Euthanasia: One of Today's Most Prevalent Ethics Issues

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Euthanasia can be considered one of the most prevalent problems when dealing with the ethics of patient treatment. Should people have the right to end their own lives when prolonging it will only cause them more pain? Should families who love someone so much, that they don't want to lose them, cause them more pain by keeping them alive. What makes that more ethically correct then letting them die? The more you look into this issue the more you see how contradictory people are when it comes to making these decisions. This paper shows the issue in a more detailed manner, gives some background, shows the effects on modern society and explains briefly my standpoint on the subject.

The practice of euthanasia dates back as far as the dawn of civilization itself. In the past it was an easy subject to deal with because technology didn't permit nearly as much life sustentation. When health problems, such as, diabetes and high blood pressure were causes of death, it wasn't such a controversial issue in society. Now that we have the knowledge along with medical equipment to keep people alive, the issue has developed into a more difficult one to deal with. However, the issues surrounding euthanasia are not only of death, they are about ones liberty, right to privacy and control over his or her, own body. Currently under U.S. law, there are clear differences between the two different types of euthanasia. Extraction of life support, referred to by some as passive euthanasia has been exclusively upheld by the courts as a lawful right of a patient to request and a permissible act for a doctor to perform. Physician-assisted death, referred to by some as active euthanasia is specifically prohibited by laws in most countries and American states banning "mercy killings" and is condemned by the American Medical Association.

Active Euthanasia is thought of by most to be morally wrong and punishable by law. Yet, mercy has been held as a high moral by most civilizations in history. Now we punish anyone who assists someone else in suicide, out of their own mercy. During the 21-month trial period of a new law anyone assisting in a suicide can be sentenced to up to four years in prison and fined more than $2,000 (1). Physicians have been and will continue to be prosecuted for the murder of patients who sought assisted suicide, a good example of this is Dr. Kevorkian. Jack Kevorkian was a well known physician who assisted over hundred-thirty people in their deaths before he was convicted for murder (2). He considered it merciful to assist patients with "terminal" illnesses. His definition of terminal, "any disease that curtails life even for a day" (3), didn't convince the courts of his legal innocence. While people who have terminal illnesses sometimes wish to die, society punishes the people who assist them. In my opinion, punishing physicians in relation to this form of medical treatment is a moral contradiction.

The indirect killing of a person, referred to as "passive euthanasia", is thought to be the lesser of the two evils. Despite the fact that it is more legal than "active euthanasia" it is still the termination of a human life. Through the removal of life extending treatments, the physicians are still causing the patients death. Many life-sustaining treatments and examinations may actually cause the individual more pain and suffering, without a worthy return. A good medical example of this, are burn victims in which their survival is improbable, sometimes debridement treatments are used, which can provide the patient no gain what so ever and are extremely painful. When dealing with patients who will die with or without treatment, most people consider euthanasia the most appealing procedure.

Legally euthanasia is broken down into those two categories, Active being illegal everywhere but Oregon and the Netherlands. In 1994 Oregon passed its "Death with Dignity Act" which legalized assisted suicide, making it the only place...
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