Morality and Practicality of Euthanasia Essay

This essay has a total of 2560 words and 18 pages.

Morality and Practicality of Euthanasia

Morality and Practicality of Euthanasia

Euthanasia is defined by The American Heritage Dictionary as "the action of killing

an individual for reasons considered to be merciful" (Leonesio 292). Here, killing is

described as the physical action where one individual actively kills another. Euthanasia is

tolerated in the medical field under certain circumstances when a patient is suffering

profoundly and death is inevitable. The word "euthanasia" comes from the Greek eu,

"good", and thanatos, "death," literally, "good death"; however, the word "euthanasia" is

much more difficult to define. Each person may define euthanasia differently. Who is to

decide whether a death is good or not? It is generally taken today to mean that act which a

health care professional carries out to help his/her patient achieve a good death. While

growing up, each of us learns a large number of rules of conduct. Which rules we learn

will depend on the kind of society we live in and the parents and the friends we have.

Sometimes we learn a rule without understanding its point. In most cases this may work

out, for the rule may be designed to cover ordinary circumstances, but when faced with

unusual situations, we may be in trouble. This situation is the same with moral rules.

Without understanding the rules, we may come to think of it as a mark of virtue that we

will not consider making exceptions to. We need a way of understanding the morality

against killing. The point is not to preserve every living thing possible, but to protect the

interests of individuals to have the right of choice to die.

Firstly, there are ethical guidelines for euthanasia. If the following guidelines are met,

then euthanasia is considered acceptable. The person must be a mature adult. This is

essential. The exact age will depend on the individual but the person should not be a minor

who would come under quite different laws. Secondly, the person must have clearly made

a considered decision. An individual has the ability now to indicate this with a living will

(which applies only to disconnection of life supports) and can also, in today's more open

and tolerant society, freely discuss the option of euthanasia with health-care professionals,

family, lawyers, etc. The euthanasia must not be carried out at the first knowledge of a

life-threatening illness, and reasonable medical help must have been sought to cure or at

least slow down the terminal disease. It is when the fight is clearly hopeless and the agony,

physical and mental, is unbearable that a final exit is an option. The treating physician must

have been informed, asked to be involved, and his or her response been taken into

account. The physician's response will vary depending on the circumstances, of course, but

they should advise their patients that a rational suicide is not a crime. It is best to inform

the doctor and hear his or her response. For example, the patient might be mistaken.

Perhaps the diagnosis has been misheard or misunderstood. Patients raising this subject

were met with a discreet silence or meaningless remarks in the past but in today's more

accepting climate most physicians will discuss potential end of life actions. The person

must have a Will disposing of his or her worldly effects and money. ( Docker)

This shows evidence of a tidy mind, an orderly life, and forethought, all things which

are important to an acceptance of rational suicide. The person must have made plans to

die that do not involve others in criminal liability or leave them with guilty feelings.

Assistance in suicide is a crime in most places, although the laws are gradually changing,

and very few cases ever come before the courts. The only well known instance of a

lawsuit concerning this is the doctor-assisted suicide of Dr. Kevorkian. The person must

leave a note saying exactly why he or she is taking their life. This statement in writing

removes the chance of misunderstandings or blame. It also demonstrates that the

departing person is taking full responsibility for the action. These are all guidelines for

allowing a euthanasia to take place. By this, I mean the doctor is involved in the patient's

decision and actively performs the euthanasia.

The common argument in support of euthanasia is one that is called "The argument

of mercy." Patients sometimes suffer pain that can hardly be comprehended by those who

have not experienced it. The suffering would be so terrible that people wouldn't want to

read or think about; and recoil in horror from its description. The argument for mercy

simply states: Euthanasia is morally justified because it ends suffering. Terminally ill

patients are people who will never attain a personal existence, never experience life as a

net value, and/or never achieve a minimal level of independence. The moral issue

regarding euthanasia is not affected by whether more could have been done for a patient;

but whether euthanasia is allowable if it is the only alternative to torment.

Courts and moral philosophers alike have long accepted the proposition that people

have a right to refuse medical treatment they find painful or difficult to bear, even if that

refusal means certain death. Individuals have the right to decide about their own lives and

deaths. What more basic right is there than to decide if you're going to live? There is

none. A person under a death sentence who's being kept alive, through so called heroic

measures certainly has a fundamental right to say, "Enough's enough. The treatment's

worse than the disease. Leave me alone. Let me die!". Ironically, those who deny the

terminally ill this right do so out of a sense of high morality. Don't they see that, in denying

the gravely ill and suffering the right to release themselves from pain, they commit the

greatest crime? (Burnell)

Are there no conditions when life is meaningless and should be quietly ended? If a

person is subject to pain that won't stop as a result of a disease that can't be cured, must

he or she suffer that pain as long as possible when there are gentle ways of putting an end

to life? If a person suffers from a disease that deprives him or her of all memory and

makes him or her a helpless lump of flesh that may live on for years.

We spend more than a billion dollars a day for health car while our teachers are

underpaid, and our industrial plants are rusty. This should not continue. There is

something fundamentally unsustainable about a society that moves its basic value

producing industries overseas yet continues to manufacture artificial hearts at home. We

have money to give smokers heart transplants but no money to retool out steel mills. We

train more doctors and lawyers than we need but fewer teachers. On any given day, 30 to

40 percent of the hospital beds in America are empty, but our classrooms are overcrowded

and our transportation systems are deteriorating. We are great at treating sick people, but

we are not that great at treating a sick economy. And we are not succeeding in

international trade. When you really look around and try to find industries the United

States is succeeding in, you discover that they are very few and far between. (Docker)

The period of suffering can be shortened. If you have ever been in a terminal cancer

ward, It's grim but enlightening. Anyone who's been there can know how much people can

suffer before they die. And not just physically. The emotional, even spiritual, agony is

often worse. Today our medical hardware is so sophisticated that the period of suffering

can be extended beyond the limit of human endurance. What's the point of allowing

someone a few more months or days or hours of so-called life when death is inevitable?

There's no point. In fact, it's downright inhumane. When someone under such conditions

asks to be allowed to die, it's far more humane to honor that request than to deny it.


There is no way we are going to come to grips with this problem until we also look

at some of these areas that aren't going to go away . One of the toughest of these is what

Victor Fuchs called "flat-of-the-curve medicine"- those medical procedures which are the

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