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Euthanasia Essay, Research Paper
Euthanasia : for and against
At any one time, over 10,000 patients in Canada are in a permanently vegetative
State (Bender, 34). In addition, thousands of profoundly handicapped infants are born each year. As life-
sustaining medical technology continues to improve and lengthen the process of dying, those numbers will
steadily increase. This, along with several other factors, is why euthanasia should be legalized throughout
Allowing doctors to administer a lethal dose is much more merciful to dying patients than allowing them to
die slowly and painfully from a terminal disease. Everyone must die. And almost everyone comes to a
point where they, or a loved one, knows they are dying and must decide what to do. Euthanasia will mean
the act of ending the life of a person, from compassionate motives, when he/she is already terminally ill or
when his suffering has become unbearable.
People who, perhaps because of a serious illness or perhaps for reasons unrelated to their illness, are
extremely depressed and say they want to die. These people are not different than anyone else who thinks
about suicide — they just have medical problems in addition to their emotional or psychological problems.
Some ill people become frustrated that they cannot lead the kind of active lives that they used to before
their illness. Some feel guilty about being a burden on their family. Voluntary euthanasia is unnecessary
because alternative treatments exist. It is widely believed that thre are only two options open to patients
with terminal illness: either they die slowly in unrelieved suffering or they receive euthanasia (Barnard, 1).
In fact, there is a middle way, that of creative and compassionate caring. Meticulous research in Palliative
medicine has in recent years shown that virtually all unpleasant symptoms experienced in the process of
terminal illness can be either relieved or substantially alleviated techniques already available (Cassel, 45).
A patient with a terminal illness is vulnerable. They lack the knowledge and skills to
alleviate their own symptoms, and may well be suffering from fear about the future and
anxiety about the effect theri illness is having on others. It is very difficult for them to be
entirely objective about their won situation. Those who regularly manage terminally ill
patients recognize that they often suffer from depression or a false sense of
worthlessness which may affect their judgment. Their decision-making may equally be
affected by confusion or troublesome symptoms which could be relieved with
appropriate treatment. Terminally ill patients also adapt to a level of disability that
they would not have previously anticipated they could live with. They come to value
what little quality of life they have left.
Many elderly people already feel a burden to family, careers and society which is cost
conscious and may be short of resources. They may feel great pressure to request
euthanasia ?freely and voluntarily?. These patients need to hear that they are valued
and loved as they are. They need to know that doctors are committed first and foremost to
their well-being, even if this does involve expenditure of time and money. The way
doctors can treat the dying and most vulnerable people speaks volumes about the kind of
society we can and should be.
When the focus changes from curing the condition to killing the individual with the
condition, this whole process is threatened. The increasing acceptance of prenatal
diagnosis and abortion for conditions like spina bifida, downsyndrome and cystic
fibrosis is threatening the very dramatic progress made in the management of these
conditions, especially over the last two decades (Bender, 18). Rather than being employed to care and
console, funds are being diverted to fuel the strategy of ?search and destroy? If euthanasia is legalized
advances in ktenology (the science of killing) at the expense of treatment and symptom control are very
likely to occur. This will in turn encourage further calls for euthanasia.
What we are considering is not the right to die at all, but rather the right to be killed by
a doctor; more specifically we are talking about giving doctors a legal right to kill. This
has its own dangers which we should consider. Allowing difficult cases to create a
precedent for legalized killing is the wrong response. We need rather to evaluate these
difficult cases so that we can do better in the future. This was clearly demonstrated in
the case of Nigel Cox, the Winchester rheumatologist found guilty of attempted
murder after giving a patient with rheumatoid arthritis a lethal injection of potassium
chloride in August 1991 (Bendor, 8).
Although there are many cases in favour of practising euthanasia, there are many viewpoints against the
case which should be considered before making a final personal decision. People vary greatly in their views
on what makes life meaningful, at what point life is no longer worth living, and how death should occur.
Some people view death as preferable to life in a vegetative state, while others believe that even
permanently unconscious persons should be kept alive. Because of these differences, there are only
individuals themselves can determine if and when euthanasia is ethical. Many patients are in great pain,
like Lillian Boyes, a seventy-year-old Englishwoman who was dying from a terrible form of rheumatoid
arthritis so painful that even the most powerful painkillers left her in agony, screaming when her son
touched her hand with his finger (Barnard, 13). Dying is the only option for them to choose in order to
release themselves from excruciating pain.
Thousands of dying patients in Canada would be comforted to know that, if and when
their suffering becomes intolerable, a humane alternative is available to them (Cassel, 92). There are
simply too many patients who do not wish to languish in such hopeless situations and will take the
measures to preclude such pointless. Professor Wade from the University of Western Michigan stated that,
“The current level of suffering in hospitals is barbaric!” (Cassel, 91)
It?s not easy to die, even if you want to and even it you?re terminally ill. A huge
number of the right kind of pills will work, but not everyone that sick can swallow. Such people who want to die need help. (And, just as important, people
who fear the torture disease can bring need just to know such help would be there.)
Therefore, Physician-Assisted Suicide should be ethical.
Canadians have a common-law and constitutional right to refuse unwanted medical
Treatment (Cantor, 2). This right extends to the removal of life-sustaining equipment. This “right-to-die”
should extend to aid-in-dying, or active euthanasia, for the terminally ill, at their request. It would be
unethical for the Doctors to bring patients to a state of extended suffering and then abandon them there.
Patients have the legal authority to determine the time of their death even if they do not have the legal
authority to determine the method by which they will die. Competent patients also can refuse permission
for nay treatment, including food and fluids, even if it is known that death will result, and even when they
are not terminally ill.
The role of the physician is to do what is best for the patient, and in some extreme
situations this may include hastening death upon the voluntary request of the dying. If
the role of the physician is defined solely in terms of healing, then, of course, this
excludes assisting someone to die. But in some extreme, hopeless circumstances, the
best service a physician can render may be to help a person hasten death in order to
relieve intolerable, unnecessary suffering that makes life unbearable as judged by the
What we are considering is not the right to die at all, but rather the right to be killed by
a doctor; more specifically we are talking about giving doctors a legal right to kill
1. Cassel, Christine. “Morals and Moralism in the Debate over Euthanasia
and Assisted Suicide”. Waltham: Greenhaven Press, Inc., 1992.
2. Cantor, L. Norman. “Legal Frontiers of Death and Dying.”. Bloominton,
IN: Indiana University Press, 1987.
3. Barnard, Christiaan Neethling. “Good Life Good Death”. Englewood
Cliffs, N.J.: Prentice-Hall, Inc., 1980.
4. Bender, David et al. “Euthanasia–Opposing Viewpoints”. San Diego:
Greenhaven Press, Inc., 1995.
5. Hofsess, John. “Born Free–but we die in chains.”
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