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A huddled mass of a former proud and strong man lies in a bed, his body riddled with cancer. His insides a seething pit of tainted cells and his organs little more than shadows of their former selves. He cries silently in this world he is trapped in. He cries for the family he knew, the life he lived, the dignity he had and he cries for the suffering he faces. But what should he do? Lie there suffering in pain and agony, his only comfort the fact that this pain eventually will end with his death or take action and with the help of a medical practitioner and voluntarily end his life on his own terms; euthanasia.
Euthanasia is the intentional termination of life by another at the explicit request of the person who dies. (Netherlands Commission) In other words, it is when a doctor ends the life of a patient who is terminally ill and whose quality of life is extremely poor and just getting worse. The exact definition, as stated by the Suicide Act of 1961 and one commonly used in court cases is; 1- The accused intended to assist a person to commit suicide, 2- While the accused had that intention, he or she provided the assistance to the person contemplating suicide, 3- The person committing suicide was thereby in fact assisted or encouraged in attempting to take his or her own life (otherwise the alleged offender cannot be guilty of more than an attempt). But this doctor is breaking the law when performing this act of mercy. The two types of euthanasia are passive and active. Passive euthanasia is hastening the death of a person by altering some form of support and letting nature take its course (Mullens 132). Examples of passive euthanasia
include the removing of life support, stopping medical treatment and not delivering CPR. Active euthanasia involves causing the death of a person through a direct action, in response to a request from that person (194). Often, hospitals view passive euthanasia as a viable option and DNR is a sticker one might even find on a patients file. The DNR on the file stands for do not resuscitate and is usually red to bring about attention this sticker informs any operating doctors not to use unnecessary care when dealing with this particular case (Heinmiller).
Active euthanasia is illegal but passive is not. Taking someone off life-support is an option often given to families when a patient is suffering. But if a patient was to ask a doctor to end their life or if a doctor did something to this patient at his/her request then this doctor could be arrested and put on trial for murder or manslaughter. But should that doctor be guilty of anything except compassion? Euthanasia is an end to a life but this life is one that is full of misery and only perpetuated by medical science. When we take someone off life support, is the person who turns off the machine a murderer? We do not see this person as being guilty of anything even though that person could have been kept alive. In cases of extreme suffering, euthanasia should be an option for the terminally suffering and elderly. The taking of this life is no different then the unplugging of a life support machine. Other than the fact that in cases of assisted suicide there is a choice for the suffering, a choice between drawn out pain or a death which they choose on there own terms.
In the United States there are 37,330,021 elderly, that s persons aged 65 and older. In Ohio alone there are 1,642,478 elderly. These people are getting older by the
day and these numbers are ever increasing. Through medical science we are now able to prolong human life and sometimes this prolonging can lead to people living straight into misery. In no was are proponents of assisted suicide saying once someone gets old and are unhappy they should be able to just end there life but instead arguing that when someone is suffering beyond what a normal human being should be asked to go through they should have a choice.
People have been getting help from doctors to end their lives for years. This is a dark secret often kept from the outside world. In a recent interview a medical practitioner stated that, It is plausible that doctors in the past have helped patients to die at the patients request, if or when something like this occurs it is never spoken about or mentioned to anyone. The only two too know about it are the patient and the doctor. (Anonymous) Many retired doctors have admitted to doing this act on patients in the past. This is a problem hospitals are faced with and it is unregulated and very similar to abortions thirty/forty years ago. These procedures to perform assisted suicide are secrets not looked after by any board, higher authority, or by government policy. They are simply branded as illegal and expected never to be done. These doctors see themselves as doing a service not as murdering a patient. When does the best care switch from pumping drugs and medication into someone s body to keep them hanging on and become compassion and possibly even helping them end it all?
Dr. Jack Kevorkian is one proponent of assisted suicide and even went as far as to create a machine that can kill you with little to no pain. Dr. Jack Kevorkian was first charged with first-degree murder in December of 1990. He connected Janet Adkins, a
member of the Hemlock Society, to his suicide machine which allowed her to inject lethal drugs into her body at any time (Humphrey 195-96). No longer is it Dr. Kevorkian but instead prisoner # 284797, now in jail, serving time for his work. This man would always interview his patients beforehand and get testimonial to their desire to go through with this operation of sorts. This man is serving time for ending misery. His tactics were often scrutinized but with regulation this kind of freelance ending of lives would not be necessary, instead there could be a process involved. In Michigan, where Kavorkian practiced, there were no laws not allowing assisted suicide. Many states are like this and it is not until someone s actions come into question that laws go into the books. Sometimes laws against assisted suicide do not even need to be on the books to get charges against someone. Many times murder charges are brought against people who help in a suicide. Why not make regulations that are nationally accepted?
