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Morality and Practicality of Euthanasia

Euthanasia is defined by The American Heritage Dictionary as “the action of killing

an individual for reasons considered to be merciful” (Leonesio 292). Here, killing is

described as the physical action where one individual actively kills another. Euthanasia is

tolerated in the medical field under certain circumstances when a patient is suffering

profoundly and death is inevitable. The word “euthanasia” comes from the Greek eu,

“good”, and thanatos, “death,” literally, “good death”; however, the word “euthanasia” is

much more difficult to define. Each person may define euthanasia differently. Who is to

decide whether a death is good or not? It is generally taken today to mean that act which a

health care professional carries out to help his/her patient achieve a good death. While

growing up, each of us learns a large number of rules of conduct. Which rules we learn

will depend on the kind of society we live in and the parents and the friends we have.

Sometimes we learn a rule without understanding its point. In most cases this may work

out, for the rule may be designed to cover ordinary circumstances, but when faced with

unusual situations, we may be in trouble. This situation is the same with moral rules.

Without understanding the rules, we may come to think of it as a mark of virtue that we

will not consider making exceptions to. We need a way of understanding the morality

against killing. The point is not to preserve every living thing possible, but to protect the

interests of individuals to have the right of choice to die.

Firstly, there are ethical guidelines for euthanasia. If the following guidelines are met,

then euthanasia is considered acceptable. The person must be a mature adult. This is

essential. The exact age will depend on the individual but the person should not be a minor

who would come under quite different laws. Secondly, the person must have clearly made

a considered decision. An individual has the ability now to indicate this with a living will

(which applies only to disconnection of life supports) and can also, in today’s more open

and tolerant society, freely discuss the option of euthanasia with health-care professionals,

family, lawyers, etc. The euthanasia must not be carried out at the first knowledge of a

life-threatening illness, and reasonable medical help must have been sought to cure or at

least slow down the terminal disease. It is when the fight is clearly hopeless and the agony,

physical and mental, is unbearable that a final exit is an option. The treating physician must

have been informed, asked to be involved, and his or her response been taken into

account. The physician’s response will vary depending on the circumstances, of course, but

they should advise their patients that a rational suicide is not a crime. It is best to inform

the doctor and hear his or her response. For example, the patient might be mistaken.

Perhaps the diagnosis has been misheard or misunderstood. Patients raising this subject

were met with a discreet silence or meaningless remarks in the past but in today’s more

accepting climate most physicians will discuss potential end of life actions. The person

must have a Will disposing of his or her worldly effects and money. ( Docker)

This shows evidence of a tidy mind, an orderly life, and forethought, all things which

are important to an acceptance of rational suicide. The person must have made plans to

die that do not involve others in criminal liability or leave them with guilty feelings.

Assistance in suicide is a crime in most places, although the laws are gradually changing,

and very few cases ever come before the courts. The only well known instance of a

lawsuit concerning this is the doctor-assisted suicide of Dr. Kevorkian. The person must

leave a note saying exactly why he or she is taking their life. This statement in writing

removes the chance of misunderstandings or blame. It also demonstrates that the

departing person is taking full responsibility for the action. These are all guidelines for

allowing a euthanasia to take place. By this, I mean the doctor is involved in the patient’s

decision and actively performs the euthanasia.

The common argument in support of euthanasia is one that is called “The argument

of mercy.” Patients sometimes suffer pain that can hardly be comprehended by those who

have not experienced it. The suffering would be so terrible that people wouldn’t want to

read or think about; and recoil in horror from its description. The argument for mercy

simply states: Euthanasia is morally justified because it ends suffering. Terminally ill

patients are people who will never attain a personal existence, never experience life as a

net value, and/or never achieve a minimal level of independence. The moral issue

regarding euthanasia is not affected by whether more could have been done for a patient;

but whether euthanasia is allowable if it is the only alternative to torment.

