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Physicians-Assisted Suicide as a Legal Option in the United States

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The purpose of this thesis project is to analyze the legalization of physician-assisted suicide (PAS) as an option for the terminally ill in the United States from a rule-utilitarian perspective.

The purpose of this thesis project is to analyze the legalization of physician-assisted suicide (PAS) as an option for the terminally ill in the United States from a rule-utilitarian perspective. The moral theory of utilitarianism is a consequentialist theory that judges the moral permissibility of an action or rule based on the best possible outcomes. Rule-utilitarianism conforms an action to an articulated moral rule that leads to the greatest good whereas act-utilitarianism only considers the best possible consequences on a case-by-case basis. Since legalization of PAS is a policy that requires passage of laws, rule-utilitarianism is more appropriate compared to act-utilitarianism. Euthanasia is a controversial topic worldwide that dates as far back as the 5th century BC with the Greeks and Romans. Comparing the euthanasia then and now, the nations are slowly but surely reconsidering the policies regarding PAS. There are both benefits and harms that the paper addresses. The possible benefits include the prevention of elongation of suffering, both physically and psychologically, respect for the patient autonomy, the right to die with dignity, and the decriminalization of the innocents. The potential harms include undermining the integrity of the medical profession and the aim of medicine, violation of the Hippocratic Oath, targeting of the vulnerable population, unmotivating the efforts to develop and improve better palliative and hospice care, and the slippery slope argument, which implies that the legalization of PAS would eventually set the precedence to legalizing voluntary active euthanasia and nonvoluntary euthanasia. Overall, the moral calculus that the paper provides comes to the conclusion that the benefits outweigh the harms.

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  • 2017-05