EuthanasiaMercy Or Murder Essay Research Paper Euthanasia

Euthanasia-Mercy Or Murder Essay, Research Paper


Is it “mercy killing” or just plain killing?

“In keeping with the root definition of ‘euthanasia’- literally [meaning] ‘good

death’- [supporters] of euthanasia insist they are talking about helping terminally ill

patients in insufferable pain die a dignified death- at the patient’s request. But this

bears no resemblance to the true picture of the actual practice of euthanasia in the

United States” (Lyons np). Passive euthanasia is death by nonintervention, meaning

a health care worker can discontinue providing life-sustaining treatment to the

patient, thus allowing him to die more quickly. “In all actuality, [passive]

euthanasia often involves withholding food and water from a patient whose death is

caused by starvation or dehydration rather than the patient’s underlying disease”

(Lyons np). In active euthanasia, a physician or family member takes the life of a

patient by means of lethal injection, before he or she dies of a terminal illness or

injury. Currently, passive euthanasia is prohibited in most states, but not all.

Whereas, active euthanasia is illegal in every state. Although many people believe

that euthanasia is a way for people to die with dignity, it is the deliberate taking of a

human life and should be banned because it is a clear form of murder.

Of course, supporters of euthanasia do not agree that this is an act of murder,

but rather they see it as an act of mercy. They believe that when an individual’s

quality of life is severely diminished by debilitating diseases or terminal illnesses, he

or she should have the right to decide between life or death by euthanasia. They

strongly feel that their love ones should be allowed to die peacefully, surrounded by

family and friends. They believe that to assist a loved one with ‘mercy killing’ is an

unselfish act of compassion, and to grant their last wish allows them to die with

dignity. The most active group of supporters are members of the Hemlock Society.

These supporters are Christians and churchgoers and believe that the God they

worship is a God of understanding and love. They also believe that “as long as [the

act of ‘mercy killing’] was justifiable and met the conditions of not hurting other

people then they feel that God would accept them into heaven” (Humphry 19).

Sure, in the eyes of euthanasia supporters, even those who claim to be

Christians, ‘mercy killing’ is a noble and compassionate act, but what is the 5th

commandment? You shall not kill. Those four words alone seem to eliminate all

possible suggestions in favor of euthanasia. Derek Humphry, founder of the

Hemlock Society, “… helped his wife, who was suffering from incurable bone

cancer, to take her life by supplying her with a cup of coffee laced with a lethal

mixture of secobarbital and codeine” (Worsnop 156). “Our society, basing its

views primarily on the fundamental values of Judaism and Christianity, has always

forbidden the taking of innocent life and has considered that act one of the most

serious, if not the most serious, breaches of morality possible” (Bleich 41).

Judeo-Christians believe that a person has no inherent right to commit suicide and

that the life of man can be reclaimed only by God Himself. They feel that suffering

is a part of God’s life plan and that human’s should accept it and learn from it. After

all, if there were no suffering, how would humans know the value of peace and

happiness? They also believe in the importance and value of human life, that it is

precious gift and should be taken care of. David Bleich expresses the views of

those opposed to euthanasia by stating that, “Human life is a divine mystery and

man [has been] commanded to create, to nurture, to sustain, and to preserve the life

that has been [given] to him” (40).

However, not all religious believers feel that euthanasia is unethical and

immoral. For example, Rabbi Joseph Edelheit states, “I would support active

euthanasia and even some selected cases of physician-assisted suicides with the

awareness and participation of the dying person and his or her family and closest

friends. I make this statement fully aware that life is a unique divine gift” (45).

Rabbi Edelheit believes that God has granted us this final act of free will. He

believes that we must humanely support euthanasia requested by patients and

surrogates, especially those lying in vegetative states or those who cannot die for

various legal reasons. He asks, “How can we justify this indignity to them and their

families?” (47). He strongly feels that those suffering deserve to die with dignity.

