Euthanasia: Whose Life Is It?

Euthanasia: Whose Life Is It?
Imagine a body slowly and excruciatingly being broken down by an unseen and uncontrollable invader. Now imagine that there is a law preventing anyone from ending that suffering. Welcome to the argument over euthanasia. Euthanasia is defined as ?the act or practice of killing out of mercy.? Euthanasia technically exists in four categories: active, passive, voluntary, and involuntary. Passive euthanasia is the act of removing all treatments and forms of life support intended to prolong life or cure illness, and allowing the patient to die of natural causes. Active euthanasia consists of an outside force actually causing the death of the patient, or hastening the death with the use of drugs and other tools. When the patient is fully competent and capable of making this life or death decision on his or her own, it is considered voluntary euthanasia. If the decision is made for the patient, due to him or her being rendered incapable of this sentient conclusion, it is labeled as involuntary euthanasia. For the past several decades, this has been a major issue, making its way from activist groups to the Supreme Court. The debate over euthanasia was ignited publicly in 1988 with an article published in The New England Journal of Medicine about an experience in committing active euthanasia. The act of euthanasia, in either passive or active form, is acceptable in only one nation in the world. Even there, in the Netherlands, it is permitted in only certain cases as specified and supervised by the legal system, and has yet to be fully legalized. Euthanasia should be legalized because it is a personal choice.
The argument over euthanasia is complex and multi-faceted; particularly dealing with the responsibility of those involved in the act. Many people, in the argument against euthanasia, claim that if euthanasia were made legal in the United States, physicians would abuse that law. They say that insurance companies would place pressure on the doctors to encourage this choice in their patients to save costs. Another claim is that the physicians may shrug off their responsibility to their patients and choose the quick and easy way out while charging a hefty cost. In a more realistic sense, physicians would more likely maintain a strong moral and ethical outlook on the entire situation, as well as follow a set of strict professional specifications. Physician Guy I. Benrubi, professor at the University of Florida Health Sciences Center stated, ?Obviously, if euthanasia were to be accepted in our society, stringent procedural safeguards would be needed. In addition to those in effect in the Netherlands, we should consider the protection afforded by the traditional medical concepts of certification and qualifications? (Moreno 116). The entire medical community would have to set guidelines for doctors of euthanasia to follow, which would ensure the safety of patients. It has become clear, however, that euthanasia, in its journey towards legalization, has many more hurdles to clear.



If euthanasia were legalized in the United States, it would reduce the current number of deaths caused in a highly unprofessional manner because of the legality issues. Presently, many physicians aid in the suicides of terminally ill patients by giving them the drugs necessary to commit the act on their own. The physician will frequently list the cause of death as the actual illness, rather than (assisted) suicide. This is to prevent public delving into the patient?s history and illness, and causing limitless pain for the patient?s family. This is very unprofessional because though the intent is good, it is not a guaranteed method and could result in merely more pain for the patient and his or her relatives. Ronald Dworkin, an author of books about euthanasia and other ethical issues summarized this idea when he stated, ?Patients might be better rather than less well protected if assisted suicide were legalized with appropriate safeguards? (Leone 36). The intent of this statement is to make it clear that safeguards could ensure the safety, rather than keeping it at the high risk it is at now. The issue of safeguarding euthanasia methods has many variations, and doesn?t end with the legal and professional controversies.



Perhaps the most important issue at hand is the patient?s right, willingness, and desire to die. For the most part, any random, healthy individual would most likely be unable to imagine or comprehend the type of pain and anguish that a terminal illness will cause. Therefore, the decision to live or die under the presence of certain, and probably painful, death should be left in the hands of the individual that is suffering. Taking its name from a Greek term meaning ?the good death,? euthanasia should represent exactly that. Arnold Beisser, an expert on euthanasia, says, ?The awesome decision to live or die belongs not to the courts, to attorneys, to hospitals, to doctors, to nurses, or to any other group, but to the person whose life it is? (Wekesser 29). Having one?s entire life slowly drained from oneself is frequently considered the most excruciating of tortures. Humanity rushes to aid POWs, yet the right to bring peace to oneself through a slightly unconventional method is repeatedly denied. It has been assumed since the dawn of the medical profession that the doctor?s place is as healer, as the ones to cure all ailments. Jack Kevorkian states, ?A physician is supposed to help patients maintain or regain health and avoid suffering? (Leone 10). This means that, if all treatment fails, the physician should be allowed to assist in avoiding the unnecessary agony. If the outcome is assured death, the means of arriving there should be the most dignified and serene possible.



Euthanasia, in its many forms, is an inherent right that should not be infringed upon through its not being legalized. Euthanasia refers to choosing a dignified death, rather than one set for the individual, and in a slow and painful manner at that. When palliative care is no longer an option and treatment has failed time and again, the option to choose ?the good death? should remain open at all times. Despite slight possibilities in a lack of responsible actions taken in the name of euthanasia, the act itself will always be a personal choice, based on the amount of suffering one will allow oneself to go through before one must give in. Euthanasia will always be in existence, now it is merely a choice of making it ?acceptable? or ?unacceptable? as far as the government is concerned. After all, whose life is it?

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