“Euthanasia is the administration of a lethal agent by another person to a patient for the purpose of relieving the patient’s intolerable and incurable suffering”. When we talk about euthanasia it is meant as a means to help someone to achieve a good death. The majority of those who seek euthanasia are terminally ill and do not have any other options. Either they stay alive and suffer from the severe pain, the symptoms, and the side effects like bedsores, or they decide to end their agony and choose the only other alternative. Unlike what some people think, euthanasia is used as a last resort and is only meant for people who face an imminent death. It is not meant “to kill”, but to help the dying die with dignity. Given that everyone has the right to die with dignity, as soon as the suffering comes to a decision to shorten his or her last days or weeks in order to end the unbearable pain, the society should accept it and do everything in their power to make it possible.
Euthanasia is considered accepted among its supporters only if the following ethical guidelines are met. The person must be an adult in a rational state of mind, whose terminal suffering happens to be unbearable despite the best medical efforts. Secondly, the person must have clearly made a considered decision. As Timothy M. Quill illustrates in his essay “Death and Dignity” Diane, a woman diagnosed with terminal leukemia, her husband, and her son talked about her disease and the options including treatment extensively; however, “She remained very clear about her wish not to undergo chemotherapy and to live whatever time she had left outside the hospital”. An individual can express his or her preferences about healthcare at the end of life, for example by writing a living will, or even, in today’s more open and tolerant society, freely discuss the option of euthanasia with a health-care professional or a family member.
Timothy M. Quill notes in the same essay Diane’s wish to die, once she “lost control of herself and her dignity”. She discussed this wish with her family and her doctor and asked them for their help and support. They were not happy about this, but they agreed to respect her choice, and that is what they did. Her doctor had regular meetings with her and talked to her about “the philosophy of comfort care”, but also about the “Hemlock Society”. As her condition worsened, she called up her closest friends including her doctor and said goodbye to them. Two days later she asked her husband and her son to leave her alone for an hour after saying goodbye to them. After an hour, they found her dead “covered by her favorite shawl”. Euthanasia should not be carried out at the first knowledge of a life-threatening illness, and the individual must seek reasonable medical help to cure or at least slow down the progress of the terminal disease.
Life is precious and is also worth a fight. Euthanasia is only an option when the fight is hopeless and the agony unbearable. However, once the decision is made, the treating physician must be informed and his or her response should be considered. It is always possible, that the diagnosis has been misheard or misunderstood; furthermore, the individual’s decision could have been triggered by major depression or any other curable mental illness. I think everyone would agree that each physician confronted with a patient seeking help to commit suicide should involve psychiatric consultation in order to rule out major depression before euthanasia should even be considered. After excluding any form of a treatable illness, it should be the physician’s choice whether or not to assist the patient to commit suicide.
Under normal circumstances we do not have the right to kill or to let someone die, but there are some exceptions to this rule. A physician is permitted to withhold treatment and let the patient die, if it is so desired by the patient or a legal representative. However, if the same person under the same circumstances wishes to be helped directly in order to end his or her suffering, the physician is not allowed to assist this person put an end to his or her life. According to the American Medical Association “The physician who performs euthanasia assumes unique responsibility for the act of ending the patient’s life”. On the other hand the AMA also states “Physicians have an obligation to relieve pain and suffering and to promote the dignity and autonomy of dying patients in their care.
This includes providing effective palliative treatment even though it may foreseeably hasten death.”The above statement shows us that AMA prohibits active euthanasia, “the administration of a lethal agent by another person to a patient for the purpose of relieving the patient’s intolerable and incurable suffering.”, yet allows passive euthanasia, “at least in some cases, to withhold treatment and allow a patient to die”. James Rachels argues for why physicians should place passive euthanasia in the same category as active euthanasia. First, techniques of passive euthanasia extend the suffering of the patient, because it takes longer to passively allow the patient to die than it would if active measures were taken.
Second, Rachels argues that passive euthanasia encourages the physician to make decisions on irrelevant grounds. For example, children born with Down’s syndrome often have correctable congenital defects, but sometimes the parents refuse the surgery, because they do not want a child with Down’s syndrome; therefore, they let the infant die. Rachels’ example might be a little extreme, but if we really want to be honest with ourselves, we should recognize that active euthanasia seems to be more humane in some cases than passive euthanasia.
Advances in medical technology brought about a number of miracles to keep us healthy and to help us live longer; however, modern medicine has not entirely solved the problem of terminal illness and pain. It has even contributed to the complication of the decisions we might be confronted with towards the end of our life, or the life of a loved one. We are going to face life-and-death decisions, we should always choose life over death when life is truly possible, but tragic circumstances can make the afterlife a better life for some people. Euthanasia is an option not a destination. After all “No one wants to live to be one hundred, until you ask the man who is ninety-nine.”
pagehttp://www.starcourse.org/euthanasia.htmhttp://www.togopeacefully.com/http://www.missouri.edu/~philwb/Quill.HTMTimothy E. Quill, M.D.
Death and DignityA Case of Individualized Decision MakingPrinted in The New England Journal of Medicine,March 7, 1991, Vol. 324, No. 10, pp 691-694.
http://www.banned-books.com/truth-seeker/1994archive/121_5/ts215n.htmlDeath and Dignity: Making Choices and Taking Charge by Timothy E. Quill. W.W. Norton & Company, New York. ©1993The American Medical Associationhttp://www.ama-assn.org/ama/pub/category/8458.htmlhttp://www.ama-assn.org/ama/pub/category/8457.htmlhttp://www.ama-assn.org/ama/pub/category/8459.htmlJames Rachels : Active and Passive