Legalization of Active Euthanasia




The term Euthanasia has become well known throughout the United States.
Euthanasia is derived from the Greek words “eu” and “thantos”, these words come
together to form the phrase “easy death.” Today, euthanasia is referred to by many names
such as mercy killing, and assisted suicide. There is much controversy over whether or
not the practice is right. Euthanasia raises many religious, legal, medical and ethical
issues. The question of euthanasia being right or wrong is one that most would prefer to
leave alone. However the unique cases of euthanasia bring up the consideration of
legalization. Those for euthanasia feel that government should consider legalizing active
euthanasia because, suffering before death is unbearable not only for terminal patients but
for the family members and friends.
Euthanasia can be either passive or active. Active euthanasia is when a physician
or other medical personnel hastens as suffering patient’s death. To carry out this process
an overdose of drugs is introduced to the patient’s system as a form of insulin,
barbiturates, or morphine. Passive euthanasia allows the patient to die due to lack of
treatment. This includes stopping the food supply and taking the patient off life support
systems. This is also known as ‘pulling the plug’ (Compton’s Interactive Encyclopedia).
All cultures have strong prohibitions against killing. However cultures and
religions approve of killing in time of war or in defense against a life-threatening attack.
There are sixty-two verses in the Bible calling for killing as punishment for
approximately thirty various forms of disobeying the commandments (Neils, Section
1-Chapter 7). The Fifth Commandment states simply “Thou shalt not kill.”
“Aid-in-dying is not killing. Killing is doing something to someone against their
will to end their living. Physician aid-in-dying is doing something with someone
who requests it to end their life. Murder and killing are done against one’s will.
Physician aid-in-dying is done with the one’s permission. Therefore the words
murder and killing are inappropriate when referring to physician assistance in
dying” (Neil, Section1-Chapter4).
Questions are asked about why one form of euthanasia is preferred over the other.
The difference between active and passive euthanasia is that active euthanasia is legally
murder, while passive euthanasia is ‘merciful killing’. Turning off life support systems is
said to be a positive act of death (Singer, 76). The Encyclopedia of Bio-Ethics states that
Hebraic and Jewish religions strongly oppose the practice of euthanasia in any form.
Both religions believe that life is a very precious and divine gift and that it should be
protected and cherished. “Death must never be hastened by intention. Physicians who
kill patients in order to spare them pain are considered murderers (Encyclopedia of
Bio-Ethics, 554-555).” Although Judaism also rejects euthanasia as a concept, they do
accept mercy killing. This includes letting terminally ill persons die.
Early Christians were against self-induced death to end suffering and despair.
They also despise such practices such as abortion (Encyclopedia of Bio-Ethics,556).
Roman Catholics permit terminally ill patients to die by forgoing life-sustaining
measures. Catholics also allow refusing forms of treatment (Encyclopedia of Bio-Ethics,
557).
When many argue the issue of euthanasia it is common for one to forget who and
what, they really are defending. The ERGO organization states “It is widely believed that
there are only two options open to patients with terminal illness. One can either chose to
die slowly in unrelieved suffering, or receive euthanasia.
In 1999 the Dying Well Network produced an experiment involving physicians in
Spokane, Washington (Neil, Section 2-Chapter 2). Of 197 patients 77 percent wished to
die because they were informed that control of bodily functions will be lost in the future.
Of 119 patients 57 percent sought euthanasia due to being restricted to a bed. 52 percent
of the 108 patients wished to die due to the severe suffering. 35 percent of the 73 patients
wanted to die because of severe pain. 75 percent of 156 patients responded being a
burden to others as being a good reason to die. Being dependent upon other met the
standards of 74 percent of the 154 asked. Seventy two percent of 154 patients said that
the loss of dignity was good enough to receive euthanasia. Experiencing severe
depression was the answer of 55 percent of the 114 patients asked. Note that pain was the
lease often given reason for wanting to be euthanized. Loss of control and dignity, being
a burden and dependent, and being restricted to the bed most of the time are reasons most
often given to wish for a hastened