From state to state the laws that govern physician-assisted suicide vary greatly. You can be on the border of two states and be fine in one but be charged with murder in another. The state has the right to become very involved in euthanasia cases. The state can specify the number of individuals that must agree for euthanasia to be performed. The state can specify how frequently someone can sign a euthanasia authorization. The state can also specify that only the individual can decide (Pahl 20). Living wills are also a big part in the legal aspects of euthanasia. A living will can express a patient s thoughts towards his future medical treatment (Horkan 70). Living wills are legal in forty states. They allow anyone capable of making decisions to tell the doctor beforehand that they do not wish to be put on life support. People could put whether they would consent to
euthanasia prior to there ever becoming sick so there would be no question to their sanity at the time or ability to make a decision. If first the procedure was legalized and then made more accessible then there would be no need for patients to seek means other then those given by a doctor. No longer would the sick and dying have to turn to less than reputable doctors or to their own friends and families but have outlets and a means to those outlets. There could be one way of administer this form of mercy killing that would be tested thoroughly and screened for any possible errors. Just like abortion, which was once done in dark and dank rooms away from the public eye and are now done at centers there could be places specifically to deal with this problem. No one would be guaranteed treatment but all would be considered.
These criteria for assisted suicide would be a laundry list of details. So in place there would be doctors and a checklist of sorts that would both need to be satisfied. The list would consist of such things as does the next of kin consent, is the patient able to make decisions for him/her self, does the primary physician believe that death would be better then having the patient live along with several other criteria. Not only would certain pre-requisites be required to be met but also a board of doctors at a hospital or other professionals would have to review each case. This way no case would slip through the cracks and each would get the attention it deserves. This would be run similar to pretrial held before court and the sick would be allowed to either give testimonial through tape or in person. Also there would be a vote made by the board, a 4/5 vote or something similar to more than half would have to be in agreement. If the procedure were to be granted it would be done in view of kin and be administered by a trained physician. The
patient would have to declare themselves DNR or do not resuscitate. This would keep the doctors from having to revive the patient once they first officially die. And this keeps any doubt as to whether or not the patient wanted to die or not. When someone dies from natural causes what are they dying from, it is nothing more than something we cannot stop or postpone any longer. Euthanasia is a good death; a death that is more dignified then slowly rotting away into nothing. There has to be something better to do though. What can be done to make this process more acceptable?
What of the conservatives who believe euthanasia should be outlawed though and doctors that do this are nothing more than murderers. What of banning euthanasia throughout the country and not leaving it up to states? This would satisfy the extreme right wing conservatives. But these politicians are not the ones in the beds suffering and dying slowly. If the country were too outlaw euthanasia that would make a statement about the worth of human life at the end of the cycle of life. However right now in the US abortion is legal and in abortion it is giving a person the right to choose between life and death. Euthanasia is the same idea but on the opposite side of the spectrum. There are a large number of elderly in the US and that number is just going to steadily increase. We need a solution to this problem now and not just turn a blind eye to what is wrong with the current situation and the one we will face when dealing with euthanasia.
To truly curve the conservative nature of this country on this problem every possible angle must be covered. First any physician that wished to be trained could and receive special training and psychologists must be brought in to do an examination. Family of the patient would be apart of the decision and be apart of the meeting in front
of the medical board. This is not a procedure that is taught in medical school but after and only by choice. Then the procedure is perfected so that there is no chance of a failed procedure. This way there is one and only one way to administer assisted suicide. It is not up to chance whether or not the patient dies but a given. So that when the patient is injected they will die.
The review board involved would also have to consist of older and younger doctors as to make it vary in experience and conservative and liberals. The doctors would have to write a report for every report done and they would be paid money in addition to their normal hospital salaries. Each one would be able to talk to the patients and their families one on one but also there would be a group discussion. The patient could have people speak on their behalf but emotion would have to be accompanied by fact. Any case that is up for assisted suicide would have to have a doctor who is supporting the patient s request and a second doctor who is not backing the patient but merely seconding the request. This doctor would act as a lawyer of sorts, petitioning for the procedure. There would be appeals in case a decision was handed down that the patient did not agree with. Also the board would change every other year. That way this allows the doctors to vary and it would not be all changed at once but instead rotate out so there would be constant turn around and new faces and ideas.
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