However, the question that arises in this context is – should a mental health practitioner be held to be responsible for failing to prevent suicide or is suicide an act whose responsibility must be solely placed at the door of the person who commits it?Physician assisted suicide must be differentiated from euthanasia, where it is the medical practitioner himself/herself who makes the decision to end the patient’s life in order to end their suffering, especially in cases where the patient is terminally ill or in a coma and is not capable of communicating a wish to die and end suffering. While physician assisted suicide is carried out specifically on the request of the patient and therefore involves the autonomy of the patient, in the case of euthanasia, it is the doctor who makes the decision, sometimes on the basis of requests from family members of the patient, and removes the patient from life support systems.(a) Physicians have a moral obligation to relieve the suffering of their patients. They generally accomplish this through use of medication and treatment. However, in those instances where medication and treatment that prolongs life will be inconsistent with the provision of relief, physicians may be able to better relieve their patients’ suffering by shortening the life span of enduring of the suffering.(b) In some cases, patients prefer physician assisted suicide to living on with their disabling condition. In such instances, a physician has a moral obligation to respect the autonomous choice and decision of his/her patient to end their lives(d) A total refusal to consider physician assisted suicide is in fact a disservice to a patient and equivalent to abandonment of the patient, since most patients who are terminally ill may experience unbearable suffering and autonomously request physician assisted suicide.On this basis therefore, it may be noted that the primary arguments in favor of physician assisted suicide are centered upon the individual autonomy of a patient to make his or her own decision about whether or not to continue living. For patients who are terminally ill and suffering a great deal, relief from suffering through death is their only hope, since they do not wish to continue to be dependent on others and continue to suffer. As a result, the more merciful option from a moral perspective, appears to be to allow the patients to die through physician assisted suicide (Weir, 1997).However, the converse argument is
* Burgess, Sally and Hawton, Keith, 1998. “Suicide, euthanasia and the Psychiatrist”, Philosophy, Psychiatry and Psychology, 5.2: 113-126
* Connor, Steve, 2007. “Tougher definition for depression poses suicide risk” The Independent on Sunday, 18 August, 2007. Retrieved November 16, 2007 from: http://news.independent.co.uk/health/article2874120.ece
* Hume, D. 1784 (1986). “Of suicide.” IN “Applied ethics”, ed. P. Singer, Oxford: Oxford University Press, at pp 19-27.
* Journal of the American Medical Association, 1967. “Changing concepts of suicide”, 199(10): 162; cited in Burgess and Hawton, 1998.
* Lavin, Michael, 1995. “Who should be committable?” Philosophy, Psychiatry and Psychology, 2(1): 35-45
* Matthews, Eric, 1998. “Choosing death: Philosophical observations on suicide and euthanasia”, Philosophy, Psychiatry and Psychology, 5(2): 107-111
* Szasz, T, 1986. “The case against suicide prevention,” American Psychologist, 41:806-812.
* “Suicide.” Retrieved November 16, 2007 from: http://www.lectlaw.com/def2/s197.htm
* Weir, Robert F, 1997. “Physician assisted suicide”, Indiana University Press
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