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There are a variety of meanings and ways to be euthanized. The meaning of euthanasia is the intentional killing by act or omission of a dependent human being for his or her alleged benefit. (The key word here is “intentional”. If death is not intended, it is not an act of euthanasia.) Euthanasia by action is intentionally causing a person’s death by performing an action such as by giving a lethal injection. Euthanasia by omission is intentionally causing death by not providing necessary and ordinary (usual and customary) care or food and water. What euthanasia is not: there is no euthanasia unless the death is intentionally caused by what was done or not done. Thus, some medical actions that are often labeled "passive euthanasia" are no form of euthanasia, since the intention to take life is lacking. These acts include not commencing treatment that would not provide a benefit to the patient, withdrawing treatment that has been shown to be ineffective, too burdensome or is unwanted, and the giving of high doses of pain-killers that may endanger life, when they have been shown to be necessary. All those are part of good medical practice, endorsed by law, when they are properly carried out. (Euthanasia definitions) Euthanasia also includes assisted suicide. If a doctor is involved with the death of a patient or person it is called physician assisted. Until recent times the word euthanasia was thought of as dying from old age or a natural death. In the nineteenth century is when physicians and politicians started using it as a life shortening death, taking years away from someone that could live a long life if cared for properly.
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For years now people have argued back and forth of its ethicalness. People that have experienced long painful deaths feel that euthanasia is a good thing. When you watch someone lay in bed in agonizing pain day in and day out you can only hope for death to come soon. When a loved one has lost all sense of life that they do not acknowledge your being you would pray for death. Why must someone suffer because the government or society says that it is morally wrong? Can they snap their fingers and revert time to when all was well? Marcia Angell the executive editor of the New England Journal of Medicine is for legalizing euthanasia. She believes that there are some cases where prolonging the death of a person is bad. Marcia contrasts voluntary euthanasia, assisted suicide, and the removal of life-sustaining treatment and contends that voluntary euthanasia is often the most humane of these options because it allows a doctor, at the patient’s request, to administer a fast painless death. (Torr 46) Other doctors and lawyers also think that euthanasia should be legalized. Two words that go hand in hand with the belief of legalizing it are hopelessness and pain.
For years now people have been trying to make it legal. The first time that the legalization of euthanasia was introduced in a bill was in the winter of nineteen hundred and six. It was drafted by Anne S. Hall of Cincinnati. After seeing her mother suffering from cancer and finally dying from it, Anne wished that she could have stopped her mother’s misery with the use of chloroform. In the early nineteen hundreds that was a common method to end a person’s life. The bill stated: When a person of legal age and sound mind is fatally hurt, or so ill that recovery is impossible, or is suffering great physical pain without hope of relief, his physician, if not a relative or interested in the person’s estate, may ask him or her, in the presence of three witnesses, if he or she wants to be killed. If the answer is affirmative three other physicians are to be called in, and if they agree that the case is hopeless, they are to proceed to do the job in a neat and convenient way…. (Lavi 94) When the bill went to vote it lost twenty-three to seventy-nine. Another bill was proposed in the nineteen thirties and that bill too was of no success. One of the biggest counters that faced legalizing euthanasia was the chance of it opening a flood gate to take advantage of the law. Opponents of the legalization say that it would allow doctors to easily perform “suicides” with no remorse. The only state that allows assisted suicide is Oregon. In nineteen ninety-four they passed the Death with Dignity Act. This allows physicians to actively assist in the death of a patient.
