Anderson 1Professor McGintyENG 13013 December 2002Should Assistance Be Allowed?The origin of the word euthanasia is from the Greek eu meaning “good”and thanos meaning “death”. Euthanasia has been traced as far back asancient Greek and Roman civilizations. These ancient societies approved ofvoluntary euthanasia. Religion increased as time passed and life wasviewed to be sacred.
This caused euthanasia to be seen as wrong in allforms. Euthanasia is the action of inducing the painless death of a personfor reasons assumed to be merciful. This usually means killing in the nameof passion. Euthanasia and assisted suicide are subject to debate overwhether it should be legal and whether it is ethical and moral to allow itto be done.
There are many forms of euthanasia. They are passive euthanasia,active euthanasia, and involuntary euthanasia. The patients are notrequired to have to extend their lives for as long as possible (Battin336). Allowing a person to die a natural death by withdrawing some form ofsupport is passive euthanasia. Some examples are removing life support,stopping medical procedures and medications, not delivering cardiopulmonaryresuscitation (CPR) and depriving a patient of food and water. It iswidely accepted for a mentally competent patient to refuse treatment.
Technically, passive euthanasia is legal because the patient is dying of anatural disease (Cundiff 2-3). Causing the death of a patient throughdirect action is active euthanasia. The most common active euthanasiaperformed is an overdose of medication (Cundiff 3). Active euthanasia isconsidered murder, therefore is against the law (1).
Involuntaryeuthanasia isAnderson 2usually considered mercy killing, which is when someone kills a sufferingindividual who is unable to request or perform the act themselves (Thomasma20). Some patients request something else besides euthanasia. Theysometimes request assisted suicide.
Assisted suicide involves a non-suicidal person knowingly and intentionally providing a suicidal person themeans or acts in some way to help that person kill him or herself. Themost common occurring assisted suicide is physician-assisted suicide(Battin 28). Physician-assisted suicide is when a patient can easilyterminate their own life through information and/or the means of committingsuicide supplied by a physician. It is illegal for a patient to beassisted when asking for help in committing suicide.Most people agree that a patient may choose to avoid suffering andpain, but they do not agree on the means used to do so (Battin 63).
Thereare three main positions that people take on the issue of physician-assisted suicide. The first position is that physician-assisted suicideshould be legally available to all competent adults. Another positionpeople take is that physician-assisted suicide should be legally availableonly to the terminally ill, or possible just to the terminally ill and tothe severely and permanently disabled. The last position that people takeis that physician-assisted suicide should be legally available to no one(149).People feel that when a terminally ill person attempts to commitsuicide or asks for assistance in committing suicide, they are sufferingfrom depression, which is treatable.
People feel that once the depressionis treated, there is no reason for suicide or euthanasia. Asking forassisted suicide and euthanasia from clinically depressed patients hascaused people who are against euthanasia and assisted suicide to want it tobe strictly controlled because there could be more assisted suicides thannecessary if it was legalized.Anderson3Elderly people and AIDS patients are some of the people who mostcommonly attempt or commit suicide (Hendin 152). Patients with AIDS,terminal cancer, Alzheimer’s disease, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, alsoknown as Lou Gehrig’s disease, and persistent vegetative state are the mostcommon people to ask for assisted suicide and euthanasia (Horan 105). Theyask for assisted suicide or euthanasia because they live with intractablepain, loss of dignity, and/or loss of capacity.
They also ask for itbecause they want to commit suicide, a legal act, but can not because theyhave a mental limitation, physical limitation, or both. These limitationsdo not allow them to follow out their wish, therefore they ask forassistance. People who desire assisted suicide or euthanasia are seekingrelief from their suffering, not death as an end to life itself.Most common of ways euthanasia and assisted suicide are performed areby lethal injection, gas, the removal of life support equipment, thewithholding of food and fluids, and the removal of necessary medications.The use of lethal injections and the use of gas, such as carbon monoxide,and mercy killings are against the law.
Physician-assisted suicide ispermitted in Oregon under controlled conditions. It is not specificallymentioned in North Carolina, Utah, and Wyoming’s laws, and it is againstthe law in the remaining states. The “Death with Dignity” law of Oregonhas certain conditions that must be met in order for euthanasia or assistedsuicide to be legal. The patient must be terminally ill, have six monthsor less to live, make two oral requests for assistance in dying, make onewritten request for assistance, convince two physicians that he or she issincere, not acting on a whim, and that the decision is voluntary, notinfluenced by depression, be informed about feasible alternatives, and waitfifteen days. Once these requirements are met, the patient can receive aprescription of a barbiturate that will be enough to cause death.Anderson4Medication intended to cause the death of the patient can only betaken orally.
People consider this a careless flaw that could hurt ratherthan help patients that want to end their pain. Consumption of themedication orally may be ineffective because some patients vomit up pillsbefore they can take full effect while other patients cannot swallow pillsbecause of their physical condition. This can lead to a coma or alingering death, which defeats the purpose of the euthanasia or assistedsuicide.
Physicians sometimes find it troublesome to treat terminally illpatients because they have two irreconcilable duties. One of their dutiesis to prolong the lives of their patients and their other duty is torelieve their patients’ pain and suffering. But some physicians feel thatin order to relieve their patients’ pain is to kill them (Battin 184).Americans are starting to favor euthanasia and assisted suicidebecause of the fear of painful and undignified deaths resulting frommedical technology that permits us to lead a pointless life (Hendin 150).
