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Regulate And Reform Euthanasia Essay, Research Paper

Regulate and Reform Euthanasia One of the landmark cases that involve euthanasia is that of Karen Ann Quinlan. Quinlan, a twenty-one year old New Jersey resident, overdosed on pills and alcohol in 1975. She was rushed to the hospital where her physical condition gradually deteriorated to a vegetative state. The doctors determined she had no chance of recovery. Before the coma Karen said that if anything ever happened that would leave her physically and mentally incompetent, without any chance of recovery, she would not want to be kept alive by “extraordinary medical procedures,” notes Derek Humphry. Karen’s parents sought religious counsel from their priest. They were told that the Catholic religion allows the removal of extraordinary care if the patient was in a terminal condition. Karen’s parents requested she be removed from the respirator. The hospital denied their request. The Quinlans then directed their request to the court. The superior court denied their request. They took their request to the New Jersey Supreme court where the decision was reversed. Karen was removed from the respirator. To everyone’s surprise, Karen began breathing on her own and lived another ten years (Humphry 107). The Quinlan case brought to the forefront patients’ desire to die a proud, quiet death. It also brought to the forefront the complications caused by the advancement of medical technology (”Euthanasia”27). Euthanasia has been practiced in Eastern and Western culture since the beginning of civilization. The capability of medical technology to extend life (as demonstrated by the Quinlan case) has made the issue of euthanasia more complicated. Individuals should be allowed to “die with dignity” in the event of terminal illness if he or she wants it. Terminating a patient’s life is much more merciful than allowing him or her to die a slow painful death from illness. Those who oppose legalizing euthanasia and assisted suicide say that this could lead to involuntary killing of the aged and infirm. I agree that there may be danger of abuse and that the vulnerable need to be protected; therefore, I support passing legislation that monitors and regulates physician assisted suicide. The demand for legislation in support of legalized euthanasia for the terminally ill has been an issue since the beginning of the century. According to Derek Humphry in Ohio in 1906, a Bill proposing to legalize euthanasia was presented to the Ohio legislature. The bill was defeated by nearly 80% of those voting. Opponents said the bill would have presented away for doctors to cover up their mistakes. Opponents also say that the bill would have provided a means for families to get rid of relatives who were a nuisance and give fortune seekers a shortcut to inheritance. Although the bill was defeated, the idea it generated still lives on (Humphry 12). Opponents of euthanasia often refer to the atrocities and attitudes in Nazi Germany for reasons not to support euthanasia. An article in the Progressive describes the essay “Permitting the Destruction of Unworthy Life” written in Germany in 1920, by Alfred Hoche. In the essay he proposes getting rid of the “‘dead weight existence of incurables in Germany.’” By “‘incurable’” he meant those who were mentally and emotionally disabled (Who 34). When the Nazis took power in Germany in 1933, as explained in “Euthanasia and the Third Reich” an article in HISTORY TODAY, they took Alfred Hoche’s concept of euthanasia and used it to rationalize sterilization of those with “hereditary” illnesses. They also used the “euthanasia programme” to kill mentally and physically handicapped children and adults. Eventually they used this policy as justification for killing Jews, homosexuals, and others (Burleigh 11). Many believe that this kind of murder can happen again if euthanasia is legalized. However, the senseless, atrocious killings in Germany cannot be compared to carefully regulated policies that will allow euthanasia in selective cases. Such an extreme comparison should not prevent a merciful euthanasia policy for the terminally ill in unbearable pain who request it. As people began forgetting World War II and the atrocities of Nazi Germany, interest in “assisted suicide” and euthanasia was restored. To understand the controversy of euthanasia and assisted suicide, one must understand the difference between the two terms. Euthanasia involves the administering of the life taking measure; whereas, assisted suicide provides the means or instructions to the patient who intends to kill him or herself. Physicians who are used to saving lives are being asked to end patients lives. The request for “death with dignity” is very popular. In a 1991 Gallop Poll, nearly 60 percent of those interviewed said that a person has the “moral right” to end his or her life when the person “has a disease that is incurable.” Sixty-five percent said “yes” to the following question: When a person has a disease that cannot be cured, do you think doctors should be al- lowed by law to end the patient’s life by some painless means if the family requests it (Fear 4)? The legality of physician-assisted suicide is one of the main reasons physicians hesitate to support assisted suicide. According to an article in the New England Journal of Medicine, in the United States, any action that causes death of a person or causes that person to kill himself is illegal. Doctors are prohibited from intentionally taking

