The right to assisted suicide is a significant topic that concerns people all over the United States. The debates go back and forth about whether a dying patient has the right to die with the assistance of a physician. Some are against it because of religious and moral reasons. Others are for it because of their compassion and respect for the dying. Physicians are also divided on the issue. They differ where they place the line that separates relief from dying--and killing. For many the main concern with assisted suicide lies with the competence of the terminally ill. Many terminally ill patients who are in the final stages of their lives have requested doctors to aid them in exercising active euthanasia. It is sad to realize that these people are in great agony and that to them the only hope of bringing that agony to a halt is through assisted suicide.When people see the word euthanasia, they see the meaning of the word in two different lights. Euthanasia for some carries a negative connotation; it is the same as murder. For others, however, euthanasia is the act of putting someone to death painlessly, or allowing a person suffering from an incurable and painful disease or condition to die by withholding extreme medical measures. But after studying both sides of the issue, a compassionate individual must conclude that competent terminal patients should be given the right to assisted suicide in order to end their suffering, reduce the damaging financial effects of hospital care on their families, and preserve the individual right of people to determine their own fate.
Medical technology today has achieved remarkable feats in prolonging the lives of human beings. Respirators can support a patient’s failing lungs and medicines can sustain that patient’s physiological processes. For those patients who have a realistic chance of surviving an illness or accident, medical technology is science’s greatest gift to mankind. For the terminally ill, however, it is just a means of prolonging suffering. Medicine is supposed to alleviate the suffering that a patient undergoes.Yet the only thing that medical technology does for a dying patient is give that patient more pain and agony day after day. Some terminal patients in the past have gone to their doctors and asked for a final medication that would take all the pain away— lethal drugs. For example, as Ronald Dworkin recounts, Lillian Boyes, an English woman who was suffering from a severe case of rheumatoid arthritis, begged her doctor to assist her to die because she could no longer stand the pain (184). Another example is Dr. Ali Khalili, Dr. Jack Kevorkian’s twentieth patient. According to Kevorkian’s attorney, “[Dr. Khalili] was a pain specialist; he could get any kind of pain medication, but he came to Dr. Kevorkian. There are times when pain medication does not suffice”(qtd. in Cotton 363). Terminally ill patients should have the right to assisted suicide because it is the best means for them to end the pain caused by an illness which no drug can cure. A competent terminal patient must have the option of assisted suicide because it is in the best interest of that person.
Further, a dying person’s physical suffering can be most unbearable to that person’s immediate family. Medical technology has failed to save a loved-one. But, successful or not, medicine has a high price attached to it. The cost is sometimes too much for the terminally ill’s family. A competent dying person has some knowledge of this, and with every day that he or she is kept alive, the hospital costs skyrocket. “The cost of maintaining [a dying person]. . . has been estimated as ranging from about two thousand to ten thousand dollars a month” (Dworkin 187). Human life is expensive, and in the hospital there are only a few affluent terminal patients who can afford to prolong what life is left in them. As for the not-so-affluent patients, the cost of their lives is left to their families. Of course, most families do not consider the cost while the terminally ill loved-one is still alive.When that loved-one passes away, however, the family has to struggle with a huge hospital bill and are often subject to financial ruin.Most terminal patients want their death to be a peaceful one and with as much consolation as possible. Ronald Dworkin, author of Life’s Dominion, says that “many people . . . want to save their relatives the expense of keeping them pointlessly alive . . .”(193). To leave the family in financial ruin is by no means a form of consolation. Those terminally ill patients who have accepted their imminent death cannot prevent their families from plunging into financial debt because they do not have the option of halting the medical bills from piling up. If terminal patients have the option of assisted suicide, they can ease their families’ financial burdens as well as their suffering.
