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The Right to Die: An Ethical Battle Essay

The Right to die is a highly debatable and argumentative subject at present surrounded by controversy and dilemma requiring public attention. For years, arguments among different doctrines and viewpoint in regards to ones “right to die” have public opinion beginning to move away from modern medicine, back to the historical arguments on euthanasia: to avoid suffering the dying person has the right to end their life by another if that is necessary. Our society is at war in arguing to protect life no matter what the circumstance and fighting for the rights of an individual who is unable to communicate if he or she wants to continue living.

Laws are being purposed to help protect people in a controversy position and protecting their rights. The medical end finds physicians and families at odds with these governmental laws when faced with a decision under certain circumstances. The purpose of this paper will review the issues of the “right to die” that are hot topics among the medical community which include: ethical dilemmas, individual rights, and society efforts to keep the law supporting the needs of the many.

Today’s advancements in medical technology has given means to help with diagnostic testing to determine a person’s status in disease process, prognosis or physical ailments causing extensive pain and suffering that were not available in years past. Upon entering the medical environment, choices can be made with “advance directives” instructing healthcare professionals and family members in an individual’s wishes. Advance Directives are Living Wills, Medical Power of Attorney’s, and other individual wishes documented while of sound mind and body.

When one does not have an Advance Directive, these decisions are left to the patient and their family with the guidance of the physician within the boundaries of the law. A physician is bound by an oath to “sustain life and do no harm”. A physician can have his own thoughts about a situation, however, without guidance from the family, that Dr. is required by law to pursue a determination through the court system. On the other hand, what if you had a family member who was pleading for assistance to die? This family member is in excruciating pain, has lost many body parts and clinching teeth due to the pain.

When requested termination by the patient has gone unanswered, is it ethical to take matters into your own hands? Ethical and legal dilemmas may at some point affect an individual’s rights to determine their outcome or fate. Individual rights can and may vary from state to state. Due to governmental laws, many states have “Advance Directives” which allow them to make choices of and for their care while within sound mind that legally protects them upon entering any medical situation. These directives include such clauses as “Do Not Resuscitate” and “Do Not Intubate”.

Without these directives, an individual is at the mercy of being able to make decisions on their own versus others choosing his or her outcome. Without knowing an individual’s wishes, how are we to determine the right to die? How far does this power to choose the right to die stem? People who contract illnesses (i. e. terminal cancer) and know the possible treatments available as well as the percentage of the outcome; they should also have within their rights the choice to terminate their life. For most; the right to terminate one’s life is something they can be easily exercised.

There are many who want to die, but their disease, handicap, or prognosis renders them unable to die in a dignified manner. When these people ask for assistance in ending their life, their wishes should be respected. An individual’s rights can be affected by our society’s efforts to support the needs of the many. Our current society is in a dilemma with ethical and moral issues of ways to deal with the choice to die. Current laws are in the state of being reviewed and decision making processes reevaluated to help our society better cope in the process of death.

For instance, Oregon state law states that if one is to go to trial “assisted suicide” by physician it is not punishable by law, however if you are tried for “murder” then the act is punishable. The U. S. Supreme Court challenged and attempted to overturn it, but is decided now at the State level. There are other states where family members can be tried in the same fashion. In today’s society, the dilemma between assisted suicide and the right to die brings about moral issues that people have more difficulty dealing with the choices that are being made.

One’s choosing to die has a lot to do with how an individual looks at the standards of life vs. how others view standards of life. Culturally the right to die varies among geographical locations, but among each culture the issue of moral, ethical and practical assistance with dying is at debate; particularly in the western societies. Presently the courts are still in session determining such issues as; if family assisted death or physician assisted death is allowed. This debate is not only within the courts, but between the medical community and society as a whole.

The value that people place on life continues to be debated among the many. Who is to say where the decision starts and who gets to make your final decision when there are so many factions involved in the decision making process. How do you determine if a comatose patient is ready to pass now or wait to see if they will “wake up” in twenty-years? As these questions continue to be asked, seeking the answer lies within yourself and those you have expressed your final wishes to. With all the information at hand can we say, without a shadow of a doubt, it is our own decision to choose when to end our life.

The need is to get society aware, and change laws to not punish those having the compassion to assist in one’s passing. Where do you draw the line in a compassionate death vs. murder? In conclusion the right to die argument will continue among our society as long as there are the ethical, legal and moral issues that we all have to consider. In following the trend, public debate and taking action are slowly coming to terms on this issue. Will the masses always speak for the individual?


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