Euthanasia of the past, completed and ready for

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Michael Wilson
FYSM 136-01
Professor Lee
A long time ago, culture was universal and permanent. There was one set
of beliefs, ideals, and norms, and these were the standard for all human beings
in all places and all times. We, however, live in the modern world. Our ethics
are not an inheritance of the past, completed and ready for universal
application. We are in the situation of having to form our own beliefs and
meanings of life. This struggle is now obvious in the contemporary discussions
of euthanasia.

Of the controversial discussions involving euthanasia, the question of
legalization is an often argued one. Whether euthanasia ought to be illegal is
different from the question of whether it is immoral. Some people believe that
even if euthanasia is immoral, it still should not be prohibited by law, since
if a patient wants to die, that is strictly a personal affair, regardless of how
foolish or immoral the desire might be. Rachels, 56 My position is almost
identical. I believe there are some instances in which euthanasia is immoral,
but I believe it should unquestionably be legal. In the following paragraphs, I
will display the position of the opposition to the legality of euthanasia as
well as the position of the supporters. I shall attempt to prove that, yes,
euthanasia should be legal. There is a strong opposition against the
legalization of euthanasia. The main argument against the legality of
euthanasia is sometimes known as the slippery slope argument. People argue that
if euthanasia was legally permitted, it would lead to a general decline in the
respect for human life. It is professed that we would kill people in the
beginning simply to put them out of extreme agony. This is the ideal. But the
opposition states that the killing of people wouldn’t stop here. The killing
could perhaps escalate to mass murder of innocent victims. When would the
killing stop? This is what scares the opponent. The opponents argue that once
something is accepted, we have no right to deny other similar practices. This
is when doctors and patients would start taking advantage of the new law.

Therefore, the first step should not be taken.

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I disagree with this notion and believe that there would hardly be any
abuse of the new law. I have formed three reasons why euthanasia ought to be
legal. First, history tells us that mercy killers have generally been let off
easy in court. In the case of Hans Florian, a man who shot his elderly wife to
death because she had lost her mind to Alzheimer’s disease, the grand jury
refused to indict him. His argument was that he shot her because he feared that
he might die first and then she would be left alone Rachels, 57. As in this
case and numerous others, the killers are usually let off easy because of
sympathetic jury members or judges. For this reason, euthanasia should be legal,
for it goes along with current attitudes in the courtroom. Secondly, the
constitution states that were are all allotted our certain unalienable rights to
“life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.” Since we have this right to life,
it is our right to decide what we want to do with our lives, and no one else’s
right to tell us what to do. The third proponent to my reasoning is something
called Mill’s Principle. This principle states that people should be free to
live their lives as they themselves think best, as long as they are not doing
harm to others Merkov, 21. Also, this principle only applies to people who
are competent and can make rational decisions. For if one is not in their
right frame of mind, they could make an ill-fated decision on their life.

Euthanasia should be legalized because it is inhumane to allow people to
continue suffering when they request release by rapid and painless termination
of life. Patients frequently suffer agony from pain that is uncontrollable.

Administration of death is the only effective release from suffering in these

If a person is in excruciating pain day and night, or if they are living
vegetables in a permanent and unrelenting comatose with no hope for life,
shouldn’t they be allowed to end their lives legally. In ending the patient’s
life, you put an end not only to their agony, but the agony of their families
and friends who must watch them suffer. None of this would be possible without
the legalization of euthanasia. Moreover, it would put less pressure on family
members knowing that the act

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In believe that the main moral issue

