Physician-Assisted Suicide and Euthanasia - Pro and Con
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Euthanasia - Pro and Con
This paper will define Euthanasia and assisted suicide. Euthanasia is often
confused with and associated with assisted suicide, definitions of the two are
required. Two perspectives shall be presented in this paper. The first
perspective will favor euthanasia or the "right to die," the second perspective
will favor antieuthanasia, or the "right to live". Each perspective shall
endeavor to clarify the legal, moral and ethical ramifications or aspects of
Euthanasia, also mercy killing, is the practice of ending a life so as to
release an individual from an incurable disease or intolerable suffering.
Euthanasia is a merciful means to and end of long-term suffering. Euthanasia is
a relatively new dilemma for the United States and has gained a bad reputation
from negative media hype surrounding assisted suicides. Euthanasia has a
purpose and should be evaluated as humanely filling a void created by our
sometimes inhumane modern society.
Euthanasia is nothing less than cold-blooded killing. Euthanasia cheapens life,
even more so than the very divisive issue of abortion. Euthanasia is morally
and ethically wrong and should be banned in these United States. Modern
medicine has evolved by leaps and bounds recently, euthanasia resets these
medical advances back by years and reduces today's Medical Doctors to
administrators of death.
The term Euthanasia is used generally to refer to an easy or painless
death. Voluntary euthanasia involves a request by the dying patient or that
person's legal representative. Passive or negative euthanasia involves not
doing something to prevent death-that is, allowing someone to die; active or
positive euthanasia involves taking deliberate action to cause a death.
Euthanasia is often mistaken or associated with for assisted suicide, a
distant cousin of euthanasia, in which a person wishes to commit suicide but
feels unable to perform the act alone because of a physical disability or lack
of knowledge about the most effective means. An individual who assists a
suicide victim in accomplishing that goal may or may not be held responsible for
the death, depending on local laws. There is a distinct difference between
euthanasia and assisted suicide. This paper targets euthanasia; pros and cons,
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Physician-assisted Physician-assisted Suicide Euthanasia Issue Of Abortion Voluntary Euthanasia Medical Advances Assisted Suicides
not assisted suicide.
Thesis Argument That Euthanasia Should Be Accepted
Without doubt, modern dying has become fearsome. Doctors now possess
the technologies and the skills to forestall natural death almost indefinitely.
All too often, the terminally ill suffer needless pain and are kept alive
without real hope, as families hold a harrowing deathwatch.
In ancient Greece and Rome it was permissible in some situations to help
others die. For example, the Greek writer Plutarch mentioned that in Sparta,
infanticide was practiced on children who lacked "health and vigor." Both
Socrates and Plato sanctioned forms of euthanasia in certain cases. Voluntary
euthanasia for the elderly was an approved custom in several ancient societies .
Euthanasia has been accepted both legally and morally in various forms
in many societies . "There is no more profoundly personal decision, nor one
which is closer to the heart of personal liberty, than the choice which a
terminally ill person makes to end his or her suffering ...," U.S. District
Judge Barbara Rothstein wrote (R-1). Organizations supporting the legalization
of voluntary euthanasia were established in Great Britain in 1935 and in the
United States in 1938. They have gained some public support, but so far they
have been unable to achieve their goal in either nation. In the last few
decades, Western laws against passive and voluntary euthanasia have slowly been
The proeuthanasia, or "right to die," movement has received considerable
encouragement by the passage of laws in 40 states by 1990, which allow legally
competent individuals to make "living wills." These wills empower and instruct
doctors to withhold life-support systems if the individuals become terminally
Euthanasia continues to occur in all societies, including those in which
it is held to be immoral and illegal. A medically assisted end to a meaningless
and worthless "void" of an existence is both accepted and condoned by the
medical profession. In a Colorado survey, 60% of physicians stated that they
have cared for patients for whom they believe active euthanasia would be
justifiable, and 59% expressed a willingness to use lethal drugs in such cases
if legal. In a study of 676 San Francisco physicians, 70% believed that
patients with an incurable terminal illness should have the option of active
euthanasia, and 45% would carry out such a request, if legal (35% were opposed).
