The Use of Rhetorical Devices Used In Favor of Physician Assisted Suicide
The idea of Physician Assisted Suicide is one that has been debated rigorously throughout the medical community. Although many valid points have been made in regards to this topic, what intrigues me even more is how these arguments are presented. The rhetorical devices used to rationalize or to dismiss Physician Assisted Suicide should be analyzed and understood. This way one can avoid being convinced through persuasion techniques and instead focus on the facts associated with Physician Assisted Suicide. The rhetorical devices used commonly are Ethos, Pathos and Logos. The article “The Last Day of Her Life” written by Robin Marantz Henig for The New York Times uses rhetorical devices in order to persuade the public to legalize Physician Assisted Suicide in order to prevent those seeking it from taking drastic measures.
The Article “The Last Day of Her Life” focuses on the story of Sandy, a woman suffering from Alzheimer’s disease for a period of five years. The article discusses the opinions of her family and friends and her own personal journey regarding her decision to kill herself after being refused Physician Assisted Suicide .In the article Sandy writes “What I want…is to die on my own timetable and in my own nonviolent way.” This article attempts to state the most extreme consequence of making Physician Assisted Suicide illegal; which is that if you leave someone with no choice they will perform the act themselves.
The major rhetorical device used is Pathos. Through describing a dying woman’s last day and the emotional and tragic pain Sandy has felt as a consequence of Alzheimer’s disease the article pulls at your heart strings. Sandy describes her illness and states “a mind that could be so alive one moment with thought and feeling building toward a next step and then someone erases the blackboard. It’s all gone and I can’t even reconstruct what the topic was. It’s just gone. And I sit with the dark, the blank.” Her description causes empathy from the reader and for them to be able to imagine her pain as their own. It influences them to believe that no human should ever undergo such agony. The small things she forgets such as her daughter’s name causes the reader to cry for her and her loss. The author writes at the end how painless Sandy’s death was and how she was with her husband. This causes you to feel relieved that she is no longer going to suffer. These passages make you feel as though her suicidal act was the right decision due to the fact that it prevented her from undergoing any more pain and let her die with dignity next to a loved one. However, it also causes you to question why a doctor would be so against helping her.
The second major rhetorical device used is Ethos. We are able to believe that this article is credible and that the author is credible due to the fact that it is stating facts. It is a factual account of how Sandy was diagnosed and the symptoms of her disease. The article states the opinions of everyone involved and all of her family member’s thoughts on the situation, especially facts given by her doctors. Due to the fact that not all of them agreed with Sandy’s decision in the moment we can assume that that the article is telling the truth. An example of this is her daughter who assumed that Sandy was suffering from depression. Emily, her daughter thought“everyone was thinking too narrowly. They assumed that her mother’s joylessness was a result of the encroaching disease. Emily saw it as depression. The neurologist had recently taken Sandy off Prozac and started her on Zyprexa, an antipsychotic. Maybe her dose should be adjusted. Or the doctor should prescribe a different drug.” If Sandy had told her family about her planned suicide only for them to react positively, it would have seemed like a ploy to get the author to convert the reader’s opinions to fit the family member’s opinions. Sandy also performed research before committing the act as stated in the article “she had read that drinking alcohol after taking the pentobarbital would mask its bitter taste and speed its action.” The fact that she was well prepared causes the reader to believe that she had taken the time to understand and prepare for this situation making her a credible person to write about.
The third major rhetorical device used is Logos. Sandy was extremely logical about her choice. She waited five years until she was a hundred percent sure that the disease was irreversible, incurable, and at its end stages. She was rational and did for herself what her doctors refused to do for her. The way the author writes is extremely logical as well. The author begins her article by talking about the diagnosis and the pain Sandy underwent only to lead into the fact that everyone refused to help Sandy null the pain which forced her to stop it herself. Sandy was extremely logical with her choice and did extensive research and discussed her verdict with her family and friends. She was not dogmatic about her decision and listened when they gave advice such as when “they asked…that she promise not to choose a method that would be particularly disturbing — using a gun or jumping off a bridge into one of Ithaca’s famously beautiful gorges.
Through this article I analyzed how the argument of Physician Assisted Suicide was presented. This article made me view this topic in a completely different light. The idea that those who cannot get help from their physicians choose to perform the act themselves was one I had not considered before. The amount of emotion in this article caused me to believe that when talking about Physician Assisted Suicide the best way to persuade another individual is by appealing through Pathos. It is also extremely helpful to have credible protagonists that can be interviewed due to the fact that someone is more likely to trust another individual that has experienced the act then someone else who is just book smart. Through Ethos, Pathos, and Logos the story of Sandy helps convince others in favor of Physician Assisted Suicide.
Henig, Robin Marantz. “The Last Day of Her Life.” The New York Times. The New York Times, 14 May 2015. Web. 02 Mar. 2017.