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In relation to the topic of euthanasia, I believe that the main moral issue lies within 2 separate questions. Does someone have the right to choose when to die? Does this person have the right to seek assistance in committing suicide from a practicing medical professional? Proponents of euthanasia usually take a stance where death is inevitable, so imminent, and the pain that will precede death so unbearable, that the only morally appropriate response is to end the life of the person by active means. Opponents contend that euthanasia is nothing more than suicide and murder. An analogy that I once read, in relation to euthanasia, says that illness or some sort of ailment is like a murderer. The ill person is the victim. The victim is running down a long alley with the murderer closing from behind. Death for the victim is eminent. Euthanasia is like someone opening a door ahead of the person and shooting them point blank in the head. Granted that death in euthanasia is “gentler” to the victim, but ultimately it is still killing someone. In addition who is to say that the murderer will truly kill the victim?
On this particular subject, I feel that euthanasia should not be allowed. I believe that if done in an impossibly strict manner euthanasia could be beneficial to those suffering. Despite this, I feel that euthanasia should not be allowed because it does not stand up to a deontological test. Personal maxims should not be made universal if it cannot be applied universally. If we as a society allow euthanasia to occur to curb medical pain and suffering, what stops the scope from being broadened to people with severe depression, sick people with pressure from their family to die, and any sort of derivative that is not intended to be included in the just scope of euthanasia.

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Euthanasia later die of his terminal illness

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Euthanasia: killing the dying. Its OK – isnt it?
Euthanasia is the intentional killing of a person, for compassionate motives, whether the killing is by a direct action, such as a lethal injection, or by failing to perform an action necessary to maintain life euthanasia to occur, there must be an intention to kill.