Nearly 90% of physicians in another study agreed that "sometimes it is
appropriate to give pain medication to relieve suffering, even if it may hasten
a patient's death."(R-2)
Antithesis Argument That Euthanasia Is Unacceptable
With the rise of organized religion, euthanasia became morally and
ethically abhorrent. Christianity, Judaism, and Islam all hold human life
sacred and condemn euthanasia in any form . The American Medical Association
continues to condemn assisted suicide.
Western laws have generally considered the act of helping someone to die
a form of homicide subject to legal sanctions. Even a passive withholding of
help to prevent death has frequently been severely punished.
And the Roman Catholic Church's newly released catechism says:
``Intentional euthanasia, whatever its forms or motives, is murder.'' (R-1).
The Board of Trustees of the American Medical Association recommends
that the American Medical Association reject euthanasia and physician-assisted
suicide as being incompatible with the nature and purposes of the healing arts
"When does the right to die become the obligation to die?" asks the Rev. Richard
McCormick, professor of Christian ethics at Notre Dame University who spoke
recently against assisted suicide at Fort Lauderdale's Holy Cross Hospital.
"Imagine an 85-year-old grandmother" with the option of ordering a suicide dose
from a doctor: "'Do they want me to ask for it now?' Physician-assisted suicide
saves money. ... This is a flight from the challenge of social compassion." (R-
The issue of euthanasia is not a recent one. The Oath of Hippocrates is
said to have originated in approximately the fifth century B.C. and, even then,
it incorporated a specific pledge against physician-assisted suicide when it
said, "I will give no deadly medicine to anyone, even if asked."
What of the innocent bystanders? The family, friends or even foes of
someone that elects to exercise their "right to die"? It is suggested that a
person suffering from an incurable or terminal illness is not complete command
of their mental faculties and thereby incapable of such an extraordinary
decision. Surely a degraded mental capacity rules out realistic thinking with
regard to survivors. How many "innocent bystanders" also pay the price of
Synthesis For Euthanasia
Euthanasia occurs in all societies, including those in which it is held
to be immoral and illegal . Euthanasia occurs under the guise of secrecy in
societies that secrecy is mandatory. The first priority for the care of
patients facing severe pain as a result of a terminal illness or chronic
condition should be the relief of their pain. Relieving the patient's
psychosocial and other suffering is as important as relieving the patient's pain.
Western laws against passive and voluntary euthanasia have slowly been
eased, although serious moral and legal questions still exist . Some opponents
of euthanasia have feared that the increasing success that doctors have had in
transplanting human organs might lead to abuse of the practice of euthanasia. It
is now generally understood, however, that physicians will not violate the
rights of the dying donor in order to help preserve the life of the organ
Even though polls indicate most Americans support the right of sick
people to end their pain through self-inflicted death, euthanasia is one of the
more contentious aspects of the death-with-dignity movement .
"This is really one of the most fundamental abilities that a human being has to
decide if he or she wants to die," says Meyer, who practiced radiology for 40
Slightly more than half of the physicians surveyed in Washington State
would approve the legalization of physician-assisted suicide and euthanasia
under certain circumstances. A total of 938 physicians completed questionnaires
about their attitudes toward euthanasia and assisted suicide. Physician-
assisted suicide was described as prescribing medication and providing
counseling to patients on overdosing to end their own lives. Euthanasia was
defined as administering an overdose of medication at an ill patient's request.
Forty-two percent of physicians indicated that they found euthanasia ethically
acceptable under some circumstances. Fifty-four percent indicated that they
believed euthanasia should be legal under certain circumstances .
Today, patients are entitled to opt for passive euthanasia; that is, to
make free and informed choices to refuse life support. The controversy over
active euthanasia, however, is likely to remain intense because of opposition
from religious groups and many members of the medical profession .
The medical profession has generally been caught in the middle of the
social controversies that rage over euthanasia. Government and religious groups
as well as the medical profession itself agree that doctors are not required to
use "extraordinary means" to prolong the life of the terminally ill .
