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Dignity at the end of Life

By sarahtgg Apr 22, 2014 1496 Words
Dignity at the End of Life
Without implying what ethnicity or religious believes we come from, we would all agree that it “is a profound truth that life is a gift, and receiving it is our task.” Living it with prosperity, generosity, honor and integrity goes hand in hand with it. Consequently, ending it with dignity should be a decision one should be able to make, though it should not be forced.

Euthanasia translates directly from Greek as “good death,” also known as “mercy killing” or “assisted suicide” it is the termination of life by a doctor at the request of a patient. This term has many misconception and taboos. One of the most proclaimed taboos is the so called “euthanasia for love.” In March of 2011; a Belgian couple was euthanized, at their request. The men was 83-years-old and diagnosed with terminal prostate cancer, his wife 78- year-old, who suffered from severe rheumatism, although she was not terminally ill, did not want to live without her husband. Nine years after euthanasia was legalized, it started to show major faults as the case above, and it is now strictly practiced under severe conditions in the states that euthanasia is legal. One of the conditions is that “the request must be made by an adult of sound mind, and the patient must have an incurable disease that causes unbearable suffering” as Mr. Boomsma states in his national review.

One more lamentable misconception of euthanasia is that from being an option taken for only the most exceptional cases and under strict regulations now it is being presented as a human right. Patients no longer request euthanasia, but demand it as their right, concluding their request “out of fear” because of unbearable pain. (Western Suttee: Against a ‘Right’ To Be Killed)

Euthanasia should be suggested strictly to those patients who are severely ill with incurable diseases and have no chance of improvement, such as patients who suffer from Sarcoidosis. This disease is of an unknown cause that leads to inflammation, which affects your body’s organs. In people who have sarcoidosis, the inflammation doesn't go away. Instead, some of the immune system cells cluster to form lumps called granulomas in various organs in your body. Sarcoidosis can affect any organ in your body. However, it's more likely to affect some organs more than others. The disease usually starts in the lungs, skin, lymph nodes, and eyes, also affecting the liver, the heart and brain, leading to serious complications. If many granulomas form in an organ, they can affect how the organ works, such as brain complications, enlargement of the lymph node in your neck and chest causing you problems to breathe, heart complications, liver enlargement, inflamed lumps in lungs etc. Signs and symptoms vary depending on which organs are affected. Generalized symptoms for many people, sarcoidosis begins with the following signs and symptoms: fatigue, fever, swollen lymph nodes, and weight loss. Almost everyone who has sarcoidosis eventually experiences lung problems, which may include: Persistent dry cough, hortness of breath, wheezing, and chest pain. Up to 25 percent of the individuals who have sarcoidosis develop skin problems, which may include: Rash. A rash of red or reddish-purple bumps, most commonly located on the shins or ankles, may be warm and tender to the touch. Lesions, disfiguring skin sores may occur on your nose, cheeks and ears. Color change, areas of skin may get darker or lighter in color. Nodules, growths just under the skin may develop, particularly around scars or tattoos.

Another disease for which euthanasia should be accessible is for those who suffer from Duchenne muscular dystrophy (DMD). This is a recessive X-linked form of muscular dystrophy, which results in muscle degeneration, difficulty walking, breathing, and death. The disorder is caused by a mutation in the dystrophin gene, located in humans on the X chromosome. The dystrophin gene codes for the protein dystrophin, an important structural component within muscle tissue. Dystrophin provides structural stability to the dystroglycan complex (DGC), located on the cell membrane.

Terminal Cancer, with no doubt, should be another reason for euthanasia. When the patient has terminal cancer, it means the body has giving in to cancer and no medical treatment can stop or reverse the development of cancerous cells. Further treatment may involve more aggressive forms of chemotherapy and radiation. Surgery is likely an option not acceptable to doctors at this stage if it could cause more harm than good.

“Jacob "Jack" Kevorkian commonly known as "Dr. Death", left behind no children, but he did father a legacy.” Kevorkian’s name is now indisputably synonymous with assisted suicide. “Doctor Death,” as the media came to call him, claimed to have aided in the process of ending the lives of 130 people between the years of 1990 to 1999. He was an American pathologist, euthanasia activist, painter, author, composer and instrumentalist. He is best known for publicly championing a terminal patient's right to die through physician-assisted suicide; beginning in 1999, Kevorkian served eight years of a 10-to-25-year prison sentence for second-degree murder. He was released under bail on June 1, 2007, under one condition, he would not offer suicide advice to any other person. Kevorkian defended his actions, as he once stated, “”I didn't do it to end a life. I did it to end the suffering the patient's going through. The patient's obviously suffering, what's a doctor supposed to do, turn his back?”” (Alan Dershowitz) Kevorkian created two instruments of assisted suicide: the Thanatron, Greek for “Instrument of Death,” and the Mercitron, which is simply the word “mercy” merged with “tron”.

The Thanatron is basically an automated drip hooked up to an intravenous needle. The procedure would begin with the patient triggering an injection of the potent sedative sodium thiopental, which would put the patient to sleep. Shortly after this point, the falling of the unconscious patient’s arm would signal to the device to switch to potassium chloride, which would stop the patient’s heart. Death would generally take less than two minutes and would occur while the patient was unconscious. The Mercitron was little more than a mask hooked up to carbon monoxide which the patients would breathe in. (“Jack Kevorkian was "part of the civil-rights movement,” said Alan Dershowitz, his sometime legal adviser)

Efforts to change government policies on euthanasia in the 20th century have met limited success in Western countries. Euthanasia policies have also been developed by a variety of non-governmental organizations, most notably medical associations and advocacy organizations. As of 2011, active euthanasia is only legal in the three Benelux countries: the Netherlands, Belgium and Luxembourg. Assisted suicide is legal in Switzerland and in the US states such as Washington, Oregon and Montana, also in Australia, Belgium, Canada, Ireland, Israel, Japan, Luxembourg, Mexico, Colombia, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Switzerland, Turkey, United Kingdom, among many other Countries.

How times change! In 1980, the Catholic Church proclaimed that “Intentionally causing one's own death, or suicide, is equally as wrong as murder” (sacred Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith) and that no one can in any way permit the killing of an innocent human being, whether a fetus or an embryo, an infant or an adult, an old person, or one suffering from an incurable disease, or a person who is dying. Furthermore, no one is permitted to ask for this act of killing, either for himself or herself or for another person entrusted to his or her care, nor can he or she consent to it, either explicitly or implicitly. Nor can any authority legitimately recommend or permit such an action.

Even if Catholics feel naturally uncomfortable about this, we can confidently say, there's no clear line here, and because Rome recognizes that "extraordinary means" to prolong life may be inappropriate, then it is tolerable for Catholics. Moreover, "extraordinary treatment" may not need to be given in some circumstances either, and an example of this would be the resuscitation of a terminally ill patient who will die soon anyway. Thus, Catholics can refuse "extraordinary treatment” and “extraordinary means,” even when the technology is available, so you can switch the ventilator off. So it seems that Catholics can and do accept euthanasia, up to a point, and so the perception of them as wanting a blanket ban on euthanasia is a mischaracterization of their true position.

So what is it, others feel they want, over and above the Catholic position, which they may feel is holding them back due to the pressure exerted by the Catholic religion? I think many people want doctors to aid dying patients, and this is different from stopping extraordinary treatment, or pain-relief overdoses as a side effect. Catholics object to the principle of the cause of death being the treatment itself, rather than a by- product of the treatment or lack of treatment. There seems something terribly cruel about removing treatment from the dying, in order to let them die faster, but perhaps in misery and agony, yet it seems compassionate to actively aid the dying.

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