Mankind has always struggled to deal with numerous illnesses that have been in existence at different periods of time. Different treatment alternatives have been employed ranging from those by traditional medicine men to the modern scientific methods.
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All these efforts have been motivated by the desire to remain alive for as long as one can (Buse 7). However, there are situations when living is more problematic and either the victim or other stakeholders contemplate ending life. This is referred to as euthanasia.
It is the act of deliberately terminating life when it is deemed to be the only way that a person can get out of their suffering (Johnstone 247). Euthanasia is commonly performed on patients who are experiencing severe pain due to terminal illness.
For one suffering from terminal illness, assisted death seems to be the better way of ending their suffering. The issue of euthanasia has ignited heated debate among the professionals as well as the law makers and the general public (Otlowski 211).
The physicians should do everything humanly possible to save lives of their patients, however, euthanasia should be considered as the only alternative to save extreme cases like the terminally ill patients from their perpetual pain and suffering.
Euthanasia can either be active/voluntary, non-voluntary, or involuntary. In voluntary euthanasia, the patient suffering from terminal illness may give consent to be assisted end his/her prolonged severe pain through death (Bowie and Bowie 215).
The patient may also decline to undergo burdensome treatment, willingly terminating treatment procedures like removal of life support machinery, and simply starving. Non-voluntary euthanasia, on the other hand, involves who cannot make sound decisions.
They may be too young, in a coma, senile, mentally challenged, or other severe brain damage (Gorsuch 86). Involuntary euthanasia involves ending the life of the patient without his/her consent. This usually happens when the patient is willing to live despite being in the most dangerous situations.
For instance, an infantry man has his stomach blown up by an explosive and experiences great pain. The army doctor, realizing that the soldier would not survive and has no pain relievers decide to spare the man further suffering and executes him instantly.
Also, a person could be seen on the 10th floor of a building on fire, the person’s clothes are on fire and cries out for help. The person on ground has a rifle and decides to shoot him dead with a strong conviction that the individual would have experience a slow and painful death from the fierce fire.
Due to the sensitivity of the issue, laws that will protect the rights of both the patient and the physicians who practice euthanasia should be put in place.
A patient has the right to demand or refuse a given form of medication as long as it will alleviate their suffering (Bowie and Bowie 216). It amounts to violation of the patient’s rights if the physician does not respect the will of the patient.
Each one has a right to determine what direction their lives should take and is their own responsibility (Buse 7). A study conducted among adult Americans indicates that about 80% of them support the idea.
They argue that someone suffering from terminal illness, a condition which no medical intervention can reverse, should be allowed to undergo euthanasia. It is inappropriate to subject an individual into a slow but painful death. Such an individual ought to be assisted to end his/her life in order to avoid a prolonged painful death.
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The laws guiding the practice of euthanasia in the state of Oregon are quite clear. Active euthanasia should only be performed on a patient who is 18 years and above, of sound mind and ascertained by at least three medical doctors that assisted death is the only alternative of helping the patient (Otlowski 212).
Under such a situation, the doctor prescribes the drugs but is not allowed to administer them. The patient in question takes the drug (s) voluntarily without any assistance from the doctor. The patient will then die in dignity, without any intense pain that living with the condition would bring.
It is evident that some terminal illness may not present unbearable pain to the patient. Instead, a chronically ill patient who is in a no-pain state will not be in a humanly dignified state. The patient of doctor may propose euthanasia as the better treatment alternative.
This has been occasioned by the advancement in the field of medicine where pain can be significantly control (Buse 8). All patients are entitled to pain relief. However, most physicians have not been trained on pain management and hence the patients are usually left in excruciating pain (Johnstone 249).
Under such a condition, the patient suffers physically and emotionally causing depression. Leaving the patient in this agonizing state is unacceptable and euthanasia may be recommended.
Moreover, the physician who practices euthanasia should be protected by the law. This can be achieved by giving him/her the ‘right’ to kill. A doctor handling a patient who is in excruciating pain should be in a position to recommend euthanasia so as to assist the patient have a dignified death.
It is not required by law or medical ethics that a patient should be kept alive by all means. Hence, the patient should be allowed to demand death if he/she considers it necessary (Gorsuch 88).
It would be inhumane and unacceptable to postpone death against the wish of the patient. It would also be unwise to insist on curing a condition which has been medically regarded as irreversible or incurable.
Most terminal illnesses are very expensive to cure although they are known to be incurable. The patient as well as family members ought to be relieved of the accompanying financial burden (Buse 8). The patient, considering the amount of money and other resources used in an attempt to keep him alive, may demand to be assisted to die.
This can only be possible through euthanasia (Johnstone 253). In fact, spending more on the patient would only serve to extend the individual’s suffering. Human beings are caring by nature and none would be willing to live their loved ones to suffer on their own.
They would therefore dedicate a lot of time providing the best care that they can afford. Some would even leave their day to day activities in order to attend to the terminally or chronically ill relative or friend.
Euthanasia, therefore, serves to spare the relatives the agony of constantly watching their family member undergo intense suffering and painful death. In most occasions, attempts to keep a patient alive would mean that he/she be hospitalized for a very long period of time (Bowie and Bowie 216).
Terminally ill patients in hospitals imply that facilities would be put under great pressure at the expense of other patients who would benefit from using the same services. These facilities include; bed space, medical machines, drugs, human resource, among others. Even if they were to be given homecare, a lot of time resource and facilities would be overstretched.
