Euthanasia Term Paper

A considerable size of society is in favor of Euthanasia mostly because

they feel that as a democratic country, we as free individuals, have the

right to decide for ourselves whether or not it is our right to determine

when to terminate someone\'s life. The stronger and more widely held

opinion is against Euthanasia primarily because society feels that it is

god\'s task to determine when one of his creations time has come, and we as

human beings are in no position to behave as god and end someone\'s life.

When humans take it upon themselves to shorten their lives or to have

others to do it for them by withdrawing life-sustaining apparatus, they

play god. They usurp the divine function, and interfere with the divine


Euthanasia is the practice of painlessly putting to death persons who

have incurable , painful, or distressing diseases or handicaps. It comes

from the Greek words for \'good\' and \'death\', and is commonly called mercy

killing. Voluntary euthanasia may occur when incurably ill persons ask

their physician, friend or relative , to put them to death. The patients

or their relatives may ask a doctor to withhold treatment and let them die.

Many critics of the medical profession contend that too often doctors play

god on operating tables and in recovery rooms. They argue that no doctor

should be allowed to decide who lives and who dies.

The issue of euthanasia is having a tremendous impact on medicine in

the United States today. It was only in the nineteenth century that the

word came to be used in the sense of speeding up the process of dying and

the destruction of so-called useless lives. Today it is defined as the

deliberate ending of life of a person suffering from an incurable disease.

A distinction is made between positive, or active, and negative, or

passive, euthanasia. Positive euthanasia is the deliberate ending of life;

an action taken to cause death in a person. Negative euthanasia is defined

as the withholding of life preserving procedures and treatments that would

prolong the life of one who is incurably and terminally ill and couldn\'t

survive without them. The word euthanasia becomes a respectable part of

our vocabulary in a subtle way, via the phrase \' death with dignity\'.

Tolerance of euthanasia is not limited to our own country. A court case

in South Africa, s. v. Hatmann (1975), illustrates this quite well. A

medical practitioner, seeing his eighty-seven year old father suffering

from terminal cancer of the prostate, injected an overdose of Morphine and

Thiopental, causing his father\'s death within seconds. The court charged

the practitioner as guilty of murder because \'the law is clear that it

nonetheless constitutes the crime of murder, even if all that an accused

had done is to hasten the death of a human being who was due to die in any

event\'. In spite of this charge, the court simply imposed a nominal

sentence; that is, imprisonment until the rising of the court. (Friedman


Once any group of human beings is considered unworthy of living, what

is to stop our society from extending this cruelty to other groups? If the

mongoloid is to be deprived of his right to life, what of the blind and

deaf? and What about of the cripple, the retarded, and the senile?

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. But an

appellate court in California has gone one controversial step further.

(Walter 176)

It ruled that Elizabeth Bouvia, a cerebral palsy victim, had an

absolute right to refuse a life-sustaining feeding tube as part of her

privacy rights under the US and California constitutions. This was the

nation\'s most sweeping decision in perhaps the most controversial realm of

the rights explosion: the right to die...

As individuals and as a society, we have the positive obligation to

protect life. The second precept is that we have the negative obligation

not to destroy or injure human life directly, especially the life of the

innocent and invulnerable. It has been reasoned that the protection of

innocent life- and therefore, opposition to abortion, murder, suicide, and

euthanasia- pertains to the common good of society.

Among the potential effects of a legalized practice of euthanasia is reduced

pressure to improve curative or symptomatic treatment". If euthanasia had been

legal 40 years ago, it is quite possible that there would be no hospice movement

today. The improvement in