Euthanasia

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Brianna Coleman
Professor Wayne Urffer
Ethics (Monday, 1pm)
20 November 2012

Euthanasia

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...
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