Do People Have The Right To Choose

When Essay, Research Paper

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What exactly is euthanasia? There are many forms of

this practice, including physician assisted sucide, active

euthanasia, and passive euthanasia. In one citation,

euthanasia is the practice of ending a persons life.

Euthanasia is practiced worldwide be it legitimate or highly

illegal. Along with our understanding and acception of

euthanasia in todays’ society, comes the unanswered

question, do people have the right to choose when to die?

Euthanasia, also known as mercy killing, is the

practice of ending life in order to give release from

incurable suffering or disease. The word comes form the

Greek for an easy death. Euthanasia, technically, refers to

helping patients end their own lives and does not apply to

stopping life sustaining treatments such as respirators, or

a do not resuscitate order.(Glossary…)

Euthanasia can be active or passive. Active euthanasia

means that a physician or other persons involved with the

care of a patient, takes a deliberate action to kill.

Administering an overdose of any prescribed drug is

considered active euthanasia. Passive euthanasia means

letting a patient die by way of the lack of treatment, or

suspending treatment that has begun. Examples of passive

euthanasia include taking patients off a respirator or

removing other life-support systems. Stopping the food

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supply, usually occurs in the elderly with intavenous


A great deal of the controversy surrounding euthanasia

comes from the decision process. Who decides if a patient

is to die? This issue has not been established legally in

the United States. The matter is left to state law, which

usually allows the physician in charge to suggest the option

of death to a patients relatives, especially if the patient

is brain dead.(Euthanasia…)

In an attempt to make decisions about when their own

lives should end, several terminally ill patients in the

early 1990’s used a controversial suicide device, developed

by Dr. Jack Kevorkian, to end their lives. This device was

created from scrap aluminum, a toy car, and other scraps

scavenged from garage sales and flea markets. The device

consisted of a needle which was inserted into the arm of the

patient begining the intravenous flow of a poisonous

solution. Kevorkian later switched to a more elaborate

machine which consisted of a tightly fitted mask placed over

the face, conncected to a carbon monoxide canister.

Kevorkian has been involved in 27 deaths to date and has

never been convicted of any wrong doing.(The Real…)

In parts of Europe, the decision making process has

become very flexible. Even in cases where the patients are

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not brain dead, patients have been put to death without

their consent, at the request of relatives, or at the

insistence of physicians. Many cases of involuntary

euthanasia involve older people or newborn infants. This is

believed to be caused by the “not worthy of life” concept

practiced in Nazi Germany(1933-45).(Nazism)

In countries where involuntary euthanasia is not legal,

the court systems have proven to be very lenient in dealing

with medical personel who practice it. In the Neatherlands

and Japan, for example, if physicians follow certain

guidlines they may carry out mercy killings on terminally

ill people. Courts have also proven to be somewhat lenient

with friends or relatives who have assisted terminally ill

patients to die.(Flynn 1-2)

Euthanasia may seem like a dignified way of dying, and

in one citation is described as painlessly putting to death

people who have incurable, painful, or distressing dieseases

or disabilities. This definition has proven false however.

When a person is killed with drugs (lethal injection) there

body often has violent convulsions and muscle spasms. This

is by no means a peaceful or dignified way of dying. Also,

if a patient is not killed by the drugs administered to

them, then they are often times suffocated with a plastic

bag by the attending physician.(International Anti…)

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Many doctors are opposed to the legilization of

euthanasia. They believe that it is contrary to the entire

Hippocratic Oath which states, “…I will follow that system

of regimen which, according to my ability and judgment, I

consider for the benefit of my patients…I will give no

deadly medicine to any one if asked, nor suggest any such

counsel…” One physician states, “It (euthanasia) would

erode trust between terminally ill patients and their

physicians.” He further goes on to state that, “Instead of

healers, doctors would become dealers in death…As a

doctor, I would not want the state telling me to do away

with somebody.”(Risley 1-2)

Mercy killing is legally considered murder in the

United States, whether it involves injecting someone with a

drug to “hasten death” or depriving the person of nutrients

necessary to keep him or her alive. But most states

including Iowa, now have laws permitting “pulling the plug”

on someone who has signed a document saying he or she

does not want life prolonged by artificial means. This

document is called a do not resuscitate order. The document

states if a patients’ heart stops beating, cardiopulmonary

resuscitation will not be performed to prolong life.(Can


Oregon has a “Death With Dignity Act” which states, “An

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adult who is capable and a resident of Oregon may initiate a

written request for medication. The person must be declared

terminally ill by an attending physician. The person must

also me declared terminally ill by a consultin physician.

The person must recieve counseling to be sure of mental

compitence. The attending physician must ask the patient to

notify next of kin. The persons’ medical records must be

thoroughly reviewed.” This helps to make sure that

all participants of this program are sound of mind and

terminally ill.(The Oregon…)

Euthanasia is explicitly criminalized in 35 states.

Nine states criminalize assisted sucicide through common

law.(Alabama, Idaho, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan,

Nevada, South Carolina, Vermont, West Virginia) Three

states have abolished the common law of crimes and do not

have statutes criminalizing assisted suicide.(North

Carolina, Utah, Wyoming) In Ohio, that state’s supreme court

ruled that assisted suicide is not a crime. Only the state

of Oregon permits physician assisted suicide. If a

physician is convicted of any wrong doing in relation to the

death of a patient which is legally, ethically, or morally

wrong they may have there liscense to practice medicine

revoked.(Assisted suicide…)


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