The questions concerning the matter of euthanasia are considered to be burning and significant during a long period of time. It is very hard to decide whether to support or be completely against euthanasia, both voluntary and non-voluntary. Advances, which are inherent to modern medical technologies, innovations, which make treatment safer, and painless, and choices, which patients get during their treatments – all this raises people chances to continue living, get proper treatment, and not suffer too much.
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However, when we talk about the right to live or die, numerous doubts, uncertainty, and even fear take place. Lots of diseases cannot be treated, and patients often ask to end their lives by means of some drugs or medicines and deprive them from terrible suffering. Doctors can agree to help patients end their lives and use such practice as euthanasia, but still, lots of ethical, religious, and personal disagreements may become another problem for doctors, patients, and patients’ families.
Jack Kevorkian and Karen Ann Quinlan are the names, which influence the development of euthanasia in the United States. The investigations around these names, evaluation of ethical and religious perspectives can help to clear us whether people still have the right to live or die, whether euthanasia is just another type of homicide, and who should be responsible for this very practice.
The study under consideration originates from a burning need to decide whether modern medical services provide patients with the right to live or die and whether patients themselves make the decision to continue living or die. In 1976, the first Natural Death Act was approved and became one of the most controversial laws (Miller, 2003).
Of course, not each state was eager to adopt the same law, however, within two decades, all other states proclaimed the similar laws, which could protect the patient’s right to die. At the end of the 1970s, the case of Karen Ann Quinlan also became a significant factor for numerous ethical debates; however, it served as another important point that promoted legal protection of euthanasia (Naden, 2007).
Finally, the questions of euthanasia were raised once again at the beginning of 1990, when Dr. Jack Kevorkian assisted more than 100 suicides and taped all the procedures. His actions, discontent of numerous religious people, and disparity of many ethical issues promoted the creation of the Oregon Death with Dignity Act with a number of safeguard issues (Ars & Montero, 2004).
The investigation of case of Karen Ann Quinlan and a deep analysis of Dr. Kevorkian’s actions turn out to be a good approach to decide whether the right to live or die is still available to people, or whether it is necessary to pay more attention to doctors’ activities and the circumstances under which the decision to unplug feeding tubes and respirator is made.
Essence of Euthanasia and Its Consequences
Lots of sources identify euthanasia as a practice of easy death, mercy killing, or just the right to die (Naden, 2007). There are actually several types of euthanasia: voluntary, also known as active, when a patient just asks to kill him/her and stop his/her sufferings; involuntary, when a person cannot express own wishes because of coma, immaturity, or other mental problems; and finally, passive, when all the necessary supportive devices are withdrawn, and the nature gets the right to decide whether a patient is able to live or not. The creation of these types of euthanasia is caused by numerous factors: first of all, financial support, second, worsening or invariability of patient’s condition, thirdly, patient’s unwillingness to continue living, etc.
People get unbelievable chance to decide and make a choice in accordance with personal interests, desires, and opportunities. However, such freedom may be regarded from different perspectives, and lots of cons can be found. Numerous ethical and religious approaches cannot present one certain question whether this right to live or die is necessary or not. Unbelievable trust in God and nature powers creates numerous contradictions, quarrels, and misunderstanding.
People, who believe in God, may agree to passive euthanasia and ask nature for help to save a person. However, why these people cannot accept another reality that God has already helped them to find out this medical support and agree to prolong patient’s life by means of respirators and feeding tubes. Of course, this is just one more assumption to the problem, however, it may be also crucial for someone.
Case of Karen Ann Quinlan
In order to analyze the right to live or die by means of euthanasia and possible ethical problems, concerning making a decision, it is better to make use of real life examples and cases of euthanasia. Karen Ann Quinlan’s case proves that if a person is aware about the impossibility to recover and continue living healthy life, this patient can easily refuse any possible life-sustaining treatment and use his/her right to die.
