Should Euthanasia be legalized?
Because of remarkable advances in medical technology pharmacology that can artificially prolong a patient’s life, the field of medical ethics has been confronted with a new controversy: the legalization of euthanasia and physician assisted suicide. The word Euthanasia comes from the Greek word for “eus” which means godly or well, and “thanathos” which literally means death (F.A. Davis Company, 2001, p. 476). Before its contemporary use, the word euthanasia meant a peaceful, quiet way to depart from earth. However, in modern times, this concept has sparked an incredible controversy. Today, the word euthanasia also commonly, but wrongfully, used for the practices of physician-assisted suicide (PAS). Advances in medical technology sometimes artificially prolong a patients suffering and deny them the right to a peaceful, quiet death. Many terminally ill people, who suffer from tremendous physical and psychological pain, would rather opt to die humane and dignified than to be kept alive artificially. Such unnatural extension of a person’s anguish has lead to an increasing number of euthanasia supports, who view the practice of euthanasia as ways and means to a peaceful, dignified, humane and self determined death. The most substantial argument of euthanasia and PAS supporters is that a human being should have the right to self determination and the freedom of choice when and how to end one’s own life. They also argue that certain practices, such as terminal sedation, are already commonly used and ethically and legally accepted. Proponents also condemn cultural and religious beliefs that forbid the practices of euthanasia and PAS. They argue that the right to die is a civil rights issue and not one of religion or culture. However, there are also supporters of this issue who do not wish further governmental involvement or regulation of these practices for they fear that such interference would restrict the practice too much. This paper will present arguments for and against the legalization of practices involved with euthanasia and PAS. However, because I view the right to die as a personal choice, and feel that this is a civil rights issue, I will argue for the legalization of practices involved in euthanasia and PAS.
Definitions and Legality
In order to understand the legal and ethical issues surrounding euthanasia better, one has to clearly communicate and understand the distinction between euthanasia and PAS. Euthanasia refers to “someone (often a physician) intentionally taking an action that ends another person’s life with the stated intent of alleviating or preventing perceived suffering (Yakunina, Richmond, & Werth, 2007, p. 26). A clear distinction has been made between active and passive euthanasia. Active euthanasia is the act of a person other than the terminally ill patient to end the patient’s life. In passive euthanasia, futile or ineffective treatment is withheld or withdrawn upon the patient’s request (American Association of Suicidology, 1996, p. 5). In contrast to euthanasia, assisted suicide is defined as “the deliberate and knowing provisions of information, the means, and/or help to another person for the act of suicide” (1996, p. 5). Further, euthanasia may be defined by the form of consent given. In voluntary euthanasia the patient gives an informed consent and wishes to die. In non-voluntary euthanasia a patient is unable or incompetent of giving an informed consent, due to unconsciousness, coma, or other mental or medical impairment. Involuntary euthanasia takes place when the patient is capable, legally competent, and alert, yet his consent is not attained. By definition, involuntary euthanasia is considered homicide, and illegal and punishable by law all around the world. In PAS, the assister is a physician, and the assistance takes the form of a lethal dose of medication that a terminally ill patient may use to terminate his life. The noticeable...
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