Pulling the plug, Is assisted Suicide ok?

November 20, 2011


There are three different ways that assisted suicide can occur. The first way is called Euthanasia, which is the direct act of someone to give the patient a lethal dose of medication with or without the patients consent. The second way is Assisted Suicide, which is supplying a patient with medication that would cause their death upon their request. While pulling the plug is classified as removing food tubes, turning off life support, which does not allow the patient to recover. http://www.brfwitness.org/?p=701

Euthanasia is illegal in all fifty states, while assisted suicide is only legal in Oregon, Washington, and Montana. Although the first two are for the most part illegal in the U.S. The process of withholding food and fluids and allowing a person to die is legal throughout the country. If a person decides that they want to undergo assisted suicide they would have to go out of country. Switzerland has people from around the world visit for assisted suicide. http://www.wrtl.org/assistedsuicide/fastfacts.aspx

Now that you know some basic facts, are these laws good? Should Euthanasia and assisted suicide be legal? In my opinion in cases of extreme brain damage, comas, or very limited abilities they should be legal. I have talked about this on occasion with my father. My grandfather has been sick for the past couple years now. He is slowly dying and they don’t think he will make it much longer. He can’t leave the house and spends all day either in his bed or in a chair in the living room. We both agree that if we were in that situation, where there is no chance to recover, that we would not want to live anymore.

Here is an example of a case where the patient recovered while the family and the spouse were in a lawsuit about pulling the plug. A 36 year old Ramirez suffered a traumatic brain injury during a car accident that put him into a coma. After 9 days doctors informed his wife that he would never recover so she chose to remove his feeding and water tubes. After her decision, his family made a legal appeal to have them put back and won. Ramirez was able to recover from the coma after the tubes were put back in. http://abcnews.go.com/Health/story?id=3325418&page=1

In a different case Terri Schiavo, a woman that suffered a brain injury that led to a vegetative state, was the person in disbute in a lawsuit between her husband and her family. This case led to her water and feeding tubes to be taken out which led to her death. The difference in this case than the Ramirez case is that his wife had them remove the tubes only 9 days after the accident. Schiavo had her tubes removed 15 years after her incident occured. http://abcnews.go.com/Health/story?id=3325418&page=1

Should there be a mandatory period of time before pulling the plug can be an option? If assisted suicide were to become legal should the person have to go through a period of time to fully consider what he is doing? I think that the 9 day instance is way to short to make this kind of decision. The person was just injured and emotions are still high. You should have to wait a couple years at least. This gives a person time to fully consider their options and also to see if the person is recovering at all. Then if the person has not shown signs of recovery pulling the plug can be a valid decision.





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14 Comments on “Pulling the plug, Is assisted Suicide ok?”

  1. ianbaker2041 Says:

    In general, I’m in support of “pulling the plug.” While human life is extremely valuable, it is very expensive to maintain life support, and if the person faces little to no chance of ever living a normal life again, it’s just not worth it to leave him or her in a vegetative state.

    This topic is pretty close to home for me. One of my friends from middle school (she was also my neighbor) was born with a heart problem-a portion of her heart did not work properly and was all but useless. At her birth, doctors gave her ten years to live. All through her life, she was in and out of the hospital, and she had three open heart surgeries before the age of three. Even though she was beating the odds when she died at fourteen, it still all came as a shock, and decisions like this are hard to make. She collapsed in May 2007 at the local little league fields, the victim of cardiac arrest. Although paramedics and doctors did their best, the most they reasoned she would ever be able to do alone was breathe. No conscious understanding of the world, confined to a bed or a chair, unable to do anything else. Her parents made the decision the next day, May 15, 2007, to pull the plug, killing her.

    It’s a traumatic decision to make, one that I never want to confront. Having known her parents for years, I can still see the pain that the decision has on them. There’s always the “what if” factor, but I think on the whole, they did what was right for her, and I believe that they have put their faith in that decision. Of course, I’ve never asked them (and I never will); I’m just guessing. The chance was sufficiently small of any form of recovery that pulling the plug was, in my opinion, justified. Was it too soon? I don’t think so. They consulted with doctors and had a very good overall picture of her medical condition. They kept her alive on life support just long enough for her father to fly home (he was away on business at the time) to see her one last time, and that is enough. When asking how soon is too soon, I think it all depends. In this case, pulling the plug less than a day after the incident happened seems justified. In other cases, a few weeks or even a year might be necessary. The decision shouldn’t be legally mandated but should be decided between the family and the medical staff involved. Every case is different, and those decisions cannot be made from afar.