The Second Chamber of the Dutch Parliment developed and approved the
following substantive and procedural guidelines, or "points" for Dutch
physicians to consider when practicing or administering Euthanasia:
(a) Euthanasia must be voluntary; the patient's request must be
seriously considered and enduring.
(b) The patient must have adequate information about his or her medical
condition, the prognosis, and alternative methods of treatment
(though it is not required that the patient be terminally ill).
(c) The patient's suffering must be intolerable, in the patient's view,
and must also be irreversible.
(d) There must be no reasonable alternatives for relieving the patient's
suffering that are acceptable to the patient.
(e) Euthanasia may be performed only by a physician (though a nurse
may assist the physician).
(f) The physician must consult with a second physician whose judgment
can be expected to be independent.
(g) The physician must exercise due care in reviewing and verifying the
patient's condition as well as in performing the euthanasia
(h) The relatives must be informed unless the patient does not wish
(i) There should be a written record of the case.
(j) The case may not be reported as a natural death. (R-2).
Having choices, including having the legal right for help to die is
important in preserving the basic democratic fabric of the United States
of America. The issue of euthanasia is, by it's very nature, a very difficult
and private choice. Euthanasia should remain exactly that; a choice; a choice
that ought not be legislated or restricted by opposing forces or opinions.
(R-1) Assisted suicide: Helping terminally ill, or "quick fix" for
intolerant society? (Originated from Knight-Ridder Newspapers)
by Patty Shillington Knight-Ridder/Tribune News Service June
15 '94 p0615
(R-2) Report of the Board of Trustees of the American Medical
Association. (Transcript) v10 Issues in Law & Medicine Summer
(R-3) "Euthanasia," Microsoft (R) Encarta. Copyright (c) 1994
Microsoft Corporation. Copyright (c) 1994 Funk & Wagnall's
(R-4) Report of the Council on Ethical and Judicial Affairs of the
American Medical Association. (Transcript) v10 Issues in Law &
Medicine Summer '94 p91-97
(R-5) The New England Journal of Medicine July 14 '94 p89(6)
(R-6) Death on trial: the case of Dr. Kevorkian obscures critical
issues - and dangers. (Jack Kevorkian) (Cover Story) by Joseph P.
Shapiro il v116 U.S. News & World Report April 25 '94 p31
(R-7) Euthanasia and Medical Decisions Concerning the Ending of Life.
by P.J. van der Maas and J.J.M. Delden
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Legalization of Euthanasia: Advantages and Disadvantages
The intention to deliberately accelerate the death of an incurable patient, even to stop his suffering, has never been unambiguous. The English philosopher Francis Bacon introduced the term euthanasia to denote light painless death, that is, calm and light death, without torment and suffering. Although the very idea of euthanasia originated a long time ago, from the time of Hippocrates to the present day, traditional medical ethics includes a ban: “To please no one will I prescribe a deadly drug, nor give advice which may cause his death.” Euthanasia is called any action aimed at putting an end to the life of a person, in pursuit of his/her will, and an uninterested person must do this.
It is worthy to note that the 39th World Medical Assembly adopted the Declaration on euthanasia, which states the following “Euthanasia, as an act of intentional deprivation of life of the patient at his/her request or the request of his/her relatives, is inadmissible, including the form of passive euthanasia. The doctor is obligated to ease the suffering of the dying by all available and legal methods.”
More and more people think that euthanasia is much more humane in some cases than life (Piccirilli Dorsey, Inc.). Nevertheless, it is necessary to find out whether people have the right to decide if someone needs to die or to live further. This question is of interest to both ordinary people and doctors. What is more, it is unlikely that humanity will come to a single denominator in this matter. That is why there are arguments for and against euthanasia.
