Euthanasia(A) Essay, Research Paper
EuthanasiaEuthanasia, is one of the most controversial issues ofour time. This diverse issue raises many questions such as:how should decisions be made, and by whom? What should bedetermined as a matter of law and what left a matterofdiscretion and judgment? Should those who want to die, orwho are in a “persistent vegetative state” be allowed to dievoluntarily? Who should decide: the patient, the physician,the courts, or the families?the pro-euthanasia arguments turn on the individualcase of thepatient in pain, suffering at the center of anintolerable existence. When life becomes unbearable, quickdeath can be the answer. If livingpersons become so illthat they cannot tolerate the pain they have a “right to die”to an escape from torment. So long as the right to die meansnot prolonging the life by undesireable treatment, it may beclassified asrational suicide. The term “euthanasia” means “good health” or”well dying”; it is derived from the Greek “eu” and “thanatos”. Initsclassical sense, it is a descriptive term referring to aneasy death asopposed to an agonizing or tormented dying. InGreek literature,euthanasia connoted a “happy death, anideal and coveted end to a fulland pleasant life.” Theconcern to die well is as old as humanity itself, for thequestions surrounding death belong to the essence of beinghuman. All people die, but apparently only people know they are to die. Theylive with the truth that life is under thesentence of death. Thus, fromthe “beginning of the speciesconcern with how one dies has been animplicit part of thehuman attempt to come to terms with death.” Paul D.Simmons, + +Birth and Death: Bioethical Decision Making- -(Philadelphia: The Westminster Press, 1983) Page 117. + There is still a question involved in the contemporarydebates about euthanasia which isposed by a case such as the terminally ill who are dying. The issueconcerns the morality of mercy in aiding the dying patient. The questiongoes beyond simply withdrawing treatments. The issue is whether, in the name of mercy, one might morally aidsomeone’s dying? “Are circumstancesunder which it ismorally responsible to terminate a person, or does lovealways require resisting death through every meanspossible?”Wickett,The Right To Die- – (Harper & Row, Publishers,1986) p. 109. Paul D. Simmons declares bluntly that “it isharder morally to justify letting somebody die a slow andugly death, dehumanized, than it is to justify helping him toescape from such misery. Samuel Gorovitz, Drawing The Line: Life, Death, and EthicalChoices in an American Hospital- – (Oxford University Press, 1991)p.113. ++ p p +Some very prominent people are making packs with friendsor relatives that specify that either will help the other die when life becomes desperate from pain or tragic accident.Families and physicians feel a variety of powerful emotionswhen dealing with a patient dying a slow and agonizing death.Certainly they wish that the pain were relieved and thathealth restored; that the patient not die but go on living and sharing concerns and joys together. “When the illness isterminal and there is no hope of relief orrecovery, however,death is often desired for the patient as God’s appointed wayto relieve suffering.” Paul D. Simmons, Birth and Death: Bioethical Decision Making- -(The Westminster Press, 1986) p.116. Mr. Sorestad, my junior high teacher, shared hisexperience at the death of his beloved wife after herprolonged battle with breast cancer. She had deterioratedphysically and mentally practically beyond recognition. “Iprayed for death,” he had said, “because I loved her so much and could not bear to see her suffer so. And when deathfinally came, I thanked God for his good gift.” She’d hadenough, made her choice, and her choice was honored. + p p +But suppose that Mrs. Sorestad had asked her husband tohelp her die! He felt already that death was imminent anddesirable. As a true Christian, he felt that death would bea merciful relief of pain and suffering. He was morallyjustified to act out his love for his wife by ending hersuffering life in a painless manner. “The meaning of death, the morality of taking or ending life of one’s own spouse or the “relationship of the person to the processes ofnature and the activity of God in one’s life.” Ann Wickett, The