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Essay/Term paper: Euthanasia: the right to die

Essay, term paper, research paper:  Political Science

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Euthanasia: The Right to Die

Thesis: Euthanasia should be legalized so, if we ever have a
loved one that is suffering and death is certain,
that we have the choice to ease their pain if they

I. Introduction

A. Examples showing why euthanasia is
receiving national attention.

B. A summary of reasons offered by those opposed
to euthanasia is given.

C. A summary of reasons offered by those in favor
of euthanasia is given.

D. Transition into my argument.

II. Body

A. A person has the right to die with dignity.

B. Everything should not be done to prolong life
if the patient does not want it.

C. Doctors are not always responsible to do
everything they can to save somebody.

D. Refute the argument that euthanasia is

III. Conclusion

A. Thoughts on freedom people have.

B. A quote to end with.

"A dying man needs to die, as a sleepy man needs to sleep, and there comes a
time when it is wrong, as well as useless to resist."
-Steward Alsop, Stay of Execution

Euthanasia has become an issue of increasing attention because of Dr.
Jack Kevorkian's assisted suicides. As of October 21 Kevorkian has assisted in
nineteen suicides. Because of the increasing number of suicides in Michigan,
Gov. Engler signed an anti-suicide law in late February that made doctor-
assisted suicides a felony. During the 21-month trial period of the new law
anyone assisting in a suicide can be sentenced to up to four years in prison and
fined more than $2,000 (Reuters, 1993).
With the passing of this law I thought that most people would be against
the right-to-die, not so. In a poll cited in a 1991 issue of USA Today eighty
percent of Americans think sometimes there are circumstances when a patient
should be allowed to die, compared to only fifteen percent think doctors and
nurses should always do everything possible to save a person's life. It also
showed that eight in ten adults approve of state laws that allow medical care
for the terminally ill to be removed or withheld, if that is what the patient
"wishes", whereas only thirteen percent disapproved of the laws. Also seventy
percent think the family should be allowed to make the decision about treatment
on behalf of the patient, while another five percent think this is suitable only
in some cases (Colasnto, 1991, p. 62).
The results on mercy killing surprised me even more. Seventy percent
think it is justified at least sometimes for a person to kill his or her spouse,
if he or she is suffering terrible pain caused by a terminal illness. Even
suicide is starting to be accepted. About half the public think a "moral right"
to suicide exists if a person has an incurable disease or is suffering great
pain with no hope of recovering(Colasnto, 1991, p. 63).
About half of those with living parents think their mothers and fathers
would want medical treatment stopped if they were suffering a great deal of pain
in a terminal disease or if they became totally dependant on a family member,
and forty percent of their parents would want medical treatment stopped if daily
activities became a burden(Colasnto,1991, p. 63).
With the continuous coverage of Dr. Kevorkian the views of people will
continue to change. Euthanasia will continue to become more of an issue.
As with any issue, each viewpoint is supported by many reasons. Those
who oppose euthanasia argue that the medical profession must always be on the
side of "preserving life" (Schofield, 1988, p. 24). Another reason is
euthanasia will lead to the "devaluation of life" (Low, 1989, p. 37). Also they
think it will force doctors and family members to "judge the value of a
patient's life". Critics also say that acceptance will spread from the
terminally ill to the less serious ill, the handicapped, or the mentally
retarded. (Russ, 1989, p. 117)
One reason that just about everyone who favors euthanasia agrees with is
that a person has the right to a death with dignity. Another reason is a person
should be allowed a "natural death" instead of a prolonged death with medical
equipment(Battin, 1985, p. 19). Still another reason is that doctors are
supposed to ease the pain of people not prolong it (Battin, 1989, p. 19).
Death is one of the few things that all people have in common. This
means that there is a chance for anyone to face the decision of letting someone
go. Euthanasia should be legalized so people will only have to think about the
difficult decision of the present and not about the consequences of the future.
One of the base reasons people for euthanasia give is, a person has the
right to die with dignity. People should be allowed to control their own deaths.
Why should a patient be forced to live if they think their present standard of
life has "degenerated to the point of meaningless", when doctors can no longer
help, and perhaps the pain has become unbearable? At this point, if the person
is of sound mind, they should have the choice to continue on or to peacefully
die, even if they need assistance in doing so(Larue, 1988, p. 153).
If the person is not able to make this decision there should be a few
options, a living will, the family's choice, and the doctor's choice. A living
will should be allowed to control the outcome if the person is unable to. If
there is no living will the family, consulting with a qualified physician,
should be allowed to decide for the patient. The one situation that is most
controversial is a patient with no family or no family member qualified to make
the decision. Some think the doctor should be able to make the decision for the
I believe that the doctor should be allowed to decide if the patient has
reached the point of only getting worse and in considerable pain. In any of
these situations a doctor should be at least an advisor, they are the ones with
the medical knowledge, and know the present condition of the patient and the
alternatives. "In any humane or humanistic view of what is good, it is morally
wrong to compel hopelessly suffering or irreversible debilitated patients to
stay alive when death is freely elected" (Larue, 1988, p. 151).
In some cases, like terminal illness, "death is often better than
dyeing", mainly due to the way that the person will die. They may have to go
thorough a long period of pain and suffering. Ask yourself which you would
choose, early or prolonged death (Larue, 1988, p. 153). Even if you do not
think that you would end your life or another's life should personal views
decide that it is not the right thing for another to do. Does any person have
the right to control the choices of others?
Another argument is that not all the should everything be done to
preserve a life. The natural balance of life and death has been disturbed by
the advances of technology. No longer does a person die when they are supposed
to; life-support now prevents that. Opponents say doctors should not play God
by killing patients ,but do they realize that by prolonging death the medical
profession is doing exactly that? Christian Barnard, at the World Euthanasia
Conference, was quoted as saying, "I believe often that death is good medical
treatment because it can achieve what all the medical advances and technology
cannot achieve today. and that is stop the suffering of the patient" (Battin,
1987, p. 21).
A differant version of the same argument is, doctors are not always
responsible to do everything they can to save somebody. If a doctor's duty is
to ease the pain of his patients, then why should this exclude the possibility
of letting them die? If a patient has a terminal illness and is in great pain
and the patient thinks they would rather die now than continue living the with
the pain, the doctor should be allowed to help. What about a person who is in a
vegetative state for a prolonged period of time with no hope of recovery, should
the doctor do everything? Howard Caplan gives an example of this. I have on my
census a man in his early 40s, left an aphasic triplegic by a motorcycle
accident when he was 19. For nearly a quarter of a century, while most of us
were working, raising children, reading, and otherwise going about our lives,
he's been vegetating. His biographical life ended with the crash. He can only
articulate - only make sounds to convey that he's hungry or wet. If he were to
become acutely ill, I would prefer not to try saving him. I'd want to let
pneumonia end it for him" (1987, p. 92). I believe that a doctor should do what
he can up to a point. If a person is at the point where death is a blessing a
doctor should not be forced to save a person if they go into cardiac arrest.
Also it might be the patients decision for nothing to be done, in this case the
doctor should do as instructed.
Is euthanasia unethical? That is what the opposition argues. They
preach that doctors too often play God on the operating tables and in the
recovery rooms and doctors must always be on the side of life (Battin, 1987, p.
24). They say, "Life is to be preserved and suffering was to be alleviated",
but in fact the American Medical Association said, "Physicians dedicate their
lives to the alleviation of suffering, to the enhancement and prolongation of
life, and the destinies of humanity". They clearly state the "alleviation of
suffering" before "the enhancement and prolongation of life". So if the
reduction of pain would mean letting the person pass on, why would that be wrong
and unethical? They also claim euthanasia is a "breach of the laws of humanity",
what about the laws of nature? These laws were established long before mankind.
Humanity breached the laws of nature, long before the "laws of humanity" were
broken, with advances like respirators. People are the ones upsetting the
balance of nature when they try to keep persons alive who are supposed to die.
The planet has survived for a long time without the laws of humanity, so what
makes them right? (Schofield, 1988, p. 26)
Opponents also claim that euthanasia is against God, therefore it is
unethical. Yet passive euthanasia, or refraining from doing anything to keep the
patient alive, has been in practice since four centuries before Christ; and in
the centuries that followed neither the Christians nor the Jews significantly
changed this basic idea. It was killing they were opposed to. Also in 1958
Pope Pius XII emphasized that we may 'allow the patient who is virtually
already dead to pass away in peace' (Rachels, 1986, p. 43). How can anybody say
mercy is against God? to me it would seem that God would want people to die in
peace and without pain. If anything is against God it is trying to live longer
than God had intended you to.
The United States was founded because people wanted to be free.
Americans have fought for freedom ever since. If euthanasia is made illegal it
will take away one of the founding freedoms, the freedom of choice, the freedom
for a person to choose a death with dignity and free of pain and suffering for
themselves and their families. As Seneca quoted in Bolander writes, "A
punishment to some, to some a gift, and to many a favor"(1984).


