Euthanasia: a Moral Dilemma

Topics: Euthanasia, Voluntary euthanasia, Medical ethics Pages: 9 (3345 words) Published: October 24, 2012
Euthanasia: A Moral Dilemma
The word euthanasia is derived from two Greek words, “eu” which means “good” and “thanatos” which means “death,” thus, you have the translation “good death.” For many, when faced with a terminal disease or injury, it is all they truly want. That is, the ability to choose the right to die, in lieu of, a slow and painful death. The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines Euthanasia as, “The act or practice of killing hopelessly sick or injured individuals in a relatively painless way for reasons of mercy,” and also, “The act of or practice of allowing a hopelessly sick or injured patient to die by taking less than complete medical measures to prolong life – mercy killing.” In those two separate definitions, you have the words that define the difference between active and passive euthanasia. “The act or practice of killing…” is what is termed as active euthanasia, in that it involves a person physically “doing” something to bring about the death of an individual. Whereas, “the act or practice of allowing…” is considered passive euthanasia, in that it allows a person to die. Normally, this entails the withholding or withdrawal of necessary medical equipment or medicine. Historically, both methods have evoked great emotional turmoil throughout society. Why? Because, it puts into dispute moral, cultural, social, and religious values that individual’s hold regarding their right to live, aswell as their right to die. Furthermore, individuals want to be able to control, should the need arise, their right to how they die, when they die, and where they die. The fear of lacking this control comes from the thought of dying a slow and painful death from the likes of ALS, Huntingdon’s, or terminal cancer. Likewise, the fear of being trapped in a persistent vegetative state (PVS) from injuries sustained from some form of brain trauma or infection. In brief, no-one wants nor should have to go through a death like the one experienced at the hands of such debilitating diseases or injuries. However, the thought of euthanasia calls into question the very moral fiber, of “thou shalt not kill” which as the sixth commandment is recognized as one of the unbreakable vows. With that said, faced with the prospect of dying or having to watch a loved one die an undignified and painful death, many change how they perceive this vow. The central ethical argument for voluntary euthanasia is that society has a right to demand respect for its autonomic choices, and as long as these choices do not harm another being, then they should be granted! Historically, the opinion that euthanasia is morally permissible can be traced back to the writings of Socrates, Plato, and the Stoics. However, the modern day movement to legalize voluntary euthanasia was not founded until 1935 in England, when C Killick Millard founded the Voluntary Euthanasia Society. In contrast, the USA did not establish the Euthanasia Society of American until 1938. (Encyclopedia Britannica, 2011). Ultimately, euthanasia will continue to incite countless debates both morally and legally all over the world, however, if society, as a whole, were to fully understand the reality of a terminally ill patient, then they could address the true incentive of legalization, which is a person’s right to a painless, dignified death. Passive Euthanasia is defined as, “hastening the death of a person by altering some form of support and letting nature take its course.” Examples may include turning of a respirator, halting life-sustaining medications, or discontinuing food and water. In addition, a person may have taken the initiative of writing an advanced directive with strict instructions that they do not wish to be resuscitated in the event of cardiac arrests (West Encyclopedia of American Law, 2011). Passive euthanasia can be further broken down into voluntary and involuntary passive. Voluntary passive emphasizes on the competence of the patient, with a dependence on the...
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