Karen Ann Quinlan was a 21-year old girl, who combined a Valium tranquilizer with alcohol and collapsed at the party. No one could believe that it was her last party in this life. This girl got a head trauma and was in a persistent vegetative state, that meant, she was alive, but lost her abilities to breathe and move. The most terrible point was that Karen could open her eyes, see her parents, cry, or laugh, but could not comprehend what was going on and that she could not move or do any other actions independently.
It was a real disaster to Karen’s parents, and they took a decision to fight for their daughter’s right to die (Naden, 2007). In this case, it is very difficult to think about medical ethics and other issues; when parents observe how their child is suffering and not live but exist, it is hard to make some rational and proper decisions.
They decided to unplug the respirator, but use feeding tubes. This girl lived for about 10 years, the nature and attitude to the right to die was changed and lots of people agreed that some patients, who are sure that the treatment is useless can refuse medical care, ground on their right of privacy, and choose euthanasia.
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Dr. Jack Kevorkian and His Approaches to Treatment
When we talk about euthanasia and discuss the right to die or live, we have to mention such personality as Dr. Jack Kevorkian. This pathologist is famous due to his participation in numerous homicides; his actions established “licensing killing as an answer to suffering” (Ars & Montero, 2004, 73). His attitude to euthanasia was rather simple – he did not consider dying as a crime, this is why his help for his patients to stop their sufferings and end this life was not that terrible and illegal.
Those people, who suffer from unbelievable pain, do not even get a chance to think about ethics, moral, and other medical points. Of course, those people, who just observe how other people, not their relatives, suffer, analyze the situation at one level. The attitude of relatives to the same situation is rather different. This is why lots of people find Dr. Kevorkian’s actions appropriate and helpful.
It is not time to think that God may save a patient: if God can help, why He torments people, innocent people. Lots of physicians have a certain fear to offer their patients euthanasia, because of criminal responsibility (Miller, 2003), but Dr. Jack Kevorkian did not afraid to make such propositions and provide people, who were dying, with a chance to die quickly and without sufferings. He gave them the right to choose and he did not force or lie.
This life is not always as good as many people try to imagine; and those, who do not observe human sufferings, will never understand that doctor’s actions.
The Right to Live or Die: People’s Choice
It is inherent for people to make mistakes; each person in this world has the right to choose and rely on personal interests only. Even if the situation is terrible, there are always several variants to choose from; even if these variants are both horrible, the right still exists.
When people talk about the right to live or die, numerous issues have to be taken into consideration. For example, some people can easily end their lives in order not to be imprisoned; some young people can end their lives because of personal troubles. To my mind, such actions and decisions to end this life cannot be justified. However, when a person realizes that he/she gets incurable disease, the right to die or live takes absolutely another sense.
If a person does not want to continue living, other people can hardly prove that these ill people are mistaken. It is very hard or even impossible to live with a thought that you are dying. But when a person cannot even move, lose own parts of body, and observe how his/her relatives die with him/her just observing all these sufferings, the situation becomes worse. People have lots of rights, and the right to die or live is one of them, and no one can deprive a person from this right.
The right to live or die is a very debatable question: people can discuss it for a long period of time and present numerous points of view, however, much depends on whether these people see and comprehend why a person decides to use this right or not. In this case, it is very difficult to evaluate all pros, cons, and ethical points of the right to live or die. People live, enjoy this life, make new friends, earn money, fell in love, give births, grow old, and die.
However, if a person is deprived of some of the above-mentioned issues, it is very hard or even impossible to continue living. The case of Karen Ann Quinlan and the activities of Dr. Kevorkian prove that euthanasia has certain positive aspects. This practice cannot be imposed, this is why it is the right, the choice that any patient should make independently or with the help of close relatives, who care about him/her.
Ars, B & Montero, E. (2004). Suffering and Dignity in the Twilight of Life. New York: Library Research Associates, Inc.
Miller, A. S. (2003). Gaia Connections: An Introduction to Ecology, Ecoethics, and Economics. Maryland: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, Inc.
Naden, C. J. (2007). Patients’ Rights. New York: Marshall Cavendish Corporation.