In recent years euthanasia has become a heated debate. Euthanasia has Greek roots as a “good death.” Euthanasia has many definitions. Euthanasia is considered to be voluntary when it takes place in accordance with the wishes of a competent individual. Nonvoluntary euthanasia is done without knowledge of the patients’ wishes either because the patient has always been incompetent, is now incompetent, or has left no Advanced Directive. Involuntary euthanasia is done against the wishes of the competent individual or against the wishes expressed in a valid Advanced Directive. Assisted suicide is usually defined as a specific situation in which there is a suicide, that is, an act of killing oneself intentionally.
Physician assisted suicide is when the individual is given a lethal drug which they can use to kill themselves whenever they choose. Although the definitions may seem clear, there is much confusion about the words used to describe euthanasia and other actions that result in hastening death. Three states, Montana, Oregon, and Washington, have legalized euthanasia. My argument is euthanasia should be legalized in all fifty states.
One point of the heated debate is the slippery slope that could possibly occur if euthanasia was legalized. Professor Phil D. Frey states that “We need the evidence that shows that horrible slope consequences might occur, as noted earlier, does not constitute such evidence.” In other words Phil D. Frey is saying it is possible that slippery slope effect can occur, but nothing shows that it is likely to happen. In Oregon, there are many steps before one can qualify for euthanasia. These steps ensure that no slippery slope can occur.
In Andrew Walters view, “The Oregon Death with Dignity Act” has served as a model statue in other state attempts to pass assisted suicide legislation. The act has several important provisions, read altogether, provide safeguard for the terminally ill, the physicians that diagnose their terminal illness and the pharmacist that prescribes the lethal drugs.” The essence of Andrew Walters argument is that The Oregon Death with Dignity Act was a strong first step towards the legalization of euthanasia around the world. It shows that the legalization if euthanasia would not cause a slippery slope. The act has many safeguards and provisions to prevent slippery slope. In 2006 Oregon passed the Death with Dignity Act. To request a prescription for lethal medications the Death with Dignity Act requires:
• 18 years or older • Resident of Oregon • Capable and able to make and communicate health care decisions • Diagnosed with a terminal illness that will lead to death in 6 months Once meeting the above requirements, the following are some of the steps that need to be followed in requesting a lethal medication: • The patient must make two oral requests to the physical separated by at least 15 days • The patient must provide a written request to the physician signed in the presence of two witnesses • The prescribing physician must inform the patient of feasible alternatives to assisted suicide, including comfort care, hospice care and pain control.
Those who oppose euthanasia argue that slippery slope is most likely to happen. Most opponents will tell you that euthanasia is a step towards the legalization of murder. They argue people will end their lives because they are tired of living or see no worth in it. The opponents argue that the poor, minorities, the mentally ill, and the physically challenged will be some of the targeted groups of euthanasia. I argue the opponents are mistaken because they overlook the provisions and safeguards of the “Death with Dignity Act.”
Another issue is the human right to life and self-determination. According to Walter Andrew, “Assisted suicide places the individual in control of his or her future allowing the individual to decide how, when and where they die.” Practical concerns also face the dying. After a terminally ill person watches his savings plummet while his medical costs and insurance premiums increase rapidly. Those unfamiliar with this school of thought may be interested to know that it basically boiled down to an individual’s right to determine their end of life decisions. The United States Constitution protects our right to life and liberty. Opponents argue that the human right to die is not a fundamental liberty interest protected by the due process clause and that physicians are bound by the Hippocratic Oath, “First, do no harm.”
I argue that physicians are not doing harm to patients. If a patient is in unbearable pain the physician is helping the patient by taking him out of his misery. If a competent individual is terminally ill, he should be able to control his destiny. If he cannot tolerate the pain, the pain cannot be managed by pain medication or he feels that he is a burden on family/community/society, it is the person’s right to determine if he wants to live. This right is consistent with the values of the human right to life and right of self-determination. One short but important fact is that if euthanasia were made legal, the patient would have had to have received the best medical care and pain management possible. This could reduce the chances of a slippery slope. It can also create healthier doctor-patient relationships by removing the fear of overtreatment.
Euthanasia can be necessary for the distribution of health resources. Around the world and especially in America there is a shortage of health resources. Some patients who are ill and can be cured are not able to get speedy access to the facilities they require for treatment. Also, health resources are being used on people who cannot be cured and those who would prefer to die.
Allowing those committed to euthanasia would not only let them have what they want, but will free valuable resources to treat people who want to live. Allowing the person who wants to die to initiate the process would prevent abuse. Those who oppose this will argue because they believe that such a proposal wide open to abuse and will ultimately lead to involuntary euthanasia because of the shortage of health resources. I argue that euthanasia is a good way to free up resources for those who need the care and want to live, instead of using it on those that want to die.
In conclusion, the debate about the legalization of euthanasia will continue for years to come, but I believe that the arguments for legalizing euthanasia overpower the arguments against it. Assisted suicide is a quick and painless death, instead of going through months of pain; the patient can end their life on their own terms. The Death with Dignity Act ensures that the slippery slope will not happen. To preserve the dignity of human life, it is important that the remaining states and the federal government legalize euthanasia to provide a safe and dignified way for terminally ill individuals to end their suffering.
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