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Euthanasia: Humane and Dignified

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Advances in modern medical technology have served to deny people the right to die, and euthanasia, it may be argued, has emerged with the purpose of reclaiming that right. Euthanasia, which is defined as “granting painless death to a hopelessly ill patient with a non-curable disease,” is a very controversial issue (Russell 3). Illegal in all countries, except the Nertherlands, it is still practiced all over the world in an attempt to give people the right to a painless, and natural, death (Emanuel 1). In short, the advances in modern medicine and its techniques, have created a situation whereby people’s lives are artificially extended, despite the fact that they could be in an irrecoverable coma or suffering from an incurable chronic illness, leading increasing numbers of people to support euthanasia, as an option for a humane and dignified death.

While there is a tendency to treat euthanasia as a single concept, it is actually a very general one involving two distinct methods and practices. In general terms, it is defined as “the mercy killing of a person, that is to say, the intentional and express termination of a life whose quality is such that it is not worth living” (Kluge 132). In more specific terms, euthanasia is either active and positive, or passive and negative, with both being further defined according to whether they occurred voluntarily, involuntarily, or nonvoluntarily. That is, whether it occurred according to a person’s wishes, or against his wishes, or simply without his wishes due to his being in a condition where he can’t express himself.

In examining the different forms of euthanasia, it ultimately becomes clear that both voluntary and non-voluntary passive, or negative, euthanasia do not violate ethical principles as they act in such a way that they basically restore man’s right to death. This form of euthanasia “means discontinuing or desisting from the use of extraordinary life-sustaining measures or heroic efforts to prolong life in hopeless cases when such prolongation seems an unwarranted extension of either suffering or unconsciousness” (Russell 20). That is, it is an action that has the purpose of allowing death to occur naturally, whereby it becomes very difficult to criticize passive or negative euthanasia according to ethical and religious arguments. This form of euthanasia, although it can occur without ...

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When reviewed from ethical perspectives, it becomes increasingly difficult to defend the artificial extension of life, and to reject passive euthanasia. If one were to consider the doctor’s role as a healer, or a reducer of pain and suffering, it would seems that medical technology actively prevents the fulfillment of this role. Thus, the objective has become the extension of life, through unnatural and artificial means, regardless of the hopelessness of recovery, or the pain and suffering experienced by the patient. It would not be an exaggeration to call this unethical, both from the religious perspective and the medical one. According to the first perspective, it is unethical insofar as it interferes with God’s wishes that a person die. In relation to the second, the unethical aspect emerges from the fact that many doctors are no longer fulfilling their professional duty to reduce suffering but are, in reality, prolonging and intensifying it. Thus, to support passive euthanasia means supporting traditional religious and medical ethics. That is, the simple right to a natural and humane death, with as little extension of suffering as possible.
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