Essay Problems with Euthanasia and Assisted Suicide

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Euthanasia Problems

Doctors do err on cancer patients' survival times, so how can they say when the time is ripe for assisted suicide. A study in the July 1 issue of Cancer, the journal of the American Cancer Society, finds that doctors are often wrong in predicting how long terminally ill cancer patients will live. After studying the accuracy of doctors' predictions regarding 233 patients with end-of-life cancer, the researchers found most doctors had a tendency to overestimate survival time. But among patients who lived longer than six months, 40% had been expected to die sooner. The results are relevant to decisions to refer patients to hospice care -- and also to decisions for assisted suicide, which in Oregon can only be
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Hemlock's newsletter commented that "the younger the person, the more likely he or she is to favor this legislation." The newsletter added that "this is somewhat at odds with how Hemlock views its membership," since it sees itself as defending the interests of elderly citizens. (Humphry; Poll 9) A study of cancer patients found that terminally ill patients experiencing significant pain are more opposed to physician-assisted suicide than other terminally ill patients or the general public. The patients who did tend to favor assisted suicide were those who had been diagnosed with clinical depression. The researchers commented: "Patients with pain do not seem to view euthanasia or physician-assisted suicide as the appropriate response to poor pain management. Indeed, oncology patients in pain may be suspicious that if euthanasia or physician-assisted suicide are legalized, the medical care system may not focus sufficient resources on provision of pain relief and palliative care" (Emanuel 1809)

* Researchers at Duke University recently surveyed hundreds of frail elderly patients receiving outpatient treatment and their families. The elderly patients themselves strongly opposed physician-assisted suicide: only 34% favored legalization, with support even lower among female and black patients. But 56% of their younger relatives favored it, and they were usually wrong in predicting the elderly patients' views.
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