A Visual Statement Against Physician-Assisted Suicide

Final Poster Senate Bill 128 aims to legalize terminal patients’ right to die within the state of California. Although the medical industry does need to reevaluate health care for the terminally ill, I believe that Senate Bill 128 is not a viable correct answer. Thus, I designed a poster to express my point of view. Through soothing colors, an image of two individuals holding hands, and the featured text, my poster goes against the right-to-die movement and Senate Bill 128 by reminding the terminally ill to value the potential within their lives. I try to relax my audience through the aesthetic of my poster by featuring specific colors and a large image of two individuals holding hands. The colors primarily used in my poster, blue and green, were utilized for a specific purpose: to evoke a tranquil psychological response. According to an experiment by Rochester University, test subjects who viewed the color blue experienced a “quieting and agreeable” mood and “produced reserved, stable behavior.” This explains why looking at the ocean or gazing at the sky can be so relaxing. The color green also produces the same effect. The aforementioned study revealed that shorter wavelength colors, including green, are “experienced as calming.“ Doctor’s waiting rooms are often painted shades of green to provide reassurance and relaxation in a place that usually induces anxiety. The idea of death can cause depression among the terminally ill, so the deliberate use of the colors blue and green are meant to provide them with a sense of comfort. Like these two colors, the enlarged image of the two individuals holding hands comforts the viewers of my poster. Whether it is a father and his son or a patient and her doctor, the act of holding hands is a universal symbol of affection. James Coan, a doctor and professor of psychology at the University of Virginia, told the New York Times that holding hands makes your brain “work a little less hard in coping” and relaxes the body. Since the picture is so large, it is the first thing to catch my audience’s eye. This image was strategically enlarged and placed as my background in order to support terminal patients’ need for comfort and company. Loneliness is a common emotion, and this picture was meant to accommodate that empty feeling within the terminally ill and stimulate positive emotions. My poster inspires hope by providing two particular visuals that my audience can find relatable: a wrinkled hand and the phrase “It’s not over.” The aged hand in the photograph is intended to be a relatable figure to the terminally ill because the majority of terminal patients are elderly. Barbara Berkman, a health specialist at Columbia University, stated that 80% of end-of-life care patients are over the age of 65. Therefore the chances of an elderly, terminal patient viewing my poster are not far fetched. The wrinkled hand allows my intended audience to empathize with my poster and relate to it on an emotional level. When my audience sees the wrinkled hand, I want them to reflect and clearly see the correlation between my poster and their lives. In addition to the wrinkled hand, the sentence “It’s not over,” is meant to remind the terminally ill of the potential in their lives so that they oppose Senate Bill 128. The lettering is intentionally larger than the rest of the words on the poster because I wanted to make my point clear. The phrase is short and straight to the point, but it is capable of instilling my audience with hope. Terminal patients are often alienated by society after they are given a prognosis, leading to depression, isolation, and loneliness. By inspiring my audience with hope, I aim to help them cope with the burdens of terminal illness, reinforce their will to live, and promote the fight through adversity. Once a sense of hope is established, I can properly denounce physician-assisted suicide. My poster contains a variety of elements that aim to inspire my audience and give them, the terminally ill, hope. These elements work together in an attempt to appeal to my audience’s emotions and convince them to oppose physician-assisted suicide. When executed in the right manner, the use of emotion as a persuasive technique is a very effective way to inspire an audience to take action. Thus, I designed a poster that portrays a situation the terminally ill could find relatable and reassuring. If my poster is capable of making a terminal patient reevaluate his or her stance on Senate Bill 128, then I have succeeded in creating a visual that conveys my message.

Image in poster courtesy of Truth and Charity Forum: http://www.truthandcharityforum.org/physician-assisted-suicide-from-dominion-over-human-procreation-to-the-right-to-die/

Physician Assisted Suicide and Our Obsession with Convenience

Physician-assisted suicide is a controversial topic that continues to spark heavy debate throughout the nation. Although neither side is entirely wrong, neither is entirely correct. After evaluating the advantages and disadvantages of physician-assisted suicide, I have taken a stance on the matter. I believe physician-assisted suicide should ultimately remain criminalized within the state of California because instead of resorting to this ethically questionable practice, we need to realize that death is a part of life and focus on improving our current emotional health care towards terminal patients.

