Euthansia Essay, Research Paper
Introduction The issue of euthanasia is one of heated debate. Euthanasia has been covered extensively by the media in recent years. With the focus primarily on physician assisted suicide, the attention has been drawn away from the other passive forms of euthanasia such as not trying to maintain a terminally ill person or someone in a coma on a machine. The United States of America is struggling with the proposal of legislation and possible regulation for the practice of euthanasia. There have been many legal battles fought over the issue in the last decade. However after many decisions, appeals, and overturns, the strongest legal aspect to euthanasia is a Supreme Court ruling that made it legal for states to pass legislation banning euthanasia. While the legal aspect of euthanasia is still up in the air, people are choosing to end their lives through euthanasia. Euthanasia by definition, going back to the Greek, eu, “good” and thanatos, “death” or mercy killing. This assumes that this method is a better death, a more “a gentle and easy death” than the alternative (Maguire, 1974). There are two basic types of euthanasia. The first is called active; this refers to the role that the assistant plays in the death. If there were no assistant then it would be considered suicide versus euthanasia. However, the “active” person is actually taking the victims life as in lethal injection or mercy killing. The passive type is where a person helps another kill themselves who couldn’t otherwise or allows someone to die when they could have prevented it. The most common example of this is terminally ill or those kept alive only by artificial means. The state in which some people are kept alive in some hospitals by machines is biological life only. These differences greatly affect people’s views towards euthanasia. Most people feel that euthanasia is morally wrong, but feel that the choice should be available to someone if necessary. However, people on the majority condone passive euthanasia as sometimes the right thing to do. Some people say this is natural and that is why it is moral and kind. But to take a life of a patient that would have kept living anyway is seen as interfering with something greater. The main issue here is whether or not taking someone’s life or letting someone die can be an act of kindness and compassion. We all can understand pain and intolerable suffering but everyone can not justify killing. Thus the social, political, and religious implications of euthanasia are huge. Everyone is somehow effected by its practice and its future has become a major concern to parties on both sides of the issue. There are plenty of pros and cons to the subject of assisted suicide. People are affected very strongly by death; it is the subject matter of a great deal of one’s thought. Therefore an issue like this is bound to have repercussions. One cause for controversy and a recent self-established celebrity is physician Dr. Jack Kevorkian of Royal Oak, Michigan. Notorious as the “Doctor of Death”, this enterprising pathologist has been assisting in suicides for over seven years and has euthanized over 28 people (Peck, 1997). The doctor has invented an apparatus that he calls “mercitron” that delivers a lethal yet painless administration of drugs to the patient. This killing of a human by injection of lethal doses or combinations of medicine is referred to as medicide. Kevorkian, like others practicing euthanasia today, claim that their patients must meet a strict criteria for treatment. Such criteria include the terminally ill or intolerable pain or like his first case: Alzheimer’s. Janet Adkins was Dr. Kevorkian’s first medicide. She had been diagnosed with the Alzheimer’s disease at age 54 (Eareckson, 1992). She started forgetting her family’s names or appointments she had made. She and her husband convinced Kevorkian to help her commit suicide. Where people had problems with this case was the fact that Janet was suffering no pain and was killing herself to avoid the later stages of the diseases. However, there might have been other options for Janet that Kevorkian didn’t care to discuss. The major belief in America is that Euthanasia is wrong from a religious aspect. Many Americans, the majority being religious, believe that only God, has the right to control life and that euthanasia is an attempt at playing God. Most religions practiced in America forbid murder in any situation and condemn suicide as well. Therefore even if someone wants to die it is not your right to help or even allow him or her to die. Suicide is considered an illegal act. Kathleen Foley (1995), believes that doctors should develop treatments for the physical and psychological problems rather than helping them commit suicide. Other individual problems arise for both the patient and the doctor. Some questions raised might be: Do I want someone to help me? Who will help me? Is this an easy way out? What if this is it? Or will this stay on my conscious if I help? Does this person really need to die? Is this the best option for this patient? Will there be any legal problems? Doctors as well as patients find the issue of euthanasia a tough one to decide. Another issue raised is that of a person’s political right to choose their own choices and live their own lives. Does this then give them the right to end it as well? These and other tough questions will be debated for some time until legislation is passed on the subject. Until then it is unclear whether euthanasia will become