The most common suggestion is for voluntary (or “active”) euthanasia, where the person asks to be killed. Although those who advocate euthanasia do not like the use of the word “kill”, it is the only accurate, non-emotional word to describe the reality, and it is the word which the law uses. Assisted suicide is also now being proposed, where a person would be provided with the means of committing suicide, and would
then himself or herself perform the act Less commonly discussed is involuntary euthanasia. This concerns the killing of persons who cannot express their wishes because of immaturity (such as a new- born infant), mental retardation or coma. Here others decide that that person would be better off dead. By current law, all forms of ethane what is so-called passive euthanasia?
This term causes unnecessary confusion because it refers to actions, which are not any kind of euthanasia. They are: (a) the ceasing of medical treatment which is unwanted, or is imposing excessive burdens on the patient, or is incapable of providing any
Benefit, or (b) the use of drugs in necessarily large doses to relieve very severe pain, though such doses may endanger life. Medical actions intended to relieve suffering are ethical and lawful, as are the withdrawal of treatments, which are only unnecessarily prolonging dying. Though the patient may later die of his terminal illness and though such death was foreseen, death was neither intended nor caused by what was done. To describe these practices as euthanasia is misguided when it is mistaken or mischievous when it is used deliberately to confuse active killing with good medical practice.
It is extremely important to understand the difference between killing and letting die, when the person has expressed a preference to die, but it is a difficult concept for some, and can give rise to confusion. Asia are murder and assisting suicide is a criminal offence. When life-sustaining treatment is withdrawn for the reasons listed earlier, where the intention is to relieve suffering, the natural course of the underlying illness, which had been temporarily stayed, is thus allowed to run. If the diagnosis is correct, death will then result from this illness which was always going to be the eventual unavoidable cause, and this cause is recorded on the death
certificate. Until death occurs, every means of providing comfort must be maintained.
Euthanasia is different in its nature and its intention. Death is now the sole intended and the sole possible outcome, and is not due to any natural cause, even in those with terminal illness. It is chemically induced so that a new and otherwise impossible cause of death has been substituted for the one which was to be expected. From both the ethical and legal viewpoints, making a person die is different from letting a person die when it is medically proper to do so. If the death certificate is honestly completed, it will tell the story. Even the nature of the person’s request is different; one risk death, and the other seeks it. Prescribing for death would be unlike any other medical action.
Euthanasia has usually been proposed only for those with terminal illness with severe suffering, but more recently the concept has been extended to include persons who wish to die for some relatively trivial social reason, such as being tired of life.
The challenge of euthanasia is moral: “Can it ever be right to kill an innocent person?” In the light of what follows, the question
becomes, more starkly, “Can it be right to kill such persons unnecessarily?” Is there a real need for euthanasia? Those who care full-time for the dying rarely encounter a request to be killed, and when they do, it is almost always associated with depression or an intractable social problem. The advocates of euthanasia give the impression that there is a geat need for it, but they never provide any evidence to support this view. The reasonable conclusion is that when dying persons are well cared for, they have no need to ask to be killed. In that case, to introduce euthanasia would be doubly tragic, because it would be both inhumane and unnecessary.
Because it is not widely known that modern care of the dying, called palliative care, can now effectively relieve almost all severe pain and significantly relieve emotional distress. Both those who wish to relieve distress by appropriate care and those who propose killing through ignorance are motivated by compassion. But there are enormous differences in the two approaches, involving morality, medicine, the law and the good of society. Euthanasia is said to be an expression of such things as death with dignity, the right to die, autonomy and so on. For the most part,
these are used as slogans, without understanding their true meanings. Dying persons are treated with true dignity when their genuine needs are met by providing effective, loving care which values the worth of every fellow human, in distress or not. Although a right to die is claimed, what is meant instead is a right to be killed. There has never been a right to be killed in any code of ethics. It is a spurious concept, and no argument is ever made to support it. The right to respect for one’s autonomy
(self-determination) is different, in that it is a genuine human right, but one which is often misunderstood. In the context of euthanasia, it is implied that a person’s wish to die must be so respected as to give it power to bind others to act. That is both
simplistic and wrong, since nobody may have anything in life just because he or she asks for it, no matter how sincerely. Since there is no right to be killed, others are not required to kill, nor should they do so.
Current law recognises the right of every mentally competent person to refuse unwanted medical treatment, but not the right to take one’s own life. In fact, everyone is legally empowered to prevent attempted suicide. Thus, the lives of all innocent persons are protected. Confusion may arise from the fact that attempting suicide is not a criminal act, but assisting suicide is. The reason is because the law recognises that attempting suicide is very often the outcome of mental illness, and that when an attempt fails, the person needs care rather than punishment. Although it is sometimes implied that a change in the law to allow euthanasia would be a small one, it would in fact entail a massive shift in our legal concepts of intent, responsibility and causation. It would single out a particular group of vulnerable individuals, the sick, for discriminatory action. No law to legalise euthanasia has been made in any country because no proposal has been devised which was free of the likely, not just the possible, risk of abuse. The supporters of euthanasia offer no suggestions to overcome this problem. Some of them admit that a safe law would probably not be possible, and it must be said that this is realistic. Who would do the killing? Without reflection, it is usually assumed that doctors would, despite that they have not been asked, and that every medical association in the world forbids euthanasia as being unethical. It would be disastrous for the medical profession to be involved in any way with legalised euthanasia. There could be no argument to support their participation as part of their work, and in many ways the doctor/patient relationship would be severely damaged. Doctors prescribe medicine, not poison. They heal and cure, but they may not intentionally kill. If euthanasia were available, motivation for difficult patient care and for the seeking of advances in medical science would be lessened.
If not doctors, who? Seeking an answer to this question would involve the community in a great deal of useful soul-searching, as it would have to focus on the grim realities of the proposal. At present, it can hide from the unpleasant facts, while it pretends that it would be a simple clinical exercise, done by someone else in a white coat, out of sight. Would you like to do it?
Euthanasia is widely practised in Holland, despite that it is by law a criminal offence. It is cited as an example of social progress, which we in Australia should consider. We are told that it is subject to safe, established guidelines, and that it has an agreed moral basis. Indeed, we should consider it, but only because it is a disaster we must not copy. Only in September 1991 did the official picture come to hand, supplied by Dutch government sources. We now know that intentional death is brought about by Dutch doctors in about one fifth of the deaths in the country; in over two
thirds of cases, the death certificate is falsified after euthanasia to make it seem that the death was due to natural causes. The doctor suffers no penalty for this, and it is not known whether or not any guidelines were followed at all; where information is
Available about guidelines, they are known to be widely disregarded; just over one quarter of the doctors admitted they had killed patients without any request at all, though the Dutch Medical Society correctly defines this as murder; in some of those, not even the family was told what was happening; the authorities admit they have no control over euthanasia, and finally, there is no consensus within Holland about the moral, medical, legal or social bases for euthanasia though it has been commonly performed for almost 20 years.