Right To Die: Understanding Euthanasia (Harper & Row Publishers, 1986) p.109. Thisissue raised concerns to doctors. Even the bestdoctors, given all thepressures that they must bear, could”benefit from more structured waysof remaining informedabout how their efforts are viewed by their patients.”Samuel Gorovitz, Drawing The Line: Life, Death, and EthicalChoices in an American Hospital(Oxford University Press, 1991)p.10. + Importantly, it also heightened my curiosity about what it islike to be a physician about what sorts of problems andpressures sustain their distance and separateness, and makeit so hard for them to be open to new ideas from outsidetheir profession. Most doctors found themselves spending more time thanever before dealing with decisions they were never trained tomake decisions at the edge of life. Where the question “iswhat can be done for the patient.” Thomas W. Case, Dying Made Easy(Neal Bernards Inc., 1991)pp.25 26. n + He is uncomfortable whenthe issue turns from how to sustain a patient’s life to suchquestions as whether to stop providing nourishment, thereby,to end a patient’s life. It is strongly believed that physicianscan play a positive role in the activeeuthanasia of mentally competent,terminally ill people who requestassistance in ending theirown lives. It is crucial that physicians who choose to helpdying patients in this way should be “free to do so withoutthe fear of criminal prosecution”. Ann Wickett, Drawing The Line: Life, Death, and EthicalChoices in an American Hospital(Harper & RowPublishers, 1986)p.87. There are those who willsay that activeeuthanasia is not part of the physician’srole and never has been. Historical evidence, however,indicates that it was “common practicefor Grecian and Romanphysicians to assist in suicide”. Thomas W. Case,Dying Made Easy- – (Neal Bernards Inc., 1991)p.50. Physicians are notalone in having a high rate of stressimpairment; other high stressoccupations also have such
problems. The choices and challenges faced by today’sdoctors, and the “reality of their complex relationships withpatients, peers, and social situations have left thehippocratic oathbehind.” Paul D. Simmons, Birth and Death: Bioethical Decision Making (The westminster Press, 1983) p. 108. + Doctors are no doubt eager toexplain about the stresses they must bear in the face ofdifficult decisions. They have their responsibilities, butshould they support the patient’sposition, or should theystay out of it? Should they side with the family? These arevery hard questions for them to face. They could avoid those+ decisions if they could, but there are too many pressures toallow them that comfortable escape. They come from manydirections. “The most compelling pressure is the concern forthe interests of patients; they realize that some patientsmay be harmed rather thanhelped by life sustainingtreatment.”Paul D. Simmons, Birth and Death: Bioethical Decision Making- -(The Westminster Press, 1983) p. 201. Some cases have yielded mixed results instate courts, and the Supreme Court, that restricts therights of family members to direct the withdrawal of suchtreatment in the absence of written evidence of the patient’s wishes that is clear and compelling. There is a legitimatepublic interest in preventing such outcomes no matter whatthe patient would have wanted. The decision to forgo life sustaining treatment must surely be as hard as any thatarises in a hospital or within a family. Principles to guidesuch a decision are elusive, because whenever the questionarises, some of our most cherished values are in conflict.People believe in the value of life but it is not clear thatall life has value no matter what. People believe thatsuffering should be reduced, but sometimes that meansshortening life. People also believe that patients’ wishesshould be respected, but thatseems not always best for thepatients. It is expected of doctors to be a strong championsof life, but people fear their capacity to impose continuelife. Cardinal John J. O’Connor, writhing in Catholic New York(July 20, 1989), explained why he refrainedfrom supportingthe euthanasia bill, affirming that any concern for therelief of human suffering should be tempered by a respect forwhat hecalls the “tremendous potential of suffering”:frightening number of people are being