Facts And Ethics Behind Euthanasia Essay Research 2

Facts And Ethics Behind Euthanasia- Essay, Research Paper Facts and Ethics Behind Euthanasia- Euthanasia is defined by The American Heritage Dictionary as

Facts And Ethics Behind Euthanasia- Essay, Research Paper

Facts and Ethics Behind Euthanasia-

Euthanasia is defined by The American Heritage Dictionary as

“the action of killing an individual for reasons considered to be

merciful” (469). Here, killing is described as the physical action

where one individual actively kills another. Euthanasia is tolerated

in the medical field under certain circumstances when a patient is

suffering profoundly and death is inevitable. The word “euthanasia”

comes from the Greek eu, “good”, and thanatos, “death,” literally,

“good death”; however, the word “euthanasia” is much more difficult to

define. Each person may define euthanasia differently. Who is to

decide whether a death is good or not? Is any form of death good? All

of these questions can be answered differently by each person. It is

generally taken today to mean that act which a health care

professional carries out to help his/her patient achieve a good death.

Suicide, self-deliverance, auto-euthanasia, aid-in-dying,

assisted suicide — call it what you like — can be justified by the

average supporter of the so-called “right to die movement” for the

following reasons: The first reason is that an advanced terminal

illness is causing unbearable suffering to the individual. This

suffering is the most common reason to seek an early end. Second, a

grave physical handicap exists that is so restricting that the

individual cannot, even after due care, counseling, and re-training,

tolerate such a limited existence. This handicap is a fairly rare

reason for suicide; most impaired people cope remarkably well with

their affliction, but there are some who would, at a certain point,

rather die. We say that there is a second form of suicide; justifiable

suicide, that is a rational and planned self-deliverance from a

painful and hopeless disease which will shortly end in death. I do not

think the word “suicide” sits well in this context but we are stuck

with it. Suicide is the taking of one’s own life. Why does the term

euthanasia even exist? Is euthanasia not suicide? A differentiation

must be made between the two. Suicide is condoned by society as being

unacceptable but euthanasia is viewed as moral and acceptable in most

instances. The term “self-deliverance” is difficult to understand

because the news media is in love with the words “doctor-assisted

suicide”. This is because the news media is dissecting the notion of

whether or not doctors, who are supposed to preserve life, should

partake in euthanasia. The media is failing to look at the actual

issue of euthanasia, but instead, they are looking at the decision of

whether or not doctors should assist in euthanasia. Also, we have to

face the fact that the law calls all forms of self-destruction

suicide.

There are ethical guidelines for euthanasia. If the following

guidelines are met, then euthanasia is considered acceptable. The

person must be a mature adult. This is essential. The exact age will

depend on the individual but the person should not be a minor who

would come under quite different laws. Secondly, the person must have

clearly made a considered decision. An individual has the ability now

to indicate this with a living will (which applies only to

disconnection of life supports) and can also, in today’s more open and

tolerant society, freely discuss the option of euthanasia with

health-care professionals, family, lawyers, etc. The euthanasia must

not be carried out at the first knowledge of a life-threatening

illness, and reasonable medical help must have been sought to cure or

at least slow down the terminal disease. I do not believe in giving up

life the minute a person is informed that he or she has a terminal

illness. Life is precious, you only live once, and it is worth a

fight. It is when the fight is clearly hopeless and the agony,

physical and mental, is unbearable that a final exit is an option. The

treating physician must have been informed, asked to be involved, and

his or her response been taken into account. The physician’s response

will vary depending on the circumstances, of course, but they should

advise their patients that a rational suicide is not a crime. It is

best to inform the doctor and hear his or her response. For example,

the patient might be mistaken. Perhaps the diagnosis has been misheard

or misunderstood. Patients raising this subject were met with a

discreet silence or meaningless remarks in the past but in today’s

more accepting climate most physicians will discuss potential end of

life actions. The person must have a Will disposing of his or her

worldly effects and money.

This shows evidence of a tidy mind, an orderly life, and

forethought, all things which are important to an acceptance of

rational suicide. The person must have made plans to die that do not

involve others in criminal liability or leave them with guilty

feelings. Assistance in suicide is a crime in most places, although

the laws are gradually changing, and very few cases ever come before

the courts. The only well-known instance of a lawsuit concerning this

is the doctor-assisted suicide of Dr. Kevorkian. The person must leave

a note saying exactly why he or she is taking their life. This

statement in writing removes the chance of misunderstandings or blame.

It also demonstrates that the departing person is taking full

responsibility for the action. These are all guidelines for allowing a

euthanasia to take place. By this, I mean the doctor is involved in

the patient’s decision and actively performs the euthanasia. I believe

that passive euthanasia would show a lack of interest on the doctor’s

part. Simply allowing a patient to die does not require a doctor’s

presence.

Passive euthanasia should not even exist. Euthanasia is

defined as “the action of killing…” James Rachels states in his

“Active and Passive Euthanasia” that “The important difference between

active and passive euthanasia is that in passive euthanasia, the

doctor does not do anything to bring about the patient’s death. The

doctor does nothing and the patient dies of whatever ills already

afflict him. In active euthanasia, however, the doctor does something

to bring about the patient’s death: he [actively] kills him” (1024).

