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Euthanasia, specifically voluntary euthanasia has been a taboo subject for many decades in this, and other countries. Euthanasia, as defined by the Oxford English Dictionary – bringing about of this, especially in the case of incurable and painful disease- comes from the Greek word euthanatos, meaning – a gentle and easy death. It is commonly known as death with dignity given to those who want the choice to die. No one can prevent death. The can only prolong it. Many people solicit their physicians to aid in the quick and easy death. Doctors, aware of ethics of their chosen profession, and consequences of their actions, especially malpractice suits, often refuse the request (www.euthanasia.org/ve.html). Involuntary euthanasia removes those people with a poor quality of life. Those people should have the right to die against their will, argue some health care providers. Ultimately, if no written living will has been left, the decision should fall on that person’s family. Health care providers declare that if a person has poor quality of life and their life is not worth living, they should not be given lifesaving treatment, regardless of the family’s opinion. They attest that they have the right to deny treatment requested by a patient if they think it is of no benefit to them, even if the patient wishes to have continued life. The physician’s role is to make a diagnosis, and sound judgments about medical treatment, not whether the patient’s life is worth living. They have an obligation to perform sufficient care, not to refrain from giving the patient food and water until that person dies. “Lucid individuals probably cannot anticipate what aggressive measures they would want for themselves should they become demented …should allow the health care team to make unilateral decision to withhold CPR from severely demented patients…because of poor quality of life” – Dr. Donald Murphy of George Washington University Medical Center (www.pregnantpause.org/euth/whyin.htm).
The “lucky” ones who find a place in a hospice (palliative care center) have a peaceful, painless, dignified, easy death. Patients with some forms of cancer, stroke, arthritis, and AIDS find there are no treatments or cures for their ailments. It is a death sentence. If a person feels that all medical treatments have been exhausted, they should be able to make the decision for active voluntary euthanasia. Unfortunately, a dying person’s wish counts as nothing (www.euthanasia.org/ve.html). A Living Will is a signed document by a person, giving advanced notice have life-saving procedures withheld or discontinued at the time of serious illness or injury should that person not be able to make decisions. It has been argued that Living Wills can be deceptive and vague to the signer, leaving them open to many abuses. Trying to prevent medical treatment measures at the end of their lives may inadvertently cause their own starvation and dehydration. They are also unnecessary at times. People already have the right to make informed consent. Doctors already have the right to withhold treatment deemed as useless. Living Wills should be used when patients are unable to make the decision for themselves. The strategy used by groups such as Concern for Dying, the Society for the Right to Die, and the Hemlock Society is to condition public acceptance of assisted suicide, mercy killing, and legalized euthanasia (www.pregnantpause.org/euth/soundgoo.htm).
With growing international support, doctors are accepting patient’s requests for active voluntary euthanasia (www.euthanasia.org/ve.html). The American Medical Association (AMA) is well known for their pro-abortion campaigns and funding. Ironically, the AMA funds many hospices and other palliative care centers. They have a firm stand on life. The AMA has initiated the Institute for Ethics, designed to educated physicians on alternative medical approaches to euthanasia during the dying process (www.pregnantpause.org/euth/amagomez.htm).
Suicide has been legal in Scotland for quite some time, and since 1961 has been legal in the rest of the United Kingdom. Assisting another in their plight for suicide is still illegal, however. The law seems to tolerate the act of suicide but not the means to do so. The refusal of a person to control his or her own life is immoral. It is an exploitation of that person’s rights as a human being. That should be illegal (www.euthan-asia.org/ve.html). Holland, or the Netherlands, is the only country currently allowing openly practiced euthanasia. It is not allowed by statute, but the law acknowledges that doctors will abide by a set of guidelines. By Dutch definition of euthanasia, “it is the termination of life by a doctor at the express wish of a patient.” Under guidelines, the request must be voluntary, explicit, carefully considered, and made repeatedly by the patient. Also, the patient’s suffering must be unbearable with no signs of improvement of health. The assistance by a doctor is not euthanasia, but a relief of pain administered by a doctor. There is an injection to make the patient comatose, followed by a second injection to stop the heart (www.euthanasia.org/dutch.html). Holland has the highest standard of care in the world with 95% of their citizens receiving private insurance. The rest of the population is guaranteed the highest level of care. The palliative care system is very advanced, with centers, also known as hospices, attached to hospitals. Most patients know their doctor very well, and euthanasia is accepted as a humane way to die. There is no reward for this, except for the relief of pain.
Deciding to commit suicide is a private choice which society should have no concern. A study in 1974 showed that 93% of those who committed suicide were mentally ill. They attempt suicide for reasons other than to relieve themselves of pain. Attempts are usually a cry for help, not because they feel death would be better. Suicidal people should be helped with their problems, not helped to die (www.pregnantpause.org/euth/why.htm).
The Hippocratic Oath: “…I consider for the benefit of my patients, and abstain from whatever is deleterious and mischievous. I will not give to a woman a pessary to produce abortion… for the benefit of the sick, and will abstain from every voluntary act of mischief and corruption; and, further, from the seduction of females or males, of freemen and slaves… should I trespass and violate this Oath, may the reverse be my lot.” (www.euhanasia.org/hipp.html)
There is usually no sexism involved in euthanasia that I am aware of.
“Jewish ethics values healing and the preservation of life as important goods and as activities mandated by God” – Rabbi Mackler. Contributing to a patient’s death, ending life, is a “violation of traditional Jewish norm…life is appreciated as a blessing and a gift from God. Each human being is esteemed as created in God’s image…Judaism respects our bodies and lives as God’s creation…seek beneficial medical treatment…respect for the life given by God, it rejects homicide, suicide, and assisted suicide.” – Rabbi Mackler (www.sfhs.edu/critint/v5_n2/mackler.htm).
Some terminology and phraseology is used when describing euthanasia to emphasize its meaning. There are no metaphors used, to hide the nature of the violence or in any other way. Terminal illness is a process lasting some period of time. Mercy killing is used sometimes instead of euthanasia. Voluntary euthanasia is a request of an informed and competent patient; “a deliberate termination of an individual’s life at the individual’s request, by another. Or in medical practice. the active and deliberate termination of a patient’s life, on that patient’s request, by a doctor; intentionally taking the life of a person upon his or her explicit request by someone else than the person concerned.” (www.euthanasia.org/dutch.html).
I believe that mercy killing is necessary in extreme cases of serious, incurable diseases, which cause an extraordinary amount of pain and suffering. Not only will the patient suffer through the ordeal, so will the person’s family. Every case must be examined thoroughly, of course. A patient is hooked up to life-sustaining equipment such as a respirator for 2-3 years or even more. Who pays for it? Taxpayers pay for it. Who has to tend to that person? Highly paid health care providers tend to that patient. Who pays for their time? Taxpayers do. Is there any hope for recovery? If not, let that patient die peacefully. Our country must follow suit with Holland’s ethical guidelines concerning euthanasia. Laws and statutes are changed everyday. Hopefully in the near future we will see a final decision on this matter.
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