Physician-assisted suicide is mankind’s way of avoiding the unpleasant truth. Death isn’t supposed to be pretty. Towards the end of her life, my best friend’s great-grandmother, Adelita, died a slow and painful death. In addition to the terminal disease, Adelita also began suffering from a mental illness resulting in delusions, heightened anxiety, and conversations with nonexistent people. Obtaining proper health care in rural Mexico, where the primary source of water required a mile-long trek to the nearest well, was an impossible feat. However, she never called for death to come and take her. She remained fervent until her final breath because that is what dignity meant to her—a characteristic that allows one to endure pain and take the hand that he or she is dealt with. Many become enamored by the Death with Dignity’s powerful campaign but forget that dignity is subjective. The Death with Dignity campaign implies that the terminally ill are helpless because they are not granted physician-assisted suicide as an option, but they can still be treated in ways that give them meaning and value, such as dignity therapy. Whether it is through palliative care or alternative options, physicians are there to help.

At first, I firmly believed that physician-assisted suicide was a natural right to mankind, but recent findings convinced me otherwise. By enabling physician-assisted suicide, we are putting the majority of doctors in a morally problematic situation. According to a poll by the New England Journal of Medicine, “roughly two-thirds [of physicians] worldwide — including 67 percent of replies from the United States — said they disapprove of physician-assisted suicide.” The practice goes against the physician’s role as a healer because doctors are trained to save lives, not end them. Although we are quick to prioritize the well-being of the patients, we need to keep the doctors in mind as well. It’s wrong to put them in a situation that endangers their values and goes against their code of ethics.

When we take America’s obsession with smart phones and fast food into account, we realize that we live in a society that promotes convenience at all costs. Physician-assisted suicide is yet another way we seek convenience at the expense of our morality. Yes, physician-assisted suicide provides patients with an efficient means of taking away the fear that comes with a painful death, but death should not be offered as another service to humanity. We have become so attached with the idea of convenience, that we are willing to sacrifice our integrity in order to simplify our lives in unnecessary ways.

Why Physician Assisted Suicide Isn’t the Correct Answer

Death with Dignity claims that 68 to 74 percent of people support physician-assisted suicide, but does that mean the practice should be the final answer? The United States should not legalize physician-assisted suicide because it promotes an “easy way out” for doctors and the medical industry in terms of improving health care.

Image Courtesy of the Chicago Tribune

Rather than advocating physician-assisted suicide, physicians need to focus on improving end-of-life hospice for patients, providing better services that suit each individual’s situation. Right now, the medical care provided to terminal patients still has numerous flaws; the system isn’t perfect. A study published in the June 19th, 2001 issue of The Annals of Internal Medicine revealed that only 37% of doctors were willing to provide their terminally ill patients with life expectancies. In addition to this, a 2008 study found that nearly all doctors told their terminally ill patients that their condition was fatal, but only 57% of doctors surveyed said they “sometimes, rarely, or never [give their patients] a time frame. These statistics demonstrate the uncertainty end-of-life patients face in receiving their prognosis. These patients can’t make informed decisions about their future if doctors aren’t able to confidently give them accurate time frames. Instead of looking to improve our methods, we look for the most convenient exit plan for physicians and their patients. Not only do we need to progress but we also need to explore other treatments for patients suffering from fatal diseases.

Dignity therapy, created by Dr. Harvey Chochinov, is a method of care in which terminal patients are interviewed about “meaningful life moments, lessons [they] learned, and those [they] wish to pass on to loved ones. These interview sessions are transcribed and made into a “legacy document,” containing sentimental lessons and memories from a lifetime. A study published in the journal Lancet Oncology discovered patients who went through dignity therapy were more likely to feel a heightened sense of dignity, purpose, and complacency when going through this process than terminal patients undergoing standard palliative care. This lesser known method of therapy exemplifies that healthy, holistic alternatives exist—we just don’t implement them as much as we should. Despite the aforementioned benefits of therapy, state records show that in 2010, only one of Oregon’s sixty-five right-to-die patients was referred for psychiatric evaluation. Physicians need to realize that physician-assisted suicide isn’t the only answer for end-of-life patients.

By disregarding the alternate options and legalizing physician-assisted suicide, we promote an ethically questionable option to terminally ill patients and fail to demand more from doctors and the medical system. We devalue the hope to live and turn towards the easier way out. We, as a nation, should continue to criminalize physician-assisted suicide and focus on how to improve hospice care by finding better solutions that teach patients how to cope with their prognosis.