To start with, the specific reasons for the legalization of euthanasia are as follows. Euthanasia makes it possible to fully exercise the human right to dispose of their lives, including making decisions on the termination of their own lives. Secondly, a person is recognized as the highest value, and consequently, her/his real well-being, the needs and the right to self-determination, the right to freedom, the right to respect for dignity, the right to dignity must be guaranteed and fully guaranteed (Strinic, Visnja). Thirdly, euthanasia provides the implementation of one of the fundamental principles of law, the principle of humanism. Euthanasia is humane because it stops the suffering and torment of an incurably sick person. The state and society must recognize this right not for everyone, but for the sake of the small group of people who need it (Strinic, Visnja). It is also worth noting the point of view of the European Court of Human Rights, which maintains a neutral position on this issue, recognizing the right of the States Parties to autonomy in settlement of euthanasia (“The Right To Assisted Suicide In The Case Law Of The European Court Of Human Rights.”). Analyzing their decisions about euthanasia, it can be seen that, in most cases, the court did not take into account the material aspect of the cases, but resolved them on the basis of violations of the procedural form.
However, it should be recalled that, in fact, in all civilized countries, a murder of compassion persists in practice regardless of whether it is permitted by law or not. The literature indicates that 40% of all deaths of sick people occur as a result of medical decisions made by the physicians about the cessation of life either by refusing treatment or by drugs that accelerate its onset. Consequently, in countries where euthanasia is prohibited, where there is no legal protection against the misuse of euthanasia, the situation is worse. The legalization of euthanasia must go through some scientific, legislative filters that will establish rules, specific criteria and cases when such a right can be realized. The decriminalization of euthanasia is indicated by the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) in the document “Questions and Answers on Euthanasia” of 10.09.2003, will control this process and restrict it to a clear framework of the law. Only controlled procedures and clear rules for the use of euthanasia will end the arbitrary system existing in many European countries (Assistance To Patients At End Of Life).
Jonathan Van Maren cites twenty arguments against euthanasia (“20 Reasons Why Euthanasia Corrupts Everything It Touches, And Must Be Opposed”). First of all, it is believed that suicide with assistance or euthanasia is death with dignity because it occurs quickly. It turns out that those who do not die quickly die without dignity. Secondly, suicide with the help destroys the appointment of medical institutions: to treat patients, save lives and reduce pain. Adding the killing of patients to the list of “medical services” will become an encroachment on the very essence of medicine. Thirdly, suicide for the help makes people who want to use this “service”, second-class citizens (“20 Reasons Why Euthanasia Corrupts Everything It Touches, And Must Be Opposed”). If a person who does not have depression can not claim to be in a position to die. As for a person with depression, the state actually confirms that life with depression is less valuable. Fourthly, euthanasia requires that the state and medical institutions determine whether a person should live. As a result, people with disabilities become second-class people, because their lives are less valuable than people without disabilities. Parents of disabled children in Belgium are advised to expose children to euthanasia. Euthanasia, translated from the Greek as good death is placed in dependence on the eugenics, in Greek, which means good birth (“20 Reasons Why Euthanasia Corrupts Everything It Touches, And Must Be Opposed”). Just as abortion justifies the killing of unborn children with Down syndrome and other abnormalities, euthanasia is used to kill already-born people, but less sophisticated than others. Fifthly, suicide with assistance erases borders. If someone has a mental illness and has the right to use a suicide hotline, which is funded by the government, there is a stumbling block what doctors should do. The question is to deny a man from death or not. Then, it ups in the mind whether such pressure will be a violation of the new rights of citizens in a state where the government permits murder or not. After all, once they decided that the woman had the right to abort, people immediately began to blame those who tried to discourage women from abortion, in violation of their rights. What is more, suicide for assisting makes suicidal people much more vulnerable, since, having legalized the possibility for a person to kill him-/herself, the government has confirmed that these people should not live. Seventhly, suicide for assistance gives rise to a new definition of the term cure, which now affects deadly poison, issued by a physician with a clear intention to kill a person (“20 Reasons Why Euthanasia Corrupts Everything It Touches, And Must Be Opposed”). Eightly, suicide for assistance creates a new, fictitious right, the right to death. It undermines the right to life, which can not be abandoned, even voluntarily. The right to death is a legal absurdity. Providing the state and courts with the right to legalize murder is an extremely dangerous step that has far-reaching consequences. In the Netherlands, many people are victims of forced euthanasia (“20 Reasons Why Euthanasia Corrupts Everything It Touches, And Must Be Opposed”).