Battin, M. (1987). Euthanasia: the time is now. In Bernards, N. (Ed). (1989).
Euthanasia: opposing viewpoints. Greenhaven Press, Inc.

Bernards, N. (Ed). (1989). Euthanasia: opposing viewpoints. Greenhaven Press,

Bolander, D. (1987). Instant quotation dictionary. Little Falls: Career
Publishing, Inc.

Caplan, H. (1987). It's time we helped patients die. In

Bernards, N. (Ed). (1989). Euthanasia: opposing viewpoints. Greenhaven Press,

Colesanto, D. (1991, May). The right-to-die controversy. USA Today. pp. 62-63.

Larue, G. (1988). Euthanasia. In Bernards, N. (Ed). (1989). Euthanasia: opposing
viewpoints. Greenhaven Press, Inc.

Low, C. (1988). A deadly serious dilemma: evaluating the right to die. In
Bernards, N. (Ed). (1989). Euthanasia: opposing viewpoints. Greenhaven Press,

McCuen, G. & Boucher, T. (1985). Terminating life. Hudson: Gary E. McCuen
Publication, Inc.

Michigan governor signs anti-suicide law. (1993, February 25). Ruters.

Rachels, J. (1986). The end of life: euthanasia and morality. In Bernards, N.
(Ed). (1989). Euthanasia: opposing viewpoints. Greenhaven Press, Inc. Russ, S.
(1988). Care of the older person: the ethical challenge of american medicine. In
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Euthanasia: opposing viewpoints. Greenhaven Press, Inc.

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