For as long as people have been around, we have been dying. While this very well may seem to be pointing out the obvious, so many of us forget that we, as humans, are mortal beings. Our life span is definitely finite, and it should be. Just think what would happen if nobody ever died. Even though we are mortal, we try to hang onto our lives as long as we can. Fear of death and wanting to live forever are, after all, part of human nature. Sometimes, however, medicine takes advantage of this aspect of humanity and, to a great extent, capitalizes on it. While it is certainly true that one goal of medicine has always been to prolong life, another goal has been the alleviation of pain and suffering. One point at which these two views collide, often violently, is over the hotly debated issue of euthanasia.
Euthanasia, or “mercy killing,” as it has been called, is certainly not an issue with just two sides, there are many side to it. Euthanasia, after all, ranges from simply allowing an individual to die naturally without life support or “pulling the plug” (passive euthanasia), all the way to Jack Kevorkian’s suicide machine (active euthanasia). To complicate things further, there is also voluntary euthanasia, “Cases in which patient requests to be killed, and dies as a result of action taken by another person,” involuntary euthanasia; “cases in which no action is requested because the patient is unconscious, senile, or otherwise incapable of making a request, but the person is allowed to die or is killed,” and nonvoluntary euthanasia; “cases in which a conscious, terminally ill patient states that they do not want to die, but is allowed to die or is killed anyway” (http://valdosta.peachnet.edu). While an individual may advocate one form of euthanasia, it is not uncommon for the same person to be completely against another form. There are cases in which euthanasia is wrong, especially cases involving conscious people who are not really in a lot of pain, seeking death. In these cases, some kind of counseling would make a lot more sense than just accepting that these people think they need to die and therefore should. On the other hand, there are also certainly cases where euthanasia is a less painful alternative to what may otherwise lie ahead. In most of these cases, the disease will end up killing the individual anyway, so why prolong pain by putting people with incurable illnesses on life support? After all, as stated before, one of the main goals of medicine is to alleviate pain and suffering. If there is no cure to an illness, and the treatments, as well as the disease are painful, why put the individual, and the family, through financial and emotional anguish?
One problem many of the opponents of euthanasia have with such “mercy killing” is that it is killing, and, to many, this constitutes murder. To murder, however, by definition, is “to kill brutally or inhumanly,”(American Heritage Dictionary.) It is possible that very few of the mercy killings that have occurred over the years have been murder; however, suicide would probably be a better word. After all, it is, in most cases, the individual with the disease is the one who make the final decision. Furthermore, is it brutal or inhuman to end somebody’s life when it is clear that the life they are living is a life of pain and suffering? By the dictionary definition of murder, it seems that forcing someone to die in pain rather than trying to do something about this would be closer to murder.
Another issue involves how natural these things are; on the one hand, euthanasia, especially active euthanasia, seems unnatural, on the other, so do some other medical procedures. It is not exactly natural, after all to keep somebody alive with all kinds of tubes running in and out of his or her body. Here is where the distinction between illnesses and afflictions that...