Euthanasia - is it killing or letting die? In the last thirty years, this has been a highly controversial topic, the worldly morals versus the Christian. Although there are certain instances where it is justifiably considered to be letting die, it is essentially killing. Euthanasia comes from a Greek word, meaning easy death and is now often associated with the infamous Dr. Kevorkian. There are three types of euthanasia - what doctors consider to be letting the patient die… for instance taking both conscious and unconscious patients off of life support, not reviving the patient in case of a heart failure, et cetera. There is also assisted suicide. Dr. Kevorkian and his suicide machine have made themselves known through this technique. The machine injects a lethal dosage into the patients’ blood stream, killing then painlessly within ten minutes.
The first type mentioned above is known as active voluntary euthanasia. This is where a conscious, mentally competent person, usually with a severe physical ailment, loses the will to live. Many have said that keeping them alive is just prolonging their death, a form of cruel and unusual punishment. They may ask that life support equipment be disconnected so that they can die quickly, painlessly, with dignity. Most doctors are trained to try their best to defeat death, or at least try to delay it as long as possible. But if the patient is hopelessly ill and would prefer to die, the doctor may consult the hospital ethics committee and take him or her off of life support. When taken to court in these issues, the doctors defend themselves in saying, "I didn't kill him, I let him die." This is illegal throughout the United States and the rest of the world, but it still is a common occurrence.
The second type PASSIVE VOLUNTARY EUTHANASIA is done when a terminally ill patients or a patient in a persistent vegetative state's (PVS) family chooses to take their loved one off of life support.
A PVS patient has no self-awareness or any awareness of their surroundings because the cerebral cortex, the thinking part of the brain is dead. The brain stem, the part of the brain that controls the major organs of the body, still works, though. A PVS patient will never become conscious again after entering this state will remain like this until he or she dies. They are not brain dead, however. Technically, in the United States, brain death occurs when the brain tissue breaks down, disabling the lungs and other vital organs and requiring machines to keep the patient alive. The family may choose to have the patient taken off of life support if they wish, and if the doctors comply, it will be done.
There was a case, though, where the doctor said he had a moral problem in killing a patient and the parents took the doctor to court. The judge ruled that removing life support would be homicide and an act of euthanasia and said that judicial conscience and morality told him that the doctors were dealing with the patient correctly. But the parents later appealed to the Supreme Court and the decision was reversed, stating that the patient had the right to refuse treatment.
The third and most hotly contested type of euthanasia is doctor-assisted suicide. Dr. Jack Kevorkian and his suicide machine have become famous for his contribution to this type of euthanasia. His first case, in 1990, involved Janet Adkins of Portland OR after she found out that she had Alzheimer's disease. She had seen the doctor on Donahue and in Newsweek magazine and contacted him. He outfitted his Volkswagen van with the suicide device and on June fourth, 1990, they drove to a local park in Michigan. The machine had three bottles of liquid hanging upside down inside a frame. One had a harmless saline solution in it. The next had a chemical that causes unconsciousness. The third had potassium chloride, a compound that stops the heart. Kevorkian hooked Adkins up to a tube similar to that on an I.V. She died in less than six minutes.
According to Kevorkian, just before dying, "she looked at me with grateful eyes and said, 'Thank you, thank you, thank you.'" The doctor then called the police and reported what had happened. He was barred from using the suicide machine again, but four months later he assisted in the suicide of two women. The question is, though, should euthanasia be legalized, is it ethical? It is not ethical, and in almost all cases, it is murder. In the Netherlands, it is already performed widely and openly. In November of 1991, voters in Washington State had a chance to decide whether or not they wanted to legalize euthanasia, to make legal dying with dignity.
It was voted in to legalize it under the following conditions… the patient would have to be mentally competent, two doctors would have to agree that the patient had less than six months to live, and the patient would be required to ask for euthanasia in writing. But even though it was voted legal, when asked on television, everyone asked said that they strongly believed that it was unethical. Said one, "Rules against killing are not isolated moral principles, but pieces of a web that form a moral code. The more threads removed, the weaker it becomes." Said another, "Asking doctors to kill undermines the moral integrity and confidence in a profession that heals, comforts, and protects life." Dr. Leo Alexander stated that "the problem with euthanasia is the acceptance of an attitude that life is worthless, can be thrown away. That attitude is in its early stages right now, but as it progresses, so will our value of life drop.
Anyone, the socially unproductive, the socially unwanted, will be considered useless and will kill off our own species, our morals. It is a way of mocking human life, turning ourselves into God, deciding who is fit to live and die, as we push the real live God out of our lives." Says F. Schaeffer and C. Koop, "Every life is pious and worthwhile in itself - not only to us as human beings, but also to God. Every person is worth fighting for. We must use our constitutional processes, while we still have them, to fight for the rights and lives of our older persons and persons with disabilities."
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