Euthanasia Essay, Research Paper
“Should euthanasia be legalised? What is your position on this question?
Argue your case.
The question of whether or not to legalise euthanasia is not a modern one. Throughout the ages there has been much debate over the legalisation of euthanasia in Australia and throughout the world. People’s opinions are forever changing, and 78% of Australians now believe that euthanasia should be legalised. Euthanasia allows people to have ‘a good death’ and quality of life, it also allows for people to be treated with dignity. Legalisation will bring the practise of euthanasia out in the open. There should however be strict guidelines that need to be followed, such as those in place in Holland. Euthanasia should be legalised as terminally ill and incapacitated people have the right to choose when and how they die.
The word euthanasia comes from the Greek words ‘eu’ and ‘thanatos’, which mean ‘a good death’. There are many people who would benefit from ‘a good death’ and the only way that this can be achieved is through the legalisation of euthanasia. Sometimes being alive is not enough, the quality of life has to be considered. What sort of life is being in agony or unable to move any part of your body. In ‘Willing to listen, Wanting to die’ the story of 22 year old Cornelius Hus is told. After becoming a quadriplegic in a motorcycle accident, he lost control of his body functions and could not do anything for himself, not even brush away a fly. Cornelius had to rely on someone else to do everything for him. He did not want to ‘a head in a chair’ and whilst in rehabilitation he constantly asked for a lethal injection. As this was illegal he had to find another way to end the suffering. Ultimately his best friend heeded his pleas and shot him, the friend then shot himself. This would not have happened had euthanasia been legal and an option. Quality of life does not add up to the quantity of life. There has to be dignity in life as well as dignity in death, a good death. This is something Cornelius did not have.
People need to be able to choose to die with dignity. If an animal is in pain the humane thing to do is to put it to sleep, yet humans are made to suffer. There is one thing that all living things have in common, death. It is natural to hope that when the time comes, that death will be peaceful, without prolonged suffering. At present this hope is not realised by some people, they are condemned to suffer pain, agony and dependence on others before they die. They have to suffer mental and physical distress as they have no hope of dying a dignified death. The legalisation of euthanasia would change this and offer hope of relief to those who wish to have access to an assisted or induced death. This would give them a quick, peaceful and dignified way of ending their life. This would also bring assisted deaths out into the open unlike the present ‘behind closed doors’ approach.
At present, throughout the world, doctors. nurses, relatives and friends help people to die with dignity every day. They do this although they know it is illegal, these people run the risk of imprisonment to help their loved ones do something that should be a right. Euthanasia is practised every day in hospitals when treatment is withdrawn that would prolong a persons life. For example, in 1989 Baby M died in Melbourne 12 days after being born suffering from spina bifida and epilepsy. All life prolonging medical treatment was withdrawn from this baby and only basic food and pain relief given, had intense medical intervention been used this baby may have lived some sort of life, all be it limited. The decision was made not to prolong this babies suffering, what was the difference between this suffering and that of Cornelius Hus? Baby M was allowed to die with dignity, all be it assisted by doctors, whereas Cornelius was shot in the head by a loving friend, a death with no dignity whatsoever. Rather than being performed secretly behind closed doors, euthanasia must be legalised to make it available to those in need.
For people considering euthanasia their wish can come true right now, they only need to move to Holland. Under new Dutch laws, doctors who commit euthanasia are granted immunity as long as they have followed the guidelines that are in place. These include things such as the patient’s request being voluntary, they face unrelenting or unbearable suffering and they have been informed of the alternatives or prospects. There must be two doctors consulted and they both must agree that the guidelines have been met. When these guidelines are met euthanasia can occur. Guidelines are important to ensure that euthanasia is used by those who need it most.
Helping someone to die is not a decision that is taken lightly. When someone is terminally ill or incapacitated it is not a choice between life and death, it is a choice between two types of death. One that is dignified and peaceful compered to one of suffering and torment. Euthanasia should be legalised, with guidelines, so that terminally ill and incapacitated people have an avenue to choice when and how they die.
Pp23-25, Robert Gott and Richard Linden, No Easy Way Out, CIS Publishers, Carlton, 1993.
Pp 83-93, Helga Kuhse, Willing to listen, Wanting to die, Penguin Books, Ringwood, 1994.
Pp 60-107, Gary E. McCuen, Doctor Assisted Suicide and the Euthanasia Movement, Gary E.McCuen Publications, Wisconsin, 1994.