Euthanasia and the Law

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Euthanasia and the Law

A severely handicapped or terminally ill person should have the right to choose to live or die. The right to live; the right to choose to live or die should not only be a right allocated for bodied individuals of sound mind but for all human beings. Euthanasia is a controversial issue which encompasses the morals, values and beliefs of our society.

Euthanasia, literally defined means "good death". There are two types of euthanasia, active and passive. Active euthanasia is the intentional killing of a person by medical personnel either by a lethal injection or by denying ordinary means of survival. The act of euthanasia called "passive euthanasia", is committed by denying or withholding ordinary medical care to a patient.

Currently, under Canadian law euthanasia is prohibited. In Holland euthanasia has been accepted, in principle for terminally- ill patients, on request. It comes to be seen as practice for those whose "quality of life" is judged by themselves as worthless. Even though euthanasia is not yet legal in Holland, it is legally tolerated. Doctors are rarely prosecuted and even more rarely convicted. If euthanasia were to be decriminalized in Canada certain restrictions would have to be put into place, to ensure that a patient's rights are not infringed upon. A living will should be made when the patient is of lucid mind. Also, a council should be selected and outlined in the living will. The council should be chosen by the patient, when the patient is of sound mind and is able to make decisions. The council might consist of the patient's family, doctor or any other he or she feels have the same view or perception of life.

Presently in Canada a living will is not a legally binding document. A living will is a document prepared and sighed in advance of illness, in which a person may specify which treatment or care is to be withheld or withdrawn from him or her in certain situations. It is extremely general, trying to cover a wide range of accidents or illnesses and possible treatments. Living wills are created to protect the individual who is unable to participate in decisions regarding their medical care. In Canada, even with a living will in many cases any decisions on the removal of medical care must be passed through the court system. This system must be amended. The living will should be made a legally binding document. In the United States, living wills have become legally binding documents, in most states. The recognition of the living will as a legally binding document is one of the first necessary step required in the legalization of euthanasia ant the recognition of ones right to their own life.

Every person has the right to choose to live or die. This statement is a reality for most individuals, but for many terminally ill or permanently disabled patients this right cannot be exercised. Many patients lose control of the function of their arms and or legs and become completed dependent. The question then becomes, "When does ones quality of life reach such a low level that life then becomes not worth living?". A person, at any time, should be able to make this decision. Under the existing law Canadians are not granted this right, the right to their own life. An example of the absence of the "right to die", can be seen through the examination of a case from 1990. A woman named Michelle Frenette wanted to be disconnected from the respirator which was keeping her alive. Her doctors refused to disconnect her from the respirator without a court order. Michelle's family could not afford to go to court, and legal aid does not provide assistance in such cases. So, Michelle lay there, for two years until her eventual death. She should have been able to end her life, without having to obtain a court order, when she felt that her quality of life had been reduced to such a level that it was no longer worth living. In this particular case the...
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