Voluntary Active Euthanasia
PHI 3601 OL3
November 19, 2012
This paper will discuss the benefits of the legalization of Voluntary Active Euthanasia (VAE). It will define the differences between Active Euthanasia and Physician Assisted Suicide, as well as the difference between active and passive. We will look at VAE from a legal perspective, with discussion about specific court cases that have set precedence in this matter. We will also look at it from a moral point of view; from a perspective of Utilitarian and Subjectivist principles, to show that VAE should be considered morally correct.
Voluntary Active Euthanasia
This paper will discuss the benefits of Active Voluntary Euthanasia (VAE). Although it is sometimes referred to as mercy killings, it is one of the most controversial topics in our world today. Many believe the right to live is one of the most important human rights. The right to die should be equally as important. First, we must discuss the difference between active and passive euthanasia. Active is the process by which a person is given something, such as a prescribed medication, to end their life, while passive is allowing a person to die naturally, not being given anything to help sustain their life. Second, we must not confuse VAE with Physician Assisted Suicide (PAS), as the two are quite different. With VAE, it is the doctor who administers life ending medications, with the patient’s permission, while with PAS, the patient is the one who ultimately ends their own life. It can be argued that there is no moral difference between active and passive, since the consequences, intentions, and actions are primarily the same. If medical treatment is withheld, allowing them to die naturally, this will prolong their pain and suffering, as well as that of their loved ones left to bear witness. It will also lead to large medical bills, which the families will be left to deal with. In an era where the culture is to provide rescue medicine, it is hard to decide what to do when facing end of life decisions for your loved ones. According to the Hippocratic Oath, physicians must “use treatment to help the sick according to my ability and judgment, but will not use it to injure or wrong them” (Friend, 2011). While the actual Oath has been rewritten many times over the years, to reflect cultural changes, it has the same essence. But, who decides what is considered as injuring or wronging them? One person may consider aiding in the death of another to be wrong, but the person dying may not. U.S. District Judge Barbara Rothstein (1194) wrote, “There is no more profoundly personal decision, no one which is closer to the heart of personal liberty, than the choice which a terminally ill person makes to end his or her suffering”. Assisted suicide and euthanasia have been worldly controversial for centuries. However, the first organizations created to support the legalization of such were in 1935 and 1938, in Great Britain and the United States, respectively. Great strides have been made in the right direction though. Consider the case of Karen Ann Quinlan. In 1975, after mixing alcohol and drugs at a party, Karen become unconscious and slipped into a coma (Quinlan & Radimer, 2005). After months of watching their daughter suffer, being kept alive by machines, the family decided they knew their daughter would not want to live this way and requested she be taken off of the respirator. However, they quickly found out that their wish could not be carried out without a court order. They lost their first court battle in New Jersey Superior Court. They appealed this decision and ended up in New Jersey State Supreme Court, where by a unanimous decision, they won. Karen’s father, Joseph Quinlan, was names as Karen’s guardian, and was permitted to make all healthcare choices for her. Julia Quinlan, Karen’s mother, writes: The ruling gave...
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