    While I would have loved for one of my closest friends to have lived, the thought of her living as just a vegetable is far worse than death. If I were her parents, I believe I would have made the same choice. Although it was surely an excruciating choice to make, sometimes it’s the only right choice.

  2. madelinedunn Says:

    The legality of assisted suicide is a hard one to come to a consensus on. With every situation comes different circumstances as well as different morals of the families involved. I don’t think that there can be one rule that lays out what one should do in a life or death situation such as this; which is why, if he or she has one, we need to turn to the patient’s will. If the patient were to create a will that laid out certain instances in which they would want the plug pulled, I think that the state should honor their wish.
    I understand that there are many situations in which a young person gets into an accident and they have not even thought about creating a will. In cases like this, I feel like it would be hard to put a time limit on one’s life spent in a comma or vegetative state. Someone could always argue that the number was unsatisfactory, and then we are right back to where we started.
    With that said, I am still confused as to why certain forms of assisted suicide are considered legal and some are not. In the end, the outcome is the same: death. How can we justify some actions and not others if they all lead to the same end point?

  3. brianfrankel Says:

    I am in support of assisted suicide. A life is extremely precious, and no one understands that more than the individual accepting to end his/her life. Assisted Suicide, unlike other methods, gives a patient the ability to decide on how he/she wants to die–with dignity, without pain, or any other of the innumerable emotions experienced by an individual who is facing death.

    Furthermore, I believe that is within an individual’s rights that he/she can decide when it is time to die. Obviously, restrictions must be set so that individuals who are not deathly ill or facing extreme conditions cannot be granted assisted suicide. Yet, it is unjust for healthy individuals who are not dying, who are not debilitatingly sick to decide if those who are should have the right to partake in killing themselves.

  4. erfreed3 Says:

    Assisted suicide and abortion can be seen as much alike. This is because on one side of the coin there are people pro-life and on the other, pro-choice. It is a touchy subject because ultimately the decision rests not in the hands of the patient (or the fetus in the case of abortion) but in the hands of the spouse and/or family. Nonetheless, the case of 36-year old Ramirez demonstrates that people have many different views on how to handle the situation. Personally, I think Ramirez’ wife’s decision to pull the plug after 9 days is very pre-mature. Even given the diagnosis from doctors, comas cam be very unpredictable in terms of recovery. If I were placed in the same situation, I would give my loved one much longer than 9 days before terminating them. On the other hand, Terri Schiavo had been in a coma for 15 years. At that point, the hope that once resided within the spouse and family members was probably waning. In addition, the amount of suffering that both the spouse and family members may endure as a result of that false hope can be devastating to one’s mental health. Thus, I believe that people should have the right to terminate life, in the case of a coma or a debilitating disease in which there is no hope of recovery. However, this assisted suicide should only be undertaken after a specific period of time has elapsed. The question then becomes how long is long enough? Surely, more than 9 days but is 15 years too much? I’d say after an elapsed period of 1 year, the spouse and family should have the right to decide whether or not they want to terminate life or keep optimistic. However, I refer to this particularly in the case of a coma and other brain related injuries. On the other hand, if a person is suffering and has absolutely, NO chance at recovery, the decision should not be based on an elapsed time frame. As madelinedunn points out, if a person specifies that they would like to be kept on life support or taken off support, their wishes should be honored. However if it gets to a point in which the family can no longer pay and it has been over one year, then the choice should revert back to the spouse/family. Also as madelinedunn points out, associated suicide always leads to death, why is it justified in some way and not others. I would argue that after a period of 15 years like Schiavo, there is hardly any hope left for recovery. Does it not seem justified to end the suffering of a whole family when a person has virtually no chance left to recover?

