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Are Physician-Assisted Suicide and Euthanasia Ethical? Essay

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Is Euthanasia Ethical? 

 
      Euthanasia is one of the most acute and uncomfortable contemporary

problems in medical ethics.  Is Euthanasia Ethical?  The case for euthanasia

rests on one main fundamental moral principle: mercy.

 

      It is not a new issue; euthanasia has been discussed-and practised-in

both Eastern and Western cultures from the earliest historical times to the

present.  But because of medicine's new technological capacities to extend  life,

the problem is much more pressing than it has in the past, and both the

discussion and practice of euthanasia are more widespread.

 

      Euthanasia is a way of granting mercy-both by direct killing and by

letting the person die.  This principle of mercy establishes two component

duties: 1. the duty not to cause further pain or suffering; and 2. the duty to

act to end pain or suffering already occurring. Under the first of these, for a

physician or other caregiver to extend mercy to a suffering patient may mean to

refrain from procedures that cause further suffering-provided, of course, that

the treatment offers the patient no overriding benefits.  The physician must

refrain from ordering painful tests, therapies, or surgical procedures when they

cannot alleviate suffering or contribute to a patient's improvement or cure.

Perhaps the most familiar contemporary medical example is the treatment of burn

victims when survival is unprecedented; if with the treatments or without them

the chances of the patient's survival is nil, mercy requires the physician not

to impose the debridement treatments , which are excruciatingly painful, when

they can provide the patie...


... middle of paper ...


...rom inattention, malevence, fears of addiction, or divergent priorities

in resources.

 

      In all of these cases, of course, the patient can be sedated into

unconsciousness; this does indeed end the pain.  But in respect of the patient's

experience, this is tantamount to causing death: the patient has no further

conscious experience and thus can achieve no goods, experience no significant

communication, satisfy no goals.  Furthermore, adequate sedation, by depressing

respiratory function, may hasten death.  Though it is always technically

possible to achieve relief from pain, at least when the appropriate resources

are available, the price may be functionally and practically equivalent, at

least from the patient's point of view, to death.  And this, of course, is just

what the issue of euthanasia is about.


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