Physician-Assisted Suicide

In this assignment, I will use utilitarian theory by Stuart Mill to argue that passing laws to allow Physician-Assisted Suicide (PAS) is morally right. PAS is one of the hotly contested moral themes when it comes to ethical issues that surround it. Physician-assisted suicide is described as the intentional life termination of the patient through the administration of a deadly drug via a direct or indirect assistance from the medical doctor (Gorsuch, 2009). In the background of PAS based on utilitarian theory is that moral acts are those considered to bring a superior happiness and less pain. This implies that an action should promote greater happiness other than unhappiness.

First, physician-assisted suicide is morally right given that the physician has the interest of the patient towards relieving the pain in the patient (Gorsuch, 2009). This premise has been supported by Timothy E. Quill, a Rochester professor of medicine, as well as psychiatry. Quill assisted Diane (his patient) by allowing her to take pills to help her die with “dignity”. Quill believes and advocates that there is the need to change the law to help the patients with terminal diseases and chronic diseases to die peacefully and with dignity rather than the patient living with pain. In addition, Quill calls for the need to balance a respect for life with a belief that death must come with peace and dignity. This is an act of utilitarianism where the common good of the patient is considered through promoting happiness and alleviating pain. In this instance, the physician offers the means for the patient to end the pain because of either painful disease or incurable disease promoting happiness of the patient (Quill, 1997).

Since physicians in physician-assisted suicide only helps terminally ill patients or those with painful diseases, then it helps these patients to eliminate the pain and promote happiness. The happiness that the patient will have is important towards ensuring that the patient does not continue experiencing pain. This premise can be supported by Anne Mary Warren when she considers that abortion is morally right and should be legalized in the society. This is based on the fact that Warren believes that granting the patient to terminate his/her life through physician-assisted suicide will result in happiness and freedom that is important to the patient. Regarding the fact that allowing women to abort based on Warren arguments, is that the family of the patient will have freedom because they will be relieved from the pain of meeting the costs of taking of the patient with incurable condition or disease (Reiman, 1998). In this instance, freedom will bring happiness to immediate family members that will use their finances on other family needs.

New Jersey should pass laws that will legalize physician-assisted suicide because it will ensure that patients who are terminally ill or with incurable diseases are relieved of the pain promoting their happiness. This is supported by Quill that believes that legalizing issues like physician-assisted suicides will ensure a decent and peaceful death for the patients. This premise has been supported by Mill’s theory of utilitarian theory that maintains that action should cause greater happiness for greatest number and the outcome should promote the moral value of the primary action. Therefore, because euthanasia will increase the happiness of the terminally ill patient and decrease pain, then it is morally right. Euthanasia would enhance the utiles of a fatally sick patient; however, lowers the utiles, which represents the suffering. Consequently, it is feasible that New Jersey should pass laws that will legalize physician-assisted suicide (Card, 2004).


Card, R. F. (2004). Critically thinking about medical ethics. Person/Prentice Hall.

Gorsuch, N. M. (2009). The Future of Assisted Suicide and Euthanasia. Princeton University         Press.

Quill, T.E. (1997). A Physician’s Position on Physician-assisted Suicide. Bull N Y Acad Med.         74(1): 114–118.

Reiman, J. (1998). Abortion and the ways we value human life. Oxford: Rowman & Littlefield.


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