Many opponents of legalized pas object on the basis

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Many opponents of legalized PAS object on the basis of the “slippery slope” argument. They argue that once physician-assisted suicide is legalized, it opens the door to a path that leads to the ultimate undesired destination for the society – active euthanasia of unwilling persons. To be clear, the generally accepted definition of PAS is “when a patient is given a prescription for a lethal dose of medication that the patient gives to him/herself to end his or her life (emphasis added)” (Stewart 131). This is in stark contrast to euthanasia. Bernice Packford, 95, proponent of assisted suicide, said it best: “In euthanasia, somebody is doing it to you” (qtd. in MacQueen 19). Being Jewish, she goes on to acknowledge that the term euthanasia “has ugly connotations of Nazi medical experiments and death camps” (19). This image, I believe, is what comes to the minds of some proponents of the “slippery slope” argument. This, however, is not clear evidence for the existence of a “slippery slope.” As Harry Lesser points out, “The Nazis did not begin by allowing voluntary assisted suicide… with the aim of relieving grave suffering, and descend from that to the systematic murder of the ‘unfit’: their programme was a programme of involuntary euthanasia, that is, murder, from the start…” (332). Other “slippery slope”
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proponents argue that the slope is started when the “sanctity of life” is breached. Lesser points out that sanctity of life issues have already been breached in most societies in the form of acceptance of war as an occasionally necessary evil, as well as the legalization of capital punishment – both of which have not led a fast-paced march to the acceptance of active euthanasia of unwilling persons (333). Lastly, it has been argued that by legalizing PAS, palliative care options (methods used to relieve pain and suffering in an individual with terminal illness) will disappear altogether, as society will start accepting and supporting death as the most efficient means to help someone with terminal illness. This “slope” argument is easily refuted as well in Lesser’s article. He states there is “no reason why allowing people to choose death when palliative care can do nothing, or not enough, for them should discourage the provision of palliative care for the rest, who are a sizeable majority in all probability” (333). He goes on to argue that the legalization of PAS would possibly provide further incentive to research better palliative care methods, thereby rendering PAS not necessary at all (333). It is therefore difficult to find any solid evidence that supports the “slippery slope” argument. Although difficult to prove the “slippery slope” argument against the legalization of PAS, other opponents would point to evidence of abuse issues in the only long-standing example of PAS legislation in the United States – Oregon. In his article detailing what he calls the “Oregon Myth,” Wesley Smith describes abuses of the current laws in Oregon: “[A study published in the Journal of Internal Medicine
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  • Spring '07
  • Salcedo
  • Suffering, View Reference Center, PAs

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Christopher Reinemann
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