Finally, many terminal patients want the right to assisted suicide because it is a means to endure their end without the unnecessary suffering and cost. Most, also, believe that the right to assisted suicide is an inherent right which does not have to be given to the individual. It is a liberty which cannot be denied because those who are dying might want to use this liberty as a way to pursue their happiness. Dr. Kevorkian’s attorney, Geoffrey N. Fieger, voices the absurdity of curbing the right to assisted suicide, saying that “a law which does not make anybody do anything, that gives people the right to decide, and prevents the state from prosecuting you for exercising your freedom not to suffer, violates somebody else’s constitutional rights is insane” (qtd. in Cotton 364). Terminally ill patients should be allowed to die with dignity. Choosing the right to assisted suicide would be a final exercise of autonomy for the dying. They will not be seen as people who are waiting to die but as human beings making one final active choice in their lives. As Dworkin puts it, “whatever view we take about [euthanasia], we want the right to decide for ourselves . . .”(239).
On the other side of the issue, however, people who are against assisted suicide do not believe that the terminally ill have the right to end their suffering. They hold that it is against the Hippocratic Oath for doctors to participate in active euthanasia. Perhaps most of those who hold this argument do not know that, for example, in Canada only a “few medical schools use the Hippocratic Oath” because it is inconsistent with its premises (Barnard 28). The oath makes the physician promise to relieve pain and not to administer deadly medicine.This oath cannot be applied to cancer patients. For treatment, cancer patients are given chemotherapy, a form of radioactive medicine that is poisonous to the body. As a result of chemotherapy, the body suffers incredible pain, hair loss, vomiting, and other extremely unpleasant side effects. Thus, chemotherapy can be considered “deadly medicine” because of its effects on the human body, and this inconsistency is the reason why the Hippocratic Oath cannot be used to deny the right to assisted suicide. Furthermore, to administer numerous drugs to a terminal patient and place him or her on medical equipment does not help anything except the disease itself. Respirators and high dosages of drugs cannot save the terminal patient from the victory of a disease or an illness. Dr. Christaan Barnard, author of Good Life/GoodDeath, quotes his colleague, Dr. Robert Twycross, who said, “To use such measures in the terminally ill, with no expectancy of a return to health, is generally inappropriate and is—therefore—bad medicine by definition” (22).
Still other people argue that if the right to assisted suicide is given, the doctor-patient relationship would encourage distrust. The antithesis of this claim is true. Cheryl Smith, in her article advocating active euthanasia (or assisted suicide), says that “patients who are able to discuss sensitive issues such as this are more likely to trust their physicians” (409). A terminal patient consenting to assisted suicide knows that a doctor’s job is to relieve pain, and giving consent to that doctor shows great trust. Other opponents of assisted suicide insist that there are potential abuses that can arise from legalizing assisted suicide.They claim that terminal patients might be forced to choose assisted suicide because of their financial situation.This view is to be respected. However, the choice of assisted suicide is in the patient’s best interest, and this interest can include the financial situation of a patient’s relatives. Competent terminal patients can easily see the sorrow and grief that their families undergo while they wait for death to take their dying loved ones away. The choice of assisted suicide would allow these terminally ill patients to end the sorrow and griefof their families as well as their own misery. The choice would also put a halt to the financial worries of these families. It is in the patient’s interest that the families that they leave will be subject to the smallest amount of grief and worry possible.This is not a mere “duty to die.” It is a caring way for the dying to say, “Yes, I am going to die. It is all right, please do not worry anymore.” Further, legalization of assisted suicide will also help to regulate the practice of it. “Legalization, with medical record documentation and reporting requirements, will enable authorities to regulate the practice and guard against abuses, while punishing real offenders”(Smith 409).
There are still some, however, who argue that the right to assisted suicide is not a right that can be given to anyone at all. This claim is countered by a judge by the name of Stephen Reinhardt. According to an article in the Houston Chronicle, Judge Reinhardt ruled on this issue by saying that “a competent, terminally-ill adult, having lived nearly the full measure of his life, has a strong liberty interest in choosing a dignified and humane death rather than being reduced at the end of his existence to a childlike state of helplessness, diapered, sedated, incompetent” ( qtd. in Beck 36). This ruling is the strongest defense for the right to assisted suicide. It is an inherent right. No man or woman should ever suffer because he or she is denied the right. The terminally ill also have rights like normal, healthy citizens do and they cannot be denied the right not to suffer.