Other than the issue of homecare and the financial obligations that may arise, there is also the issue of personal liberty and individual rights. Those who front this argument explain that the patient has the right to determine when and how they die.
Since the life of a person belongs to that person only, then the person should have the right to decide if he or she wants to end it, if ending life would also mean ending irreversible suffering (CNBC News para 4).
This mean that individual undergoing great and irreversible suffering have the power to chose “a good death” and thus decide when they want to die (para 7).. Furthermore, these patients are dependent on life sustaining medication, which adds only adds the misery.
This brings forth the question about whether such patients can be forced to take life sustaining drugs if the said drugs only lead to extended life full of suffering.
The law should provide for such individuals to refuse to take such drugs and also to request drugs that will lead to end of their misery, even it if mean that these drugs will end their lives.
Therefore patients in this condition should be allowed the legal tight to end their miseries through assisted suicide.
Those who oppose any form of euthanasia argue that a terminally ill patient or a person suffering irreversible pain from an incurable disease should be assisted to live by all means including any medical procedure that guarantees that they live the longest possible period.
This argument is valid but has logical flows. The argument presupposes that such patients need to be prevented from dyeing through any possible means. In reality though, this efforts are futile as when a patient has determined that death is the easier way out of the misery they are suffering, the emotional distress will only pull them closer to death (Morgan 103).
Furthermore, such efforts to prolong the patients’ lives do not prevent death, as but just postpone it at the same time extending the patients suffering. This is because such patient’s life is hanging by the thread and they have been brought near to death by the virtue of their illness.
In severe cases such patient may result to suicide, as in the case of Sue Rodriguez, Canadian woman who suffered Lou Gehrig’s disease, and was refused the right for assisted death (CNBC News para 2). As such efforts to prolong their lives pushed them closer to death
While some countries such as The Netherlands, Belgium and Denmark have embraced the idea of euthanasia, others have move at a snails pace in this direction. Canada, one of the most developed countries is such countries.
Euthanasia is still illegal in Canada and any person found trying it is subject to prosecution. Furthermore, any person found to have assisted another person commit suicide is also liable to prosecution for up to 14 years in prison.
Still in Canada, the law after many years of legal battle has differentiated euthanasia and assisted suicide. Assisted suicide is what is otherwise referred to as active euthanasia where a terminally ill patient asks for help to end life.
The law in Canada has also allowed for these patients to refuse life sustaining medication if such medication does not in any way improve the quality of their lives (CNBC para 17).
If the law acknowledges the power of a person to refuse such medication then it must also allow such a person the legal right to determine the condition and the manner in which they die. This means that there is light, though, at the end of the tunnel for Canadians patients who may wish to end their lives.
Such argument for any form of euthanasia tends to conglomerate around two valid arguments. First, if a terminally ill patient who is suffering extreme and irreversible pain is determined to be of sound mind and is adult then such patients should be allowed to make judgment about their lives.
If such a patient decides that ending their lives will be end their misery, then no doctor has the legal as well as moral obligation of coercing the patient to continue taking medication that only prolongs their suffering (Morgan 145).
If doctors manage to successfully administer the drugs against the wishes of such a patient, they will have committed an assault against the patient and this is a legal as well as a professional misconduct (Morgan 146). Secondly, the desires of such a patient are supreme.
This means that the patients’ right to self determination overrides the fundamental but not absolute belief that life is holy and should only be ended by the maker.
Therefore such patient’s should be treated as competent enough to make decisions about their lives and that no medical officer has the legal or moral right to determine that such a patient is wrong. Any medical help provide to such a patient thus be for the benefit of the patient.
From a religious point of view, it can be argued that God is love and people of God should demonstrate compassion. If someone is undergoing intense pain and a slow but sure death, it would be evil to allow such a person to experience the full extent (Gorsuch 89).
Euthanasia would therefore be the better option. Helping the patient have a dignified death can be the best show of agape love. There is also the issue of quality of life where if someone is leading low quality or worthless life, then one should opt for euthanasia.
The essay has discussed several points in favor of euthanasia as an alternative when it comes to treating people suffering from terminal illness or responding to perplexing situations where death is the ultimate end although one may go through severe pain and agonizing moments.
It has also highlighted three main forms of euthanasia; voluntary/active, non-voluntary, and involuntary. Anyone can argue against the points raised in this essay but it would be difficult to justify why an individual should be allowed to suffer for a long time either willingly or unwillingly.
The doctors should do everything humanly possible to save lives of their patients, however, euthanasia should be considered as the only alternative to save extreme cases like the terminally ill patients from their perpetual pain and suffering.
Bowie, Bob & Bowie, Robert A. Ethical Studies: Euthanasia (2nd ed). Neslon Thornes, 2004, Pp. 215-216.
Buse, Anne-Kathrin. Euthanasia: Forms and their Differences. GRIN Verlag, 2008, Pp. 7-8.
CNBC news. “The Fight for the Right to Die.” CNBC Canada. 2011.
Gorsuch, Neil M. Euthanasia- The Future of Assisted Suicide. Princeton University Press, 2009, Pp. 86-93.
Johnstone, Megan-Jane. Euthanasia: Contradicting Perspectives (5th ed). Elsevier Health Sciences, 2008, Pp. 247-262.
Morgan, John. An Easeful Death?: Perspectives On Death, Dying And Euthanasia. Sydney: Federation press Pty Ltd. 1996. Print.
Otlowski, Margaret. Euthanasia and the Common Law. Oxford University Press, 2000, Pp. 211-212.