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Passive euthanasia is the deliberate disconnection of life support equipment, or cessation of any life sustaining medical procedure, permitting the natural death of the patient (EROG). Allowing an individual the right to choose if they want to fight to save their own life or to be allowed to die a nature death is becoming a major issue in today’s society. This is not just a present day issue; it has been a topic of debate for many years. In 1906 Ohio drafted It’s first euthanasia bill and then in 1938 The Euthanasia Society of America was founded (EROG). 1976 though was a turning point for euthanasia in the United States as the Quinlan Family goes all the way to the New Jersey Supreme Court to be allowed to disconnect the respirator from their comatose daughter. The courts approved the families’ request (EROG). Also in 1976 California passes the nation’s first Living Will law. A Living Will is the popular name for an advance directive by which a person requests in writing for a physician not to connect life supporting equipment if this procedure is merely going to delay an inevitable death (EROG). There are many people who feel that they do not want to have their death delayed by extraordinary means. Allowing passive euthanasia, gives individuals the right to decide about their own life. A right that I will try to show to you should not be taken away from any person.


All possible means should be used to save a life. This is not the best possible alternative. Life at all cost can become an enormous financial stress for families. There is also the added stress of taking care of a loved of that is totally dependent on others. When others are allowed to make the decision for live at all cost for an individual that is seriously ill or injured, they are generally thinking only of themselves and not the quality of life this person may have after the illness or injury. As John Miller states in one of his articles in The American Journal of Hospice and Palliative Care; ” When we fall to the extremes, we take choices away from those who we believe we are helping.” Life at all cost if allowed could be taken to the extreme.

Values Protected

Assisted Suicide Passive euthanasia Life at all cost

Freedom of choice.Death with dignity.Individual liberty. Freedom of choice.Death with dignity.Individual liberty.Financial stability for families.Quality of life. Preservation of life.Protection of Doctor’s oath.Love and caring of a family member.

With assisted suicide and passive euthanasia, a patient is given the freedom to choose what happens with their life; but with life at all cost it is usually the family or the medical personal making the decisions for the patient. Protection of a doctor’s medical oath comes secondary to the freedom to choice for an individual. Taking away a person’s right to make their own decision about their life is not correct. No one knows what is best for an individual except the person involved in the decision. According to the Hemlock Society, if you are terminally ill, a person has the right to refuse treatment even if they will die without it. To demand and to receive adequate medication for pain control even if it will shorten your life. Life at all cost can be very expensive. Medical procedures and health care for a patient can be taken too far, cost families a great deal of money and emotional stress of taking care of a loved one. With passive euthanasia a patient is allowed to die with dignity. There is no extraordinary measure taken to save the patient’s life, which can also lower the medical expenses a family endures through a tragedy. Passive euthanasia allows a person to die naturally and with today’s hospice programs, the patient is medicated to help relieve the unwanted pain. Assisted suicide or life at all cost can be considered extremes in today’s society. As John Miller states in his article called “Hospice Care or Assisted Suicide”; “When we fall to the extremes. We take choices away from those who we believe we are helping. But, there is a middle ground. When we aim for that middle ground, we all win.”

Double Effect

G.C.= Patient dies a nature death.

(A1) Passive euthanasia—–

B.C.=Feeling of guilt.

1. Passive euthanasia is indifferent. (pass)

2. The feeling of guilt (bc) does not bring about the natural death of the patient (gc). (pass)

3. The feeling of guilt (bc) is not intended. (pass)

4. To allow a natural death (gc) is worth permitting the feeling of guilt (bc). (pass)

G.C.= No more pain and suffering for the patient.

(A2) Assisted suicide———

B.C.= Death.

1. Assisted suicide is indifferent. (pass)

2. Death (bc) does bring about No more pain and suffering for the patient (gc). (fail)

G.C.= Life.

(A3) Life at all cost.———-

B.C.= Patient may suffer great pain.

1. Life at all cost is indifferent. (pass)

2. Patient may suffer great pain (bc) does bring about Life. (fail)

After applying the double effect criteria, a conclusion can be reached that passive euthanasia is morally acceptable. Assisted suicide is ending a life before it is suppose to end. Life at all cost does not benefit the patient; it only puts a patient through a possible painful dreaded life to lead. Allowing a person to make their own decisions is an absolute right that we all have. So if a person decided to refuse medical treatment, it is their right to do so. Most doctors do not take the Hippocratic Oath nowadays. They take an oath, which emphasizes the relief of suffering and respecting their patient’s wishes. (Girsh) Now doctor’s can protect the rights of life instead of just life in itself. Action taken to relieve the suffering of the patient at the risk of perhaps shortening their life. This sort of action is part of a doctor’s calling. His vocation is not only that of curing diseases or prolonging life, but, much more generally, also that of taking care of a sick person and relieving their suffering. (O’Rourke) The policy statement on passive euthanasia for the American Medical Association states;

The intentional termination of life of one human being by another-mercy killing- is contrary to that for which the medical profession stands and is contrary to the policy of the American Medical Association.

The cessation of the employment of extraordinary means to prolong the life of the body when there is irrefutable evidence that biological death is imminent is the decision of the patient and/or their immediate family. The advice and judgment of the physician should be freely available to the patient and/or their immediate family. (Pojman)

Bad consequences

The feeling of guilt, for not fighting to save a life that possibly could be saved is a lot for some people to deal with. But this feeling of guilt can be reduced with the understanding that the patient fully understands what the outcome of refusal of treatment and that it is the patients right to choose whether to battle life or not. When a family member feels the guilt of watching a loved one die. The family should be counseled and informed that this is the wish and the right of the patient. Prolonging an individual’s life is not always best for the family. They may end up dealing with the dying process longer than it is actually necessary to do so. Family needs to offer comfort and reassurance to the patient, so the patient knows that their family is behind them to the end. In the second edition of Ethics of Health Care the authors state:

A decision to allow oneself to die in such circumstances is not equivalent of suicide. On the contrary it should be considered as an acceptance of the human condition, or a wish to avoid the application of a medical disproportionate to the results that can be expected, or a desire not to impose excessive expense on the family or the community. (Ashley)

A person’s right of freedom to decide what is best for themselves is an absolute right. A right that cannot be taken away from anybody. No person should have to suffer through extraordinary means to live. If an individual has the knowledge given to them that their death is imminent, they should be allowed to refuse treatment to prolong their life, but they should still be allowed assistance when dealing with the physical and emotional pain of dying.

Work Cited

Ashley, Benedict M. O.P. and Kevin D. O’Rourke. O.P. Ethics of Health Care: An Introductory Textbook. 2nd edition. Washington D.C. Georgetown University Press.1994

Girsh, Faye. Ed.D. ” Would You Take a House Call From Dr. Kevorkian? Should Physician Assisted Suicide Be Legal in the United State?” Veterans Vision, Vol.4 No.1. Summer 1997.

Humphry, Derek. Euthanasia Research and Guidance Organization. (ERGO) 1995.

Miller, John. ” Hospice Care or Assisted Suicide: A False Dichotomy” The American Journal of Hospice and Palliative Care. May/June 1997.

O’Rourke, Kevin D. O.P. and Philip Boyle. Medical Ethics: Sources of Catholic Teachings. Washington D.C. Georgetown University Press. 1993.

Pojman, Louis P. Life and Death. Boston. Jones and Bartlett Publishers. 1992.

Hemlock Society. www.hemlock.org. April 18, 2001

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