Euthanasia: Mercy or murder? The adequacy of australian and international law.

Essay by dagnirHigh School, 12th gradeA+, August 2006

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With the huge advancement of medical technology during the past 200 years, most people are now living longer, healthier, lives. However these discoveries also put before society an ethical and moral dilemma. The advance in medical technology currently allows us to keep people alive; even if their quality of life is so poor they wish to die. With growing outcries from the Australian public, it has become imperative for old laws to be revised and euthanasia to be made legal. This assignment will examine current laws in Australia regarding euthanasia and their adequacy and relevancy. Euthanasia laws in the Netherlands and Australia will also be considered.

Euthanasia, derived from a Greek term meaning a 'good death, is defined as, "The act or practice of ending the life of an individual suffering from a terminal illness or and incurable condition, by lethal injection or the suspension of extraordinary medical treatment."(Http:// There are three main categories of euthanasia.

These are, the termination of life through non treatment, life shortening palliative care and death by direct euthanasia (lethal injection). In Australia all three methods of euthanasia are currently illegal. According to the law, "Any person who takes steps to shorten the life of another is guilty of murder" and "The fact that a person may consent to their own death does not in any way excuse the person who causes the death." (Biggs et al (2003 p.355) However there are exceptions to the law. These exceptions include, a patient refusing treatment, patient committing suicide and the 'Double Effects Principle'. The 'Double Effects Principle' is when a doctor administers a drug with consent of the patient in order to lessen their pain. Even if the second effect of the drug hastens the death of the patient, the doctor is deemed not guilty of murder.