Euthanasia: The Good, Bad and the Indifferent
August 1, 2011
Instructor Michael Mileski
Euthanasia, also known as mercy killing, remains to be a highly controversial topic. Who has the power to determine when life comes to an end and when life actually begins? Ethicists, medical experts and law-makers have struggled with this topic for some time; trying to define what is ethical and what is not-what is punishable by law and what is permissible. Euthanasia, in some circumstances, is both justified and moral; no matter the gender, race, religious background, or social status, and every adult human being deserves to die with dignity and be cared for with compassion and excellence until the very end-whenever that time may come. Euthanasia is defined as intentionally causing the death of a person with the motive being to benefit that person or protect him or her from further suffering (Euthanasia and Assisted Suicide, 2009). The two forms of euthanasia are active and passive; both of which maintain the same end result-death. Generally the more accepted form of euthanasia is passive euthanasia. This form of euthanasia is more the act of “letting nature take its’ course”. Passive euthanasia occurs when life-saving treatment (such as a respirator) is withdrawn or withheld. Active euthanasia, on the other hand, is commonly understood to be the intentional commission of an act, such as giving a patient a lethal drug that results in death (Pozgar, 2010, p.103). When an individual is terminally ill, death is inevitable and pain and suffering becomes part of their everyday life, euthanasia may be the best option. As a respiratory therapist, I have withdrawn life-support from many patients; therefore, I have taken part in passive euthanasia. There were times when removing the respirator was difficult, but no patient whom I have withdrawn support from, would have been better off being kept alive via machine, in my opinion. Each and every human being should have the right to die with dignity and in peace. One should not have to suffer, remain in pain or stay alive in an incompetent, vegetative state because society cannot exactly agree upon when to initiate life-saving treatment, when to continue treatment, and when and who should terminate such treatment. Do I feel a 92-year-old African American should be allowed to die with no resuscitative efforts if that is what his wishes are? Do I feel a 40-year-old mother of four suffering with Stage V metastatic breast cancer has the right to refuse all treatment, except comfort measures, in hopes of a natural death? Do I feel a 65-year-old Hispanic male dying from a terminal illness that causes him physical and emotional pain beyond relief should have the option of ending his life with the aid of his physician? The answer to all of these questions is yes. Life is a gift, and a precious one at that, but it is also a gift of uncertainty wrapped in many shades of grey. We don’t always know what the right answer is or which step to take next-especially when it comes to end-of-life issues. There comes a time when continued attempts to cure are not compassionate, wise or medically sound. All interventions should then be directed towards alleviating pain and other symptoms; as well as to provide emotional and spiritual support for the both the patient and their loved ones, as they so desire (Marker & Hamlon, 2010). This should apply to every individual no matter their cultural background, social status, age or gender. Some believe that “disadvantaged populations would be disproportionately represented among patients who chose assisted suicide.” Some also feel that “assisted suicide and euthanasia will be practiced through the prism of social inequality and prejudice that characterized the delivery of services in all segments of society, including health care. Those who will be most vulnerable to abuse, error or indifference are the poor,...
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