Thursday, October 06, 2005

Oregon law supporting physician assisted suicide is not the right path

The Supreme Court is currently considering an Oregon law regarding the ability for a physician to provide drugs and treament necessary for a patient commit suicide. Gonzales v. Oregon, 04-623, contemplates the right of the individual to commit suicide and the rights of others, namely doctors, to participate in the suicide.

The decision hinges on the difference between the right to refuse treatment and the right to actively seek death. The Oregon law has gone too far in the intent to aid the suffering of patients. Aiding in death sets a precedent that facilitates others deciding on a person's death and leaves too much to interpretation.

Anyone should have the right to determine when to stop received treatment that can prolong life. Seeking to extend a life unnaturally is the right that any person has and links directly to the value that we place on a life. However, when the courts extend that right beyond seeking or refusing treatment, they set a precedent that can lead to other consequences that we will not want.

The solution is not to sanction assisted suicide, but, rather, to strengthen the legal frameworks concerning living wills. Define the standard of evidence--preferably clear and convincing or higher--by which life-sustaining treatment can be removed. Set the standard and the precedent for the value of human life. Prematurely terminating life cannot be the standard for a country that wants to support a culture of life.

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