Killing Them Softly

An in-depth look into Physician-Assisted Suicide


Since the beginning of time man has pondered the idea of ending his own life. Is it our own life to take ? If some one else took our life for us would it still be considered murder? In this study we will delve deep into these pivotal questions and take a look into the minds of the doctors and suicidal Europeans alike in hopes to shed light on this timeless question of ethics.


With the rate of suicides in the us climbing yearly one would think to legalize or take a look into an alternative method that would enable society to have more control over this common occurrence. The method in effect already has a name and is widely used in some European countries such as Switzerland and The Netherlands, Physician assisted suicide aspires to bring order to the depressed mans natural need to end his life. Through the use of a doctor/ physician the act of suicide is controlled and brought into a realm of bureaucracy where spread sheets, statistics, and diagnosis will enable one to release their soul from their body with the aid of a doctor and a signature, This begs the question: Is it ethical for a human being to end the life of another with permission/ consent? Death is a realm where medicine cannot intercept and is the final frontier which has never been explored. Because this question deals with death, answering it calls upon ones ethics, and passing PSA into legislation will call upon the ethics of our nation as a whole. My hypothesis is that because of the ever increasing liberality of america the majority of the population will be in favor of PSA.


The data gathered in this study is Primarily from articals found by using google search and research data bases found in the CGCC E library:

Academic OneFile


Access Science

World Views On Evidence Based Nursing


through my research I found one man named Dr. Kivorkian who was a pioneer in the movement to push the legislation of PSA in America through Practical application of his methods. Because his methods were controversial at the time they caused a media frenzy perhaps intentionally promoting his ideas but ultimately sending him to prison for his acts."A Michigan jury last month found Dr Jack Kevorkian guilty of second degree murder in the death of Thomas Youk, a 52 year old resident of Detroit who had amyotrophic lateral sclerosis. Dr Kevorkian made a videotape of himself injecting Mr Youk, who was paralysed, with lethal chemicals last September. The tape was broadcast in November by the CBS News programme 60 Minutes." (Charatan)

"Over the last 45 years suicide have rates increased by 60% worldwide" ("Countries with the Most Suicides in the World.") with the rates of suicides climbing the following states / countries have opened their doors for legislation that provides access to PSA

  • Switzerland - 1940
  • Oregon (U.S.) - 1994
  • Colombia - 1997
  • The Netherlands - 2002
  • Belgium - 2002
  • Washington (U.S.) - 2008
  • Luxembourg - 2009
  • Montana (U.S.) - 2009 (court ruling only)
  • England & Wales - 2010 (prosecution policy statement)
  • Vermont (U.S.) - 2014
  • New Mexico (U.S.) - 2015 court ruling under appeal)
  • Quebec (Can.) - 2015
  • California (U.S.) - 2015
  • Canada - 2016 (details pending) ("Assisted Suicide Laws Around the World")

though kivorkian was a doctor other professionals in the field tend to not share the same view as him here is a survey suggests that the majority of danish geriatricians are opposed to PSA " The response rate was 46% (120/261). A total of 55.8% (67/120) disagreed that EU is ethically justifiable, whereas 22.5% (27/120) found that EU is justifiable. Furthermore, 13.3% (16/120) agreed that EU should be offered as an alternative to palliative treatment, 73.4% (88/120) disagreed. A total of 64.2% (67/120) disagreed that PAS is ethically justifiable, whereas 19.2% (23/120) found that PAS is justifiable. In all, 15% (18/120) agreed that PAS should be offered as an alternative to palliative treatment, whereas 76.6% (92/120) disagreed. The impact of legalisation of EU/PAS on the relationship between physician and patient was believed to be negative by 62.2% (74/119), positive by 12.6% (15/119) and without implications by 25.2% (30/119). Younger physicians tended to be more positive towards EU/PAS." (Ilvemark)

A mail in questionnaire of Michigan residents and physicians Asked their opinions on legalizing PSA or banning.

"Respondents were asked whether the Michigan legislature should ban all physician-assisted suicide or legalize it by enacting Plan A (in the 1994 surveys) or Plan B (in the 1995 survey). Table 2 shows that 56 percent of physicians and 66 percent of the public thought the legislature should probably or definitely enact the plan and that 37 percent of physicians and 26 percent of the public thought the legislature should probably or definitely ban all physician-assisted suicide; 8 percent in each group were uncertain" (Jerald G)

The same Michigan mail in questionnaire this time asking physicians whether they would assist in administering the lethal dose to the patient.

"Physicians were asked whether they themselves might be willing to participate in physician-assisted suicide or voluntary euthanasia if the practices were legalized. Fifty-two percent said they would not; 13 percent said they might participate only in assisted suicide; 22 percent said they might participate in both practices; 10 percent were uncertain; and 2 percent preferred not to answer. In the 1995 survey, physicians who said they would not participate were asked, “Even though you would not participate, would you be willing to refer the patient to such services?” Of the 186 physicians who would not participate in either practice, 43 percent said they would refer patients; 38 percent said they would not; and 19 percent were uncertain."(Jerald G)

Fig 1.1 shows us the rising rate of suicides in the us compared to other causes of death

Fig 1.2 is a pie chart between us and Canada showing the different ways the suicide was committed without the use of a doctor

Fig 1.3 explains the rate of suicide by state per 100,000 persons using a color code

1998 Kevorkian assists suicide on tape


When one observes such data it is obvious the phenomena of suicide exists and that there are options the quell this need.Although these options are highly controversial in nature because of paradox. suicide in definition suggest oneself killing ones self, But in PAS that ones self becomes plural and another person has joined in on the act, some argue that because of this it is no longer suicide and is now murder. the other party would argue that it is not murder because there is consent given which brings stability to the phrase PAS, because of the liberalization of america the majority of the population are for assisted suicide but the findings suggest that when it comes to the act of administering the lethal does themselves the majority shy away


After much speculation and a jailed activist, the majority of the united states still cant decide where their hearts lie on this issue, with gay marriage recently legalized it wouldn't be to far fetched to say we are going to see this controversial issue rise to the forefront of the media and our ballots in the near future. but perhaps not, this just might be one of the most controversial subjects yet due to the fact that it deals with death, which is still the largest unknown frontier human beings are confronted with. only faith presumes to understand what lies beyond the foggy veil leaving this a religious freedom issue at its core.

Works Cited

"Assisted Suicide Laws Around the World - Assisted Suicide." Assisted Suicide Laws Around the World - Assisted Suicide. N.p., n.d. Web. 07 Apr. 2016.

Charatan, Fred. "Dr Kevorkian Found Guilty of Second Degree Murder."BMJ : British Medical Journal. BMJ Publishing Group Ltd, n.d. Web. 07 Apr. 2016.

"Countries with the Most Suicides in the World." WorldAtlas. N.p., n.d. Web. 07 Apr. 2016.

Jerald G. Bachman, Ph.D., Kirsten H. Alcser, Ph.D., David J. Doukas, M.D., Richard L. Lichtenstein, Ph.D., Amy D. Corning, M.A., and Howard Brody, M.D., Ph.D.

N Engl J Med 1996; 334:303-309February 1, 1996

Ilvemark, Johan, Bård Dahle, and Lars-Erik Matzen. "Questionnaire-Based Survey Suggests That The Majority Of Danish Geriatricians Are Against Euthanasia." Danish Medical Journal 63.2 (2016): MEDLINE.

Varelius, Jukka. "On the Moral Acceptability of Physician-Assisted Dying for Non-Autonomous Psychiatric Patients." Bioethics 30.4 (2016): 227+. Academic OneFile. Web. 7 Apr. 2016.