condemned to death by the courts,at the request of loved one or “proxies,” or by their own personalrequests. The reason: They are suffering ‘needlessly’; their lives are ‘useless’; they are terminally ill, or comatose, orhave nothing to live for.’Of course, there are many things that doctors do knowbest, and how to prolong the life of a seriously ill patientis among them. There is also a deep and geniune commitmentamong physicians the occasional medical rogue aside toserving the interests of their patients. That commitment canlead to zealousness in defense oflife, a zealousness that can distort the physician’s judgment about justwhat is inthe patient’s interest. And, increasingly, there is the fearof legal jeopardy. It is the physicians’ role to educate thepatient bydiscussing both the state well being and theindicated treatments. The risks and benefits of each treatment option must be thoroughly discussed. It is thepatient’s role to evaluate this information in light of his or her present level of physical and social, spiritual, andpsychololgical needs. It is hard to say that the family has the right todemandthat the doctor pull the plug just because theythought the patient “would never want to live like this”.Despite their confused state, the family urges the physicianto withhold the tube, thereby hastening death. Theissue,quality of life, is perceived by the family: No one has the rightto judge that another’s life is notworth living. The basicright to life should not be abridged because someone decides that someone else’s ‘quality of life’ is too low. Once we base theright to life on ‘quality of life’ standards, there is no logicalplace to draw the line. Dying is not something any of us really look forward to,but it is a natural process that we can use to come to termswith ourselves. It is indeed our last chance to become ourbest selves. Few of us like pain and suffering, and onlythose of us who are “profoundly religious can find meaning inthem”. Thomas W. Case, Dying Made Easy- – (Neal Bernards Inc., 1991)pp.28-29.n + We ameliorate humansuffering when cure is notpossible, and we provide structure for people in times ofchaos. We need not view this inevitable part of the lifecycle as evil.
+Case, Thomas W. “National Review,” Dying Made Easy. New York: Neal Bernards, Inc. November 4, 1991, pp. 25 26. Gorovitz, Samuel.Drawing the Line: Life, Death, andEthical Choices in an American HospitalNew York: Oxford University Press, 1991. Simmons, Paul D. + +Birth and Death: Bioethical Decision- -+ +Making- -. Philadelphia: TheWestminster Press, 1983. Tong, Rosemarie. “Current,”Euthanasia in the 1990’s: Dying “Good Death. New York: Harper Collins Publishing, March 1993, pp. 27 33.Wickett, Ann. + +The Right To Die:- -+ + Understanding Euthanasia- -. New York: Harper & Row, Publishers, 1986.FOOTNOTESPaul D. Simmons, + +Birth and Death: Bioethical DecisionMaking- – (Philadelphia: The Westminster Press, 1983) p.117. 2 Paul D. Simmons, + +Birth and Death: Bioethical DecisionMaking- – (Philadelphia: The Westminster Press, 1983) p.109. 3 Paul D. Simmons, + +Birth and Death: Bioethical DecisionMaking- – (Philadelphia: The Westminster Press, 1983) p.113. 4 Paul D. Simmons, + +Birth and Death: Bioethical DecisionMaking- – (Philadelphia: The Westminster Press, 1983) p. 113. 5 Ann Wickett, + +The Right To Die: Understanding Euthanasia- -(NewYork: Harper & Row, Publishers, 1986) p.114. Samuel Gorovitz, + +Drawing The Line: Life, Death, andEthical Choices in an American Hospital- – (New York: OxfordUniversity Press, 1991) p.10.7 Samuel Gorovitz, + +Drawing The Line: Life, Death, andEthical Choicesin an American Hospital- – (New York: OxfordUniversity Press, 1991) p.10. 8 Samuel Gorovitz, + +Drawing The Line: Life, Death, andEthical Choices in an American Hospital- – (New York: OxfordUniversity Press,1991) p.17. 9 Samuel Gorovitz, + +Drawing The Line: Life, Death, andEthical Choices in an American Hospital- – (New York: OxfordUniversityPress, 1991) p.21. 10 Ann Wickett, + +The Right To Die: Understanding Euthanasia- -(New York: Harper & Row Publishers, 1986) p.107. 11 AnnWickett, + +The Right To Die: Understanding Euthanasia- -(New York: Harper & Row Publishers, 1986) p.117. 12 Thomas W. Case, + +Dying Made Easy- – (New York: Neal BernardsInc., November 4, 1991) pp.25 26.