Active euthanasia should be permitted as a medical treatment to allow people the right to die with dignity without pain and in peace. Euthanasia, also known as assisted suicide or mercy killing, takes on many different forms. When most Americans think of euthanasia, they think of a specific form that is referred to as “active euthanasia” which means to actively do something that will end a patient’s life with or without that individual’s consent. When euthanasia is performed in an involuntary manner it is usually because the patient is comatose, unconscious, or otherwise unable to communicate whether or not they want to have their life prolonged through artificial means. In such cases, the physician makes an executive decision whether to end the patient’s life, deeming it just because that individual would experience only pain and suffering in the continuity of their state.
In the United States, active euthanasia is currently banned, with the exception of the state of Oregon. “Oregon’s Death with Dignity Act (DWDA), which was enacted in late 1997, allows terminally-ill adult Oregonians to obtain and use prescriptions from their physicians for self-administered, lethal doses of medications” (Death With Dignity Act). It would appear to be an easy assumption that most people in the United States believe that ending the life of a human being who is alert and able to communicate is morally wrong, though most likely is suffering and experiencing a lesser quality of life because of that; for example, a patient who is suffering from a terminally ill disease like Lou Gehrig’s disease, cancer and multiple sclerosis. With a closer examination of the facts, however, might lead to an extreme change in the opinions of even the strongest supporters of anti-euthanasia.
Michael Petrou’s article titled “A Time to Die” provides a prime example of a situation where active euthanasia was the appropriate course of action. Petrou writes about the final chapter in the life of a man named Hans Knottenbelt. Knottenbelt was an adored husband and father, living in the Netherlands, where euthanasia is legal and practiced regularly. The right to die in the Netherlands is highly regulated. Certain situations must come in to play, “the patient must be experiencing unbearable pain, the patient must be conscious, the death request must be voluntary, the patient must have been given alternatives and time to consider these alternatives, there must be no other reasonable solutions to the problem, the patient’s death cannot inflict unnecessary suffering on others, there must be more than one person involved in the euthanasia decision, only a doctor can euthanize a patient and great care must be taken in actually making the death decision” (Euthanasia in the Netherlands). In the later stages of his life, he was diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, also known as Lou Gehrig's disease. He and his family immediately recognized that this was a death sentence. The disease would cause the nerves which control his muscles to slowly deteriorate. They knew that, in time, he would become essentially paralyzed. He would quickly lose his ability to walk and eventually not even be able to speak or swallow. Finally, he would get to the point where he could no longer take in enough oxygen, and he would suffocate. What made this disease especially terrifying to Knottenbelt and his family, however, was the fact that the disease would not affect his mental capacity. This meant he would be completely aware of what was happening to him as he inched closer and closer to his imminent demise (Petrou 22).
After suffering with the disease for some time, Knottenbelt came to the conclusion that euthanasia was the only reasonable solution for his affliction. The doctor, whose name was disclosed in the article, came to his home and provided the only means of escape from his disease. Knottenbelt lay down on his bed and received a dose of...