Courts and moral philosophers alike have long accepted the proposition that people

have a right to refuse medical treatment they find painful or difficult to bear, even if that

refusal means certain death. Individuals have the right to decide about their own lives and

deaths. What more basic right is there than to decide if you’re going to live? There is

none. A person under a death sentence who’s being kept alive, through so called heroic

measures certainly has a fundamental right to say, “Enough’s enough. The treatment’s

worse than the disease. Leave me alone. Let me die!”. Ironically, those who deny the

terminally ill this right do so out of a sense of high morality. Don’t they see that, in denying

the gravely ill and suffering the right to release themselves from pain, they commit the

greatest crime? (Burnell)

Are there no conditions when life is meaningless and should be quietly ended? If a

person is subject to pain that won’t stop as a result of a disease that can’t be cured, must

he or she suffer that pain as long as possible when there are gentle ways of putting an end

to life? If a person suffers from a disease that deprives him or her of all memory and

makes him or her a helpless lump of flesh that may live on for years.

We spend more than a billion dollars a day for health car while our teachers are

underpaid, and our industrial plants are rusty. This should not continue. There is

something fundamentally unsustainable about a society that moves its basic value

producing industries overseas yet continues to manufacture artificial hearts at home. We

have money to give smokers heart transplants but no money to retool out steel mills. We

train more doctors and lawyers than we need but fewer teachers. On any given day, 30 to

40 percent of the hospital beds in America are empty, but our classrooms are overcrowded

and our transportation systems are deteriorating. We are great at treating sick people, but

we are not that great at treating a sick economy. And we are not succeeding in

international trade. When you really look around and try to find industries the United

States is succeeding in, you discover that they are very few and far between. (Docker)

The period of suffering can be shortened. If you have ever been in a terminal cancer

ward, It’s grim but enlightening. Anyone who’s been there can know how much people can

suffer before they die. And not just physically. The emotional, even spiritual, agony is

often worse. Today our medical hardware is so sophisticated that the period of suffering

can be extended beyond the limit of human endurance. What’s the point of allowing

someone a few more months or days or hours of so-called life when death is inevitable?

There’s no point. In fact, it’s downright inhumane. When someone under such conditions

asks to be allowed to die, it’s far more humane to honor that request than to deny it.


There is no way we are going to come to grips with this problem until we also look

at some of these areas that aren’t going to go away . One of the toughest of these is what

Victor Fuchs called “flat-of-the-curve medicine”- those medical procedures which are the

highest in cost but achieve little or no improvement in health status. He says that they

must be reduced or eliminated. We must demand that professional societies and licensing

authorities establish some norms and standards for diagnostic and therapeutic practice that

encompass both costs and medicine. We’re going to have to come up with some sort of

concept of cost-effective medicine. (Docker)

People who oppose euthanasia have argued constantly doctors have often been

known to miscalculate or to make mistakes. Death is final and irreversible; in some cases

doctors have wrongly made diagnostic errors during a check-up. Patients being told they

have cancer or AIDS, by their doctors’ mistake, have killed themselves to avoid the pain.

Those opposing euthanasia have also argued that practicing euthanasia prevents the

development of new cures and rules out unpracticed methods in saving a life.

“Also, there is always the possibility that an experimental procedure or a hitherto untried

technique will pull us through. We should at least keep this option open, but euthanasia

closes it off.” “They might decide that the patient would simply be ‘better off dead’ and

take the steps necessary to make that come about. This attitude would then carry over to

their dealings with patients less seriously ill. The result would be an overall decline in

quality of medical care.” (EUTHANASIA)

If euthanasia had been legal 40 years ago, it is quite possible that there would be no

hospice movement today. The improvement in terminal care is a direct result of attempts

made to minimize suffering. If that suffering had been extinguished by extinguishing the

patients who bore it, then we may never have known the advances in the control of pain,

nausea, breathlessness, and other terminal symptoms that the last twenty years have seen.

