What is an Assisted Suicide?

N. Madison
N. Madison

An assisted suicide, also called euthanasia, is a situation in which a person helps another party to end his life. This type of mercy killing is often used to put an end to a painful condition from which the patient has little-to-no hope of recovering. It may also be used when patients are unable to function normally or live without extreme measures. In such cases, the idea behind assisted suicide may be to allow the patient to die with dignity. Typically, euthanasia is employed when a person is unable to take his own life.

Assisted suicide occurs when a person helps someone else end his or her life.
Assisted suicide occurs when a person helps someone else end his or her life.

There are few topics that are more controversial than assisted suicide, and there are passionate arguments for both sides of this issue. Proponents of assisted suicide often state that a person has a right to end his life if he is in severe pain or unable to experience a reasonable quality of life. They further state that he has the right to seek help in ending his life as well, arguing that euthanasia doesn’t harm anyone. Some even call it cruel to force a person to live the rest of his days in pain or unable to move or function. As such, proponents often consider it an act of kindness to help such patients die.

The Netherlands legalized doctor-assisted suicide in certain circumstances at the beginning of the 21st century.
The Netherlands legalized doctor-assisted suicide in certain circumstances at the beginning of the 21st century.

There are also many arguments against assisted suicide. Often, these arguments are religious in nature. Many opponents of mercy killing say it is against God; others claim it is outright murder. Some people who are against euthanasia state that it leaves too much room for mistakes. For example, they say that assisted suicide may lead to the deaths of individuals who were incorrectly diagnosed or had some chance, no matter how remote, of recovering.

Assisted suicide may occur when a person feels like they can no longer cope with a disability.
Assisted suicide may occur when a person feels like they can no longer cope with a disability.

Often, the arguments against assisted suicide focus on where society should draw the line in deciding who should die and what conditions make a person a good candidate for mercy killing. They question whether society would eventually force euthanasia on people who were considered less desirable or who had non-fatal, but debilitating conditions. Additionally, many argue that life is sacred and that mercy killing will make people have less respect for it.

The idea behind assisted suicide is to allow a patient to die with dignity.
The idea behind assisted suicide is to allow a patient to die with dignity.

Despite the fact that there are people who support assisted suicide, it is illegal in many places around the world. Individuals who are convicted of mercy killing may go to jail. Still, many people, including some doctors, have been willing to face this risk and help others to die despite the potential consequences.

Assisted suicide is illegal in many parts of the world.
Assisted suicide is illegal in many parts of the world.
Assisted suicide may occur when a doctor purposefully over prescribes someone with medication.
Assisted suicide may occur when a doctor purposefully over prescribes someone with medication.
N. Madison
N. Madison

Nicole’s thirst for knowledge inspired her to become a wiseGEEK writer, and she focuses primarily on topics such as homeschooling, parenting, health, science, and business. When not writing or spending time with her four children, Nicole enjoys reading, camping, and going to the beach.

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Discussion Comments

Carla Axtman

It should be noted that "assisted suicide" is also separate from "aid in dying" (AID). AID is when a mentally competent, terminally ill adult acquires a prescription for a lethal dose of medication to end their life at the time of their choosing.

Aid in dying is currently legal in three states: Oregon, Washington and Montana. "Assisted suicide" is specifically illegal in Oregon and Washington. --Carla A.

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