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should people have autonomy over their end of life decisions?

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Topics: Death, Life, Religion
In the following essay, the topic that will be discussed is, should people have autonomy over their end of life decisions. Oxford Press (2013) defines autonomy as freedom or independence from external control or influence. This underpins the title, as should people have the freedom or independence to control their end of life decisions. Throughout this essay, the argument will be in favour of people having autonomy over their end of life decisions. This is an argumentative essay so each position will be considered and refute some objections to the position. The positions that will be discussed are euthanasia, sanity and God, family annihilations and abortion. The first position that will be discussed is euthanasia. People approach euthanasia and other end of light issues in different ways. McDougall and Gorman (2008) argue that Euthanasia is a complex issue, which is both intensely personal and politically charged. Euthanasia affects the person suffering both also the people involved in the persons life. Some may believe that euthanasia is wrong and should not occur under any circumstances; others may be of the opinion that someone facing the end of life should be able to choose the circumstances under which death occurs; McDougall and Gorman (2008). This position highlights that different people have different thoughts on euthanasia.
There are a various number of terminologies and issues related to the end of light. The first terminology or issue would be the quality of life. McDougall and Gorman (2008) articulate that our societies current definition of the quality of life is largely predicted on an individual’s ability to determine when his or her life has become too painful to bear or has lost all meaning. The quality of life is a major issue in regards to euthanasia as McDougall and Gorman (2008) argue that quality of life can be subject of controversy especially when someone else tries to figure out someone elses quality of life. The concept is so subjective that the patients assessment of his or her quality of life can be very different from assessments made by others; McDougall and Gorman (2008) which can then lead to controversy if the patient should be allowed to stay alive or not depending on their situation. This creates both positives and negatives on the subject of quality of life.
The second and final issue related to euthanasia is pain. This is a very strong topic in relation to euthanasia as McDougall and Gorman (2008) espouses that pain is at the top of the list of issues: someone who is experiencing a tolerant amount of pain has greater latitude to make choices about the end of life. McDougall and Gorman (2008) argues that for some people, a tolerable pain level might present the chance to spend additional time with loved ones or an opportunity to take a trip before travelling becomes impossible. Spending time with your loved ones is one of the most important things to do before passing away. McDougall and Gorman (2008) also argue that for those with pain that has become intolerable, pain removes choice from many facets of the remainder of a patient’s life, which portrays that ending your life might be the best thing to do and can also lead to other people ending your life due to their thinking on the situation. McDougall and Gorman (2008) proposes that doctors can prescribe medication to lessen the pain but patients that have cancer or AIDS unfortunately, is nearly impossible. This can then lead to people ending your life for you due to you not being well enough to make your own decisions. McDougall and Gorman (2008) articulates that regardless of the situation, good communication between the patient, medical personnel, family and other caregivers is an essential component of ensuring that the patients pain level is as tolerable as it can be. Euthanasia in regards to pain is necessary in many peoples’ eyes if the patient is suffering an intolerable amount of pain.
Religion also plays an important role in relation to the autonomy of ones end of life decisions. McDougall and Gorman (2008) illustrate that when people are facing end of life decisions they sometimes rely on religious beliefs to help them cope with their fear or give them strength to deal with the uncharted territory. This underpins that many people across the world no matter what gender race or etnique group you are from look up to religion. McDougall and Gorman (2008) argue that when people are not religious, they sometimes turn to religion as they search for the hope and succour they may require to help them face the issues that arise at the end of life and the dying process. This highlights that everyone turns to religion at some stage in their lives even if they do not believe in a God. McDougall and Gorman (2008) espouses that in addition to offering hope, religions may offer laws or guidelines for people facing death. This underpins that religion is a key element in most people’s lives around the world. In the bible it says “thou shall not kill”; (Exodus, 20:13) In Catholicism, McDougall and Gorman (2008) proposes that the Catholic Church is known for its rejection of actions that are considered with the sanity of life, which reinforces the quote “thou shall not kill”. McDougall and Gorman (2008) argue that this rejection does not preclude actions that would allow death to occur naturally, which underpins that death only should be only allowed under natural causes.
In relation to Judaism and the quote “thou shalt not kill”; (Exodus. 20:13) McDougall and Gorman (2008) articulate that Judaism is an ancient religion; as is the case with many other established religions, it offers insight into death and dying from a religious perspective Which reinforces that death should be natural. Death should only occur due to natural illnesses McDougall and Gorman (2008) states that “among other things, Judaism delineates a prohibition against murder, a positive obligation for self-defence, and varying penalties of acts of homicide, depending among the circumstances. In our new time, however, the matter has been complicated by our new ability to sustain almost indefinitely people who would otherwise die.” This underpins the fact that murder or the taking of ones life should not be allowed, only for varying types of self-defence and homicide. In relation to religion many people throughout the work have a positive outlook on their end of life decisions.
Family annihilations are also a key factor in relation to ones end of life decisions. This occurs when the man commits suicide and kills the rest of his family with him. Fox and Levin (2012) argue that characteristics of family annihilations can change dramatically over a number of months. Fox and Levin (2012) posits that the precipitants consisted, first, of a breakdown in the relationship between the killer and his or her family and secondly a loss of money or a job, which can then lead to a mental breakdown and a killing massacre of the family. Family annihilations are wrong in the eyes of the majority of the world. Steinmetz (2013) espouses that the most common method of killing their family was stabbing and next was carbon monoxide poisoning. Steinmetz (2013) explains that the factor that made men carry out these mass murders was the desire to exert power or control. Steinmetz (2013) expresses that family annihilations can also occur due to the men feeling shamed by the actions of his family. Family annihilations are wrong in so many ways and should be controlled in a better way.
The final point in relation to ones autonomy of end of life decisions is abortion. Murti (2006) argues that many bodies of faith are quick to point out that many faiths believe abortion is majority wrong in many cases. This is still seen in Ireland today when it is not been made legalised by the Church and State. Abortion is safe in many countries today but in 3rd world countries it can be very harmful. Moore and De Costa (2007) state that safe abortion is financially affordable and realistic but for a large number of women this is not the case. Moore and De Costa (2007) explain that abortion across many of the European countries is still extremely limited. Moore and De Costa (2007) state that abortion continues to be a widely discussed subject across the world and is likely to be the subject of political manoeuvring in the foreseeable future as many countries across the world believe that abortion is wrong on so many levels.

In conclusion, the four topics were discussed in great context above in favour of should people have autonomy over their end-of-life decisions. The essay was very intriguing to write about, as there was a lot of research that had to be done in relation to the four topics. Euthanasia and family annihilations were the most enjoyable to research and learn about as they were the most informative issues to research about. Researching and learning about sanity and God was the most difficult as there wasn’t that much information on the issue in whole. Overall, the essay was interesting and intriguing to argue and write about.

Reference list:

Fox, J.A & Levin J. (2012) Extreme Killing: Understanding Serial And Mass Murder, 2nd ed., London: SAGE.

McDougall, J.F & Gorman M. (2008) Euthanasia, 2nd ed., United States of America

Moore, M.C & De Costa C.M. (2007) Just the Facts: Abortion A-Z

Murti, T. (2006) Liberal Case against Abortion, Victoria: Trafford.

Oxford Press (2013) ‘Definition of Autonomy”, available: [accessed 28 Nov 2013, 14h32].

Steinmetz,K. (2013) ‘Family Annihilators- Understanding What Drives Fathers To Kill’ available: [accessed 21 Nov 2013].

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