In Australia, palliative care services are well established throughout each State, staffed by nurses and doctors who have been trained in the best standards of care for the dying persons, and their families. These services are available both in hospital and private homes, to enable the person to be treated humanely in the place he or she would prefer, for as long as possible. The chief aims of such care are: the expert relief of pain and other distressing symptoms; seeking and respecting the legitimate wishes of the patient; good communication about the illness, its treatments and their consequences; adequate honesty at all times; and support for the patient and family to enable them to cope with anxiety and other emotional disturbances.
The voluntary euthanasia movement reflects that part of our society, which cannot accept or understand illness, suffering or death. Euthanasia might seem to solve the problems of troubled individuals, in its own way, but would do nothing to prevent others from falling victim to similar problems. What is needed is better care for all, so that no one will feel the need to ask to be killed. It is outrageous to propose the elimination of the person in distress in preference to the elimination of distress in the person. Any society, which legislated for killing, the sick rather than making every effort for their good care would be self-condemned for its inhumanity.

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In few U.S. doctors who perform it

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In recent years, Euthanasia has become a very heated debate. It is a Greek word that means “easy death” but the controversy surrounding it is just the opposite. Whether the issue is refusing prolonged life mechanically, assisting suicide, or active euthanasia, we eventually confront our socity’s fears toward death itself. Above others, our culture breeds fear and dread of aging and dying. It is not easy for most of the western world to see death as an inevitable part of life. However, the issues that surround euthanasia are not only about death, they are about ones liberty, right to privacy and control over his or her own body. So, the question remains: Who has the right?Under current U.S. law, there are clear distinctions between the two types of euthanasia. One group of actions taken to bring about the death of a dying patient -withdrawal of life support, referred to by some as passive euthanasia- has been specifically upheld by the courts as a legal right of a patient to request and a legal act for a doctor to perform. A second group of actions taken to bring about the death of a dying patient -physician-assisted death, referred to by some as active euthanasia- is specifically prohibited by laws in most states banning “mercy killing” and is condemned by the American Medical Association. Although it is not a crime to be present when a person takes his or her life, it is a crime to take direct action intentionally designed to help facilitate death–no matter how justifiable and compassionate the circumstances may be.1 With active euthanasia, it is the doctor who administers the lethal drug dose. Since it is tantamount to homicide, the few U.S. doctors who perform it have been brought to trial but none of them have ever been convicted and imprisoned.Modern interest in euthanasia in the United States began in 1870, when a commentator, Samuel Williams, proposed to the Birmingham Speculative Club that euthanasia be permitted “in all cases of hopeless and painful illness” to bring about “a quick and painless death.” The word “painless” is important: the idea of euthanasia began gaining ground in modern times not because of new technologies for agonizingly prolonging life but because of the discovery of new drugs, such as morphine and various anesthetics for the relief of pain, that could also painlessly induce death. Over the next three decades Williams’s proposal was reprinted in popular magazines and books, discussed in the pages of prominent literary and political journals, and debated at the meetings of American medical societies and nonmedical professional associations. The debate culminated in 1906, after the Ohio legislature took up “An Act Concerning Administration of Drugs etc. to Mortally Injured and Diseased Persons”, which was a bill to legalize euthanasia. After being debated for months, the Ohio legislature overwhelmingly rejected the bill, effectively ending that chapter of the euthanasia debate. 