someone’s life without the patient’s approval. As of 14 July 1994, 30 states had criminalized physician assisted suicide (Regulating 119). However, of those physicians who have practiced euthanasia or assisted suicide few have been brought to trial and none have been convicted. As awareness increased on the topic of “death with dignity,” it was no longer just a medical issue it became a political issue as well. In 1991, congress enacted the Patient Self Determination Act. The Patient Self Determination Act required hospitals and nursing homes to inform patients that they have the right to refuse medication (Aging 54). As a result patients began refusing medication and their pain and suffering increased. Although the Patient Self Determination caused controversy and complications it was America’s first step in reform of euthanasia practices. Although America’s Patient Self Determination Act provide patients with some freedom ofchoice, other western cultures who are practicing euthanasia or assisted suicide for theterminally ill are taking more aggressive measures but are still protecting those who may bevulnerable to abuse. For example, In Sweden steps are taken to insure that people who arenot terminally ill are not given advice and assistance in their efforts to commit suicide(Birenbaum 30). The Netherlands’ practice of euthanasia is usually the focus when universal policies on euthanasia are being considered. Dutch physicians have been practicing euthanasia for many years. Despite euthanasia being illegal, Dutch society supports it. The policy on euthanasia in the Netherlands requires three conditions must be met: the patient must make the request insistently and repeatedly of his desire to die, more than one doctor must have attended the patient, and the patient must be terminally ill and suffering from severe physical or mental pain. The physician then gives the patient a lethal injection of barbiturates to provide permanent relief (Birenbaum 30). On 8 December 1994, the residents of Oregon passed a law similar to the Netherlands’ practice of euthanasia. Voters in Oregon passed Americas’ first euthanasia law. The law will legalize the prescription of lethal doses of medicine to terminally ill patients who desire to end their lives. The policy is similar to that in the Netherlands. The policy requires that the request be made three times, two oral request and one written request. There must be fifteen days between the first request and the second request. During the fifteen days the patient is evaluated for mental competence and to insure that the patient is not being coerced. The patient is given explanation of other alternatives to suicide such as pain relief, comfort care, and hospice care. If it is determined that a psychological problem exists that may be the cause for the patient’s desire for suicide, he or she is then referred to a psychiatrist. These evaluations are done by two doctors. After the fifteen-day waiting period, the patient is given a written prescription to cosign. The prescription must be cosigned by two other people, neither a relative nor a recipient of the patient’s estate. Two days later the physician gives the written prescription to the patient so that the patient can terminate his or her life. The doctors do not participate in the giving of the fatal dosage (Mc Carthy 1493). The Oregon initiative prevents involuntary killing of the aged and infirm because it does not allow the physician to perform the lethal act. Therefore, this policy can be used as an example for a national policy. No one looks forward to dying, but it is a part of living. Death is the last time that we can express who we are. It is the last time we can determinefor ourselves the course of our lives. Reforms of laws on euthanasia and assisted suicidewill give us a choice of what that course will be. So “live and let die.”

Birenbaum, Arnold. “The Right to Die in America.” Usa Today Jan. 1990: 28-30. Burleigh, Michael. “Euthanasia and the Third Reich.” History Today Feb. 1990: 11-16. “Euthanasia in the 1990: Dying a ‘”Good”‘ Death.” Current Jan./Aug. 1993:Humanities Source. Item 9307080094. “Fear of Dying.” Gallup Poll. 6 Jan. 1991. HumphryDerek, and Ann Wickett. The Right to Die: Understanding Euthanasia. New York: Harper &Row, 1986. McCarthy, Michael. “Oregon’s Euthanasia Law.” Lancet 26 Nov. 1994: Academic Abstract Fulltext. Item 9412133445. “Medical Treatment Near the End of Life-Deciding When Enough Is Enough.” Aging. 1993: Academic Abstract Fulltext. Item 9308230150. “Regulating Physician-Assisted Death.” New England Journal of Medicine 14 July1994: Academic Abstract Fulltext. Item 9407127791. “Who Gets to Live? WhoGets to Die?” Progressive Oct. 1994: 34-36. Humanities Source Fulltext. Item 94010067886. OutlineIntroductionThesis: Regulations and reforms of euthanasia laws must be passed to allowthe terminally ill to die a proud, peaceful death. I. History of euthanasia A. Ohio B. Nazi GermanyII. Terminology A. Euthanasia B. Assisted-suicideIII. Opinions of euthanasia A. Physicians B. PublicIV. Patient Self-Determination ActV. Euthanasia in other countries A. Sweden B. Netherlands 1. patient requests 2. evaluated by two doctorsVI. Oregon’s Euthanasia law A. Prescription given by doctor B. Requires three requests 1. two oral request 2. one written request C. Evaluated by two doctors D. Forbid doctors from administering lethal doseConclusion

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