People in favor of euthanasia and assisted suicide feel that they arebeneficial if a person’s life contains only misery and pain (Battin 31).People who are in favor of the legalization of physician-assisted suicidefeel that terminally ill patients have the right to relieve themselves frompain and suffering and the right to end their lives (63). Proponents alsofeel that pain control is not adequate and therefore terminally ill peopleneed another means of relieving the pain, which is assisted suicide (63-64).The Hemlock Society supports the legalization of physician-assistedsuicide as an option for terminally ill, mentally competent adults whorequest it. They support it being used under two conditions. One is by anindividual who suffers unbearable pain due to advanced terminal illness.The other circumstance is when it is used by patients who have a criticalphysicalAnderson 5handicap that restricts the individual so much that he or she cannottolerate such a limited existence (Wekesser 18).
Hemlock Society has beentrying to make it legal for a doctor to help a dying patient. Physicianshave conditions that must be met in order to receive their support. Therehas to be strict safeguards to make sure that the patient is really dying,that he or she is mentally competent to make the decision, and that it isan “enduring request,” not an impulsive act. Jack Kevorkian is commendedby the Hemlock Society for providing assistance in dying to a relativelysmall number of suffering people over the past years. Since the early1990s, Dr. Jack Kevorkian has helped suffering individuals end their liveswith a “suicide machine” he designed. The “suicide machine” administers ananesthetic and then a lethal injection of potassium chloride through anintravenous line.
American Medical Association supports legalized abortion, but they areagainst the legalization of physicians assisting patients in suicide(Hendin 149). Some people feel that the pain that terminally ill patentsexperience can be controlled and therefore suicide, physician-assistedsuicide, and euthanasia are not needed. People against euthanasia feelthat physicians are not properly educated about effective methods of paincontrol (Battin 64).
Opponents feel that physician-assisted suicide issacrilegious, immoral, or poses risks of abuse (63). Opponents believethat legalizing it will cause the ill to feel obligated to commit suicideand physicians will feel obligated to assist (Wekesser 64) and would betempted to encourage assisted suicide to relieve themselves of thefrustrations, fatigue, and emotional strains of caring for a terminally illpatient (120). The people who are against euthanasia feel that it makes nosense because they feel that eliminating a person by death is not abeneficial thing for a person (Battin 31).Anderson6Christian tradition has prohibited euthanasia since early times(Battin 334).
Within the Christian tradition, it is seriously wrong tointentionally end one’s life or deliberately to kill another except in self-defense, war, and often in capital punishment. At the same time, they donot view life as something that must be extended for as long as possible(335). Christians feel that suicide is a sin because God gave life andthey feel that only God can end life.
Killing oneself is going againstGod’s will, which is considered a sin. Christians who are againsteuthanasia and assisted suicide feel that God has a purpose for us and theWorld and that there is a meaning and a role of suffering in human life(Battin 339). Christians who do favor euthanasia and assisted suicide feelthat there is an obligation to respect individual human choice and anobligation to relieve suffering, even if it means ending a human life(337).Roman Catholic Church is against all forms of suicide and euthanasia.
The Catholic religion views life and death as a gift from God. RomanCatholics believe that people are responsible for protecting and enhancinglife. Roman Catholics feel that life is not ours to dispose of as wechoose (Battin 325). They do, however, permit the refusal of measures thatwould serve only to sustain a precarious and burdensome prolongation oflife, but they prohibit suicide and euthanasia (329).Few religions support some form of euthanasia and/or assisted suicide.Evangelical Lutheran Church in America supports passive euthanasia, isagainst active euthanasia, and does not comment of physician-assistedsuicide.
Unitarian Univeralist Association is in support of euthanasia andassisted suicide, but only if there are proper precautions in order toavoid abuse. Recently, some Anglicans have accepted euthanasia andassisted suicide to be permissible to end extreme and incurable physicalsuffering (Battin 336).Anderson7Many religions are against suicide, euthanasia, and assisted suicidebecause they believe that God gave life and only He has the power and rightto take it away. The Salvation Army believes that no person has the rightto death by his or her own decision. Christian Reformed Church in NorthAmerica is against all forms of euthanasia, suicide, and assisted suicide.The Lutheran Church – Missouri Synod is against all forms of euthanasiabecause it involves suicide and/or murder.
Orthodox Judaism is againstphysician-assisted suicide and is in support for laws against it. OrthodoxChristianity opposes all forms of suicide and euthanasia. Mennonites feelthat the state should not support suicide, but control physical andemotional pain. Islam is against suicide, assisted suicide, andeuthanasia. The Jewish religion is against suicide because they believe aperson belongs to God and has no right to destroy something that is not hisor hers and that every person is valuable (Battin 364).There are many points of view on euthanasia and assisted suicide.Some clash with one another and some are against each other.
People havemixed feelings on the subject while others hold strong positions for oragainst it. Euthanasia and assisted suicide will always be debatabletopics that people will debate about.Euthanasia and assisted suicide should be legalized, but withconditions that must be met in order for a patient to be eligible for it.If the patient is an adult, they must be competent enough to make a cleardecision after they have heard all possible treatments and procedures. Ifthey still want to proceed with the process, they must find a physicianthat is willing to help assist the patient in ending their life. Once aphysician is found that is willing to do so, the patient must request theassistance orally and written, and have little time to live. Once all ofthese criteria are met, then a person should be allowed to commit suicide.
Anderson8Instead of the oral medication, lethal injection would be betterbecause there is little chance of it being ineffective, unlike pills, whichcan be thrown up or not even taken, depending on the condition of thepatient. The lethal injection would also work better because physicianscan give a big enough dose so that the patient will suffer a short,painless death.God would be guiding these patients with their decisions; therefore,He would not be against it. God would not want any of us to live inunbearable pain and suffering and He would want us to live in a state wherewe feel that our lives are meaningless because we can do nothing but lie ina hospital and wait for death. God is behind us on all decisions that wemake and the decisions that we make are part of his plan for us.