2Euthanasia reemerged in the 1970’s, when in 1976 California was the first state to legalize a patient’s right to refuse life-prolonged treatment. The Legislature passed the Natural Death Act, which allows for living wills, an advance directive to a doctor requesting the withholding or withdrawing of life sustaining treatment.3 Today, all states have some form of living will legislation. In addition, the individual who wishes to have such a will, may also designate a family member or friend as a proxy to make the decisions for him or her, should he or she be unable to make the decisions himself or herself. Some states also require the individual to sign a power of attorney to do so.4In 1976, the New Jersey Supreme Court decided the parents of Karen Ann Quinlan won the right to remove her from a ventilator because she was in a persistent vegetative state. The justices unanimously ruled that this act was necessary to respect Quinlan’s right to privacy.5 Some medical ethicists warned then that the ruling was the beginning of a trend–the slippery slope–which could lead to decisions to end a person’s life being made by third parties not only on the basis of medical condition but also on such considerations as age, economic status, or even ethnicity.6In 1990, the Supreme Court case, Cruzan v. Missouri, recognized the principle that a person has a constitutionally protected right to refuse unwanted medical treatment. In 1983, Nancy Beth Cruzan lapsed into an irreversible coma from an auto accident. Before the accident, she had said several times that if she were faced with life as a “vegetable,” she would not want to live. Her parents went to court in 1987 to force the hospital to remove the tube by which she was being given nutrition and water. The Missouri Supreme Court refused to allow the life support to be withdrawn, saying there was no “clear and convincing” evidence Nancy Cruzan wanted that done. The U.S. Supreme Court agreed, but it also held that a person whose wishes were clearly known had a constitutional right to refuse life-sustaining medical treatment. After further proof and witness testimony, a probate court judge in Jasper County, Mo., ruled Dec. 14, 1990, that Cruzan’s parents had the right to remove their daughter’s feeding tube, which they immediately proceeded to do. Nancy Cruzan died Dec. 26, 1990.7The Cruzan decision sparked a fresh interest in living wills and in 1990 Congress passed the Patient Self-Determination Act. It requires health care facilities that receive Medicare or Medicaid funds (95 percent of such centers) to inform new patients about their legal right to write a living will or choose a proxy to represent their wishes about medical treatment, and what kind of measures will be taken automatically for patients as institutional policy. Where state law permits, these institutions must honor living wills or the appointment of a health care proxy.8On March 6, 1996, for the first time in U.S. history, in the case Washington v. Glucksberg, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th circuit in San Francisco overturned a Washington State law that made assisted suicide a felony. The existing ban on assisted suicide was successfully challenged under the equal protection clause of the Constitution’s Fourteenth Amendment. The court noted that, under present law, a dying patient on life support may legally have it removed to facilitate death while another dying patient, not on life support but suffering under equivalent circumstances and equally close to death, has no means by which to end his or her lives. The court, ruled that, bans on assisted suicide constitute a violation of the second patient’s equal protection rights under the Fourteenth Amendment.9In his majority opinion, appellate Judge Stephen Reinhardt of Los Angeles wrote: “If broad general state policies can be used to deprive a terminally ill individual of the right to make that choice, it is hard toenvision where the exercise of arbitrary and intrusive power by the state can be halted.”10Reinhardt’s analysis relies heavily on language drawn from U.S. Supreme Court abortion case, Roe v. Wade, because the issues have “compelling similarities,” he wrote. Like the decision of whether or not to have an abortion, the decision how and when to die is one of “the most intimate and personal choices a person may make in a lifetime,” a choice “central to personal dignity and autonomy.”11On April 2, 1996, in the case of Vacco v. Quill, the U.S. Appeals Court for the Second Circuit in New York struck down that state’s law making it illegal for doctors to help terminally ill people end their own lives. But whereas the Ninth Circuit decision was based on the Fourteenth Amendment and privacy issues, the Second Circuit ruling in April invoked an “equal protection” argument that people suffering terminal illnesses should have the same right as those, such as Quinlan, who are in a coma and have the law on their side in the decision to halt life-sustaining nourishment or treatment. “Physicians do not fulfill the role of `killer’ by prescribing drugs to hasten death,” wrote Second Circuit Judge Roger J. Miner, “any more than they do by disconnecting life-support systems.”12In 1997, both Washington v. Glucksberg and Vacco v. Quill went before the Supreme Court. The Court took a look at the cases and backed away from the “slippery slope” by their