more accepted or if it will be abolished and go underground. What is clear is that people will continue to choose it as an answer to their problems and that it will continue to grow. Critical Analysis Since the majority of Americans disapprove of euthanasia than that will be the cultural perspective that this paper will focus on. The reason for this unacceptance is mostly due to religious influences. With the belief in a creator comes with it the understanding that since one didn’t play a part in the creation process, then one should not be ready to play a part in its destruction. If God chooses how and when we die than it is sacrilegious to script our own death. Others feel that suicide ends a life prematurely and that the person still had more to accomplish here on earth. The inability of this person to kill himself or herself demonstrates that it might be a reason why it isn’t time for that person to leave us. When a doctor takes it upon himself to shorten the length of someone’s God given life by withdrawing a life-sustaining machine, they are in fact playing God. They are superseding the creator’s plan and allowing individual fears and weakness to interfere with a divine plan. Voluntary euthanasia may occur when an incurably ill person asks their physician, friend, or relative to put them to death. Many critics of the modern medical profession contend that too often doctors play Gods on operating tables and in recovery rooms. They argue that no doctor should be allowed to judge whether someone should die or not (Peck, 1997). However, not everyone opposed to euthanasia has religious reasons. There are many in the medical communities that share Mrs. Foley’s views on finding alternatives to euthanasia. For example, traditional medical ethics have never sanctioned euthanasia, even on request for someone with compassionate motives. The International Code of Medical Ethics as originally adapted by the World Medical Association in 1949, in response to the Nazi Holocaust, declares “a doctor must always bear in mind the obligation of preserving human life from conception to death” (Trubo, 1966). This would lead one to believe that doctors are sworn to uphold life regardless of their patient’s wishes. This would seem to correlate with the basic human nature that killing is wrong. The Hippocratic Oath states “I will give no deadly medicine to anyone if asked, nor suggest such council…” (Winslade, 1986). This of course is obvious in that doctors are instructed to avoid death at all costs. This is most likely the reason for the invention of the machines that maintain life even only if on a biological level. The hope is that sometime in the future there may be a cure or better treatment and that anything is a better chance than death. In its 1992 Statement of Marbella, the World Medical Association confirmed that assisted suicide, the active form of euthanasia, is unethical and must be condemned by the medical profession (Foley,1995). This statement is saying that in societies a doctor who intentionally and deliberately enables an individual to end his or her life is acting unethically. It may cause the patient client relationship to be in jeopardy as other patients start to question their doctors moral integrity and start to be uncertain of his or hers doctor’s motives. It also goes with human nature to survive and to want to live as long as possible for hopes of a cure or better treatments. A lot of people in psychology today feel that some people when in these situations can experience many psychological effects.
Severe depression is an obvious effect that would set in when diagnosed with a terminal disease or when one is living everyday with horrendous pain. Also the decision to request euthanasia is rarely one of free choice. People are pressured into the decision by society’s view of them as unproductive and inconvenient. A patient with a terminal illness is very vulnerable. He/she lacks the knowledge and skills to alleviate his/her own symptoms, and may be suffering from fear about the future and anxiety about the effect of his/her illness on others that are close to him/her. This causes the person to loose his/her objectivity in dealing with the situation. Those who work regularly with the terminally ill recognize that they often suffer from depression and a false sense of worthlessness that would obvious affect their decision on whether or not to request euthanasia if it were available. Their decision-making may be equally affected by confusion, paranoia, or troublesome symptoms that could be alleviated or at least relieved with appropriate modern treatment (Foley, 1995). Patients who upon admission to a hospital demand to be allowed to die and later after effective symptom relief are appreciative that their request was not granted. Terminally ill patients also adapt to a level of disability that they had previously felt was impossible to live with. The patients overtime begin to value the preciousness of life and let go the anger for the circumstances that caused them to end up in this situation. With proper guidance and help they can begin to see hope and opportunity where before they only felt despair. Several people in society are in favor of euthanasia mostly because they feel that as a democratic country, we as free individuals, have the right to decide for ourselves, whether or not to end our lives. However, the more dominant and widely held opinions of society are against euthanasia primarily because American society in general feels that it’s God’s task