The right to assisted suicide must be freely bestowed upon those who are terminally ill. This right would allow them to leave this earth with dignity, save their families from financial ruin, and relieve them of insufferable pain. To give competent, terminally-ill adults this necessary right is to give them the autonomy to close the book on a life well-lived.
Barnard, Christaan. Good Life/Good Death. Englewood Cliffs: Prentice, 1980.
Beck, Joan. “Answers to Right-to-Die Questions Hard.”Houston Chronicle 16 Mar. 1996, late ed.: 36.
Cotton, Paul. “Medicine’s Position Is Both Pivotal And Precarious In Assisted Suicide Debate." The
Journal of the American Association 1 Feb. 1995: 363-64.
Dworkin, Ronald. Life’s Dominion. New York: Knopf, 1993.
Smith, Cheryl. “Should Active Euthanasia Be Legalized: Yes.” American Bar Association Journal April 1993. Rpt. in CQ
Researcher 5.1 (1995): 409.
--Esther B. De La Torre
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Legalization of Euthanasia: Advantages and Disadvantages
The intention to deliberately accelerate the death of an incurable patient, even to stop his suffering, has never been unambiguous. The English philosopher Francis Bacon introduced the term euthanasia to denote light painless death, that is, calm and light death, without torment and suffering. Although the very idea of euthanasia originated a long time ago, from the time of Hippocrates to the present day, traditional medical ethics includes a ban: “To please no one will I prescribe a deadly drug, nor give advice which may cause his death.” Euthanasia is called any action aimed at putting an end to the life of a person, in pursuit of his/her will, and an uninterested person must do this.
It is worthy to note that the 39th World Medical Assembly adopted the Declaration on euthanasia, which states the following “Euthanasia, as an act of intentional deprivation of life of the patient at his/her request or the request of his/her relatives, is inadmissible, including the form of passive euthanasia. The doctor is obligated to ease the suffering of the dying by all available and legal methods.”
More and more people think that euthanasia is much more humane in some cases than life (Piccirilli Dorsey, Inc.). Nevertheless, it is necessary to find out whether people have the right to decide if someone needs to die or to live further. This question is of interest to both ordinary people and doctors. What is more, it is unlikely that humanity will come to a single denominator in this matter. That is why there are arguments for and against euthanasia.
To start with, the specific reasons for the legalization of euthanasia are as follows. Euthanasia makes it possible to fully exercise the human right to dispose of their lives, including making decisions on the termination of their own lives. Secondly, a person is recognized as the highest value, and consequently, her/his real well-being, the needs and the right to self-determination, the right to freedom, the right to respect for dignity, the right to dignity must be guaranteed and fully guaranteed (Strinic, Visnja). Thirdly, euthanasia provides the implementation of one of the fundamental principles of law, the principle of humanism. Euthanasia is humane because it stops the suffering and torment of an incurably sick person. The state and society must recognize this right not for everyone, but for the sake of the small group of people who need it (Strinic, Visnja). It is also worth noting the point of view of the European Court of Human Rights, which maintains a neutral position on this issue, recognizing the right of the States Parties to autonomy in settlement of euthanasia (“The Right To Assisted Suicide In The Case Law Of The European Court Of Human Rights.”). Analyzing their decisions about euthanasia, it can be seen that, in most cases, the court did not take into account the material aspect of the cases, but resolved them on the basis of violations of the procedural form.
However, it should be recalled that, in fact, in all civilized countries, a murder of compassion persists in practice regardless of whether it is permitted by law or not. The literature indicates that 40% of all deaths of sick people occur as a result of medical decisions made by the physicians about the cessation of life either by refusing treatment or by drugs that accelerate its onset. Consequently, in countries where euthanasia is prohibited, where there is no legal protection against the misuse of euthanasia, the situation is worse. The legalization of euthanasia must go through some scientific, legislative filters that will establish rules, specific criteria and cases when such a right can be realized. The decriminalization of euthanasia is indicated by the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) in the document “Questions and Answers on Euthanasia” of 10.09.2003, will control this process and restrict it to a clear framework of the law. Only controlled procedures and clear rules for the use of euthanasia will end the arbitrary system existing in many European countries (Assistance To Patients At End Of Life).
