On a daily bases we are faced with many ethical issues. In today’s society, ethical dilemmas are seen as relative. What happens when you have to make a dire decision that does not only effect you, but the people around you. What happens when you have to make a decision for a chronically ill loved one? How do you handle the situation? In the case of Euthanasia, there is no room for error or for extreme thought processes. When thinking ethically and morally, one must have balance to determine proper judgement.
Euthanasia, also called mercy killing, is defined as the act of putting to death painlessly or allowing to die, as by withholding extreme medical measures, a person or animal suffering from an incurable, especially a painful, disease or condition; painless death (dictionary.com). Euthanasia in the Greek language means “good death”. The word “Euthanasia” was first used as a medical term by Francis Bacon in the 17th century to refer to an easy, painless, happy death, during this time it was considered to a “physician’s responsibility to alleviate the ‘physical sufferings’ of the body.” In the current times, it is defined as a painless inducement for a quick death. Some experts say this leaves too much room for a number of possible actions that would fall under this category.
There are several ways Euthanasia is performed. It is administered through drugs, injections, starvation and dehydration, gases, plastic bags, and the ‘peaceful pill’. In certain states, doctors can prescribe a cocktail of drugs intended to kill the patient. Once the prescription is filled there are specific instructions for the patient to understand that they will die with a single dose. To reduce the chances of the euthanasia drugs being vomited up, an anti-emetic must be given. Some of these prescription drugs are covered under the category “comfort care” by health care providers. Two lethal injections can also be provided depending on the state. The first injection is used to put the patient into a comatose state and the second is used to stop the heart. Many pro-euthanasia activist like to refer to starvation and dehydration method. This includes withdrawal of food and water in order to hasten death. This means of death is frequently approved when application is made to the courts. Often it is paired with Terminal Sedation. Terminal sedation is the use of measured sedatives and analgesics for the necessary control of symptoms like intolerable pain, agitation, and anxiety to relieve the distress of the patient and of family members. The use of gases, plastic bags and the peaceful pill often self administered and are found among those who commit suicide.
Generally, people tend to take the two extreme sides, either for or against it. There are seemingly more people that are against it. Some say it is in violation of the Hippocratic Oath. In which it states in the classical version “I will neither give a deadly drug to anybody who asked for it, nor will I make a suggestion to this effect. Similarly I will not give to a woman an abortive remedy. In purity and holiness I will guard my life and my art” (Nova Online). However, in the modern version it states:
I will remember that there is art to medicine as well as science, and that warmth, sympathy, and understanding may outweigh the surgeon’s knife or the chemist’s drug.Most especially must I tread with care in matters of life and death. If it is given me to save a life, all thanks. But it may also be within my power to take a life; this awesome responsibility must be faced with great humbleness and awareness of my own frailty. Above all, I must not play at God. (Nova Online)
In compliance to the Hippocratic Oath, in the United States physician-assisted suicide is only legal in the states of Montana, Oregon and Washington with the condition that the patient must have 6 months or less to live and must be stated to the physician at least twice and in writing (all must be 15 days apart). In addition, many say Euthanasia can be a factor in health care cost containment. If the practice became widespread it could possibly become a profit enhancing tool for large HMO companies.
For example, assisted suicide may cost maybe 40 dollars but to keep you live may cost 40,ooo dollars. As of late, medical expenses have been the emphasis on medical decisions. With greater and greater stress placed on managed care, many doctors are at a financial risk when they provide treatment for their patients. Legalized euthanasia raises the potential for extremely dangerous situations wherein doctors could find themselves far better off financially if a seriously ill or disabled person “chooses” to die rather than receive long-term care. Moreover, savings to the government may also be what’s pushing the situation into consideration. This could take place if governments cut back on paying for treatment and care and replace them with the “treatment” of death.
On the other hand, there are valid arguments to counter act the previously stated. Some may use Euthanasia as a form of medical help for reasons such as unbearable pain. This seems to be the “go to” reason many people choose to use euthanasia. Seemingly many of the patients involved in the question of practicing euthanasia are usually in great pain. Although we have made great advances in scientific technology there are some patients still feeling pain and those are in a coma and cannot make decisions for themselves. Some pain and brain injuries are too severe that in order to live an adequate life the patient will be “drugged up” state that it wouldn’t be worth it to live. With that being said, should someone be forced to live they don’t want to? No. Although assumed, it doesn’t say in Hippocratic Oath that everything has to be done to keep the patient alive. However, it does say for the benefit of sick all measures that are required should be applied. Those who are for Euthanasia say many do not understand the concept of the practice until they have seen a loved one suffer horrendous pain. Many times before Euthanasia is preformed, families of the patient in question are usually asked whether to continue treatment. Thus to sum it up, people who are pro-Euthanasia believe death is a private matter; if it does no harm to others then the state and others outside of the situation have no right to interfere.
I prefer to take a more balanced stance on the issue. I am neither fully pro-euthanasia nor anti-euthanasia. I believe the practice of euthanasia is situational. No, I don’t believe it should be a means of health regulation nor should it be placed on the government solely to decide. It is totally situational. I did not agree with the final decision of the publicized case of Terri Schiavo. In following the details of the case, her husband indeed seemed to be motivated by money and lack of care for his vegetable spouse. Also it seemed the judge did not further look into medical records nor listened to her family’s requests. Mr. Schiavo, Terri’s husband, dated other women also became engaged while Terri was still being treated. The Judge also seemingly didn’t consider that. Mr. Schiavo was not only engaged and in a rush to get married, be also claimed Terri to be in a Persistent Vegetative State (PVS). Meaning, In order to be in a Persistent Vegetative State may have wakened from a coma but has not regained awareness.
Not only was Terri aware, but she could see, had limited movement in her limbs, and was responsive when people talked to her. Should the government had been allowed to remove her feeding tube because her husband no longer wanted to be married to her or care for her? No, they should not have legalized euthanizing her. Moreover, the courts should have allowed him to annul the marriage and gave health control to Terri’s parents. However, In Tony Nicklinson who in 2005 suffered a stroke that left him paralyzed from the neck down and has to speak through blinking that translates to an electronic machine has been denied the right for physician- assisted suicide. He has expressed that he is not happy with his quality of life and wished to die. I do not agree with the court’s finding because he has expressed his life’s wishes and has left consent with doctors because he cannot physically take his own life. That doctor he has given consent to should not have to go to jail if he assists Nicklinson. Courts should not base their decisions based on religious or personal reasoning but with the thoughts of the all family, the patients wishes, quality of life, and the opinions of doctors.
Like Baruch Benedict Spinoza, I base my ethical decisions on rationalism. Rationalism means truth should be determined by reason and factual analysis rather than faith, dogma, or theology. Although I am religious, I believe when making ethical and moral decisions one must gather all facts in order to make a well rounded and educated decision for the best outcome. Also influenced by rationalism, I believe in social justice which produces the most positive consequences for those who are poor, weak, and voiceless. For most people who euthanasia is in consideration for, usually have limited to no physical speech. Therefore, the need a voice of reason and stability to represent them in a court of law.
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“Reasons for Euthanasia.” Reasons for Euthanasia. Internal Task Force on Euthanasia, n.d. Web. 27 Nov. 2012. .
Tyson, Peter. “The Hippocratic Oath Today.” PBS. PBS, 27 Mar. 2001. Web. 27 Nov. 2012. .
Wikipedia. “Euthanasia.” Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, 11 Nov. 2012. Web. 26 Nov. 2012. .