unanimous decision to uphold state laws in Washington and New York, banning doctor assisted suicide. Chief Justice William Rehnquist wrote, “Throughout the nation, Americans are engaged in an earnest and profound debate about the morality, legality and practicality of physician-assisted suicide. Our holding permits this debate to continue, as it should in a democratic society.”13However, the Court left open the possibility that such bans might be invalid when applied to individual cases involving great suffering at the end of a terminal illness.14In 1994 a limited right to die measure squeaked through in Oregon. The Oregon law allowed doctors to prescribe, but not administer, a deadly dose of medication to terminally ill patients, defined as those diagnosed as having less than six months to live. By the Court kicking back the decision to the states in June, the Supreme Court then refused to hear the challenge on that physician assisted suicide law on October 14, 1997. Doctors in Oregon are now permitted to prescribe life-ending medication to anyone who is mentally competent and diagnosed with less than six months to live. But the patient may only take a lethal dose after completing a 15-day waiting period. The law does not specify what medication may be used. Under the approved Oregon law, patients may request doctor assisted suicide if: 1) They are mentally competent.2)They are diagnosed as having less than six months to live. 3) They request a lethal prescription from a doctor today, and wait the required 15 days. After the waiting period, during which patients can rescind their request at any time, they are free to take the drugs. Oregon Board of Medical Examiners will oversee physician compliance with the law,patients or families with concerns can contact the board,and a 25-member task force of health and ethics experts will decide some of the policy questions that will guide the state’s oversight of the new law. Several experts expect there will be further guidelines to carry out this new policy.15Sooner or later, discussions about euthanasia and assisted suicide in the United States turn to the situation in the Netherlands. Although euthanasia still is a criminal offense there, punishable by up to 12 years in prison, it is increasingly tolerated in practice. Dutch physicians who put hopelessly ill patients to death after being asked to do so are not prosecuted if they follow certain guidelines formulated by the courts.16In a series of Dutch court cases decided between 1973 and 1984, two conditions were deemed essential for legitimizing euthanasia. First, the patient must make the request at his own initiative, repeatedly and explicitly expressing his wish to die. Second, the patient must be suffering from severe physical or mental pain, with no prospect of recovery. Since 1984, Dutch courts have added a third condition–that a physician intending to perform euthanasia first consult a colleague to confirm the accuracy of the diagnosis, verify the planned means of bringing about death and ascertain that all legal requirements are being met. Some court cases have also cited as requirements the presence of an incurable disease or a demand that death by euthanasia not inflict unnecessary suffering on others.17Typically, a Dutch euthanasia patient is first given a shot of barbiturates, which causes unconsciousness within three to five seconds. A follow-up shot of curare produces death in 10 to 20 minutes by paralyzing the respiratory system. A Dutch doctor who performs euthanasia is not permitted to attribute death to “natural causes” on the death certificate. Rather, he or the coroner must inform the police that a medically aided death has occurred. The police, in turn, report to the district attorney, who decides whether to prosecute.18Recently, Dr. Jack Kevorkian killed a man suffering from Lou Gehrig’s disease and gave the videotape to “60 Minutes.” Thomas Youk, 52, was killed by lethal injection of potassium chloride at the hands of Dr. Kevorkian. The ex-pathologist has claimed to have taken part in over 130 assisted deaths, but this time Dr. Kevorkian taken his work to a new level: he had injected the poisons himself, rather than rigging up his homemade “suicide machine” so the patient could kill himself.When Michigan banned assisted suicide in September, Kevorkian decided it was time for a new– and perhaps final–showdown in court. This new mercy killing case revived the long and contentious debate over whether we have the right to die–and whether doctors should take part in their patients’ deaths. More than 30 states have banned assisted suicide–the act of helping a person take his own life. Now Kevorkian has gone a step further, to euthanasia–the act of actually carrying out a mercy killing.19With his new step toward active euthanasia, Dr. Kevorkian may have lost a number of his supporters. A Detroit Free Press pool showed most Michigan residents were wary of Kevorkian’s