According to Baron, Harris, and Hilton (2009), euthanasia refers to a planned method of ending the life of a terminally ill patient. Some people prefer euthanasia as a means of relieving the pain and distress of patients. However, euthanasia has legal and ethical considerations. Euthanasia can be either voluntary or involuntary. Voluntary euthanasia is legal in some states, whereas involuntary euthanasia is illegal in all states and therefore, treated as murder. Bowen and Lawler (2005) argue that euthanasia is a controversial issue because of the prevailing different religious, moral, legal, and philosophical views. Davis (1999) argues that there exists a challenge on how to establish a consensus in the competing views regarding the desire for patients to have the choice to die with dignity while under pain and distress or the right to endorse the inherent right to life for everybody, as depicted by the law. There, has been a lot of effort to legalize euthanasia in Australia, but in vain. There was the legalization of euthanasia in northern Australia for a short period. However, the legislation lacked sufficient protection of patients and was thus abolished. The legislation had given doctors freedom for carrying out medication that kills patients, without evidence of the patients’ consent.
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This was a wrong move because unethical physicians could collaborate with corrupt parties and terminate the life of patients involuntarily for personal benefits. For instance, the controversial case involving Justin and Jennings’s persecution for supporting Wylie’s euthanasia after suffering from Alzheimer’s is a good example. The Jury argued that without the presence of consent, it is difficult for the court to differentiate euthanasia and another illegitimate ending of life. Evidence presented against Justin showed that Justin had failed to assess whether Wyllie had the mental capacity to determine the end of his life. Moreover, there was more complication when evidence showed that Wylie had changed his will in favor of Justin at the expense of his children before his death. This could have been the cause for Wylie’s death. Lack of clear patients’ consent in euthanasia is one of the reasons why many states had not legalized it. The Jury ruled against Justin, despite Dr. Nitschke arguing that Wylie had always wanted to die after suffering from Alzheimer’s. The argument presented was void because there was no evidence, witness, or any written documentation that supported Dr. Nitschke’s argument. Therefore, it was likely that Justin assisted in ending Wylie’s life to benefit from the altered will (Clayfield, 2008).
Loasby (2006), claims that both voluntary and involuntary euthanasia is contentious. The law in many states upholds the inherent right of life for everyone. Thus, the law does not support euthanasia, which some people consider as a proper method to end the pain and suffering of the terminally ill. According to Hull (2003), euthanasia raises the moral question of who has the right to end life. The case becomes more controversial when the patient opts to ends his/her life by taking an overdose of the prescribed medicine. For instance, Dr. Nitschke faced after being accused for assisting Mrs. Hall with euthanasia by taking an overdose of morphine, which was a prescription for relieving pain. Most patients who suffer from terminal diseases receive palliative care to relieve their pain and distress. The palliative care they receive apart from relieving their pains and distress has a secondary effect of hastening death (Logab & Robotham, 2008). Euthanasia has moral and legal issues and thus, doctors should not support euthanasia. However, they should give palliative care to patients suffering from a terminal illness, even if it means prescribing drugs that hasten the death of patients. This is important in relieving the pain and distress of the patients.
Baron, S., Harris, K., and Hilton, T. (2009). Legal Issues of Euthanasia. New York: Palgrave Macmillan.
Bowen, D.E. and Lawler, E.E., (2005). Ethical Consideration of Euthanasia. International Journal of Medicine. 5, 3, 31-39.
Clayfield, M. (2008). Euthanasia Law Expert Margaret Otlowski Backs Jury. Web.
Davis, S.M. (1999) Euthanasia. Cambridge, MA: Ballinger.
Hull, C. (2003). Varied Euthanasia perspective in Australia. New York: Appleton-Century-Crofts.
Loasby, B.J. (2006). Right for Life. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Logab, B. & Robotham, J. (2008). Confused Law Throw Weak Lifeline to Doctors if Patients Choose to Die. Web.