Euthanasia Mercy Killing Essay, Research Paper
Euthanasia mercy killingEuthanasia Sue Rodriguez has reminded us all of our own mortality and ourneed to think carefully about the kind of society we want to live and todie in. Sue Rodriguez was known through the media, and her well spokenand eloquent speeches. People painfully in support of what she believedin, watched as her strength was sapped by the devastating disease(amyotrophic lateral sclerosis), and we were moved by her clear thoughtand her bravery as a person facing death. Here was a woman who acted onher beliefs with courage and tenacity and whose grace has enriched us all.It is no defense to point to the fact that a person has requested to bekilled: “No person is entitled to consent to have death inflicted uponhim, and such consent does not affect the criminal responsibilities of anyperson by whom death may be inflicted upon the person by whom consent isgiven,” which seems to mean that no one has a right to consent to havedeath inflicted on him or her. In addition, if a person causes the deathof another, the consent of the deceased does not provide the person whocaused the death a defense to criminal responsibility. Is there adifference, do you think, between a person who, at a dying person’srequest, prepares a poison and leaves it on the bedside for that person totake, and a person who helps the patient to drink it or who administers itdirectly at the request of a dying person who is unable to take itpersonally? Is there, in short, a real distinction between killing andletting die? Well, this is the difference between passive and activeeuthanasia, and if you believe in euthanasia, you must decide which one iscorrect or even accept both to be correct depending upon the situation.We must carefully think through a number of conceptual issues. What is aperson? What is death? How does the difference between active andpassive function in arguments for and against euthanasia? Is there anydifference between killing and letting die? Suppose the doctor agrees towithhold treatment… The justification for his doing so is that thepatient is in terrible agony, and since he is going to die anyway, itwould be wrong to prolong his suffering needlessly. But now notice this.If one simply withholds treatment, it may take the patient longer to die,and so he may suffer more than he would if more direct action were takenand a lethal injection given. This fact provides strong reason forthinking that, once the initial decision not to prolong his agony has beenmade, active euthanasia is actually preferable to passive euthanasia,rather than the reverse. Individuals have the right to decide about theirown lives and deaths. Denying terminally ill patients the right to diewith dignity is unfair and cruel. The golden rule requires that we allowactive euthanasia for terminally ill patients who request it in certainsituations. People have the right to die with dignity and lucidity.
Gayle Stelter (Vancouver Sun) writes, “For almost seven years I have beenliving with cancer, mostly joyously and gratefully, but gradually seeingthe disease encroaching relentlessly on my once healthy body. Throughoutthese years, I have thought long and hard about death and I’ve discoveredthat it’s not the prospect of death itself that is so frightening, but theprocess of dying. So to give myself courage, I have held an option inreserve. When I can see no quality ahead, when I am capable of bidding myloved ones a coherent farewell, when I am still in control of myresources, I will enlist someone’s help to speed me on my journey. …For those of us who may choose to leave while there is still an element ofcontrol, of coherence, may we be fortunate to have a friend, a loved one,a health professional who will use their gifts in order that we may beexcused. To deny such expert guidance in this last rite would be bothheartless and inhuman.” Another person I had read about states: “I havemultiple myeloma…a rare bone marrow cancer…[that] destroys the blood,bones, immune system, kidneys and sometimes liver and spleen. The worstof it is the disintegration of the skeleton…Unless one is lucky enoughto die of sepsis first, the death is long and agonizing. The act ofsitting up can fracture the vertebrae and lifting the dinner tray canfracture both forearms. Who deserves that? For what principle?” I believethat there are some circumstances when euthanasia is the morally correctaction. I also understand that there are real concerns about legalizingeuthanasia because of fear of misuse and/or overuse and the fear of theslippery slope leading to a loss of respect for the value of life. We doneed to proceed with caution. Euthanasia is homicide. Some homicides arejustified. Life at some point can become so unpleasant and so hopelessthat virtually no one would wish to continue it, and the opponent ofeuthanasia must face up to this fact honestly. Suffering can take manyforms, physical, mental and emotional. Not all of these are relevant toeuthanasia – I have not heard anyone suggest, for example, mercy killingfor the clinically depressed – but many are, in particular physical agonyand the emotional despair of extreme disability. People have alwayskilled themselves, for reasons that seemed good to them, and it has longbeen recognized that laws against suicide serve little or no purpose.This issue remains a live one with respect to euthanasia because it isplausibly pointed out that, if you have a legal right to commit suicide,and you are physically unable to do so unaided, it seems unfair toprosecute someone who helps you. Suffering and suicides are perennialfactors, but today’s conditions have added a host of other complications. In particular, we have medical techniques that can preserve life farbeyond what would have been possible in the past. All this is cause forgratitude. One consequence of this sort of medical development is that itis now possible.