9 March 2011
Euthanasia Impacts of Law, Religion and Ethics
The question of legalizing euthanasia has always been a pertinent one in current society with cancer and morbidity rates consistently rising. What is the most tolerant basis for evaluating the legality of euthanasia? In a positive aspect, it can greatly help avoid a painful or agonizing death, giving the ill patient control over their pending lives and the security of being given a choice. However, many view it as unethical and a form of murder and suicide, doctors being the source of the assisted death. Different forms of euthanasia, such as physician assisted suicide, voluntary active, passive, and non voluntary are major factors in deciding the legality of permitting the procedure, and the various ethical views concerning the sensitive topic between the large spectrum of beliefs on the matter. The court systems have maintained their global stance on the illegality of euthanasia, being largely challenged by its supporters, consisting of various groups, advocating the right to die and the unconstitutionality of being denied that right. In order for one to undergo this process, some factors should be put into perspective, such as the condition and terminability of their illness, the family and patient’s realistic perspective on their current condition and life support, religion, mental health and the large judicial factor which has prohibited euthanasia on a global scale. Physician assisted suicide (primarily active voluntary) should be approached with a more tolerant perspective when looked at from a legal perspective, giving the dying patient more choices in their situation of pending death, such as having the possibility of a painless death through a physician administered lethal drug.
History and Development of Euthanasia
Euthanasia stems from the Greek word “easy death,” inferring that unnecessary pain and agony may be eliminated from the inevitable dying process of terminally ill patients through this procedure. There are various methods of euthanasia, a common one including active voluntary euthanasia. This type of assisted death is used when the patient is mentally competent with a severe sickness or physical ailment, but has lost the will to live due to their failing health and is specified as “the practice of hastening a person’s death, through such means as a lethal injection, which is carried out with the patient’s knowledge and consent” (Kitchener and Jorm 27). Many view keeping a patient alive in this situation as prolonging their inevitable near death, and indirectly subjecting them to unnecessary and prolonged pain or discomfort. Active voluntary euthanasia is carried out by a doctor providing an injection, or providing the patient with the medical means to commit suicide. This method of euthanasia is illegal globally, and is stated by the court system to not be included under the constitutional rights in terms of due process, excluding the state of Oregon which has recently ruled it as legal under certain standards. However, it is still performed in a sense of letting the patient die through the patient’s request, instead of maintaining the life support, which in many cases is legally accepted. However, some patients view it on an opposite spectrum. Although all suffering patients want to put an end to their prolonged pain, some feel that they would be losing their dignity in death by becoming dependent on a lethal drug to bring them to their deaths. This is expressed through an excerpt of the court case, Cruzan v Director, Missouri Department of Health expressed by Justice Souter; “The patients here sought not only an end to pain (which they might have had, although perhaps at the price of stupor) but an end to their short remaining lives with a dignity that they believed would be denied them by powerful pain medication, as well as by their conscious-ness of dependency and...