline. Are these concepts compatible in a meaningful context and can a sound argument be constructed to support PAS on the basis of patient free will?

Derek Humphry, in Lawful Exit, defines PAS as a physician "providing the means by which a person can take his or her own life." The means, to which he refers, is a toxic substance and the
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Dworkin and Kass consider this topic from the perspective of Medical Ethics. Kass's treatment of the subject of Physician-assisted suicide as evident from the title of his article, supports his argument by denying patients "the moral right to be killed" and physicians "the moral duty to kill." Dworkin quotes Kass's analysis of the argument favoring PAS on the grounds of "Freedom" or "autonomy":

...Physicians...are bound to acquiesce in demands not only for termination

of treatment but also for intentional killing through poison, because the right

to choose-freedom-must be respected, even more than life itself, and even when

The physician would never recommend or concur in the choices made. (Kass, p.27.)

Arguing against autonomy as a rational defense for PAS, Kass concludes that Considerations of mercy for the patient who is suffering, dictate the course of action in the end. Ultimately, "medicine is intrinsically a moral profession with...principles and standards of conduct that set limits on what physicians may properly do."(Kass, p.27). Arguing against autonomy as a rational defense for PAS, Kass concludes that it is a consideration of mercy on behalf of the patient, which dictates such actions in the end. "The nature of the medical profession" is one which operates according to "norms" that "prohibit a physician from ever acting with the

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