Is Euthanasia Moral or Immoral?

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Mr. Blackburn

Inquiry Skills

2 Dec. 1996


In today's society there are many disagreements about the rights and wrongs of euthanasia. Although death is unavoidable for human beings, suffering before death is unbearable not only for terminal patients but for the family members and friends. Euthanasia comes from the Greek word 'Thanatos' meaning death and the prefix 'eu' meaning easy or good (Russell 94). Thus, 'eu- Thanatos' meaning easy or good death. Euthanasia is a better choice for terminal patients than suicide.

In our society, suicide is always traumatic for families and friends. If there is no alternative to relieve the suffering of terminal patients, then the more humane option to suicide is euthanasia. An option for people that are unsure of euthanasia is called DNR or do not resuscitate(McCuen 2). This means that if the patient has a heart attack or another potentially fatal problem in the hospital, the doctors are told to preform a ' No Code' which means that they should let the patient die peacefully with any amount of painkillers or medication requested by the patient(McCuen 3).

Doctors that are treating a dying patient should treat them with care. They should make them as comfortable as possible and give them medication to dull their pain.

Instructors tell doctors in training to treat dying patients as people ' that are alive but just that their death is more imminent than our own'(Moroney 2).

Many families could rest easy that their relative is being treated well and are receiving the necessary attention. A lot of terminal patients decide to sign DNR forms or request euthanasia so that they would not be a burden on their families. Euthanasia should be legalized in all of the United States because it would end much suffering and pain.

Euthanasia is the justified killing or assisted killing of a disabled or terminally ill person at their will or if the patient is incapable of making the decision, at the family's will(Satris 260). The doctor or in some cases, a family member, uses injections, weapons, or other means of killing to act out euthanasia. But euthanasia is usually gentle and quiet. In most of the cases of euthanasia, the patient died by lethal injection or certain life support systems were withheld.

There are many types of euthanasia. The most common type is voluntary euthanasia(Russell 32). Voluntary euthanasia is euthanasia that is preformed at the will of the patient. Involuntary euthanasia is the other type of euthanasia(Russell 32). That is when the patient does not want euthanasia, but it is administered (i.e.-compulsory). There are also different ways to administer euthanasia. One is direct euthanasia, which is deliberately inducing death in order to terminate hopeless suffering(Russell 31). Then there is indirect euthanasia which is indirectly causing death with the use of drugs to relieve pain, but hasten death(Russell 31).

When a patient pleads for euthanasia doctors are placed in a dilemma. If they help the patient die then their practicing license could be taken away and they may be taken to court, possibly ruining their career(McCuen 53). However, the patient who is constantly in pain will always be on the doctor's conscience unless they do something about it. Usually the doctor decides to help the patient by either giving the patient extremely strong painkillers and telling them the lethal dosage or directly assisting in the death of the patient(McCuen 53).

A doctor that has helped terminal patients die is Dr. Jack Kevorkian. He is probably the most well known for this practice because he does not deny he practices it. The first case that Dr. Kevorkian had was in 1990. He met his 'patient' in Michigan (which did not prohibit euthanasia at that time). The woman's name was Janet Adkins, who was suffering from Alzheimer's disease(Levine 114). Using a machine that Kevorkian invented she killed herself. This machine that Kevorkian made consisted of an IV that first dripped salt water into the patient. Then when the patient was ready, she pressed a button that released a chemical agent that induced unconsciousness. After about five minutes, the machine delivered a lethal dose of potassium chloride(Levine 115).

Some people think that euthanasia is not acceptable in our society because of a variety of reasons. Many who oppose of euthanasia fear that if it were to be legalized then many people would die needlessly and murders in so-called 'mercy killings' would run rampant(Satris 262). Others believe that since we are the property of God then we should wait until He is ready to receive us(Russell 93). Many churches and religious groups oppose euthanasia stating that the sixth commandment 'Thou Shalt Not Kill' also extends to euthanasia. But this also raises many

questions. Why do these churches and religious groups specifically target euthanasia as horrific killing when there is war in this world. Every day countries send troops to kill and to be killed, but these religious groups seem to ignore these problems(Russell 93). Many medical doctors also oppose euthanasia. They say that assisted suicide 'violates one's will to survive' and that it violates our dignity. They believe that one of our natural human goals is to survive and if we practice euthanasia, then that goal is destroyed(Satris 258).