  5. parijog Says:

    From my experience in hospitals and working with health care professionals, euthanasia is much more common than we like to think. It may not always be as apparent and medically simple as the pulling a plug out of a wall, but it remains that a person is being allowed to die sooner current medical techniques have made possible. I have personally witnessed a family make the decision to discontinue medications that had been keeping their mother alive for weeks. My initial reaction to this was shock, and when I asked the physician about the case afterward, he told me that these decisions are part of his everyday work in geriatrics.
    This experience has led me to believe that euthanasia in the form of discontinued life support is a viable option in cases without a resolution. As the doctor said, “Sometimes you just know when God calls their number, and in that case, it is best just to step aside and let nature take its course.”

  6. thelenj1 Says:

    The issue of assisted suicide is definitely not clear cut. Different circumstances should have different procedures and laws on what is and is not legal, but I do believe for the legal types of assisted suicide there should be a basic set of laws that have to be followed. First if the patient is in a state where they are unable to make any decisions for themselves there should be a standard waiting period where no decisions on the person’s life can be made. I do not know how long these time periods should be, but nine days would definitely not be enough time to decide. Furthermore the decision should be in more than one person’s hands. These two rules would help to ensure that no irrational/emotional decisions are being made. If the person who wants to die is able to make the decision for themselves then the process of committing a legal assisted suicide should take a certain duration of time. This would again help to ensure the decision is rational. Life is so valuable and is not something that should be easily decided.

  7. rfieds Says:

    I think that this is an interesting post as it confronts an extremely polemic topic in contemporary society. The concept of euthanasia presents a myriad of complex questions and answers. I do believe that certain forms of assisted suicide should be considered legal. I think that it is the choice of the person or family in what course of action they would like to take. However, I do think that there should be a boundary as to where assisted suicide becomes more of an easy way out for someone and rather turns into the persons own willingness to commit suicide. If a person is unresponsive and is clearly enduring pain, the patient or family of the patient should have the ability to “pull the plug.” An individual is entitled to his or her rights and thus should have the ability to determine whether or not the plug should be pulled. Having the ability to pull the plug essentially takes the individual out of his or her misery. I think that it is beneficial in most cases however it can present immense flaws in that the freedom to pull the plug becomes abused.

  8. schoiidaho Says:

    This issue of pulling the plug and assisted suicide has been a controversial debate for a long time. Just as everyone has mentioned above, we can make valid arguments from all points of view. However, in my opinion, euthanasia should stay illegal by law, but the person should have the right to assisted suicide if he or she truly wishes to leave this world.
    The author describes that euthanaisa is the process of injecting a lethal dose of medication to a patient. This will kill the person, and regardless of whether the patient gave a consent to it or not, it is definitely murder committed on purpose.
    On the other hand, assisted suicide means that the person truly wants to die, and this is probably the most peaceful and least violent way to kill oneself. I believe that the patient seeking for assisted suicide should be given second chances at life before anything takes place. For example, the doctors need to truly make them think hard if they really want to kill themselves, and maybe psychologists might be able to talk some sense into them and make them think twice. Whatever decision they decide to make after the arduous process, they should be entitled full right to it. None of us chose to be born into this world, and therefore we all have the natural rights to do whatever we wish to our body and life.
    If the person is braindead, unconscious, and have no hope or chance of being revived again, it might be a better idea to transplant these organs and save another precious life. This is another very heated and controversial topic, and even though the family members of the victim should have the last word on what to do, organ donation seems like the most beneficial and best option in the end.

  9. dkap7 Says:

    There are a lot of potential arguments that can come out of this post. Assisted Suicide, when the person extremely sick gives permission to have lethal medication injected into them, should be legal nationwide. It is only legal in several states, however, if the person whose life is on the line decides that they no longer want to suffer knowing that their recovery is nearly impossible, why should they not be granted this appeal. They are responsible for their body and their life and if they feel that their life is no longer worth suffering through, then they should be entitled to assisted suicide. Although I don’t know much about the difference in suffering during “pulling the plug” and assisted suicide, it seems that assisted suicide would be a quicker and less painful way for an individual to die. When “pulling the plug” a person is starved and deprived of oxygen. During assisted suicide, a person seems to be put to bed and then does not wake up. Why would pulling the plug be legal whereas assisted suicide be illegal in most states. Also, “pulling the plug” does not need the consent of the patient. During assisted suicide, the patient must give consent for the medication to be injected. How does it make sense for “pulling the plug” to be legal and for assisted suicide to be illegal?

