Euthanasia: A Responsible Alternative

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The term euthanasia originates from the 17th century. The Greeks used it to refer to an easy, painless, and happy death (Hendin, 2004). In today?s society, is refers to a physician?s causing a patient?s death by administering a lethal dose of medication. The withholding of life sustaining treatment or nourishment can also be placed in this category. Euthanasia includes several categories of actions by the physician. This practice can be justified using four methods: 1) ethical justifications, 2) classical medical ethics, 3) Christian justifications, and 4) historical context. When administered with proper guidelines, euthanasia can be a great tool to end suffering and leave the terminally ill patient with dignity in their final hours.

Euthanasia is commonly divided into three categories. Passive euthanasia is the most widely accepted form. Death occurs by withholding treatments or nourishment to the terminally ill patient. This form allows the ailment or disease to run its natural course after all hopes of recovery have vanished.

It is widely accepted in our society that the patient has the right to deny potentially life-extending treatment when it would prove minimally successful or even in vain. Passive euthanasia has most recently been promoted by the ?living will? movement. The living will informs medical authorities of the patient?s will not to receive any treatments designed to revive or prolong their lives in the event of a medical emergency (Vaux, 1989).

Double-effect euthanasia is the second category. This category typically includes those patients whose death was caused by an overdose of pain reliever. These patients are terminally ill and experiencing extreme levels of pain resulting from their sickness or injury. The physician, in an attempt to provide comfort, administers increasing amounts of analgesic. The eventual overdose was not the primary purpose of the physician, but rather an unavoidable outcome in...