When doctors receive their license to practice medicine they have to take the Hippocratic Oath. This oath says that ' I will neither give a deadly drug to anybody when asked for it, nor will I make a suggestion to that effect.'(Levine 104). However, many pro-euthanasians say that the oath means that they should not give anybody a deadly drug to kill an enemy with, nor should

they tell the person what to use to kill. A quote from Carol Levine says, ' on the other hand, if the goal of medicine is not simply to prolong life but to reduce pain, then questions arise about the oath'(105). Another problems with euthanasia is that if an elderly patient is entered into a hospital, they are immediately deemed to be frail and are treated like terminal patients. The thought of euthanasia as a choice instead of a cure may prompt doctors to prematurely induce

death(McCuen 2).

The recovery from an illness requires that we fight it. If we know that there is an easy way out, such as euthanasia, then the human consciousness instinctively tries to take that way out(Satris 262). Other problematic situations with euthanasia is that a person with a non-terminal disease may blindly choose euthanasia without a settled desire to die(Haifetz 21). It is also likely that a person who chooses euthanasia may change his or her mind at the last moment and then

it is obviously too late(Heifetz 21).

On the other hand, a growing number of people believe that euthanasia is acceptable in our society because it relieves the unnecessary pain and suffering of patients and their family.

Euthanasia is also a good way for people that have family members that are either extremely

deformed or retarded to help out the person and end their incapacitated lives. In the Netherlands, euthanasia can be legally administered under four conditions: a) if the patient is suffering intolerably and there is no hope of recovery, b) if the patient is capable of deciding

whether to choose euthanasia or not, c) if the patient repeatedly asks for euthanasia over a repeated period of time, and d) if another doctor that has not treated or previously examined the patient agree that euthanasia should be enforced(Levine 110). Robert George has his opinion on the 'right to die', He says that 1) people own themselves, 2)owners can dispose of their property as they see fit, and 3) people are therefore entitled to kill themselves and even to engage the help of others in doing so(50)

Euthanasia is also a very good choice for senior citizens because they often suffer much before they finally can die.Sufferring is a terrible thing and we have a clear duty to comfort those in need and to ease their sufferring when we can. Elderly people are also prone to painful diseases and medical problems. Mercy killing can end their pain in a non-traumatic way for their families'. In the days of Socrates, Plato and the Stoics euthanasia was even permissible(Russell 42). The Greeks had a tradition that when all the old members of the society outlived their usefulness, they would ge together and drink a deadly poison(Russell 42). Thus eliminating a burden on their families and on themselves.

To date, there is still much controversy about the legalization of euthanasia. But as long as there are willing and kindhearted doctors and people, eventually there will be a time when euthanasia will be allowed and poor souls can die peacefully. So far, 35 states allow the withdrawal or withholding of life sustaining equipment of terminal patients at their will. The trend in mercy killing will continue until leaders in health care can show that there is another alternative that is more merciful(McCuen 3). Until then, Doctors and family members, will still have to resort to illegal euthanasia to help their patients and loved ones.

Works Cited

George, Robert P. and William C. Porth Jr. 'A Duty to Live?' National Review 26 June 1995

Heifetz, Milton D. and Charles Mangel. The Right to Die.

Toronto: Longman Canada Limited, 1975.

Levine, Carol. Is Physician-Assisted Suicide Ethical?

Guilford: The Dushkin Publishing Group Inc.,1991.

Russell, Ruth. Freedom to Die.

New York: Human Sciences Press, 1977.

Society for the Right to Die. The Physician and the Hopelessly Ill Patient.

New York: Society for the Right to Die, 1985.

Works Consulted

Lemonrick, Michael D. 'Defining the Right to Die.' Time

15 April 1996. 82.

Moroney, Catherine. 'Three Choices for Death.' America

21 November 1992.

Nichols, Mark. 'Dying by Choice.' Maclean's Magazine.

20 May 1996. 47

William, J. Gay. 'The Wrongfulness of Euthanasia.' Intervention and Reflection: Basic Issues in Medical Ethics. Ed. Ronald Munson. Gilford, Connecticut: Dushkin Publishing Group Inc, 1979

Is Euthanasia Immoral?

Mr. Blackburn

Inquiry Skills

2 Dec. 1996