Jonathan Van Maren cites twenty arguments against euthanasia (“20 Reasons Why Euthanasia Corrupts Everything It Touches, And Must Be Opposed”). First of all, it is believed that suicide with assistance or euthanasia is death with dignity because it occurs quickly. It turns out that those who do not die quickly die without dignity. Secondly, suicide with the help destroys the appointment of medical institutions: to treat patients, save lives and reduce pain. Adding the killing of patients to the list of “medical services” will become an encroachment on the very essence of medicine. Thirdly, suicide for the help makes people who want to use this “service”, second-class citizens (“20 Reasons Why Euthanasia Corrupts Everything It Touches, And Must Be Opposed”). If a person who does not have depression can not claim to be in a position to die. As for a person with depression, the state actually confirms that life with depression is less valuable. Fourthly, euthanasia requires that the state and medical institutions determine whether a person should live. As a result, people with disabilities become second-class people, because their lives are less valuable than people without disabilities. Parents of disabled children in Belgium are advised to expose children to euthanasia. Euthanasia, translated from the Greek as good death is placed in dependence on the eugenics, in Greek, which means good birth (“20 Reasons Why Euthanasia Corrupts Everything It Touches, And Must Be Opposed”). Just as abortion justifies the killing of unborn children with Down syndrome and other abnormalities, euthanasia is used to kill already-born people, but less sophisticated than others. Fifthly, suicide with assistance erases borders. If someone has a mental illness and has the right to use a suicide hotline, which is funded by the government, there is a stumbling block what doctors should do. The question is to deny a man from death or not. Then, it ups in the mind whether such pressure will be a violation of the new rights of citizens in a state where the government permits murder or not. After all, once they decided that the woman had the right to abort, people immediately began to blame those who tried to discourage women from abortion, in violation of their rights. What is more, suicide for assisting makes suicidal people much more vulnerable, since, having legalized the possibility for a person to kill him-/herself, the government has confirmed that these people should not live. Seventhly, suicide for assistance gives rise to a new definition of the term cure, which now affects deadly poison, issued by a physician with a clear intention to kill a person (“20 Reasons Why Euthanasia Corrupts Everything It Touches, And Must Be Opposed”). Eightly, suicide for assistance creates a new, fictitious right, the right to death. It undermines the right to life, which can not be abandoned, even voluntarily. The right to death is a legal absurdity. Providing the state and courts with the right to legalize murder is an extremely dangerous step that has far-reaching consequences. In the Netherlands, many people are victims of forced euthanasia (“20 Reasons Why Euthanasia Corrupts Everything It Touches, And Must Be Opposed”).
Next to the facts, to provide medical professionals with the legal right to kill, even in limited circumstances, are unreasonable and dangerous. Using this right, people can hide medical negligence or ill treatment. Such precedents have already been in European countries, where euthanasia is legalized. The eleventh against proclaims that children can push their parents so that they take advantage of the new service. Such cases were recorded in the United States and Europe. When people live a long time and spend their savings on themselves, it is easy to predict the reaction of a selfish child who sees her/his dying heritage. The twelfth fact explains that those who advocate the legalization of euthanasia ignore the fact that people may be under pressure and use this service for various reasons. For example, the legalization of euthanasia for children in Belgium ignores the fact that children can be subjected to pressure in opposition to their interests (“20 Reasons Why Euthanasia Corrupts Everything It Touches, And Must Be Opposed”). As a thirteenth against, there is a point that there is little discussion about how the final stage of euthanasia should be carried out. So-called precautionary measures have been illusory or ineffective in all jurisdictions where euthanasia is legalized. It is known that many feel great relief if their suicide attempt was unsuccessful, but anyone can not question the victims of euthanasia or regret their decision.
