Euthanasia Essay, Research Paper
Euthanasia continues to be an extremely controversial issue in society, and there are many opposing viewpoints concerning this specific subject. The case of Sue Rodriguez versus the province of British Columbia, is one that demonstrates the high degree of debate over such a sensitive topic, as euthanasia. The following is an analytical examination of the case at hand, and a critical comparison of it, to the theories of Patrick Nowell-Smith. When relating the theories of Patrick Nowell -Smith to the case of Sue Rodriguez, it is evident that he would not agree with the judge?s final decision.
Firstly, it is necessary to discuss some of the relevant and significant points of the case. Sue Rodriguez is a mother in her forties, suffering from Lou Gehrig?s disease. Her life expectancy is several months, however her condition is deteriorating quickly. Soon, she will no longer be able to swallow, speak, walk or move, and she will require a respirator in order to breath. She will be bedridden. Sue Rodriguez is aware of her situation and knows that death is inevitable, however, she wishes to control her circumstances, and her time and manner of death. By the time Sue is no longer able to enjoy life, she will be physically unable to terminate her life with out assistance. Sue is not requesting that her death be caused by active euthanasia, which would be by means of a doctor physically ending her life with some form of injection. She is asking that a qualified medical physician set up a certain technological system that would allow her, if she chose to, end her life with her own hand. This is passive euthanasia, as it allows the victim herself to control the time and manner of her own death. The Criminal Code includes a section regarding the idea of suicide that the judge lays before her in an attempt to defy her wishes. Section 241 states that ?Every one who counsels a person to commit suicide or aids or abets someone to commit suicide, whether suicide ensues or not is guilty of an indictable offense and liable to imprisonment for a term not exceeding fourteen years.? (Koggel, 5). Sue rebuts this argument be stating that the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms entails that ?everyone has the right to life, liberty and security of the person and the right not to be deprived thereof except in accordance with the principals of fundamental justice.? (Koggel, 5). Therefore if everyone has the right to life, than one must also be able to control his own life. Sue also says that by prohibiting her to end her own life, she is being deprived of both her liberty and her security.
There are several parallels of Sue Rodriguez?s arguments and the views of Patrick Nowell-Smith. When exploring these similarities, it is clear and manifest that they hold similar views about euthanasia, despite the fact that it might be for different reasons. Due to the fact that they agree that euthanasia should be allowed in certain cases, it is apparent that Nowell-Smith would disagree with the judge?s decision to deny Sue of her plea. Nowell- Smith states that we, as society, have the right to do anything we like providing that there are no good reasons for prohibiting what we do. Sue states that because the Charter of Rights and Freedoms states that everyone deserves equal rights to life, liberty and security, that she should be able to make her own decisions regarding her life, providing that it is not threatening or having a detrimental effect on anyone else except herself. The type of euthanasia that Sue is requesting is both passive and voluntary, meaning that she has requested and consented to the decision for her to end her life. She is not asking that someone kill her, she is requesting that she would have the option to kill herself, and that nobody would prevent that. On the same scale, Nowell-Smith labels the right to life, a negative right, in that one?s right to life does impose on someone else the duty to not kill with out consent, but it also imposes no duty to keep one person alive. He states, similarly, that the right to die, means that one has the right to assert that neither the person who asks for assistance in death, nor the person who gives the help is committing a moral wrong. Sue does not necessarily want to face death, yet she wants to escape the pain and suffering that she faces in life. She is asking that, because of her painful situation, she be given the option to end her life, by means of discontinuing life saving procedures. It is clear that the opinions of Sue Rodriguez and Nowell-Smith are similar, and contrast with the decision of the court.
There are several reasons why Nowell-Smith would not agree with the judgement in the case. First and foremost, it is clear that Nowell-Smith agrees with euthanasia in most legitimate cases, and it is evident that the judge disagrees. Judge Sopinka focuses on the basic law principals of euthanasia and the fact that they must be followed. He believes that the preservation of human life is a basic value of society. His views are also influenced by the ?slippery slope? concept. This concept entails that if assisted suicide was legalized there is a risk that others will manipulate those persons with life threatening disabilities. Also that the decriminalization of this procedure might be altered from its original purpose and abused, in that it would be used to eliminate many who are a burden to others and society. Judge Sopinka holds strong on the protection of life idea; that life must be preserved at all costs. Nowell- Smith, opposes these views, as he argues in support of the legalization of euthanasia, and he states the significance of avoidance of suffering and moral autonomy principles. Nowell-Smith believes that what is often morally right is legally incorrect. He proves his statement when he refers it to the case of Mrs. Hough, who?s friend requested that she assist her in her suicide. She did so, and was consequently faced with nine months in prison, on a charge of second degree murder. Although the judge had sympathy for Mrs. Hough, he had to up hold the law. The judge obviously holds similar views to that of Judge Sopinka. Nowell-Smith brings into focus the fundamental principal of medical ethic. This has always been that the doctor should act in the best interest of his patients. Therefore, it is logical to say that if one is in proper mental condition to make a decision regarding their life, and the decision is to voluntarily and passively die, than that should be what the doctor acts on. He also argues that letting someone die, might fundamentally be worse than killing someone, because physically ending someone?s life might give him a quicker, less painful release. Nowell-Smith stresses the idea that a more liberal law is needed to alleviate the skepticism and inhumanity of our current laws. Sopinka, on the other hand, stresses the importance of laying down the laws that already exist. Nowell-Smith believes in the great importance of life, and the necessity to enjoy it to it?s full extent, yet he also supports the concept that when life has no more good to offer, death should be an option.
I certainly agree with the ideologies of Patrick Nowell-Smith. His arguments are justified, fair and legitimate. A person who is terminally ill and is suffering greatly should be able to make the decision if they should die. Life is meant to be enjoyed, and when someone is suffering from so much pain and helplessness, it is almost impossible to enjoy life. It would be much easier to see someone at rest, then to see someone have to endure and tolerate such strong discomfort. Many people have been so close to death, however the law prohibits them from putting an end to their life, and therefore ceasing the pain they are feeling. I also agree on his notion that active euthanasia might in fact be equal on a moral scale to passive euthanasia, pending certain cases. Stopping all forms of medication to an ill patient, so that they eventually die, might actually cause them to experience more pain than they would if they we killed by injection. I feel euthanasia laws should be modified and a person who is in a state that is only going to get worse should be allowed to request that he end his life. I can see the importance that it must be voluntary, however passive or active should remain his decision, depending on his situation. The Canadian Charter states that everyone should have equal rights in life, it therefore makes sense that they should be able to control their life too.
When examining the Sue Rodriguez case and comparing it with the theories of Patrick Nowell ?Smith it is apparent that Nowell-Smith argues for the legalization of euthanasia, thus Sue Rodriguez would agree with his views. It is also obvious that Nowell-Smith would disagree with the decisions of Judge Sopinka. Although Judge Sopinka showed empathy for Sue?s condition he strictly emphasized abiding the laws of euthanasia. In contrast, Nowell-Smith stressed the need for a vast change in both the laws and the moral understanding of euthanasia.