Euthanasia Research Paper

Topics: Euthanasia, United States Constitution, Medical ethics Pages: 6 (2208 words) Published: October 2, 2012
What is euthanasia? The simplest definition of euthanasia is just a painless death (Euthanasia). The word is most commonly used with when speaking about an animal that is suffering, “Oh what happened to your dog?” “He was unbearably ill so we had him euthanized.” However, euthanasia does not always apply to animals; it can be used in regard to any organism, including human beings. When humans put down animals there is never the question of why we should do it. The animal is most likely suffering and has very little to live for, and the decision to euthanize an animal is a much easier decision to make by virtue of it not being a human. But what if it were a human life? What if a fully autonomous individual wished for a painless release from their suffering? Would you let them do it? Would you intervene? How can you say whether or not that their decision is right when you have never experienced what they are? However, the overall arching question to euthanizing humans is, should it be legal? When ether was first used on October 16th, 1846 doctors of that time began to use the pain killer to relieve patients suffering at the ends of their lives (Accidental Inventions). It took only twenty-four years before a man named Samuel Williams proposed using the anesthesia to intentionally end an individual’s life. Williams’s suggestion sparked an argument that would last till the current day. However, a very heated portion of the debate on euthanasia took place in the thirty-five years following Williams’s assertion. The debate reached its peak in 1906 when a bill was pushed in Ohio to legalize euthanasia (the bill was defeated) (Emanuel). After 1906 support for euthanasia waxed and waned depending on the economic and political events of the time (i.e. support was high during the great depression but then took a major blow when it was discovered to be used in concentration camps) ( However, the history of euthanasia dates back much farther than just its debate in America. In fact, the issue of euthanasia dates back to the Roman Empire where physicians often preformed ‘mercy killings’ for patients (the doctors that did this were also doing it in violation of their Hippocratic Oath). After the Roman Empire the practice of euthanasia declined as the now dominant religion of Christianity opposed it. The following several hundred years saw a mostly one sided argument on euthanasia, until Samuel Williams began pushing for it in 1870. The following 130 years would see the most turmoil the debate on euthanasia had ever experienced, most of the argument taking place in America. Societies supporting euthanasia were formed, bills were proposed, economic climate changed people’s view of it, war changed their view again, petitions were made, and arguments over patient’s rights were had. After nearly 1900 years of nothing but opposition support for euthanasia picked up and fought back. The debate climaxed during the 1990’s with Dr. Jack Kevorkian starting to euthanize terminally ill patients who requested it of him. Dr. Kevorkian’s first assisted suicide took place on June 4th, 1990 and it wasn’t his last. Over the next eight years Dr. Kevorkian performed many euthanasia procedures the last being in November 1998 where Kevorkian showed the euthanization of a man on national T.V., resulting in his arrest and his conviction the following year (Dowbiggin). Now, thirteen years after his conviction, Kevorkian is still a well known name, but whenever his name is used it is generally in a negative context. But should a man who helped so many people have his name sullied in such a manner? With Kevorkian’s arrest and conviction the major debate on euthanasia began to die down, leaving thirty-four states with laws that explicitly make euthanasia illegal, nine states with euthanasia governed by common law, five states have unclear laws regarding it, and only two states with...
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