In the other side of the argument, when people are trying to end their life, should they be allowed? Back in the eighteen hundreds or early nineteen hundreds it would be a little easier to justify the wishes of a suffering person. The lack of available treatment led to the pain and suffering for many people, if someone had a disease that is almost completely wiped out of the United States today like polio, they could go through some pain and suffering. The level of pain and suffering varies from person to person. With today’s medical and technological advancements it is easier to control people’s pain and suffering. Cancer can now be detected more easily than in the past. If you are diagnosed with cancer you can have different types of treatments. The losses of limbs are now being replaced with prosthesis allowing people to live on with everyday functions. If someone wants to end their own life without a good cause then they should not be allowed. Diane Coleman is the president of the activist group Not Dead Yet. She believes that if euthanasia was legalized it would target the disabled more than the terminal ill. On November twenty-second, nineteen ninety-eight, CBS televised a tape of Jack Kevorkian assisting a fifty-two year old man with Lou Gehrig’s Disease kill himself. Kevorkian has admitted of assisting in the suicide of over one hundred and twenty people. According to the Detroit Free Press, the majority of the people he assisted with their suicide were not terminally ill but people with a disability. If Kevorkian were assisting members of any other minority group to die, gays or African-Americans for example, he would be in jail by now and would never have gotten the bully pulpit of 60 Minutes for the atrocity he committed. (Torr 134)
Jack Kevorkian was one of the most recognized doctors that assisted in euthanasia. The majority of his patients were females. According to some charts, Jack Kevorkian’s patients were seventy percent females compared to thirty percent males. The age groups that he assisted with the most were in their fifties followed by people in their seventies. Nineteen ninety-seven was the year that Kevorkian assisted in the most cases. There was around thirty people that died by his hand. The next two high assisted death years were in nineteen ninety-six, about nineteen, and nineteen ninety-eight was around seventeen. According to some anti-euthanasia advocates, Kevorkian assisted with more disabled people than terminally ill. After his air time on CBS Kevorkian was back in court and was found guilty of murder. He was sentenced to ten to twenty-five years in prison. He only served eight years in prison and was released because of his failing health. Jack used two machines, which he invented, to kill people. One was a machine that injected an anesthetic and than a lethal dose of potassium chloride, he called it the Thanatron. The other machine that he used to kill people was a gas mask that delivered a high dose of carbon monoxide. That machine was built in his Volkswagen bus. He called the machine the Mercitron.
After reading opinions about pro-euthanasia and anti-euthanasia I decide to do a questionnaire. I asked a few people until I got opinions from both sides. Question one was simple. Are you for or against euthanasia? Four out of five were against it and the most common reason was because of religion. No matter how much I told them to keep religion out of it they could not. My wife on the other hand stated that no one should decide when their time is to die. She firmly stated, “If someone has terminal cancer, how do you know you won’t miraculously recover from it?” (Diaz Interview) She is anti-euthanasia and she somehow managed to keep religion out of her opinion. The sole person who wants to remain anonymous believes that if someone if practically dead and suffering than they should be allowed to commit assisted suicide. The next question was what if a middle aged or elderly person has stage four cancer and has been bed ridden for the last year? Two out of the five were solid anti and the other two antis were kind of sitting on the fence saying that they should be allowed to die if they are over seventy-five and there health is deteriorating. The pro-euthanasia of course said, “Pull the plug!” (Diaz Interview) The final question asked was what if the same thing happened to a preteen as the previous question? I somehow lost my pro-euthanasia and five out of five people questioned agreed that the preteen can fight the cancer and miraculously survive. Why is it that when a baby or young person is involved people feel more sympathetic to them? People are automatically drawn to the fact that the child has not began his life and it is about to end. Why is it that a senior or middle aged man cannot get the same sympathy?
In the end the only thing that I did noticed was that people will always sympathize with a child and hope for the better. The people that seem to have the less chance of getting sympathy when it comes to being euthanized are the disabled. The two words that always came up when they talked about legalizing euthanasia were if the person is full of pain and hopelessness. People must assume that if a person is disabled than they must feel hopeless. Personally I feel that is where people are wrong. With today’s medical advancements people can have surgery to remove malignant cancers, receive medication to kill off disease causing bacteria, have prosthetics, and transplants. If someone feels that they are suffering and no longer wish to live than they should be allowed to die. As long as there is no insurance payment or settlements involved than they should have the green light, regardless of their age, race, sex, or creed. If someone wants to go peacefully then they can go to Oregon because that is the only state that allows assisted suicide. With the world crumbling right before us, people may soon be in the same boat as some of terminally ill. The air is getting so polluted, as is the water, which is contributing to people developing more illnesses. Even the foods that we eat are threatening our health. Lastly my biggest reason that euthanasia will never be passed is because the government and the insurance companies are in bed together. Do the math, a dead person equals no money and an ill person equals big money.
Diaz, Edgardo. Personal interviews. 18 Mar. 2011.
Euthanasia Definitions. Last updated 2011. http://euthanasia.com/defintions.html.
Euthanasia Introduction. Last update 2011. http://www.enotes.com/euthanasia-article.
Lavi, Shai J. The Modern Art of Dying. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2005.
National Right to Life. The Robert Powell Center for Medical Ethics. http://www.nrlc.org/euthanasia/.
Torr, James D. Euthanasia: Opposing Viewpoints. San Diego: Greenhaven Press, Inc., 2000