latest move. And some assisted suicide activist who once idolized Kevorkian are refusing to support his graduation to euthanasia. Even if he is aquitted of the first degree murder charge, he could find that he is no longer takn serious and could hurt actually his cause.20Euthanasia opponents envision a bleak future for dying patients who don’t have access to health insurance, adequate pain control treatment, or the money to pay for long term care. Some may feel forced or be coerced by their families and doctors to opt for euthanasia. Of course, no law can guarantee that coercion will never occur. We can’t know for sure what family members’ motives may be in any number of already legal health care and other decisions in which they participate. But should we reduce our available choices because we don’t believe people can always make the right decisions for the right reasons or because we fear possible abuses? Or should we continue to expand our individual choices and freedoms while doing our best to prevent inappropriate and coerced influences and to educate all people in critical decision making?In fact, abuses are far more likely to occur within the present unregulated, covert, and occasional practice of assisted suicide. There is no accountability for such deaths, no procedures, no safeguards, and no reporting requirements. How much safer would it be if laws such as those in Oregon were in place nationwide? Can the debate over legalization of Euthanasia be compared to the debate over legalizing abortion? Wasn’t the main reason for legalizing abortion because it was being done anyway. People still had access to abortion, it was just being done terribly. We’re in exactly the same situation today. People do have access to assisted suicide, it’s just being done poorly.I believe, that if in this great country, we have the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness then why shouldn’t a person have the right to control the conditions of their death as much as they have the right to control the conditions of their living. If procedures similar to the Dutch model can help us avoid unnecessary suffering, it would be worthwhile to work out with the legal and medical professions. By firmly establishing the right to die in America, an extension of the right to privacy, we are safeguarding such fundamental rights against governmental exploitation. If not a legal law, there is certainly a moral law over one’s own body and our life should be subject to our own self-determination. We have a right to end our own life; and if we cannot accomplish the task on our own, at our discretion, another person should have the right to end it for us, as an act of compassion.History of Euthanasia in America1973- The American Medical Association issues the Patient Bill of Rights. The groundbreaking document allows patients to refuse medical treatment. 1976- The New Jersey Supreme Court rules that the parents of Karen Ann Quinlan, who has been in a tranquilizer-and-alcohol-induced coma for a year, can remove her respirator. She dies nine years later. 1979- Jo Roman, a New York artist dying of cancer, makes a videotape, telling her friends and family she intends to end her life. She later commits suicide with an overdose of sleeping pills. 1985- Betty Rollin publishes “Last Wish,” the story of her mother’s battle with ovarian cancer. The book reveals that Ida Rollin killed herself with a sedative overdose. 1990- Dr. Jack Kevorkian performs his first assisted suicide, using a homemade machine, to end the life of Alzheimer’s patient Janet Adkins. Meanwhile, after protracted legal wrangling, the parents of Nancy Cruzan, who has been in a coma for seven years, are allowed to remove her feeding tube. Friends and co-workers testify in court that she would not have wanted to live. 1991- Hemlock Society founder Derek Humphry first publishes “Final Exit.” The controversial suicide “how-to” book later becomes a national best seller. 1994- Voters in Oregon pass a referendum making it the only state in the country that allows doctors to prescribe life-ending drugs for terminally ill patients. The hotly contested law was not put into effect until last year.1995- George Delury publishes “But What If She Wants to Die?” a diary chronicling his wife’s long battle with multiple sclerosis. The book describes the couple’s agonizing decision to end her life with a drug overdose. Delury served four months in prison for attempted manslaughter for his role in her death. 1997- In a unanimous decision, the Supreme Court rules that the Constitution does not guarantee the right to commit suicide with the help of a physician. The decision upholds laws in New York and Washington state making it illegal for doctors to give lethal drugs to dying patients. 