Physician-Assisted Suicide

Free «Physician-Assisted Suicide» Essay Sample

Physician-assisted suicide is one of the issues that may cause a medical ethical dilemma when professionals find it difficult determining whether the case is ethically right or wrong. The question is whether people should have a say in how they should die. The utilitarian ethical theory contains the suitable principles to answer the essay question. The fundamental principle of this theoretical model states that actions are correct to the point that they are likely to enhance the maximal good for the maximal number of people. This theory holds that the greatest moral action is the one that produces maximal utility. In this case, utility refers to the state or quality of being beneficial, profitable, or useful. Utilitarianism is based on the consequences of an action when a person should act in a way that produces the best ramifications possible. The utilitarian theory supports that people are supposed to make decisions on how they should die as it produces the greatest favorable consequences. The objection to this theory is that it ignores the means that make people desire to have a voice in how they should die, which ethically matters.

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Theory Explanation

The core principle of the utilitarian theory is that acts are right to the extent that there is a high chance of promoting the greatest good for the largest number of people. This theory is grounded on consequences where an individual should act in a manner that leads to the best implications (Tsai & Harasym, 2010). The analyzed model describes morality in relation to the maximization of the expected utility for all individuals affected by an action or a decision. Utilitarianism is a struggle of finding an answer to the real question “What should a man do?” (Tsai & Harasym, 2010). The solution to this question is that one should act in a way that results in the best consequences conceivable. In the idea of consequences, utilitarian encompasses all the bad and good implications produced by an action, whether arising after the act has been done or during its enactment. According to this theory, actions are classified as either morally right or wrong only if the ramifications are of such importance that an individual would wish to see an agent required, not merely exhorted or persuaded, to act in a desired way (Lawson, 2011). In the assessment of consequences of acts, the utilitarian theory depends on the theory of intrinsic value where all actions derive their worth from this intrinsic significance (Lawson, 2011). These utilitarian concepts help people to decide which actions are morally right or wrong.


Utilitarian theory can be used to determine whether actions are morally right or wrong, especially in the cases of medical dilemmas. This framework can be applied to the issue of physician-assisted suicide as well. According to this theory, physician-assisted suicide can be justified as the act would promote the greatest good for the largest number of people (Tsai & Harasym, 2010). Meaning, if a terminally ill person dies, it would end their pain and suffering and reduce the health care burden of the relatives and health workers. The assumption also justifies the action since the patient would express own will on how they should die. The patients take their life with the help of a doctor. In relation to this theory, physician-assisted suicide is morally right because it would lead to the best consequences (Lawson, 2011). The best results concerning the end of the suffering and pain and reducing the healthcare burden of multiple stakeholders. In regard to the utility, physician-assisted suicide is morally right because the affected individual is not coerced or forced to take their life, but they do it willingly (Lawson, 2011).  The action of having a say on how a person should die has an intrinsic value associated with the activity whereas it reduces suffering and increases happiness (Tsai & Harasym, 2010). Hence, utilitarian theory supports that people should have a right to decide how they should die.


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The theory of utilitarianism ignores the means, by which the consequences were produced, and it seems that the ways that led to an action are morally relevant (Tsai & Harasym, 2010). In this case, the doctor providing means by which the patient terminate their life is morally wrong because it is like promoting suicide that is ethically wrong (Lawson, 2011). Even if the action produces the best consequences of ending the suffering and maximizing happiness, the means by which this action was achieved is morally wrong (Tsai & Harasym, 2010). In terms of utility, even if the patient was not coerced to terminate their life, the means by which the doctor takes one’s life can be equated to murder that is morally and ethically wrong. Regarding intrinsic value associated with the act, the means used to achieve this value is morally wrong and should be discouraged as it is a way of encouraging the suicide (Lawson, 2011). In the case of physician-assisted suicide, utilitarianism seems to be wrong in allowing people to end their life, though willingly.

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Physician-assisted suicide is among the range of significant medical ethical dilemma. The theory of utilitarianism justifies that people should have a say in how they should die. According to this theory, the discussed phenomenon is morally right as it maximizes happiness and, at the same time, reduces pain and suffering of a patient. Specifically, when patient decides how and when they should die, this factor produces the best consequences to the patient, relatives, health care workers, and the nation at large. This act has an intrinsic value associated with it, hence, justifies it as morally right. However, utilitarianism ignores the means by which the consequences can be achieved, while means are ethically relevant. The means by which a doctor assists a patient in terminating their life is morally wrong as it can only be equated to committing a murder. Therefore, utilitarian theory should never assume the means by which an action was achieved even if it produces the best consequences.

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