    When addressing the time line for when a person should be allowed to pull the plug on a relative, it is essential to give the doctors enough time to build up data that leads to a hypothesis on whether the individual extremely sick has any chance of living or not. From there I feel that decisions should be allowed to be made, even if that means nine days into a coma. This being said, I don’t feel that it is right to pull the plug nine days after a coma starts because miracles do happen. However, I feel that the person in charge of the sickly person should have the right to decide when the plug should be pulled.

  10. jsimon99 Says:

    I do believe in assisted suicide even though it would be an extremely hard decision for me if it came down to a personal matter and I truly hope it never does. I would have to start by putting myself in the shoes of one who is suffering and is maybe not able to function or think properly and does not seem to be getting better. I would want what is best for my family which would be to let me go. It would relieve myself from all pains, and it would relieve my family from all their pains of seeing me in my state and having to deal with everything for the rest of their lives. It is hard/weird to think about that if it was I but that is what I truly would want my family to do. That is why I do believe in assisted suicide. And I also believe there should be a mandatory period of time before pulling the plug. If I knew I would not get better I would want what is best for my family. It may not be the easiest decision but I would want what is best. This is a very touchy topic and hard to think about when it comes down to a personal level but in the end, it relieves a person from all their pains if they are not the same as they might have been or not able to function properly and ever get better.

  11. shmily4k Says:

    I don’t think we should legalize euthanasia and assisted suicide. As we have mentioned in the lecture, we do not have to right to help others to decide what is the best for them. Based on this concept, we should not have the right to help the patients to decide whether they should live or not. Unless the patients have told their family that they would not want to live anymore if they were in coma for several years, otherwise no one should have to right to end their lives. Similar to the case of assisted suicide, I would not agree on ending a patient’s life by pulling the plug, leaving them no chance to recover. Even thought the process of withholding food and fluids and allowing a person to die is legal in the United States, there should be a mandatory period of time before pulling the plug can be an option. I agree with the writer of this post that it would be too fast for a person to make the decision of pulling the plug in only 9 days. I think 8 years would be a suitable time period for one to decide to pull the plug or not.

  12. tchung22 Says:

    I do not think there should be a mandatory period of time before pulling the plug can be an option, or that people need to go through a period of time to fully consider the options if doctors are absolutely sure that the patient will not recover. I don’t really agree that the 9 day period was too short because doctors said that there is no way Ramirez would recover. Thus, his wife chose to remove his tubes based on the information they presented. However, if doctors are not positive on their diagnosis of the patient never recovering, there should be a grace period to wait for signs of recovery and time to make a decision. Perhaps the wife of Ramirez did not want him to suffer in a vegetative state and thus made the decision to immediately remove the tubes.

  13. bmjasper Says:

    This is a very thought-provoking post. I too am in support of assisted suicide. Pain and suffering are perhaps the most personal feelings one can endure. Therefore, should someone’s pain ever become too hard to endure, that person should be allowed to have the ultimate say in whether or not they want to keep living. There are, however, exceptions which make the concept of assisted suicide very controversial. Like you mentioned in your post, what happens when a person is incapable of communicating? Although they may have no desire to live any longer and may wish to die, they would have no way of expressing their opinions. Should a loved one be able to speak for them? What if the loved one spoke incorrectly on behalf of that person, causing the doctors to wrongly pull the plug on someone’s life. Should that loved one be called a murderer? There are so much uncertainty involved with assisted suicide that I believe that when regarding life or death, a person should only be able to speak on behalf of themselves.

  14. adamstillman2011 Says:

    Assisted suicide is a very sensitive issue because it is literally a life or death desicion, and many times the person who is going to die is not in the state to make the decision for themselves. I am in favor of assisted suicide as long as certain conditions are met.

    1. The patient has explicitly stated in a will or some other document that if in the event of a tragic accident, I ask to be taken off life support

    2. There is 0 chance of regaining consciousness. If the patient has no chance of living a normal life again than assisted suicide should be considered.

    3. The family can no longer afford to keep the patient hopelessly on life support.

    If these three conditions are met than I believe that this should be allowed. However, I am not a supporter of any one who is going through hardship making an appointment with a doctor to kill themselves. If someone loses their job that is not grounds for assisted suicide. Assisted suicide should only be used in extreme cases like Terry Shiavo or other patients in a similar vegetative state.

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