Why People Support Physician Assisted Suicide

Physician-assisted suicide is deemed a taboo by society, prohibited in most parts of the world. Death with Dignity, a major supporter of the right to die, has been at a standstill for the past decade, but their cause recently regained momentum after Brittany Maynard’s campaign for physician-assisted suicide went viral. As the world debates the legality of physician-assisted suicide, supporters are explaining why they believe it is justified.

A photograph of Tracy and Steve Riley at their wedding. Courtesy of the Daily Mail.

Physician assisted suicide prevents terminally ill patients from experiencing the suffering that comes with lethal, debilitating diseases. These health issues can be degrading for patients living their last days. Steven Riley told BBC Radio about his late wife, Tracy, and her experience with a terminal disease. After Tracy was diagnosed with stomach cancer, her condition worsened on a daily basis. Tracy and her husband desperately searched for a solution. Doctors prescribed Tracy with cocktails of painkillers and anti-sickness drugs, but none of them were effective. The married couple decided physician-assisted suicide was Tracy’s best option, but they knew that it was illegal in the United Kingdom. Time was running out.

Tracy’s final hours of life were spent persevering through extreme pain and vomiting blood for five hours. Steven Riley told the world, “You wouldn’t even put a dog through that.” Tracy Riley’s situation is exactly why some terminal patients prefer assisted suicide: they would rather die a dignified death on their own terms. If a mentally sound patient suffering from a terminal disease asks a physician for assistance in his or her own suicide, then why deny them this liberty?

Image courtesy of NY Daily News

To a certain extent, individuals possess a natural right to do as they please with their own lives— even if that means ending it. John Locke, an iconic figure of the Enlightenment, wrote that each person is entitled to their natural rights based on universal truths and ethics. Locke’s theory of natural rights is consistently applied throughout the United States’ legislation and can even be found in the Constitution. Supporters of the right to die movement apply Locke’s principals to the debate in order to answer the moral questions that physician-assisted suicide imposes. Those who use this logic claim physician-assisted suicide is a fundamental right to the terminally ill, as long as the patient’s request is medically justified. When Dr. Jack Kevorkian was prosecuted for euthanizing a patient, he argued that physician assisted suicide isn’t homicide but a medical service that should be offered to those in need.

Brittany Maynard, someone who needed physician-assisted suicide, sparked international debate about the topic, and as a result, influenced a change in legislation. Canada recently made history by legalizing physician-assisted suicide in February. In March, California attempted to pass a bill that would legalize physician-assisted suicide throughout the state. Death with Dignity’s official website states that 18 other states are also reexamining their physician-assisted suicide legislation. Although the legality of physician-assisted suicide is beginning to change, the majority of the world has limited access to the right to die. So why, as a civilized society do we prefer patients to go through such pain and suffering, rather than grant them a death on their own accord?

Physician Assisted Suicide: An Essential Reading Guide

If a dying man asked you, a physician, to put him out of his misery and help him commit suicide, could you go through with it?

The morality of physician-assisted suicide is a moral debate with two, polar sides constantly trying to answer the question: “Is this the right thing to do?” As with everything in life, we should be informed about something before having an opinion on it. This article is an attempt at giving readers a comprehensive look into the physician assisted suicide debate.

Many people support physician-assisted suicide because they believe that the practice is morally acceptable under a particular set of circumstances. Popular arguments state that physician assisted suicide is not murder, nor does it devalue human life. Physician assisted suicide allows dependent patients who are suffering from painful, debilitating diseases to die with dignity. Brittany Maynard was one of the people who took advantage of physician-assisted suicide and had the courage to share her story. Brittany Maynard’s viral video gives viewers a glimpse into the mind of a terminally ill patient, allowing its viewers to truly empathize with her struggle. However, this isn’t the only side of the debate capable of provoking an emotional response.

In this video, John Peyton, a man suffering from ALS disease, expresses his perspective against the physician assisted suicide movement. Although Peyton lives in Washington, a state where physician assisted suicide is legal, he choses to live through ALS and speak against the Death with Dignity movement. The interview of John Peyton is important because it allows its audience to witness Peyton’s passion to live first-hand. His hope gives viewers a profound understanding of optimism’s positive effects.

