The term “assisted suicide” refers to the act of providing an environment and the resources necessary for a person to commit suicide. Unlike euthanasia, it is therefore the “patient” himself that triggers his death and not a third party. Medically assisted suicide should be distinguished from simply an assisted suicide, depending on the motives and the context in which they take place; the first is designed to help patients with an incurable disease to end their life because of physical or mental suffering deemed intolerable.
The term suicide has a strongly negative connotation, it is common to use other terms, such as “aid in dying,” “help to put an end to life,” “death with dignity,” etc.
A few countries have legalized some form of assisted suicide in a medical setting.
Assisted suicide is ideally composed of the following steps:
- the provision of a medical potion to the patient to induce death in very strict conditions;
- self-administration (if it is possible) is under control of the doctor and ensuring the proper procedure;
- if the patient cannot make himself absorption occurs, the physician must ensure the procedure to be accomplished;
- in case of complications, the doctor ensures the procedure.
This is why the term “assisted suicide,” it is preferable to “medically assisted suicide” and thus we are able to differentiate:
- a simple suicide without any control;
- an assisted suicide, under the control of one or more third parties (family or friends);
- a physician-assisted suicide in the presence of a physician as described above.
The concept of assisted suicide is differentiated from euthanasia, the latter designating death induced by third party, a doctor or a group of doctors, whether by action or omission.
We must also distinguish assisted suicide from the incitement to suicide: an assisted suicide in principle requires clear and free expression of the will of the dying patient. Therefore, in countries where justice recognizes physician-assisted suicide and / or euthanasia, the existence of a will (or declaration of end of life) written by the hand of the individual is paramount.
In countries where euthanasia and assisted suicide are criminal acts, the practice of palliative care is implemented to treat pain and suffering of the terminally ill. Requests for assisted suicide (or euthanasia) are however regularly appeared in the media and public debate, as the case Vincent Humbert.
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