Is allowing a patient to die considered to be an action? Rachels

states “…the process of being allowed to die can be relatively slow

and painful, whereas being given a lethal injection is relatively

quick and painless” (1020). Disconnecting respiratory devices is not

an acceptable method of euthanasia. It causes the patient to starve

for oxygen and gasp for it, but when he/she cannot breathe, the body

is starved of oxygen and suffocates. This is not merciful by any

means. Rachels also states, “One reason why so many people think that

there is an important moral difference between active and passive

euthanasia is that they think killing someone is morally worse than

letting someone die” (1022). The idea that a patient utilizes a

medical device and has grown dependent on it for life is a grim one

indeed; however, relieving a patient who relies on this machine for

his/her life by simply cutting it off is not acceptable. Leon Kass

states in his “Why Doctor’s Must Not Kill,” “Ceasing medical

intervention, allowing nature to take its course, differs

fundamentally from mercy killing. For one thing, death does not

necessarily follow the discontinuance of treatment” (1034). This

states my point exactly. Euthanasia is the physical action of putting

someone to a painless death who is suffering tremendously. The passive

nature of allowing someone to die is not euthanasia. This is not an

physical action taken by a doctor to ease a patient’s suffering and

agony.

The doctor should decide whether the ailment is curable and if

it is not, he/she should decide whether the patient will live

productively for months or even years to come. If the ailment is not

immediately fatal, will it cause pain and suffering for the rest of

the patient’s life? How old is the patient? Will he/she live much

longer anyway? All these factors should come into play when deciding

whether a patient should be euthanized; however, the doctor’s answers

to these questions may differ from those of the patient and his/her

family. It is up to the patient’s doctor to decide whether the

patient’s ailment is indeed curable. The patient should be presented

with the facts. The doctor should tell the patient exactly how it is

and not project the false hope that the patient may recover. With this

information, the patient can make an informed decision and feel that

it is the best one. Sidney Hook states in his “In Defense of Voluntary

Euthanasia” that “Each one should be permitted to make his own choice-

especially when no one else is harmed by it. The responsibility for

the decision, whether deemed wise or foolish, must be with the

chooser” (1028). This is evidenced quite simply by the mere fact that

everyone has civil rights and liberties. No one can decide who should

die and who should not. Everyone is in complete control of his/her own

life and; therefore, should be free to decide.

Having considered the arguments in favor of auto-euthanasia,

the person should also contemplate the arguments against it. First,

should the person go into a hospice program instead and receive not

only first-class pain management but comfort care and personal

attention? Put simply, hospices make the best of a bad job, and they

do so with great skill and love. The right-to-die movement supports

their work, but not everyone wants a lingering death, not everyone

wants that form of care. Today many terminally ill people take the

marvelous benefits of home hospice programs and still accelerate the

end when suffering becomes too much. A few hospice leaders claim that

their care is so perfect that there is absolutely no need for anyone

to consider euthanasia. While I have no wish to criticize them, they

are wrong to claim perfection. Most, but not all, terminal pain can

today be controlled with the sophisticated use of drugs, but the

point these leaders miss is that personal quality of one’s live is

foremost to some people. If one’s body has been so destroyed by

disease that it is not worth living, that is an intensely individual

decision which should not be swayed. In some cases of the final days

in hospice care, when the pain is very serious, the patient is drugged

into unconsciousness. If that way is acceptable to the patient, then

so be it, but some people do not wish their final hours to be in that

fashion. There should be no conflict between hospice and euthanasia,

both are valid options in a caring society. Both are appropriate to

different people with differing values.

The other consideration is related to religion: does suffering

glorify a person? Is suffering, as related to Jesus Christ’s suffering

on the cross, a part of the preparation for meeting God? Are you

merely a steward of your life, which is a gift from God, which only He

may take away. If your answers to these questions is yes, then you

should not be involved in any form of euthanasia. Remember that there

are millions of atheists, as well as people of differing religions,

and they all have rights, too. Many Christians who believe in

euthanasia justify it by reasoning that the God whom they worship is

loving and tolerant, and would not wish to see them in agony. They do

not see their God as being so vengeful as refusing them the Kingdom of

Heaven if they accelerated the end of their life to avoid prolonged,

unbearable suffering. A doctor should not be allowed to “play God” and

decide who should live and who should die. In fact, even the patient

should not be allowed to, but it is the patient’s life and he/she has

to live it. So, it is only logical to allow the patient, and no one

else, to decide.

Another consideration must be that, by ending one’s life

before its natural end, is one is depriving oneself of a valuable

period of good life? Is that last period of love and companionship

with family and friends worth hanging on for? Even the most determined

supporters of euthanasia hang on until the last minute; sometimes too

long, and lose control. They, too, gather with their families and

friends to say goodbyes. There are important reunions and often

farewell parties. Euthanasia supporters enjoy life and love living,

and their respect for the sanctity of life is as strong as anybody’s.

Yet they are willing, if their dying is distressing to them, to give

up a few weeks or a few days at the very end and leave under their own

control. Ultimately, the decision lies with the beholder. It is the

right of a person to make his/her own choice, with some limitations.

It is the doctor’s responsibility to provide the patient with an

accurate prognosis so that the patient may make an educated decision.