The worst fear of a normal human being, is death therefore we are constantly doing everything in our power to avoid having to be faced with this dreaded yet unavoidable aspect of human life.
Than there are those whose only wish is to fasten the end of their life because of the excruciating circumstances that they may be facing. Sitting in a doctor's office and having to hear phrases like "you have cancer," "there is nothing that medicine can do in your situation," "here is a list of facilities offering hospice care," and "the best we can do for you is to do our best to alleviate the pain that you will go through because of your disease" can mark the beginning stage of someone who will soon have their perfect world crumble down into a million pieces. It is at these specific moments that one may consider euthanasia.
The Encyclopedia Dictionary of Medicine, Nursing, & Allied Health defines Euthanasia as "an easy or painless death" as well as "the deliberate ending of life of a person who is suffering an incurable disease." in recent years this definition has been broaden to include the practice of withholding extraordinary means or any heroic measures that would allow the patient to die. An extraordinary measures is any type of treatment, usually invasive and in some cases may be considered burdensome to the patient.
A distinction must also be made between positive (active) euthanasia and negative (passive) euthanasia. Active Euthanasia, is when there is a deliberate ending of life and an action is consciously taken to cause the death of a patient. A consciously taken action, would be something like providing the patient with an narcotic overdose, or simply providing any medication that will intentionally speed up the death of such patient.
Passive Euthanasia is the withholding of life-preserving procedures and treatments that would prolong the life of one who is incurably and terminally ill and has no possibility of survival without these measures.This would include actions such as removing a patient from a breathing machine or not providing the patient with a necessary treatment such as dialysis. In most cases, Passive Euthanasia is carried out at the patient's or their family's request when they are informed that the patient is not able to sustain by means of their own.
Another important factor to consider when speaking of Euthanasia, is Physician Assisted Suicide (PAS). PAS, is when the physician supplies information to the patient and the means for committing suicide. For example, a physician has the ability to provide the patient, at their request, a lethal dose of sleeping pills, or give its patient a supply of carbon monoxide gas so that this person may easily terminate his or her life. PAS is commonly known in today's day and age as "Voluntary Passive Euthanasia (VAE)."
Involuntary Euthanasia, another known form of this procedure, is often used to describe the killing of a person who has not requested aid in ending their life. This is most often done to patients who are considered to be in persistent vegetative state or in a coma and will most likely never recover consciousness. It is in this area, that many questions arise. Medicine has advanced in such ways, that now medical professionals are capable of maintaining life through artificial measures. Therefore the question to be asked now, when referring to Involuntary Euthanasia, is what is the right to life? does it mean to merely stay alive, or does it include a meaningful life? Also, are we to allow someone to end their life by natural causes or because we can no longer keep them alive thru artificial measures?If that is the question, who than defines the natural causes of death?
Vaibhav Goel, in his article "Euthanasia-a Dignified end of life!" states that allowing euthanasia is nothing else but giving medical professionals a permit or a license to end the life of a person in question.
According to surveys that have been done in...
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Verhagen, E., Sauer, J.J. (2005). The Groningen Protocol-Euthanasia in Severely Ill Newborns. The New EnglandJournal of Medicine.
De Casterly, B.D., Verpoort, C., De Bal, C., Gastmans, C. (2005). Clinical Ethics-Nurses ' View on Their Involvement in Euthanasia: a Qualitative Study in Flanders (Belgium). Journal of Medical Ethics.
Emanuel, E.J., Faircough, D., Clarridge,B.C., Blum, D., Bruera, E., Penley, C., Schnipper, L.E., Mayer, J.R. (2002). Attitudes and Practices of U.S. Oncologists regarding Euthanasia and Physician-Assisted Suicide, American College Of Physicians. 527-532. DOI:0003-4819-133-7-200010030-00011
Magnussion, R.S. (2004). Euthanasia: Above ground, Below Ground. Journal of Medical Ethics. 441-446. Doi: 10.1136/jme.2003.005090
Chao, DVK, Chan NY andWy,C. (2002) Euthanasia Revisited. Oxford Journals, 128-134. DOI: 10.1093/fampra/19.2.128
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