Pain and Euthanasia
There are people in this world that are consistently afflicted with pain. It can be a literal pain or the pain of not being able to act on personal desires due to a physical restriction. This can get in their way of doing things that most people are able to finish every day without a second thought. The kind of restrictions inflicted on your life, and when it’s not something that you have wished for it can make life especially unbearable. Not being able to do what you want to do is another level of pain. That kind of mental pain coupled with physical pain that some people endure should be afforded a chance to be ended. Euthanasia is a word that has roots in Greek and can be loosely translated to mean ‘good death’. In medical terms, Euthanasia is known as ‘the act of someone electing to end their life with the help of medical assistance’ and is often used interchangeably with the term physician-assisted suicide as well. It is used to relieve people that are inflicted with immense pain by ending their life.
Passive and Active Euthanasia
There are two kinds of Euthanasia; passive and active. When someone stops receiving medical treatment to stay alive and dies as a result, that is passive euthanasia. The act of a health official causing the life of a patient to end without the patient participating is active euthanasia. There are three versions of active euthanasia which include voluntary, involuntary, and nonvoluntary. Nonvoluntary euthanasia happens when a patient’s death occurs and he/she is not capable of giving consent. Involuntary euthanasia is what happens when the life of a patient is taken that has not asked to die with the intent of relieving their pain and suffering. Finally, there is voluntary euthanasia which is the result of patients specifically making the request to die to their doctor.
All forms are legal in very few places, specifically legal in Switzerland, Germany, Netherlands and in the US; Washington, Oregon, Colorado, Hawaii, Vermont, Montana, Washington DC and California. Many countries and states within the United States do not believe in Euthanasia. Those that oppose euthanasia think of it as just suicide, the kind of suicide that is the 10th leading cause of death in the United States. While euthanasia is technically a form of suicide, those naysayers should also keep in mind that euthanasia is not an option given to people lightly, and there is a long process to get permission from health officials. They argue that if legal, euthanasia would be overused similar to the overuse of euthanizing animals in shelters. Contrary to that belief, in a JAMA article published in 2016, the following research was found ‘Between 0.3% to 4.6% of all deaths are reported as euthanasia or physician-assisted suicide in jurisdictions where they are legal. The frequency of these deaths increased after legalization.
Euthanasia and physician-assisted suicide are increasingly being legalized, remain relatively rare, and primarily involve patients with cancer. Existing data do not indicate widespread abuse of these practices.’ In 2015, there were 35,598 in Oregon and only 132 of those deaths were due to euthanasia, that is .39% of the total deaths for that year. This is including the passive euthanasia deaths of ending life support. It would be a just conclusion to say that those worries would prove unwarranted if there were legal euthanasia everywhere. John Hardwig, a philosopher once said that ‘Death does not always come at the right time. We are all aware of what happens when death comes too soon but what happens when it comes too late?’ No one wants to stay past his or her welcome. You might be familiar with the quote ‘It’s my body and I’ll do what I want to.’ Something that many have used but the origin of it is unclear.
Conclusion: The Ethical Dilemma
People should be permitted to make their own choices under the circumstances of extreme pain. There’s a right time to die and the person volunteering for euthanasia has a liberty to do what he/she wants. We deserve total autonomy over our own bodies and the chance to decide. We have a duty to our happiness, and when that is not attainable it makes all sense to end it. Living past our bodies’ extent of existence would be like living in a prison. People who force that life are not preserving anything but their egos. The people making these decisions to not allow euthanasia are not living a life full of pain and are making decisions selfishly. There are opposers that run with the saying ‘it gets better’ but why wait for better?
Can ‘better’ be guaranteed at that? There are doctors against it, but then there are doctors who are like Family physician, Robert Olvera, who explained the following: ‘There’s people that tell me why are you doing this, [advocating for PAS], you’re supposed to cure, you’re supposed to help this person, my answer to that is some people need help dying. To prolong death in some cases is not helpful, it can be counter productive. My objective is that given the Hippocratic Oath, I’m not going against it, I’m helping people, people like my daughter [Emily, who died at 25 after a 17-year battle with leukemia] who need help at the end of their lives. What spurred me is Emily on two occasions when she was lucid and competent, she asked me to give her enough sleeping pills so that she could go to sleep permanently. She was blind, but in the bed and had to be carried, but her mind was still competent. Had I known it was legal in five other states… and understanding what her wishes were, I would have left [to go to a legal state] in a heartbeat.’ It shouldn’t take a personal experience to make you sympathize with those that need euthanasia.
Moreover, there are other benefits outside of the most important, for the patient. There is a way to reach the people that need a monetary reason to commit to euthanasia. If let us say, there is a depletion of resources monetary or medical, then would it not be better to allow this person that wants to die the option to carry out their wishes? Not only will this satisfy the patient, but the hospital is also no longer spending money on someone that in the end will be dying. Essentially no longer having to waste supplies on someone who will reach the same fate no matter the actions leading up to the end. There are many reasons why Euthanasia should be legalized, but mainly there are more reasons why you should empathize with those who know their fate and have to live the painful days waiting for it. For those who disagree, what lengths would you go to in order to reach happiness?