But does euthanasia ensure death with dignity? In all actuality, “ ‘Death with

dignity’ has become a catch phrase, but there’s nothing dignified about the methods

[euthanasia activists] advocate. For example, one euthanasia organization

distributes pamphlets on how to cause suffocation with a plastic bag. Most of Jack

Kevorkian’s ‘subjects,’ as he calls them, have been gassed to death with carbon

monoxide and some have had their bodies dumped in vehicles left in parking lots”

(Euthanasia 1). Also, the most common method of ‘mercy killing’ is withholding of

food and fluids. This process of mercy killing can take up to forty days before the

patient dies of starvation or dehydration. When food and fluids are withheld, the

body’s organs fail, causing severe abdominal cramps, nausea and vomiting, along

with depression, confusion, and delusions. This must be one of the most agonizing

ways to die and could hardly be considered a ‘dignified’ means of death. Matthew

Roberts strongly expresses his feeling towards euthanasia by stating, “…‘Death with

dignity’ is the biggest scheme ever created, the greatest ploy ever concocted, to

purposely divert attention from the real problems facing the world” (1).

Those requesting euthanasia for themselves feel that their illness is

responsible for many problems in their world. They truly believe that to end their

life, through euthanasia, would be the best solution to the many problems they and

their families are faced with. Due to their physical illness, they see themselves as a

burden to their family and loved ones, both physically and emotionally. Financial

considerations also add to this concern about being a burden. The expense of

medical treatments, equipment, and life-sustaining machines are often times found to

be too overwhelming and costly. They see euthanasia as a cheaper alternative to

health care and less ‘burdensome’ on their family members. This belief is also held

by Mr. Richard D. Lamm, an euthanasia supporter , who states, “We must look

rationally at the phenomenal amount of resources we spend on the last few weeks of

people’s lives, only to prolong suffering” (132).

However, you cannot put a price on the life of a human being. Life is a gift to

be treasured and taken care of by whatever means necessary. “One of the most

common reasons used to justify active euthanasia or assisted suicide is to relieve the

patient from pain. Yet, improvements in pain control are widely recognized by

virtually all segments of the medical profession as rendering this argument virtually

obsolete” (Lyons np). Modern medicine should be used to provide the most

up-to-date means of pain control and not used to kill. The will to live and to survive

is the strongest of all life’s natural instincts. If given a choice between life and

death, the majority of people choose to live. “A scientific study of people with

terminal illness was published in the American Journal of Psychiatry found that

fewer than one in four expressed a wish to die, and all of those who did had

clinically diagnosable depression” (Brown 210). Often times, terminal illnesses are

not treatable, but the depression is, and it is the depression that causes the patient to

consider euthanasia. With the help of counseling, psychological assistance, and

medical care, patients with terminal illnesses often can find positive alternatives to

euthanasia. According to Dr. Kubler -Ross, the dying process has five (5) stages;

denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance. Many valuable lessons are

learned during each of these stages. To end life early, by means of euthanasia, robs

a person of these lessons, such as, understanding the meaning of one’s life,

resolving old disputes, mending relationships and fully appreciating all the good

things that have been a part of one’s life. Opponents of euthanasia believe that

every human being deserves to experience this complete passage during the last

precious moments of their life.

Although many people are opposed to the banning of euthanasia, both passive

and active, it should be prohibited in all fifty states because it is clearly immoral and

unjust. The name ‘euthanasia’, often reffered to as ‘mercy killing’ is a misleading

concept. For the translation suggests, euthanasia is a compassionate and noble act

which allows people to ‘die with dignity’ and to end his or her suffering.

Realistically however, should starvation, dehydration, and suffocation be considered

‘compassionate’? Even the hippocrates, as far back as 460 B.C., expressed the same

opinion when they created the Hippocratic Oath which states, “I will follow that

method treatment which, according to my ability and judgment, I consider for the

benefit of my patients, and abstain from whatever is deleterious and mischievious. I

will give no deadly medicine to anyone if asked, nor suggest any such counsel…”

(Hippocratic 1). “… the Hippocratic tradition has stood for the ‘sanctity’ of human

life. We can alleviate the unbearable in life better than ever before. We can do that

and not eliminate life itself, … medicine cannot be both our healer and our killer”

(Koop np ). This statement seems to summarize the beliefs of those opposed to

euthanasia, ‘mercy killing’ is just plain killing.


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