Euthanasia




Euthanasia :


By Mark T. Maxwell


This paper will define Euthanasia and assisted suicide. Euthanasia is often confused with and associated with assisted suicide. Definitions of the two are required. Two perspectives shall be presented in this paper. The first perspective will favor euthanasia or THE RIGHT TO DIE…the second perspective will favor anti-euthanasia or the right to live.


Each perspective shall endeavor to clarify the legal, moral and ethical ramifications or aspects of euthanasia. Thesis Statement states that Euthanasia, also mercy killing, is the practice of ending a life so as to release an individual from an incurable disease or intolerable suffering. Euthanasia is a merciful means to and end of long-term suffering. Euthanasia is a relatively new dilemma for the United States and has gained a bad reputation from negative media hype surrounding assisted suicides. Euthanasia has a purpose and should be evaluated as humanely filling a void created by our sometimes inhumane modern society.


Antithesis Statement states that Euthanasia is nothing less than cold-blooded killing. Euthanasia cheapens life, even more so than the very divisive issue of abortion. Euthanasia is morally and ethically wrong and should be banned in these United States. Modern medicine has evolved by leaps and bounds recently, euthanasia resets these medical advances back by years and reduces today's Medical Doctors to administrators of death.


Euthanasia is defined as the term Euthanasia is used generally to refer to an easy or painless death. Voluntary euthanasia involves a request by the dying patient or that person's legal representative. Passive or negative euthanasia involves not doing something to prevent death-that is, allowing someone to die; active or positive euthanasia involves taking deliberate action to cause a death.


Euthanasia is often mistaken or associated with for assisted suicide, a distant cousin of euthanasia, in which a person wishes to commit suicide but feels unable to perform the act alone because of a physical disability or lack of knowledge about the most effective means. An individual who assists a suicide victim in accomplishing that goal may or may not be held responsible for the death, depending on local laws. There is a distinct difference between euthanasia and assisted suicide. This paper targets euthanasia… pros and cons, not assisted suicide.


Thesis Argument That Euthanasia Should Be Accepted Without doubt, modern dying has become fearsome. Doctors now possess the technologies and the skills to forestall natural death almost indefinitely. All too often, the terminally ill suffer needless pain and are kept alive without real hope, as families hold a harrowing deathwatch. In ancient Greece and Rome it was permissible in some situations to help others die. For example, the Greek writer Plutarch mentioned that in Sparta, infanticide was practiced on children who lacked health and vigor. Both Socrates and Plato sanctioned forms of euthanasia in certain cases. Voluntary euthanasia for the elderly was an approved custom in several ancient societies.


Euthanasia has been accepted both legally and morally in various forms in many societies. There is no more profoundly personal decision nor one which is closer to the heart of personal liberty than the choice which a terminally ill person makes to end his or her suffering ...U.S. District Judge Barbara Rothstein wrote.


Organizations supporting the legalization of voluntary euthanasia were established in Great Britain in 1935 and in the United States in 1938. They have gained some public support, but so far they have been unable to achieve their goal in either nation. In the last few decades, Western laws against passive and voluntary euthanasia have slowly been eased.


The pro-euthanasia or right to die movement has received considerable encouragement by the passage of laws in 40 states by 1990 which allow legally competent individuals to make living wills. These wills empower and instruct doctors to withhold life-support systems if the individuals become terminally ill. Euthanasia continues to occur in all societies, including those in which it is held to be immoral and illegal. A medically assisted end to a meaningless and worthless void of an existence is both accepted and condoned by the medical profession.


In a Colorado survey, 60% of physicians stated that they have cared for patients for whom they believe active euthanasia would be justifiable and 59% expressed a willingness to use lethal drugs in such cases if legal. In a study of 676 San Francisco physicians, 70% believed that patients with an incurable terminal illness should have the option of active euthanasia and 45% would carry out such a request, if legal (35% were opposed). Nearly 90% of physicians in another study agreed that sometimes it is appropriate to give pain medication to relieve suffering, even if it may hasten a patient's death.


Antithesis Argument That Euthanasia Is Unacceptable With the rise of organized religion, euthanasia became morally and ethically abhorrent. Christianity, Judaism, and Islam all hold human life sacred and condemn euthanasia in any form. The American Medical Association continues to condemn assisted suicide.


