Euthanasia: Medical Ethics
Morality refers to moral duties and ideal human character and rules society to promote ethical and virtuous behavior.(Young & Koopsen, 2005). Values have emotional and spiritual power in the motivation of choices (Young &Koopsen, 2005). Ethics is the practice of morality and values in society which may find conflict in certain religions, philosophies, and state laws (Young & Koopsen, 2005). The choice of euthanasia is based on an individual’s religious belief or guiding principle, culture and tradition, the ability to make competent choices, and impacted by state and federal laws. This paper explores the concept of euthanasia, the various religious and ethical views, case studies, and state laws that protect individual rights. First, this paper will explore the history, the present concept of euthanasia, and discuss a past medical case. What is Euthanasia?
History reveals that the choice of euthanasia has been a topic of great debate. Ancient Greeks felt that sick people were expendable. Plato supported euthanasia for deformed and sick infants to relieve the burden of society (Boss,2010), Boss adds that the Stoics believed that when an individual can no longer be useful in society, death was a noble act. Additionally, Boss adds that Aristotle opposed euthanasia and believed that individuals should face death with courage. The Pythagoreans, writers of the Hippocratic oath opposed euthanasia in the belief that humans were possessions of the gods. The Hippocratic oath taken by medical professionals reads: Never will I give a deadly drug, not even if I am asked for one, nor will I give any advice tending in that direction. Theologian, Thomas Aquinas, merged the beliefs of Aristotle and Biblical readings and argued that euthanasia and suicide are both unnatural and immoral (Boss,2010). Others such as Immanuel Kant opposed the choice of euthanasia. He believed that the choice for euthanasia showed a lack of respect for humanity (Boss,2010). Thomas Jefferson stated, "The care of human life and happiness and not their destruction is the first and only legitimate object of good government." Historically, the issue of taking a life was considered immoral and oppositional to both God and government. The controversial debate over the choice of euthanasia has continued through history leading to the present day. Euthanasia can be defined as a painless death of an individual inflicted with a terminal, incurable disease (Boss,2010). In Greek, the word euthanasia means ‘good death,’ however many people would question that definition. Euthanasia can be passive, active, voluntary, or involuntary according to Boss. Today, American law prevents active euthanasia, or physician-assisted suicide, which involves giving an incompetent person a lethal drug, or administering a lethal drug with the patient’s permission to die (Boss,2010). One example in America involving the debate about euthanasia is found in the statement by Boss (2010), who stated that 75 percent of Americans supported legal euthanasia before the 2005 Terry Schiavo case. Terry suffered irreversible brain damage and her husband requested the removal of life support including food and water. Terry’s parents requested the feeding tube be replaced with a court order. This case touched the hearts of many in America as they struggled to understand the ethics of euthanasia and life and death issues. For some individuals, there is no difference between killing and allowing-to-die. Other countries outside America make no difference between passive and active euthanasia. For example, active voluntary euthanasia is legal in France and in the Netherlands (Boss,2010). The choice of euthanasia relies on an individual’s morality, values, and ethics. These choices may be based on an individual’s religious preference and create conflict with state laws. .End of life issues also consist of psychological, social, and spiritual dimensions according to...
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