Euthanasia Essay, Research Paper
Euthanasia, it is one of the most controversial issues of our time. This controversial issue raises many questions such as: how should decisions be made, and by whom? What should be determined as a matter of law and what left a matter of discretion and judgment? Should those who want to die, or who are in a ?persistent vegetative state? be allowed to die voluntarily? Who should decide: the patient, the physician, the courts, or the families? The pro-euthanasia arguments turn on the individual case of the patient in pain, suffering at the center of an intolerable existence. When life becomes unbearable, quick death can be the answer. If living persons become so ill that they cannot tolerate the pain they have a “right to die” to an escape from torment, some may say. So long as the right to die means not prolonging the life by undesirable treatment, it may be classified as rational suicide.
The term ?euthanasia? means ?good health? or ?well dying?; it is derived from the Greek ?eu? and ?thanatos?. In its classical sense, it is a descriptive term referring to an easy death as opposed to an agonizing or tormented dying. In Greek literature, euthanasia conveyed a ?happy death, an ideal and coveted end to a full and pleasant life.? The concern to die well is as old as humanity itself, for the questions surrounding death belong to the essence of being human. All people die, but apparently only people know they are to die. They live with the truth that life is under the sentence of death. Thus, from the ?beginning of the species concern with how one dies has been an implicit part of the human attempt to come to terms with death.? There is still a question involved in the contemporary debates about euthanasia which is posed by a case such as the terminally ill who are dying.
The issue concerns the morality of mercy in aiding the dying patient. The question goes beyond simply withdrawing treatments. The issue is whether, in the name of mercy, one might morally aid someone’s dying? ?Are circumstances under which it is morally responsible to terminate a person, or does love always require resisting death through every means possible?? Some argue that “it is harder morally to justify letting somebody die a slow and ugly death, dehumanized, than it is to justify helping him to escape from such misery. Some very prominent people are making packs with friends or relatives that specify that either will help the other die when life becomes desperate from pain or tragic accident. Families and physicians feel a variety of powerful emotions when dealing with a patient dying a slow and agonizing death. Certainly they wish that the pain were relieved and that health restored; that the patient not die but go on living and sharing concerns and joys together. ?When the illness is terminal and there is no hope of relief or recovery, however, death is often desired for the patient as God’s appointed way to relieve suffering.?
This issue raised concerns to doctors. Even the best doctors, given all the pressures that they must bear, could ?benefit from more structured ways of remaining informed about how their efforts are viewed by their patients.? Most doctors found themselves spending more time than ever before dealing with decisions they were never trained to make decisions at the edge of life. Where the question ?is what can be done for the patient.? He is uncomfortable when the issue turns from how to sustain a patient’s life to such questions as whether to stop providing nourishment, thereby, to end a patient’s life. It is strongly believed that physicians can play a positive role in the active euthanasia of mentally competent, terminally ill people who request assistance in ending their own lives. It is crucial that physicians who choose to help dying patients in this way should be ?free to do so without the fear of criminal prosecution.?
There are those who will say that active euthanasia is not part of the physician’s role and never has been. Historical evidence, however, indicates that it was ?common practice for Grecian and Roman physicians to assist in suicide.? Physicians are not alone in having a high rate of stress impairment; other high stress occupations also have such problems. The choices and challenges faced by today’s doctors, and the “reality of their complex relationships with patients, peers, and social situations have left the Hippocratic oath behind.” Doctors are no doubt eager to explain about the stresses they must bear in the face of difficult decisions. They have their responsibilities, but should they support the patient’s position, or should they stay out of it? Should they side with the family? These are very hard questions for them to face. They could avoid those decisions if they could, but there are too many pressures to allow them that comfortable escape.
They come from many directions. ?The most compelling pressure is the concern for the interests of patients; they realize that some patients may be harmed rather than helped by life sustaining treatment.? Some cases have yielded mixed results in state courts, and the Supreme Court, that restricts the rights of family members to direct the withdrawal of such treatment in the absence of written evidence of the patient’s wishes that is clear and compelling. There is a legitimate public interest in preventing such outcomes no matter what the patient would have wanted. The decision to forgo life sustaining treatment must surely be as hard as any that arises in a hospital or within a family.
Principles to guide such a decision are elusive, because whenever the question arises, some of our most cherished values are in conflict. People believe in the value of life but it is not clear that all life has value no matter what. People believe that suffering should be reduced, but sometimes that means shortening life. People also believe that patients’ wishes should be respected, but that seems not always best for the patients. It is expected of doctors to be a strong champions of life, but people fear their capacity to impose continue life. Cardinal Joh