Euthanasia Essay, Research Paper
Euthanasia is one of the most controversial topics in our society today.
It has sparked heated debates between families, doctors, and the courts about the morality of “mercy killing”. Euthanasia deals with taking a person’s life away from one who wishes to be put to death rather than continuing to live through the pain and agony of a chronic illness. There are two types of euthanasia, active and passive. Active euthanasia is loosely defined as the deliberate action to end the life of a dying patient to avoid further suffering. An example of this would be a lethal injection administered by the doctor at the patient’s request to end their life. Passive euthanasia is defined as the deliberate disconnection of life support equipment, or cessation of any life-sustaining medical procedure, permitting the natural death of the patient. Along with these two terms is one called physician-assisted suicide. This is a way in which a doctor provides the means, such as drugs or other agents, by which a person can take their own life.
Dr. Jack Kavorkian, also known as “Dr. Death”, brought euthanasia to the attention of the public. He has assisted many, what he called, “subjects” of his, to end their lives and alleviate all suffering. In a controversial televised broadcast on 60 Minutes, America watched as Kavorkian injected potassium chloride into the arm of Tom Youk, ending his life. This was enough to prosecute Kavorkian of murder when other juries were unable to come to a verdict.
Is this indeed murder? Tom Youk suffered from Lou Gehrig’s disease and wanted no longer to continue his battle. Youk had the right to die and sought Kavorkian for assistance. There was a possibility that had Youk not requested the aid of Kavorkian, he would have taken the matter into his own hands and committed suicide. There are other American’s who are patients themselves, or are families of patients, who struggle with this decision to either end the suffering, or continue to fight the battle hoping for a miracle. When the health of the patient’s looks bleak and it seems that they are going to eventually die, they should have the right to decide when they wish to do so. With euthanasia, the person can die a dignified death at their request or the request of their family. The doctor should not be prosecuted for murder when the request to be put to death came from the patient or the patient’s family. It is true that a doctor’s moral code is to enhance the well-being of their patients to the best of their ability, but when it seems that continued attempts to cure are not compassionate, wise, or medically sound, all efforts should be placed on making that patient’s remaining time as comfortable as possible.
However, opponents of euthanasia believe that patients are not dying a dignified death. It has been proven that, at times, patients are actually suffocated and don’t die peacefully. Supporters of euthanasia paint a picture of patients dying serenely surrounded by their family and loved ones after being taken off of life support or being administered pills. This isn’t always the case. At times, patients who wish to be put to death are suffocated with plastic bags or gassed to death with carbon monoxide. There is nothing dignified about being forced to die in such a cruel and inhumane manner. Legalizing euthanasia only legitimizes the use of plastic bags and carbon monoxide, and other ruthless means to kill vulnerable people to ensure death.
Despite that, the decision to put a person to death by euthanasia or physician-assisted suicide is with the patient’s best interest in mind. If the patient were to go on living their quality of life would be severely limited. They may have to live with the guilt of putting their families through the emotional and financial stress for their continued recovery, one that is not certain. A person who is under that much pressure may want to end their lives themselves, without the help of doctors. It would be more ideal for a patient to communicate their wishes to their families to avoid a more tragic and emotionally painful death. In 1994 Oregon passed a “Death with Dignity Act” allowing doctors to legally administer a fatal overdose of drugs to their patients. This law comes with several safeguards. The patient must undergo counseling to rule out any possibilities that they are mentally ill or depressed. They must make two oral requests and one written request (that must be witnessed) that they wish to be put to death. The patient must be a resident of the State of Oregon, and it is suggested that the family be notified.
Although there are many safeguards to the law, abuse of any law in inevitable.
There are a few loopholes in the law passed by the State of Oregon. One is that the requests required do not have to be done in person. It is acceptable that the oral requests are done over the phone, and the written request can be mailed in. A person has to only say that they are legal residents of Oregon and be registered to vote in the state. Notification of the family members before the patient’s death is only suggested, not required. It is only required after the patient has been put to death.
Euthanasia, to some, seems like it would be taking the “easy way out.” Others argue that it takes God’s work into our own hands, when it should be He who decides when we die. With the State of Oregon passing the Death with Dignity Act, the rest of the country can watch the developments unfold, and consider for themselves if euthanasia is something they feel should be legalized. Many would agree that if euthanasia is legalized, enhanced enforcement of the laws should be established as to avoid any wrongdoing or abuse. With the new developments of modern medical technology, patients are finding that they are able to overcome severe illnesses that, in the past, were considered incurable. A patient should be fully educated in the treatments available for their illness before making an irreversible decision.