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The word euthanasia is derived from the Greek word “eu” for good and “thantos” which means death and originally referred to intentional mercy killing. But the word it euthanasia has acquired a more complex meaning in modern times. Proponents of euthanasia believe that a dying patient has the right to end their suffering and leave the world in a dignified manner. Those who contest euthanasia believe that man does not have the right to end another person’s life no matter what pain they endure.Euthanasia is one of the most important public policy issues being debated today. The outcome of debate will profoundly affect family relationships, interaction between doctors and patients, and concepts of basic morality.
The word euthanasia has acquired a complex meaning in modern times. There are several types of euthanasia and one must define them in order to avoid confusion. Passive euthanasia is the process of hastening the death of a person by withdrawing some form of support and letting nature take its course. Such a act would include removing life-support equipment, stopping medical procedures, stopping food and water and allowing the person to die. Active euthanasia involves causing the death of a person through a direct action in response to request from that person. This is also called mercy killing. Physician assisted suicide is the process of a physician supplying information and or the means of committing suicide to a patient. This would include writing a prescription for a lethal dose of sleeping pills or providing the patient with carbon monoxide gas.
Euthanasia has been practiced in some form or another by many societies in our history. In ancient Greece and Rome helping others to die our putting them to death was considered permissible in some situations. In the Greek city of Sparta all newborns with severe birth defects were left to die. Voluntary euthanasia for the elderly was approved custom in several ancient societies. Although euthanasia is widely practiced in the Netherlands it remains technically illegal. In 1995 Australia’s Northern Territory approved a euthanasia bill. It went into effect in 1996 and was overturned by the Australian parliament in 1997.
One may ask, what is the difference between euthanasia and assisted suicide? In euthanasia one person does something that directly kills another. For example a doctor gives a lethal injection to a patient. It assisted suicide, a person knowingly and intentionally provides the means or in some way helps a suicidal person killed himself or herself. For example, a doctor writes a prescription for poison, or someone who hooks up a face mask to a canister of carbon monoxide and then instructs the suicidal person on how to push a lever so that they will be gassed to death. For all practical purposes, any distinction between euthanasia and assisted suicide has been abandoned today. However passive euthanasia is different than other types of euthanasia. Passive euthanasia is the process of hastening the death of a person by withdrawing some sort of treatment. This includes removing life-support, stopping medical procedures and medications, stopping food and water to the patient and thus allowing him to die. Or not delivering C P R or other resuscitating treatment and allowing the person whose heart has stopped to die. Perhaps the most common form of passive euthanasia is to give a patient at large doses of morphine to control pain, in spite of the likelihood of the painkiller suppressing respiration and causing death earlier that it would otherwise have. Many states in the United States and other countries engage in this type of passive euthanasia to what is known as a health-care proxy or do not resuscitate order. These procedures are usually performed on the terminally ill, suffering patients, so that natural death will occur sooner. It is also opted for persons in a persistent vegetative state, individuals with massive brain damage or in a coma from which they cannot possibly regain conscious.
During the 20th century, major scientific and medical advances have greatly enhance the life expectancy of the average person. There are however many diseases that cannot be cured by modern medicine. Such diseases like AIDS, terminal cancer, multiples scalrosis. These conditions remain a certain death sentence. These diseases leave the patient in a constant state of pain sometimes lasting many weeks or months. There are however other reasons why a person may feel euthanasia is appropriate. These reasons include the patient feels that the their quality of life has shrunk to zero, they feel the indignities of being cared for as if they were and infant, including being diapered and fed by nurses. Others simply want to die with the dignity before they become sick. Such an example would be a person was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease and would like to end their life before serious dementia overtakes their living. These people feel that they would rather die in full mind and body rather to let themselves live a few more years in a vegetative state or with debilitating dementia that does not allow them to recognize their closest family. Proponents of euthanasia believe that the patient has the right to end their life when it is known that there will not be any recovery and death is imminent. They believe that a human being has the right to die in dignity and a painless death rather than suffer endlessly knowing full well that they will not recover.
Those are anti-euthanasia state many reasons for their position. One reason is because euthanasia is contrary to Judeo-Christian ethics. Many religious groups within Christian, Muslim, Jewish and other religions believe that God gave life and therefore only God should take away a.life. Suicide would then be considered as a rejection of God’s sovereignty and loving plan. They feel that we are all masters of our own lives, but that’s suicide should never be an option. Many other faith groups believe that human suffering can have a positive value for the terminally ill person and for their direct family. A Roman Catholic document mentions that some people prefer to moderate their use of painkillers, in order to accept voluntary at least a part of their sufferings and thus associate themselves in a conscious way with the sufferings of Christ at the time of crucifixition. Some Jews feel that pain and suffering in this world acts as atonement for sinss and transgressions and may benefit them in entering the world to come. The two main arguments offered by Christians and other religious groups are the following: life is a gift from God and that each individual is a gift. Thus only God can start a life and only God should be allowed to end it.Also, God does not send us any experience that we cannot handle. God supports people and suffering. To actively seek an end to one’s life would represent a lack of trust in God.
Those who are pro euthanasia offer the following arguments: each person has autonomy over their own life. If a persons quality of life is nonexistent, they should have the right to decide to commit suicide, and to seek assistance if necessary. Sometimes a terminal patients pain can cause an unbearable burden, death can represent a relief of intolerable pain.
When one discusses euthanasia we must understand that this is a legal view. By passing legislation that allows euthanasia we’re getting the right to doctors and patients to end their lives. We will be allowing euthanasia to become a procedure practiced in the hospital or hospice. In the end it will just be a matter of procedure such as a blood transfusion or operation. One must ask, by denying the legislation of euthanasia are we in fact denying a person to end their life? The answer to this is no. People do have the power to commit suicide. Suicide and attempted suicide are not criminalized. Each and every year, and the United States alone, there are more suicides than homicides. Suicide is a tragic, individual act. There are several books on the subject of suicide such as Derek Humphreys Final Exit. Organizations such as the Hemlock Society have been established to give information on patients interested in ending their own lives. Euthanasia is not about a private act. It’s about letting one-person facilitate the death of another. Euthanasia is not about giving rights to the person who dies, it is about changing law and public policy so that doctors, relatives and others can directly and intesinaly end another person’s life. This change would not give rights to the person who is killed, but to the person who does the killing. In other words, euthanasia is not about the right to die. It’s about the right to kill.