Some diseases that were terminal a few decades ago are now routinely cured by newly

developed treatments. Earlier acceptance of euthanasia might well have undercut the

urgency of the research efforts which led to the discovery of those treatments. If we

accept euthanasia now, we may well delay by decades the discovery of effective

treatments for those diseases that are now terminal. (Burnell )

Once any group of human beings is considered unworthy of living, what is to stop our

society from extending this cruelty to other groups? If the mongoloid is to be deprived of

his right to life, what of the blind and deaf? and What about of the cripple, the retarded,

and the senile? How long after acceptance of voluntary euthanasia will we hear the calls

for non-voluntary euthanasia? There are thousands of comatose or demented patients

sustained by little more than good nursing care. They are an enormous financial and social

burden. How long will the advocates of euthanasia be arguing that we should “assist them

in dying”.

Perhaps the most disturbing risk of all is posed by the growing concern over medical

costs. Euthanasia is, after all, a very cheap service. The cost of a dose of barbiturates and

curare and the few hours in a hospital bed that it takes them to act is minute compared to

the massive bills incurred by many patients in the last weeks and months of their lives.

Already in Britain, There is a serious under- provision of expensive therapies like renal

dialysis and intensive care, with the result that many otherwise preventable deaths occur.

Legalizing euthanasia would save substantial financial resources which could be diverted

to more “useful” treatments. These economic concerns already exert pressure to accept

euthanasia, and, if accepted, they will inevitability tend to enlarge the category of patients

for whom euthanasia is permitted… (EUTHANASIA)

It must never be forgotten that doctors, nurses, and hospital administrators have

personal lives, homes and families, or that they are something more than just doctors,

nurses, or hospital administrators. They are citizens and a significant part of the society

around them. We should be very worried about what the institutionalization of euthanasia

will do to society, in general , how will we regard murderers? (IAETF)

Another side effect might be a an increasing fear of hospitals. Despite all the efforts

of health education, it seems there will always be a transference of the patient’s fear of

illness from the illness to the doctors and hospitals who treat it. This fear is still very real

and leads to large numbers of late presentations of illnesses that might have been cured if

only the patients had sought help earlier. To institutionalize euthanasia, however carefully,

would undoubtedly magnify all the latent fear of doctors and hospitals harbored by the

public. The inevitable result would be a rise in late presentations and, therefore,

preventable deaths.

As with any other system, certain people may try to use euthanasia for the wrong

reasons. Both the Dutch and the California proposals list sets of precautions designed to

prevent abuses. They acknowledge that such are a possibility. The history of legal

“loopholes” is not a cheering one. Abuses might arise when the patient is wealthy and an

inheritance is at stake, when the doctor has made mistakes in diagnosis and treatment and

hopes to avoid detection, when insurance coverage for treatment costs is about to expire,

and in a host of other circumstances.(EUTHANASIA)

Both sets of proposals seek to limit the influence of the patient’s family on the

decision, again acknowledging the risks posed by such influences. Families have all kinds

of subtle ways, conscious and unconscious, of putting pressure on a patient to request

euthanasia and relive them of the financial and social burden of care. Many patients

already feel guilty for imposing burdens on those on those who care for them, even when

the families are happy to bear the burden. To provide an avenue for the discharge of that

guilt in a request for euthanasia is to risk putting to death a great many patients who do

not wish to die. (IAETF)

“Do unto others as you would have them do unto you” is one of the oldest and most

common moral proverbs, which applies to everyone alike. When people try to decide

whether certain actions are morally correct, they must ask whether they would be willing

for everyone to follow that rule, in similar circumstances. I have tried to take a objective

look at both sides, but have found this to be a very complex issue. Not having face such

problem I am siding with not supporting euthanasia, may we forever go on. All of life is a

struggle and a gamble. At the gaming table of life, nobody ever knows what the outcome

will be. Indeed, humans are noblest when they persist in the face of the inevitable.

Kevorkian’s current mailing address in prison, if you should never need it.

Dr.Jack Kevorkian

Prisoner number 284797

Oaks Correctional Facility






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