Euthanasia (Summary of the Case)

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Proponents of euthanasia believe that it is the compassionate choice. They feel that terminally ill people should have the right to end their pain and suffering with a quick, dignified death. Opponents of euthanasia worry about a "slippery slope" from euthanasia to murder. They value life at all stages and fear that legalizing euthanasia will unfairly target the poor and disabled. Doctors, lawyers, philosophers, and religious leaders have been debating the euthanasia issue for over two millennia.

"Euthanasia is the deliberate killing of a person for the benefit of that person. In most cases euthanasia is carried out because the person who dies asks for it, but there are cases called euthanasia where a person can't make such a request. A person who undergoes euthanasia is usually terminally ill, but there are other situations in which some people want euthanasia. Euthanasia has many definitions. The Pro-Life Alliance defines it as: 'Any action or omission intended to end the life of a patient on the grounds that his or her life is not worth living.' The Voluntary Euthanasia Society looks to the word's Greek origins - 'eu' and 'thanatos', which together mean 'a good death' - and say a modern definition is: 'A good death brought about by a doctor providing drugs or an injection to bring a peaceful end to the dying process.'

Religions tell us that life is sacred, and furthermore that it is a sin to take a life. Life is defined as "the quality or state which distinguishes living animals and plants from dead ones" or "the length of time a thing exists or is able to function". The key words in this definition are "quality or state" and "able to function". If a terminally ill person has lost these two criteria, would it be reasonable to assume that they have moved beyond the definition of “Life”? We make no judgment, but could argue that ending the suffering of a person whose condition has removed any quality or state of life to a point where they are no longer able to function would not be wrong. Many of us have had a pet animal, a dog or cat that has grown old or ill, and have commented that it would be kinder to put it to sleep, to end its suffering, and in effect give it a dignified and painless way out, yet we seem unable to extend this kindness to our own species.

The medical profession constrained by the Hippocratic Oath is obliged to preserve life at all costs, even if this means prolonging the suffering of the terminally ill. These people who are going to physically deteriorate, with no hope of getting better, are condemned to endure the pain and indignity that we wouldn't inflict on an animal. Some believe that it is the choice of the individual affected by terminal illness to decide if they have had enough. It is a fundamental human right. Many members of the medical profession feel that there is a need for a change in the law and believe that the necessary safeguards can be implemented, despite the skepticism from many quarters. Yes, a flawed system is open to abuse, but it would be up to everyone involved, from doctors to psychologists to the legal profession, to make sure that legalized euthanasia was beyond misuse.

In reality euthanasia is carried out on a daily basis in our hospitals by the withholding of drugs or life-support equipment, but it is never officially admitted. Many doctors, finding themselves in the impossible situation of dealing with a patient who begs to be allowed to die, have assisted them, with the threat of prosecution and professional ruin hanging over their heads, and that can't be right.

This is a subject that can't be swept under the carpet. It needs to be openly and honestly debated. We can no longer shy away from the fact that patients have to travel to foreign countries in order that their final wishes can be fulfilled. It is wrong that some of them are dragged through our court system in order that they can get permission to ensure a dignified death, and are refused....
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