Euthanasia is often confused with physician-assisted suicide. Euthanasia is when one person does something that directly kills another. For example, a doctor gives a lethal injection to a patient. In assisted suicide, a non-suicidal person knowingly and intentionally provides the means or acts in some way to help a suicidal person kill himself or herself. For example, a doctor writes a prescription for poison, or someone hooks up a face mask and tubing to a canister of carbon monoxide and then instructs the suicidal person on how to push a lever so that she'll be gassed to death. For all practical purposes, any distinction between euthanasia and assisted suicide has been abandoned today.
Euthanasia in Australia (pre-1995)
In the last decade or so several Australian states and territories have taken action aimed at guaranteeing the right of adult patients of sound mind to direct that extraordinary measures to prolong life be stopped. South Australia passed the Natural Death Act in 1983, Victoria the Medical Treatment Act in 1988, the Northern Territory the Natural Death Act in 1988 and the Australian Capital Territory passed the Medical Treatment Act in 1994. NSW issued "interim guidelines" in 1993.
The afore-mentioned legislation covers the following: 1) Refusal or withdrawal of current treatment. 2) Issuing a direction for refusal of certain treatment in the event that the patient becomes incompetent to make decisions. 3) Appointing an agent to make decisions on refusal of treatment in the event that the patient becomes incompetent to make decisions.
Though these legislative guidelines deal with the rights of a patient to refuse current medical treatment, ...
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... feelings" for being a burden or too costly to those of the community who are in difficult circumstances, may become such that they perceive a subtle duty on them to exercise the euthanasia option. The choice may well become a perceived duty. This is especially so when considered in the context of comments by those such as former Governor General, Hon Bill Hayden's comments that “there is a point when the succeeding generations deserve to be disencumbered -to coin a clumsy word - of some unproductive burdens”.
Conclusion In recent years euthanasia has become a very contentious topic. The Greek means easy death, yet the controversy surrounding it is just the opposite. Whether the issue is refusing to prolong life mechanically, assisting suicide or active euthanasia, we eventually have to confront societies’ fears towards death itself. Above all culture cultivates fear against ageing, death, and dying, and it is not easy for people to except that it is an inevitable part of life. However, the issues that surround euthanasia are not only about death and dying but are also about rights, liberty, privacy and control over one’s body. So the question remains: who has the right?
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