Running head: Euthanasia Euthanasia: Murder or Suicide Geoffrey Peterson University of Louisville Euthanasia: Murder or Suicide Life is a wonderful gift and each of us enjoys it in different ways. Some embark on journeys full of excitement and risk while others are happy to live life calmly and are risk averse. However, there is one common factor among all of us – we are all dying at some point. For some, death comes quickly and without pain. Others may experience a debilitating disease that causes a slow and excruciating death. For the latter individuals, there are many ways of dealing with this condition.
Some may choose pain management, while others may choose the very unpopular assisted-suicide or euthanasia option. In recent years, the legality and morality of such actions have been a focus among proponents and opponents. While both euthanasia and assisted suicide both result in death, they are different depending on the last action that caused the death. Euthanasia insinuates that someone other than the ailing individual caused the death while assisted suicide occurs when the individual themselves cause the event that leads to their demise.
For example, if a doctor sets up a pump containing a lethal combination of drugs that can be triggered by the patient, then one would deem that the patient died via assisted suicide since they would need to cause the pump to engage. However, if the doctor or person helping the ailing person injects the lethal drug, then euthanasia has taken place. Euthanasia and/or assisted suicide have been legalized in many areas of the world. In the US, both Washington and Oregon have legalized assisted suicide as a form of treatment for those facing end of life decisions.
This treatment is illegal in the remaining US states and euthanasia is outlawed in all states. Internationally, there are an increasing number of countries legalizing both euthanasia and assisted suicide. In 1995, Australia passed a euthanasia bill which took effect in 1996. This bill was overturned in 1997. In 2000, the Netherlands legalized both forms and Belgium followed suit two years later. In Switzerland, this form of death is not legal, but individuals are not penalized for actions contributing to the death of ailing individuals if their actions stemmed from non-selfish motives.
Legal or not, there are people on both sides of the debate. Also, for many, it is not a question of legality as much as it is a question of morality. There are reasons why assisted suicide and/or euthanasia are good practice and why they are not. The pros include: pain relief, relief from poor quality of life, relief to use medical funds elsewhere and freedom of choice. If someone is terminally ill and is living in excruciating pain, who has the right to deny them the right to expedite their demise in an effort to prevent a slow painful death?
Reasons against the methods include the thought that physicians should not be deciders of people’s fate and that if they are, they could be persuaded to use it as a method of medical cost containment. For example, if someone is racking up too much in medical bills, a doctor could be persuaded by insurance companies to use the option of euthanasia. This opens up the door to putting a price on the value f a human life, which is the next con – human life devaluation.
Another con includes the “slippery-slope” argument. At what point will we say it is or isn’t justified to use the methods? It is not uncommon for those that are near death or in excruciating pain to want to end their suffering by using either euthanasia or assisted suicide. However, there are other options to deal with the end of life issue. A common method involves continued medical treatment in an attempt to extend ones life. This option can be costly and may not produce the desired results.
Another method, commonly chosen by those who are set on dying, is to take advantage of an in home service that aids the sick through this troubling time. This method is called Hospice. Hospice is designed to provide pain relief, in the form of medication, so that the patient may die with minimal pain. This service also offers spiritual support along with support in the grieving process for those close to the patient. In summary, there is one truth about life…that it will end one day. When and how are the questions that remain unanswered until such events occur.
There are times when death will come quickly and painlessly. For those who are dealt the opposite hand of a slow and painful death, many options are available. While there will always be people arguing the points for and against assisted suicide and/or euthanasia, the decision is one that is personal in nature and one that cannot be taken lightly. References Information for Research on Euthanasia, Physician-Assisted Suicide, Living Wills, Mercy Killing. (2008) Retrieved December 1, 2008, from http://www. euthanasia. com/index. html.