Next to the facts, to provide medical professionals with the legal right to kill, even in limited circumstances, are unreasonable and dangerous. Using this right, people can hide medical negligence or ill treatment. Such precedents have already been in European countries, where euthanasia is legalized. The eleventh against proclaims that children can push their parents so that they take advantage of the new service. Such cases were recorded in the United States and Europe. When people live a long time and spend their savings on themselves, it is easy to predict the reaction of a selfish child who sees her/his dying heritage. The twelfth fact explains that those who advocate the legalization of euthanasia ignore the fact that people may be under pressure and use this service for various reasons. For example, the legalization of euthanasia for children in Belgium ignores the fact that children can be subjected to pressure in opposition to their interests (“20 Reasons Why Euthanasia Corrupts Everything It Touches, And Must Be Opposed”). As a thirteenth against, there is a point that there is little discussion about how the final stage of euthanasia should be carried out. So-called precautionary measures have been illusory or ineffective in all jurisdictions where euthanasia is legalized. It is known that many feel great relief if their suicide attempt was unsuccessful, but anyone can not question the victims of euthanasia or regret their decision.
Moreover, suicide for assistance is based on a secular principle. After death, nothing is possible; suicide does not affect anything. It is very arrogant. If, as Christians believe and practically all of Western civilization up until recently), life after death exists, suicide is an act with enormous moral consequences. Also, suicide for assistance as a moral issue has never been discussed, even on the periphery. Those who seek to legalize euthanasia seem to have simply taken the Axiom’s view that suicide for assistance is a right without making any attempt to formulate a clear philosophy to illustrate why this is so. The sixteenth against proclaims that abuse of euthanasia occurs wherever it is legal. For example, judges in the Netherlands have allowed some families to subject their elderly parents with dementia to euthanasia, despite the fact that the parents themselves have never asked for euthanasia and there was no weighty evidence that they wanted to die. The president of the Exit branch in German-speaking Switzerland Saskia Fry said that “opponents of organized suicide believe that older people are not able to make decisions” (“20 Reasons Why Euthanasia Corrupts Everything It Touches, And Must Be Opposed”). Nevertheless, the elderly person reflects and decides independently. What is more, their close people and relatives are trying to resist the choice of a person to commit suicide. It is worthy to note that older people are much better informed, more autonomous and self-confident than before and called for not underestimating the experience and qualifications of those who help to get out of life. Also, in countries, where legalization of euthanasia exists, the prices for this service increase. In Belgium and the Netherlands every year, a huge number of people die as a result of euthanasia.
The eighteenth against implies specialists in ethics insist that forced euthanasia or rather a murder for children should be legalized. In the Netherlands, this has already happened (Jotkowitz, A B). What is more, suicide for help and euthanasia devalue human life. After all, medical institutions are killing a suffering person as if a domestic animal was slaughtering.
The last but not the least is where the suicide with assistance is legalized, activists of euthanasia push this service into all possible spheres. Their words about some kind of precautionary measures and limited circumstances are an outright lie. The ultimate goal is to provide euthanasia upon the request and without any kind of apology.
It can be said that the only minus of euthanasia is its gloomy coloring in society. It always sprawls on religious dogmas, which can not but offend the feelings of unbelievers who are hungry for it day by day. Also, people are gently saying strange and useless analogies to the past with the naturalness of death and anguish, utterances like one must live (Piccirilli Dorsey, Inc.). The public was obsessed with the cult of life as an absolute good and lost any culture of death. Suicide is not savagery. Wildness is when a man of the 21st century dies as the last beast because of someone’s prejudices. This is nothing but a public opinion that still can not support euthanasia with even half of its votes. To sum up everything that was mentioned above, one should admit that the problem of euthanasia requires criminal legal regulation. As the solution to this, the fate of many hopelessly sick people, who in recent years have been in hospitals, whose physical condition is diagnosed as an intermediate one, between life and death, and the mental one, is helplessness, a state of deep despair.
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World Medical Association. HANDBOOK OF DECLARATIONS. Ferney-Voltaire, France: The Association, 1992; Document Number 17.P, 1 p.4.