Western laws have generally considered the act of helping someone to die a form of homicide subject to legal sanctions. Even a passive withholding of help to prevent death has frequently been severely punished. And the Roman Catholic Church's newly released catechism says…Intentional euthanasia, whatever its forms or motives, is murder. The Board of Trustees of the American Medical Association recommends that the American Medical Association reject euthanasia and physician-assisted suicide as being incompatible with the nature and purposes of the healing arts.


When does the right to die become the obligation to die? asks the Rev. Richard McCormick, professor of Christian ethics at Notre Dame University who spoke recently against assisted suicide at Fort Lauderdale's Holy Cross Hospital. Imagine an 85-year-old grandmother with the option of ordering a suicide dose from a doctor…Do they want me to ask for it now? Physician-assisted suicide saves money. ... This is a flight from the challenge of social compassion. The issue of euthanasia is not a recent one. The Oath of Hippocrates is said to have originated in approximately the fifth century B.C. and, even then, it incorporated a specific pledge against physician assisted suicide when it said, "I will give no deadly medicine to anyone, even if asked."


What of the innocent bystanders? The family, friends or even foes of someone that elects to exercise their right to die…It is suggested that a person suffering from an incurable or terminal illness is not complete command of their mental faculties and thereby incapable of such an extraordinary decision. Surely a degraded mental capacity rules out realistic thinking with regard to survivors. How many innocent bystanders also pay the price of euthanasia?


Synthesis for Euthanasia is…Euthanasia occurs in all societies, including those in which it is held to be immoral and illegal. Euthanasia occurs under the guise of secrecy in societies that secrecy is mandatory. The first priority for the care of patients facing severe pain as a result of a terminal illness or chronic condition should be the relief of their pain. Relieving the patient's psychosocial and other suffering is as important as relieving the patient's pain.


Western laws against passive and voluntary euthanasia have slowly been eased, although serious moral and legal questions still exist. Some opponents of euthanasia have feared that the increasing success that doctors have had in transplanting human organs might lead to abuse of the practice of euthanasia. It is now generally understood, however, that physicians will not violate the rights of the dying donor in order to help preserve the life of the organ recipient.


Even though polls indicate most Americans support the right of sick people to end their pain through self-inflicted death, euthanasia is one of the more contentious aspects of the death-with-dignity movement. This is really one of the most fundamental abilities that a human being has to decide if he or she wants to die…says Meyer who practiced radiology for 40 years.


Slightly more than half of the physicians surveyed in Washington State would approve the legalization of physician-assisted suicide and euthanasia under certain circumstances. A total of 938 physicians completed questionnaires about their attitudes toward euthanasia and assisted suicide. Physician-assisted suicide was described as prescribing medication and providing counseling to patients on overdosing to end their own lives. Euthanasia was defined as administering an overdose of medication at an ill patient's request. Forty-two percent of physicians indicated that they found euthanasia ethically acceptable under some circumstances. Fifty-four percent indicated that they believed euthanasia should be legal under certain circumstances.


Today, patients are entitled to opt for passive euthanasia…that is, to make free and informed choices to refuse life support. The controversy over active euthanasia, however, is likely to remain intense because of opposition from religious groups and many members of the medical profession. The medical profession has generally been caught in the middle of the social controversies that rage over euthanasia. Government and religious groups as well as the medical profession itself agree that doctors are not required to use extraordinary means to prolong the life of the terminally ill. The Second Chamber of the Dutch Parliament developed and approved the following substantive and procedural guidelines or points for Dutch physicians to consider when practicing or administering Euthanasia…


Substantive Guidelines

(a) Euthanasia must be voluntary. The patient's request must be seriously considered and enduring.


(b) The patient must have adequate information about his or her medical condition, the prognosis and alternative methods of treatment (though it is not required that the patient be terminally ill).


(c) The patient's suffering must be intolerable in the patient's view and must also be irreversible.


(d) There must be no reasonable alternatives for relieving the patient's suffering that are acceptable to the patient.


Procedural Guidelines

(e) Euthanasia may be performed only by a physician (though a nurse may assist the physician).


(f) The physician must consult with a second physician whose judgment can be expected to be independent.


(g) The physician must exercise due care in reviewing and verifying the patient's condition as well as in performing the euthanasia procedure itself.


(h) The relatives must be informed unless the patient does not wish this.


(i) There should be a written record of the case.


(j) The case may not be reported as a natural death.


Having choices, including having the legal right for help to die is what's important in preserving the basic democratic fabric of the United States of America. The issue of euthanasia is, by its very nature, a very difficult and private choice. Euthanasia should remain exactly that…a choice a choice that ought not be legislated or restricted by opposing forces or opinions.


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