Physician and blogger, James C. Salawitz, opposes physician-assisted suicide, stating that the terminally ill need better health care and emotional support. Salawitz argues in a blog post that most patients do not receive adequate health care. By giving patients the option of physician-assisted suicide, the medical industry is essentially telling the terminally ill to “take this pill and die” because assisted suicide “makes it easier for [the medical industry.]” Despite this rationale, physician assisted suicide is allowed in four states within the United States.

Physician assisted suicide is legal in Oregon, Washington, New Mexico, and Vermont through the Death with Dignity Act, preserving the dignity of patients and providing them with an alternative to terminal illnesses. By viewing this website, readers can gain perspective on the legality of physician assisted suicide in the United States. The right to die isn’t simply doled out to anyone who wishes to end his or her life. Physician assisted suicide in the United States is legal under very specific circumstances and is strictly controlled.

A Protester in Washington D.C. Courtesy of Google Images

Physician assisted suicide is heavily debated because there is no definite answer. That’s why it’s important to do your own research and thoroughly understand the matter before choosing your stance. I am not trying to persuade anyone to think in a particular manner with this guide. Instead, I’m trying to give people the information necessary to think for themselves.

“My Specialty is Death.”

Long before Brittany Maynard’s touching story of her assisted suicide propelled the Death with Dignity Act back into the national spotlight, there was Dr. Death, a physician assisted suicide advocate who assisted over 100 patients with suicide.

Jacob “Jack” Kevorkian was an anomaly from the start of his academic career, pursuing his passions with ambition and genuine interest. Although he was raised by Armenian refugees, Kevorkian managed to overcome the odds and succeed with his education. Neal Nicole and Harry Wylie, close friends of Dr. Kevorkian, wrote in their biography about Kevorkian that he was an interesting, outspoken student as a middle schooler, often initiating (and winning) arguments against his teachers. He was a fast learner— teaching himself German and Japanese by the time he reached high school. After a brief stint at the University of Michigan College of Engineering, Kevorkian became bored with engineering and pursued a different career, eventually graduating from the University of Michigan’s Medical School. Kevorkian went on to specialize in pathology, and during his residency at the University of Michigan, he became fascinated with death.

Jack Kevorkian, appropriately nicknamed Dr. Death, is known for sparking the Death with Dignity movement and euthanizing patients despite the legal issues associated with assisted suicide.

Dr. Kevorkian with the suicide machine that he invented. | Courtesy of NBC News.

During an interview with Anderson Cooper, a renowned anchor for CNN, Kevorkian revealed that he couldn’t find a safe venue to carry out his first assisted suicide, so Kevorkian euthanized his first patient in the back of his van. “What is that like,” Cooper began to question, “to end someone’s life in a van?” Kevorkian responded, “I’m not doing it to end their life. I did it to end the suffering the patient’s going through.” With this statement, Kevorkian reveals his empathy towards mankind and reassures the world that he doesn’t assist patients with suicide for the sake of killing. Over a span of eight years, Dr. Kevorkian went on to assist approximately 130 individuals with their suicides.

Although Kevorkian was always careful to work around the legality of assisted suicide, the tables turned when he prompted 60 Minutes to air this video of himself injecting lethal chemicals into Thomas Youk, a man suffering from Lou Gehrig’s disease. Kevorkian’s goal was to show the world that assisted suicide could be done in a humane manner. Five months after the video aired on 60 Minutes, it was used as evidence in the court case that convicted Kevorkian for second-degree murder. Jack Kevorkian was sentenced to 25 years in prison.

Dr. Kevorkian on the cover of TIME Magazine. Courtesy of TIME

Jack Kevorkian believed assisted suicide was a part of man’s natural rights and that individuals should have the option to end their own lives rather than suffer the pain and misery of a terminal disease. During his interview with Anderson Cooper, he invited the audience to ponder, “What’s a doctor supposed to do? Turn his back?”

Dr. Jack Kevorkian passed away on June 3rd, 2011. Those who are unfamiliar with the right-to-die movement may wonder why Dr. Death is remembered as an iconic figure. Jack Kevorkian’s disregard for established legislation and societal norms pushed the right to die to the forefront of American politics. He ushered a taboo subject into the international spotlight, forcing the world to reevaluate their stance on assisted suicide. Although Dr. Kevorkian is notoriously viewed as a man obsessed with death, I remember Jack Kevorkian as a passionate, empathetic individual who used death as a tool to end pain for the benefit of mankind.