Moreover, suicide for assistance is based on a secular principle. After death, nothing is possible; suicide does not affect anything. It is very arrogant. If, as Christians believe and practically all of Western civilization up until recently), life after death exists, suicide is an act with enormous moral consequences. Also, suicide for assistance as a moral issue has never been discussed, even on the periphery. Those who seek to legalize euthanasia seem to have simply taken the Axiom’s view that suicide for assistance is a right without making any attempt to formulate a clear philosophy to illustrate why this is so. The sixteenth against proclaims that abuse of euthanasia occurs wherever it is legal. For example, judges in the Netherlands have allowed some families to subject their elderly parents with dementia to euthanasia, despite the fact that the parents themselves have never asked for euthanasia and there was no weighty evidence that they wanted to die. The president of the Exit branch in German-speaking Switzerland Saskia Fry said that “opponents of organized suicide believe that older people are not able to make decisions” (“20 Reasons Why Euthanasia Corrupts Everything It Touches, And Must Be Opposed”). Nevertheless, the elderly person reflects and decides independently. What is more, their close people and relatives are trying to resist the choice of a person to commit suicide. It is worthy to note that older people are much better informed, more autonomous and self-confident than before and called for not underestimating the experience and qualifications of those who help to get out of life. Also, in countries, where legalization of euthanasia exists, the prices for this service increase. In Belgium and the Netherlands every year, a huge number of people die as a result of euthanasia.
The eighteenth against implies specialists in ethics insist that forced euthanasia or rather a murder for children should be legalized. In the Netherlands, this has already happened (Jotkowitz, A B). What is more, suicide for help and euthanasia devalue human life. After all, medical institutions are killing a suffering person as if a domestic animal was slaughtering.
The last but not the least is where the suicide with assistance is legalized, activists of euthanasia push this service into all possible spheres. Their words about some kind of precautionary measures and limited circumstances are an outright lie. The ultimate goal is to provide euthanasia upon the request and without any kind of apology.
It can be said that the only minus of euthanasia is its gloomy coloring in society. It always sprawls on religious dogmas, which can not but offend the feelings of unbelievers who are hungry for it day by day. Also, people are gently saying strange and useless analogies to the past with the naturalness of death and anguish, utterances like one must live (Piccirilli Dorsey, Inc.). The public was obsessed with the cult of life as an absolute good and lost any culture of death. Suicide is not savagery. Wildness is when a man of the 21st century dies as the last beast because of someone’s prejudices. This is nothing but a public opinion that still can not support euthanasia with even half of its votes. To sum up everything that was mentioned above, one should admit that the problem of euthanasia requires criminal legal regulation. As the solution to this, the fate of many hopelessly sick people, who in recent years have been in hospitals, whose physical condition is diagnosed as an intermediate one, between life and death, and the mental one, is helplessness, a state of deep despair.
Assistance To Patients At End Of Life. Parliamentary Assembly Assemblée Parlementaire, 2005. Retrieved 29 August 2017, from http://www.dgpalliativmedizin.de/images/stories/pdf/50209%20PA%20Report%20Marty%20(Doc%2010455).pdf.
“Euthanasia Fact Sheet | The World Federation Of Right To Die Societies.” Worldrtd.Net, 2017. Retrieved 29 August, 2017, from http://www.worldrtd.net/euthanasia-fact-sheet.
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Strinic, Visnja. “Arguments In Support And Against Euthanasia.” British Journal Of Medicine And Medical Research, vol 9, no. 7, 2015, pp. 1-12. Sciencedomain International. Retrieved 29 August 2017.
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“The Right To Assisted Suicide In The Case Law Of The European Court Of Human Rights..” European Center For Law And Justice, 2017. Retrieved 29 August 2017, from https://eclj.org/euthanasia/echr/the-right-to-assisted-suicide-in-the-case-law-of-the-european-court-of-human-rights.
“20 Reasons Why Euthanasia Corrupts Everything It Touches, And Must Be Opposed.” Lifesitenews, 2017. Retrieved 29 August 2017, from https://www.lifesitenews.com/blogs/20-reasons-why-euthanasia-corrupts-everything-it-touches-and-must-be-oppose.
World Medical Association. HANDBOOK OF DECLARATIONS. Ferney-Voltaire, France: The Association, 1992; Document Number 17.P, 1 p.4.