The Good Death
It is commonly said that death is life’s only promise—which might explain why the argument about how it should come to pass, in the terminally ill, especially, is such a hot topic. There are four ways the terminally ill may pass: naturally, the disease takes them; active euthanasia—doctors actively take the life, e.g. lethal injection; physician-assisted suicide—the doctor gives the patient a prescription for a lethal dose of a drug, but the patient self-administers it; or passive euthanasia—a life sustaining treatment, i.e. a ventilator or antibiotic, is withheld. Three of them—passive, active, and physician-assisted—are hotly disputed. Passive euthanasia is acceptable while active and physician assisted are not. The difference among the three is, as Andrew Bell most accurately put it, “the ethical boundary between recognizing that human life is finite and [doctors] acting as executioner” (Bernards 50.) The first argument against active euthanasia is that there is no proper way to give it oversight or regulate it (Bernards 72.) The possibility for abuse is enormous. There is no real way to prevent euthanasia from being an “out” for any number of situations, e.g. financial burden of continuing care, a misdiagnosis on the doctor’s part, etc. Loopholes are guaranteed to be found and the risk of them being exploited is too great. A second argument against active euthanasia isn’t something that might immediately come to mind when considering euthanasia. It’s doctoral error. Any doctor can tell you a story or three of misdiagnosis. In any textbook of diseases, you can read through and frequently find the saying, “…_____, frequently mistaken for _______, actually is…” A world of problems would be created if Dr. X said that Patient Y had Z months to live and Patient X was then euthanized. Not only would Dr. X have a typical malpractice suit on his hands, but he would be responsible for killing his patient. A third argument against active euthanasia is...
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