Dying With Dignity Essay, Research Paper
I am here today to explain the different legal aspects euthanasia and physician assisted suicide. There are two sides to this controversy, and their basic ideas are of the following: terminally ill patients should be allowed to end their lives with dignity. Physician-assisted suicide is a compassionate solution to human suffering, and should not be criminalized, and that doctors should be in the business of saving lives, not ending them. Allowing physicians to aid in suicides makes them accomplices in an immoral and unethical act.
Every individual has dominion over their body and should be allowed to decide when to end their life. To achieve that end, with dignity and without pain, doctors should be allowed to aid terminal patients by providing necessary doses of drugs (under the Oregon law, doctors are not allowed to administer the drugs; they are only allowed to prescribe a lethal dose.) The only other places in the world that currently have legalized euthanasia are Columbia, Japan and the Netherlands.
Many pro-life activists believe that the choice between life and death belongs to God, not to an individual. Our society today does not condone suicide under any circumstances and there is no moral difference in this case. In addition, it is felt that many terminally ill patients suffering extreme pain may not be competent to make a rational decision about whether they want to live or die. The role of doctors in this complex situation is to provide medical treatment when possible, and appropriate pain relief when treatment options have been exhausted. By assisting patients in suicide, doctors play a role that is contrary to the mission of their profession.
An excelled example of physician-assisted suicide is the famous practice of Dr. Jack Kevorkian. In March 1999, he was convicted of second-degree murder and the delivery of a controlled substance for assisting in the death of a terminally ill patient. For his participation in the man’s death, which was videotaped and shown on the television show “60 Minutes,” Dr. Kevorkian was sentenced to 10 to 25 years in prison. However, despite Dr. Kevorkian’s prison sentence, last October, the U.S. House of Representatives passed “The Pain Relief Promotion Act,” which encouraged doctors to take all possible action to relieve the pain of terminally ill patients, short of prescribing lethal doses of medication, however, currently Oregon is the only state that has legalized physician-assisted suicide. This law took effect in 1997, and since then, 43 people have taken advantage of this law and have opted for assisted suicide. Since the law took effect in late 1997, 43 people have taken advantage of Oregon’s Death with Dignity law by opting for physician-assisted suicide.
Some history of Euthanasia and physician assisted suicide includes:
- The first euthanasia bill is drafted in Ohio in 1906. It is unsuccessful.
- In 1935, the World’s first euthanasia society is founded in London.
- In 1973 American Hospital Association creates a Patient Bill of Rights, which includes informed consent and the right to refuse treatment.
- 1980 World Federation of Right to Die Societies is formed in Oxford,
England. It is made up of 27 groups from 18 nations.
- In 1984 The Netherlands Supreme Court approves voluntary euthanasia under certain conditions. In present time, euthanasia is currently legal in this country.
- In 1994 The California Bar approves physician-assisted suicide. With an 85 percent majority and no active opposition, the Conference of Delegates says physicians should be allowed to prescribe medication to terminally ill, competent adults for self-administration in order to hasten death.
- In 1996 The Northern Territory of Australia passes voluntary euthanasia law. Nine months later the Federal Parliament quashes it.
- In 1996 A Michigan jury acquits Dr. Kevorkian of violating a state law banning assisted suicides.
- In 1998 Dr. Kevorkian assists the suicide of his 92nd patient in eight years. His home state, Michigan, passes new law making such actions a crime. It took effect September 1 1998, but Kevorkian carries on helping people to die — 120 by November.
- In 1998 Oregon Health Services Commission decides that payment for
physician-assisted suicide can come from state funds under the Oregon Health Plan so that the poor will not be discriminated against.
- 1999 Dr. Kevorkian sentenced to 10-25 years imprisonment for the 2nd degree murder of Thomas Youk after showing video of death by injection on national television.
- In the year 2000, euthanasia is legalized in the Netherlands.
There are several different types of euthanasia, all of which are active in society today. They are: Passive euthanasia that is the deliberate disconnection of life support equipment, or cessation of any life-sustaining medical procedure, permitting the natural death of the patient, Active euthanasia, which is a deliberate action to end the life of a dying patient to avoid further suffering, Active voluntary euthanasia, which is a lethal injection by a doctor into a dying patient to end life by request of the sufferer and Active involuntary euthanasia, which is a lethal injection by a doctor into a dying patient without that person’s express request. However, the definition of euthanasia truly has many meanings, and the result is mass confusion.
People have many reasons for wanting to end their life by committing suicide. Some are severely depressed, some, due to poverty or lack of health-care coverage cannot afford the necessary pain killing medication and suicide is their preferred solution. Many successful assisted suicide patients have had a serious, progressive illness that has affected their quality of life. These illnesses include ALS, MS, AIDS or Alzheimer’s disease.
In cases of euthanasia, it will not be the doctor who will suggest the option to the patient, and the patient must take the initiative in presenting the idea of being euthanized. Ultimately, euthanasia is a question of choice: A choice that empowers people to have control over their own bodies and mind.
In my personal opinion, euthanasia and physician assisted suicide should be legalized. I feel this way because I do not feel that suffering should be prolonged in those who do not want to have an extended life. People deserve respect and should have the ability to die when they feel is the right time and be respected and shown dignity when they choose their time. I also believe that the controversy over legalized assisted suicide or euthanasia is similar to other controversial topics in society such as same sex marriages or legal abortions. I feel that using a quote used by the late a high profile, terminally ill resident of British Columbia, Canada, who suffered from ALS [Lou Gehrig’s Disease] is an appropriate way to end this essay.
“Whose life is it, anyway?”