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Is Euthanasia Immoral?

 

      Euthanasia comes from the Greek word "Thanatos" meaning death and the

prefix "eu" meaning easy or good (Russell 94). Thus, "eu-Thanatos" meaning

easy or good death. In today's society there are many disagreements about the rights and

wrongs of euthanasia.  Although death is unavoidable for human beings, suffering

before death is unbearable not only for terminal patients but for the family

members and friends. Euthanasia is a better choice for terminal

patients than suicide.

 

      In our society, suicide is always traumatic for families and friends. If

there is no alternative to relieve the suffering of terminal patients,  then the

more humane option to suicide is euthanasia.  An option for people that are

unsure of euthanasia is called DNR or do not resuscitate(McCuen 2). This means

that if the patient has a heart attack or another potentially fatal problem in

the hospital, the doctors  are told to preform a " No Code" which means that

they should let the patient die peacefully with any amount of painkillers or

medication requested by the patient(McCuen 3). Doctors that are treating a dying

patient should treat them with care. They should make them as comfortable as

possible and give them medication to dull their pain.

 

        Instructors tell doctors in training to treat dying patients as people "

that are alive but just that their death is more imminent than our own"(Moroney

2).

 

        Many families could rest easy that their relative is being treated well

and are receiving the necessary attention. A lot of terminal patients decide to

sign DNR forms or request euthanasia so that they would not be a burden on their

families. Euthanasia should be legalized in all of the United States because it

would end much suffering and pain.

 

      Euthanasia is the justified killing or assisted killing of a disabled or

terminally ill person at their will or if the patient is incapable of making the

decision, at the family's will(Satris 260).  The doctor or in some cases, a

family member, uses injections, weapons, or other means of killing to act out

euthanasia. But euthanasia is usually gentle and quiet. In most of the cases of

euthanasia, the patient died by lethal injection or certain life support systems

were withheld.

 

      There are many types of euthanasia. The most common type is voluntary

euthanasia(Russell 32). Voluntary euthanasia is euthanasia that is preformed at

the will of the patient. Involuntary euthanasia is the other type of

euthanasia(Russell 32).  That is when the patient does not want euthanasia, but

it is administered (i.e.-compulsory). There are also different ways to

administer euthanasia. One is direct euthanasia, which is deliberately inducing

death in order to terminate hopeless suffering(Russell 31). Then there is

indirect euthanasia which is indirectly causing death with the use of drugs to

relieve pain, but hasten death(Russell 31).

 

      When a patient pleads for euthanasia doctors are placed in a dilemma. If

they help the patient die then their practicing license could be taken away and

they may be taken to court, possibly ruining their career(McCuen 53). However,

the patient who is constantly in pain will always be on the doctor's conscience

unless they do something about it. Usually the doctor decides to help the

patient by either giving the patient extremely strong painkillers and telling

them the lethal dosage or directly assisting in the death of the patient(McCuen

53).

 

        A doctor that has helped terminal patients die is Dr. Jack Kevorkian. He

is probably the most well known for this practice because he does not deny he

practices it. The first case that Dr. Kevorkian had was  in 1990. He met his

"patient" in Michigan (which did not prohibit euthanasia at that time). The

woman's name was Janet Adkins, who was suffering from Alzheimer's disease(Levine

114). Using a machine that Kevorkian invented she killed herself. This machine

that Kevorkian made consisted of an IV that first dripped salt water into the

patient. Then when the patient was ready, she pressed a button that released a

chemical agent that induced unconsciousness. After about five minutes, the

machine delivered a lethal dose of potassium chloride(Levine 115).

 

      Some people think that euthanasia is not acceptable in our society

because of a variety of reasons. Many who oppose of euthanasia fear that if it

were to be legalized then many people would die needlessly and murders in so-

called "mercy killings" would run rampant(Satris 262).  Others believe that

since we are the property of God then we should wait until He is ready to

receive us(Russell 93). Many churches and religious groups oppose euthanasia

stating that the sixth commandment "Thou Shalt Not Kill" also extends to

euthanasia. But this also raises many questions. Why do these churches and

religious groups specifically target euthanasia as horrific killing when there

is war in this world. Every day countries send troops to kill and to be killed,

but  these religious groups seem to ignore these problems(Russell 93). Many

medical doctors also oppose euthanasia. They say that assisted suicide "violates

one's will to survive" and that it violates our dignity. They believe that one

of our natural human goals is to survive and if we practice euthanasia, then

that goal is destroyed(Satris 258).

