Euthanasia

This essay has a total of 2152 words and 17 pages.

Euthanasia



Euthanasia

Euthanasia in today's society has run rampant, but whose choice is it really to

end one's life in the case of excessive suffering? Euthanasia has become one of the

most controversial issues in the medical field. There are many questions that must

be considered when euthanasia is involved. For example: Whose right is it anyway?

Do physicians have the right to perform assisted suicide? Is it morally right? When

is "competent" not competent enough?

Euthanasia is preceded the decision that a terminally ill patient's life will come

to an end before natural death. Euthanasia can also be defined as any killing

carried out by medical means or by medical personnel; whether intended for the

termination of suffering or indignity of a life not worth living. A standard definition

of euthanasia is the intentional putting to death of a person with an incurable or

painful disease. No matter how the term is defined, it is intentional suicide and it is

wrong (Keown75).

When terminally ill patients are considering euthanasia, common questions

arise such as: Whose right is it anyway? What do those rights entail? There are

four basic rights that must be considered when euthanasia is involved. These rights

include the right to reject or terminate unwanted medical procedure, the right to

commit suicide or the right to "rational" suicide, the right to assisted suicide, and

the right to active voluntary euthanasia. These rights, however, are not protected

by law. In fact, assisted suicide is illegal in most states. For instance, the Jack

Kevorkian case, a Michigan physician who believed in aiding patients in suicide.

The patients of Dr. Kevorkian requested death because of their incurable suffering.

Did they not have the right to choose life or death? Well, Dr. Kevorkian felt that

they had the right to choose, and he aided them with their choice. After ending the

suffering of many terminally ill patients, Dr. Kevorkian was tried and indicted by

the US District Court for violating laws banning physician-assisted suicide and was

later tried for murder (Burnell 87). Was Dr. Kevorkian just showing compassion

for his dying suffering clients, or did he have an ulterior motive? Dr. Kevorkian

claims compassion, yet others question his moral. The more trying issue here is

whose life is it? Do we not have the right to choose whether we suffer or end our

own suffering? These questions may never be answered (Hamel 234).

Voluntary euthanasia is defined as one's decision to end one's life after he

or she has consciously and expressly approved of the decision. Involuntary

euthanasia refers to the terminally ill patient's unknowing of the decision to use

euthanasia when he or she has not consciously and expressly approved of it in

advance. When voluntary euthanasia is approved or carried out, it is called active

euthanasia. Active euthanasia is exactly what it sounds like: active, meaning

characterized by motion or action, and euthanasia, meaning deliberate death.

Active euthanasia refers to someone's taking active steps to give a dying person, on

his or her request, a lethal dosage of drugs to hasten death. Active euthanasia

involves physically injecting or giving a terminally ill patient medication which

ultimately results in death (Cauthen 112). Active euthanasia has become a very

controversial issue because some feel that active euthanasia is a form of murder.

However, some feel that passive euthanasia is morally acceptable (Mall 134).

Passive euthanasia is the helping of a terminally ill patient to hasten death

by withholding life-sustaining treatment, including food and water. Passive

euthanasia is usually requested by the person dying, either verbally or through a

written document. By withholding intravenous feedings, medications, surgery, a

pacemaker or respirator, the doctor can let the patient die. The doctor is indirectly

killing the patient, but he himself is not administering the death. Some feel that this

is morally acceptable because a doctor is not directly inducing death; they are just

withholding treatment from the dying patient (Bayles 176).

For many years, physicians have been faced with a trying question: should

they participate in assisted suicide for terminally ill patients? There are many

conflicting views on this question. Some doctors see it as their duty to help

suffering, hopeless people who request death. They say euthanasia would be an

extension of the care they give to terminally ill patients to make the remainder of

their lives more comfortable. Doctors should be able to help relieve suffering

without being prosecuted. Many doctors believe that it is more ethical to permit the

death of hopelessly ill patients than to prolong life by using all the technological

tools at their disposal. Patients who are terminally ill and wish to commit suicide do

not want to suffer. They want to know how to die in the least painful and most

effective way; so they consult their physicians who have the know-how and can aid

them. Prohibition of physician-assisted suicide handcuffs doctors who want to show

compassion to patients whose bodies are irreversibly falling apart. Dr. Marshall

Brumer comments that, "The doctor's responsibility is to do everything he can to

sustain lives....to stand idly by and watch a person die, however, is intolerable"

(Cauthen 234).

In contrast, many physicians object to the idea of killing their patients.

They say that the special bond of trust between patients and their physicians would

be destroyed if doctors performed active euthanasia. Other physicians who are

against aiding their patients in death offer a more religious reason. Their reason

involves the second commandment of "thou shalt not kill". Many doctors feel that

they would be violating this commandment, and to them this action is morally

wrong. Others who are against physician-assisted suicide argue that doctors who

disconnect respirators know that the patient will die; therefore, they have taken a

direct, deliberate action that produces death (Benton 79). Life preservers point out

that doctors are human and make mistakes too. Some patients who die after

refusing treatment might have unexpectedly recovered had they been kept alive.

Doctor-assisted suicide should not be allowed because the doctors are "playing

God," and they do not have that right. Many patients want doctor-assisted suicide

because they are in extreme pain and can endure it no longer. In the majority of

these cases, the pain could have been relieved and other physical symptoms suffered

by these patients could have been better controlled if the caregivers had expertise in

palliative care techniques (Mall 113). Doctors, therefore, could have helped prolong

their patients' lives, yet they chose not to . Those doctors took the easy way out,
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