Ethical Issues Surrounding Euthanasia Term Paper

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Euthanasia and assisted suicide are subjects of great debate due to the opposing views taken by people on either side of the debate. The term euthanasia has virtually abolished the term assisted suicide. Different ethical issues are at play when discussing euthanasia, those who are pro euthanasia believe that a terminally ill person has the right to seek the help of another for the purpose of helping that person to kill him or her self. Those who oppose euthanasia believe that more harm than good is gained by this practice. Problems often arise because of miscommunication between the two opposing groups. The meaning of euthanasia has been altered throughout the years; it once meant "good-death", but has now been corrupted to mean "mercy killing". The main question when debating euthanasia is not whether a person has the right to help another die, but whether a person who is terminally ill, believes that their life is worthless, who actively seeks help in committing suicide, and who is not suffering from depression, should have the right to request assistance in dying. The question of euthanasia is a question of choice and empowering people to have control over their bodies.

Opposition to euthanasia mainly comes from three different groups. Religious groups who oppose freedom of choice in abortion also oppose euthanasia. Medical associations who are dedicated to saving and extending lives feel uncomfortable helping people to end their lives. Medical associations who are dedicated to saving and extending lives feel uncomfortable helping people to end their lives. Groups concerned with disabilities fear that euthanasia is the first step towards a society that will kill people against their own wishes. Others oppose euthanasia, as it is typically transient. Of those who try to kill themselves but are stopped, less than 4% go on to kill themselves in the next 5 years, and only 11% go on to kill themselves in the next 35 years. Those who oppose euthanasia believe that it is ethically wrong to allow someone to kill himself or herself when that person, if stopped, may never go on to commit suicide. Furthermore, terminally ill patients who wish to end their lives are usually depressed, which is treatable. If terminally ill patients were given the right to ask others to help them die than many more people who otherwise could be treated and live a longer life would be dead. Another argument is that pain is treatable. So asking another to help them die because of uncontrollable pain is not a plausible excuse because a person's pain may be controlled. These people who are against euthanasia deem it unnecessary as alternative treatments exists. They feel that assisted suicide undermines the individual incentives for creative caring. They fear that euthanasia will become the solution for complicated health problems, and that finding other ways to treat those problems will not be as important.

Those who oppose euthanasia also claim that it has serious psychological effects. They claim that by ending one's life unnaturally early, the final stage of one's development is hindered. These people argue that a premature death prohibits the person from reflecting on the way they have lived their lives. A premature death keeps that person from being able to make amends with those who affected their life. It would therefore be unethical to deny someone of that personal growth by allowing assisted suicide to be common practice.

Those who are pro-euthanasia have contrary arguments for all of the points mentioned above. Although depression and pain are treatable, tens of millions of people, in the US especially, do not have access to adequate pain management. Many people do not have enough health care coverage to pay for the amount of drugs they would need to take to control the pain they feel. Doctors also at times withhold medication for fear of addiction. The medication, which is withheld, is the difference between pain that is excruciating enough to want to kill yourself, and pain that is bearable enough to live with. The same is true with alternative medicine and alternative means to control one's pain, as these means are mostly available only to a few people due to financial reasons. Euthanasia, therefore is the most practical and logical solution for some people.

Euthanasia raises many ethical questions open to debate. One such question is whether or not the state has the right to deny one's wish to ask for another's assistance in suicide. I personally believe that the state does not have the right to dictate the way people live their lives. The state generally stays out of people's personal decisions, and I do not think that this issue should be an exception. I do not think the state ahs the right to force someone who is in intolerable pain and experiencing a poor quality of life to live. I believe that every case concerning euthanasia is different and it is unfair for the state to pass legislation that would bind everyone to follow the same law. Another question that arises is whether or not terminally ill patients should have the same rights as able-bodied people to kill themselves. By not allowing terminally ill patients to request the aid of others for suicide, as they are physically unable to do so themselves, would be discrimination as one group would be denied doing something that another group does. I also think that it would be hypercritical of the state to impose any law or legislation that would restrict the rights of people with disabilities, as the government supports equal opportunity for people with disabilities. Obviously people with illnesses or disabilities should have the same rights as able bodied people, but when it comes to the issue of assisted suicide, some people think that they can limit the rights of those who are unable to kill themselves without the help of another. I believe that people with disabilities should have the same rights as those without, even when it comes to sensitive issues such as death. I believe that it is unfair to control someone and keep them form doing what it is their best interests, simply because they are unable to do the act themselves. A third ethical question that arises from this subject concerns hospital fees. In a time when budget cuts affect every aspect of the health care sector, one has to ask if it is more beneficial to keep someone alive who wants to die, when the money could be better used on making someone well. I do not believe that euthanasia should be a means of cost containment for hospitals, but spending money on someone who is terminally ill and wanting to die due to their poor quality of life, then the money could be better used on making someone better. It is more beneficial to everyone to allow certain terminally ill patients to die on their own terms and use the hospital's resources for better purposes, such as making someone well, and not just keeping someone alive.

Euthanasia has become more widely accepted by individuals in recent years. Assisted suicide has become popular, largely thanks to Dr. Jack Kovorkian who has helped in over one hundred suicides, without ever being prosecuted. To illustrate the changing social perception, pressure has been placed on certain governments to pass Acts that would regulate assisted suicide by ensuring that the victim's best interests are being preserved. Models of such acts attempt to ensure that requests for help in committing suicide are well informed and uninfluenced by a person not suffering from any mental illness. To further illustrate the change in people's view towards assisted suicide is a study done by David Asch. His study, done in 1992, surveyed nurses in adult critical-care units and found that 1/5 admitted to helping a patient die.

I believe that the issue of euthanasia is one that should not be controlled by the state, but rather by the affected individual. Each case of euthanasia is different and calls for special circumstances, all of which could not be accounted for under one law. People who are against euthanasia, in my opinion, have idealized the situation of people who are terminally ill and need help to end their lives. For most, adequate medicine and health care are unavailable to them due to financial situations. Another point to consider is that if these people were able to, they would kill themselves and nobody would be able to stop them, but because of their illness, they need help to kill themselves. I do not believe that euthanasia is in any way unethical, but a humane solution for someone who is destined to live the rest of their life in pain and discomfort. It is more humane to allow someone to die surrounded by friends and family in a dignified manner, rather than being kept alive by a machine and surround by tubes.

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