Date of Award

Spring 1995

Document Type



Health Sciences

First Advisor

Valerie Gager

Second Advisor

Lee Harrison

Third Advisor

Robert Walsh


Each person is unique with an individual look, identity, perspective, and personality. Each will experience an individual death, different from all others. Although there are as many ways to experience the process of death as there are people, the scope of this paper will focus on the deaths of mentally competent patients who are near the end of a terminal illness. In this thesis, it will be demonstrated that society’s interpretation of moral laws must be modified with time and the acquisition of knowledge, and that the participation of physicians and patients in physician- assisted suicide must now be considered reasonable, justifiable, and ethical in exceptional cases. This paper will be presented in two main parts.

First, the thesis will be analyzed and explained. There will be a brief discussion of what moral laws are, and reasons will be presented to show why our interpretation of them must change with time and the acquisition of knowledge. It will then be demonstrated why physician- assisted suicide has surfaced as such an important issue and why it must be discussed now. Some of the criteria used to help define exceptional cases and to know when the option of assisted suicide should be considered will be addressed. The final segment of the analysis and explanation will illustrate why physician-assisted suicide should be considered reasonable, justifiable, and ethical in exceptional cases. Second, after the thesis has been analyzed and explained, some of the most common objections to the arguments for physician-assisted suicide in exceptional cases will be addressed and responded to. The entire paper then will be reviewed briefly and summarized in the conclusion.