 

      When doctors receive their license to practice medicine they have to

take the Hippocratic Oath. This oath says that " I will neither give a deadly

drug to anybody when asked for it, nor will I make a suggestion to that

effect."(Levine 104).  However, many pro-euthanasians say that the oath means

that they should not give anybody a deadly drug to kill an enemy with, nor

should

 they tell the person what to use to kill. A quote from Carol Levine says, " on

the other hand, if the goal of medicine is not simply to prolong life but to

reduce pain, then questions arise about the oath"(105). Another problems with

euthanasia is that if an elderly patient is entered into a hospital, they are

immediately deemed to be frail and are treated like terminal patients. The

thought of euthanasia as a choice instead of a cure may prompt doctors to

prematurely induce death(McCuen 2).

 

       The recovery from an illness requires that we fight it. If we know that

there is an easy way out, such as euthanasia, then the human consciousness

instinctively tries to take that way out(Satris 262). Other problematic

situations with euthanasia is that a person with a non-terminal disease may

blindly choose euthanasia without a settled desire to die(Haifetz 21). It is

also likely that a person who chooses euthanasia may change his or her mind at

the last moment and then

 it is obviously too late(Heifetz 21).

 

      On the other hand, a growing number of people believe that euthanasia is

acceptable in our society because it relieves the unnecessary pain and suffering

of  patients and their family.

 

        Euthanasia is also a good way for people that have family members that

are either extremely deformed or retarded to help out the person and end their

incapacitated lives.  In the Netherlands,  euthanasia can be legally

administered under four conditions: a) if the patient is suffering intolerably

and there is no hope of recovery, b) if the patient is capable of deciding

whether to choose euthanasia or not, c) if the patient repeatedly asks for

euthanasia over a repeated period of time, and d) if another doctor that has not

treated or previously examined the patient agree that euthanasia should be

enforced(Levine 110). Robert George has his opinion on the "right to die", He

says that 1) people own themselves, 2)owners can dispose of their property as

they see fit, and 3) people are therefore entitled to kill themselves and even

to engage the help of others in doing so(50)

 

      Euthanasia is also a very good choice for senior citizens because they

often suffer much before they finally can die.Sufferring is a terrible thing and

we have a clear duty to comfort those in need and to ease their sufferring when

we can. Elderly people are also prone to painful diseases and medical problems.

Mercy killing can end their pain in a non-traumatic way for their families'. In

the days of Socrates, Plato and the Stoics euthanasia was even

permissible(Russell 42). The Greeks had a tradition that when all the old

members of the society outlived their usefulness, they would ge together and

drink  a deadly poison(Russell 42). Thus eliminating a burden on their families

and on themselves.

 

      To date, there is still much controversy about the legalization of

euthanasia. But as long as there are willing and kindhearted doctors and people,

eventually there will be a time when euthanasia will be allowed and poor

souls can die peacefully. So far, 35 states allow the withdrawal or withholding

of life sustaining equipment of terminal patients at their will. The trend in

mercy killing will continue until leaders in health care can show that there is

another alternative that is more merciful(McCuen 3). Until then, Doctors and

family members, will still have to resort to illegal euthanasia to help their

patients and loved ones.

 

Works Cited

 

George, Robert P. and William C. Porth Jr. "A Duty to Live?" National Review

                                    26 June 1995

 

Heifetz, Milton D. and Charles Mangel. The Right to Die.

      Toronto: Longman Canada Limited, 1975.

 

Levine, Carol. Is Physician-Assisted Suicide Ethical?

      Guilford: The Dushkin Publishing Group Inc.,1991.

 

Russell, Ruth. Freedom to Die.

      New York: Human Sciences Press, 1977.

 

Society for the Right to Die. The Physician and the Hopelessly Ill Patient.

      New York: Society for the Right to Die, 1985.

 Works Consulted

 

Lemonrick, Michael D. "Defining the Right to Die." Time

      15 April 1996. 82.

 

Moroney, Catherine. "Three Choices for Death." America

      21 November  1992.

 

Nichols, Mark. "Dying by Choice." Maclean's Magazine.

      20 May 1996. 47

 

William, J. Gay. "The Wrongfulness of Euthanasia."  Intervention and Reflection:

Basic Issues in Medical Ethics. Ed. Ronald Munson. Gilford, Connecticut: Dushkin

Publishing Group Inc, 1979

 

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