1998- In November, Michigan voters defeat a measure that would have made physician-assisted suicide legal.Michigan Poll On Dr. Kevorkian and Euthanasia221. After watching that segment which showed Jack Kevorkian administering a lethal injection of drugs, do you think it was appropriate or not appropriate for “60 Minutes” to show that scene on television?56%Appropriate35% Not appropriate10% Undecided/Don’t know/Refused2. Did the experience of watching Dr. Jack Kevorkian cause a man’s death influence your opinion about assisted suicide, or would you say that your opinion about assisted suicide was not influenced at all by the “60 Minutes” program? 11%Influenced opinion about assisted suicide84%DID NOT influence opinion about assisted suicide5%Undecided/Don’t know3. Did the experience of watching tonight’s “60 minute” segment on Jack Kevorkian influence you to be more supportive of assisted suicide or more opposed to assisted suicide? 6%Much more supportive of assisted suicide31%Somewhat more supportive of assisted suicide13%Somewhat more opposed to assisted suicide38%Much more opposed to assisted suicide12%Undecided/Don’t know4. Generally speaking, do you favor or oppose laws that would allow physician assisted suicide for terminally ill people who are in a sound state of mind? 31%Strongly favor14%Somewhat favor10%Somewhat oppose40%Strongly oppose5%Undecided/Don’t know 5. Dr. Kevorkian has invited law enforcement authorities to arrest him and charge him with a crime for his actions in the death shown on television. What do you think? Should Dr. Jack Kevorkian be arrested and charged with a crime for his actions, or do you think authorities should do nothing? 50%Kevorkian should be arrested and charged 34%Authorities should do nothing16%Undecided/Don’t know6. If Dr. Kevorkian is arrested for his involvement in the death of the man shown on “60 Minutes,” for what crime do you think he should be charged–violating Michigan’s new law banning assisted suicide, for committing a more serious crime, such as murder, or for committing a different crime?30%Violating law banning assisted suicide45%More serious crime – such as murder16%Something else 9%Undecided/Don’t know7. If he was charged with violating Michigan’s new law banning physician assisted suicide instead of murder, based on what you saw on television tonight, would you find Dr. Jack Kevorkian guilty or not guilty of that crime? 62%Guilty of assisting a suicide26%Not guilty of assisting a suicide12%Undecided/Don’t know8. Dr. Jack Kevorkian has publicly stated that he is trying to force the issue of assisted suicide and euthanasia by his actions, and, if necessary, he will starve himself in prison to become a martyr for his beliefs. Do you believe that Dr. Kevorkian is doing what must be done for the cause of assisted suicide, do you think he has gone too far and is hurting his cause, or, do you think he should do even more to force changes in assisted suicide laws? 28%Doing what must be done55%Has gone too far and is hurting his cause8%Should do even more to force changes9%Undecided/Don’t know9. In the recent November 3rd election, did you vote YES in favor of Proposal B, the assisted suicide proposal, did you vote NO to oppose it, did you vote in the election but skip that proposal, or were you unable to vote at all on November 3rd? 24%Yes56%No5%Did not vote on that proposal11%Did not vote in the election2%Can’t remember2%RefusedWorks Cited1. Dority, Barbara. “The Ultimate Civil Liberty”. Humanist. July/August 1997. p. 17.2. Emanuel, Ezekiel. “Who’s Right to Die?”. Atlantic Monthly. March 1997. p. 75.3. Henry, Sarah. “The Battle over Assisted Suicide: A Time to Die”. California Lawyer. January 1996. p. 1.4. Ubell, Earl. “Should Death Be a Patient’s Choice?”. Parade. February 9, 1992. p. 25.5. Birenbaum, Arnold. “The Right to Die in America”. USA Today. January 1992 p. 28.6. Hallock, Steve. “Physician-Assisted Suicide:”Slippery Slope” or Civil Right?” Humanist. July/August. 1996. p. 9.7. Worshop, Richard L. “Assisted Suicide”. Congressional Quarterly Researcher. February 21, 1992. p. 153.8. Martinez, Elizabeth. “Going Gentle into That Good Night: Is a Rightful Death a Feminist Ideal?” Ms. July/August. 1993. p. 67.9. Dority, Barbara. p. 18.10. Weinstein, Henry. “Assisted Deaths Ruled Legal: 9th Circuit Lifts Ban on Doctor-Aided Suicide”. Los Angeles Times. March 7, 1996. p. A1.11. Hallock, Steve. p. 12-13.12. Hallock, Steve. p. 13.13. Beck, Joan. “Backing Away from a Very Slippery Slope”. Chicago Tribune. June 30, 1997. p. A1.14. Johnson, Tim. “Legal Eythanasia Unsettles Colombia”. Miami Herald. June 30, 1997. p. 7A15. Maier, Thomas. “Death By Choice”. Newsday. November 6, 1997. p. A5.16. Emanuel, Ezekiel. p. 73.17. Worsnop, Richard L. p. 59.18. Worsnop, Richard L. p. 59.19. Bai, Matt. “Death Wish”. Newsweek. December 7, 1998. p. 31.20. Bai, Matt. p. 33.21. Frehm, Ron. Newsweek. December 7, 1998. p. 32-33.22. Detroit Free Press poll of 300 Michigan residents conducted November 22, 1998 by Epic/MRA, of Lansing.

Categories: Decision Making


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