to decide when each of His creations’ time shall come. Most argue that this is also important from a medical viewpoint in that possible cures may be on the horizon and that fact that medical technology is always trying to extend the human life expectancy. The cryogenics field is an example of this phenomenon. It is widely believed that there are only two options open to patients with terminal illness: either they die slowly in unrelieved suffering or they receive euthanasia. In fact, now there is another option. Continuous research in palliative medicine has in recent years shown that virtually all unpleasant symptoms experienced in the process of terminal illness can be either relieved or substantially alleviated by techniques already available (Maguire, 1974). Many also doubt the decision-making ability of someone when faced with this type of diagnoses. Psychologist as well feel that most often the people in these situations are not psychological fit to be making decisions about their own death. With cutting-edge science pitted against religious moral upbringings, the battle over euthanasia is far from over.Comparison of Beliefs Unlike the majority of Americans I feel that euthanasia has positive elements to it as well as its moral implications. There are certain times where euthanasia may benefit a person as well as their family and loved ones. As I studied more about the modern conflict of euthanasia, I was able to be empathetic with both sides. I do agree that we must not see ourselves as above a higher power. Maybe we should consider whether our desire to die is worth forcing God’s hand. But then again, I feel that this is a choice that must be confronted at sometime or another in one’s life. But as we govern ourselves, we have recognized as a society the right to life, liberty, and property. Therefore under all three of those rights, euthanasia is the right and the choice of the individual. If we have the right to life than why isn’t that life ours to decide how to do with as we please or allow God to on a personal level. This leads perfectly into the right of liberty. Being socially proclaimed free to make our own life choices and not to be subjected to undue influence. Then isn’t our choice about something as special and important to us as our own death, free for us to make and not to be limited or prohibited? As for property, I feel that it is very evident that we all feel that our most prized possession is our own body. If it breaks down than we are stranded. It is the mechanism that allows us to demonstrate our creativity as well as compassion and love. If our body, the most important of our property, isn’t protected under our right to have things belong to us, then what can be said for anything else? I feel it is important to recognize these things because while we all have different views and talents that contribute to society, it is our mutual respect for one and another’s views that allow it to function. There is also a heavy effect on the family and close friends that is often overlooked. When some one very close to you is diagnosed with a terminal disease it is a weird sort of surreal feeling that accompanies that news. I remember when my grandmother was told she had terminal cancer a few months ago how she said that she wanted to go peacefully and painlessly because she had lived a full life. The cancer was already so bad that by the time they decided to tell her, she would have been in a lot of pain. She was administered a lot of drugs and this enabled her to deal with the intense pain that accompanied the cancer but made her very groggy and distant. She died two weeks ago. I like to remember my grandmother how she was before the cancer became full blown. My grandmother illustrated that death is a crucial part of one’s life and that their wishes should be respected and their choices not influenced against other’s wishes. Many others may not wish to go through a period of immense pain. Or unlike my grandmother may have two years left to live but sees no point in living those two years all drugged up and incomprehensible. Family memories of relatives can be forever tainted because of a long, debilitating, and painful death due to terminal illness. For some people in certain cases like these I feel their right to control their life should not be challenged. However, I do feel that I would never choose euthanasia for myself and after researching the subject, I would advise anyone to think twice about what they are really doing. Many elderly people already feel like a financial burden to their families and society. They may feel great pressure to request euthanasia “freely and voluntarily”. These patients need to hear that they are valued and loved for who they are. They need to know that we are committed first and foremost to their well-being even if this does involve spending a little more time and money. I feel that we need to recognize that requests for voluntary euthanasia are extremely rare in situations where the physical, emotional and spiritual needs of the terminally ill are being properly met. Also, the symptoms that prompt the request for euthanasia can most of the time be managed with currently available therapies. We should focus together on being able to provide top of the line care to the terminally and not let them feel discarded and that euthanasia is not the best solution for everyone. We need to show compassion and love toward the terminally ill patients so that they may live their lives to their fullest potential. 1 10 Euthanasia