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Essay/Term paper: Euthanasia in today's society

Essay, term paper, research paper:  Religion

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Euthanasia In Today's Society

Your wife of 50 years is suddenly diagnosed with a terminal disease. She lies
in a bed, motionless and unaware of her surroundings. The medication to ease
her pain has been wearing off. She just lies there in pain and unable to
communicate with the outside world. The doctors give her a month to live at the
most. What would you do? Would you let her sit in a hospital bed in agonizing
pain for the last few months of her life, or do you help to prematurely meet her
God? That is the topic of discussion in this paper: Euthanasia.

Let's start by defining the term. Euthanasia is also referred to as "mercy
killing." That is the killing of someone for their own good due to the pain and
suffering they are enduring. Euthanasia also includes situations where the
individual who is suffering makes the decision to die, a type of suicide
actually. In today's world there are two types of euthanasia that are most
common. The first are people who, perhaps because of serious illness or perhaps
for reasons unrelated to their illness, are extremely depressed and say that
they want to die (Johanson 1). Research has shown that the vast majority of
these people are just asking for sympathy and don't really want to die but
rather hear the calls of there loved ones begging them not to go on with the
procedure. They want the attempt to fail. The second type of euthanasia involve
people who are suffering from an illness that makes them unable to communicate
(Johanson 2). These type of people are those who are in comas, paralyzed, or
simply so sick that they cannot make meaningful sounds or other communication
(Johanson 2). This is a much more accepted type of euthanasia. Especially in
the Netherlands where Euthanasia is more common then the United States. There
are two sides to attack this issue from. One being from the view of the
Catholic Church and the other from a legal standpoint. Lets start with the
legal standpoint. Who has the right to tell us when or when cannot die? Many
feel that we have the right to do whatever we want to our bodies because they
are our personal property. It is our inalienable right to do whatever we like
to ourselves. They have a point since it all goes back to how we formed our
nation. We formed it on individual rights that we modeled after the ideas of
Rousseau before the French Revolution. Pro-euthanasia people also believe that
anyone should have the right to turn away medical treatment if he believes that
the side-effects, whether pain or the burden of being tied to some machine or
whatever, are worse then the disease (Johanson 1). Even if this means he will
live a shorter life. Pro-euthanasia activists also believe that if someone is
in there right mind and honestly wants to end his life to the pain he is
suffering he should have the right to do so. Some people stretch that belief
even farther in saying that we all have the inalienable right to kill ourselves
at anytime for any reason at all. That is when things can get out of control.
The Ohio Law Review went as far as publishing a "Model Aid-in-Dying Act" that
they believe all states should accept. It states that a child over the age of
six could request "aid-in-dying" and if his parents refused to agree with him,
an "Aid-in-Dying Board" could overrule them and grant him his wish (Johanson 1).
Sometimes the idea of euthanasia can be twisted into extremely evil ways. Some
euthanasia activists believe that the patient should be put to death because
they have become a burden on society. They decide that it would be more
beneficial to spend the money on something more useful. This is what it has
come to in the Netherlands where according to Rita Marker of the International
Anti-Euthanasia Task Force, euthanasia now accounts for 15% of the deaths in the
Netherlands (Johanson 3). It gets pretty scary in the Netherlands with case
stories like the following. A Dutch doctor diagnosed a woman with cancer. He
checked her to the hospital for treatment and the results were astonishing. The
treatments were already showing improvement. Well two days later the doctor
goes to pay the recovering patient a visit and found another patient in her bed.
When he asked about her, a nurse said that they needed the room so they decided
that she was one of the weakest and gave her "the injection" (Valente 328).
That is the form they do it in the Netherlands, with a deadly injection, without
consent sometimes. Some people are afraid to even check into the hospitals for
fear of their lives. Pro- euthanasia people say that euthanasia should be
limited to only the terminally ill. And it should be a very hard decision that
we may have to make but may be the best decision at times. A completely
different way to view this is through the eyes of the Catholic Church. The
Church is very much against the idea of euthanasia. Although the church
recognizes the fact that there is now law of any state or religion that says we
must stay alive at any cost (Pavone 1), they still say we do not have the right
to die at our own will. Many believe that we own our bodies to the fullest
extent. This is not true when relating it to Church. According to our belief,
we have been given our bodies and life as a sacred gift from God and that we
have absolutely no right tampering with when we are to die (Pavone 1). We are
created in God's image and our lives have intrinsic and immeasurable value
(Welsh 2). We are called to believe that only God can give us the gift of
life and only He can take it away. The church goes on to say that death is
inevitable and when it is clear that God is calling us we can accept his summons
with faith but in no way speed up the process (Welsh 2). The Catholic Church
has devised a means for approaching situations dealing with the terminally ill.
They say there are two ways we treat them: "ordinary" or "extraordinary".
Ordinary means must always be used to help the patient. This is any treatment
that benefits the patient without severe side-effects or burdens. Extraordinary
means are optional. Theses are treatments that put excessive burdens on the
patient and have no real benefits (Pavone 2).

The church also believes in the "sanctity of life ethic". This is the opposite
belief of secular life stating that every life has a quality attached to it.
The secular belief means that a life may be lessened in value due to the
circumstances surrounding it. If I were deathly ill and unable to add to the
community in any way, my life would be worth much less then that of a healthy 30
year old man working in the community. Well the "sanctity of life" states that
every life has a God given value that is not reduced by circumstances (Welsh 2).
And for those people who are suffering, we believe that God knows what he is
doing, even if we do not understand. The Church is generally against the
utilitarian ideas that the secular world has come to adopt today. We are called
to see the sovereign hand of God and have faith in the fact that God knows what
he is doing. After researching this topic and collaborating my ideas, I have
really seen why we need separation between church and state. Euthanasia is
clearly against all principles of the Catholic religion. They have a very good
argument that our body is not truly ours, but a gift from God in the image of
God, and destroying this gift is an insult. But you cannot forget the freedom
we that we built this nation on. Legally, I believe that we should have the
right to "euthanize" ourselves in a terminally ill situation. If we don't want
to suffer like that, legally we don't have to. It may be a sin, but we all have
free will to choose to sin. It might not be the best Catholic decision, but we
certainly deserve the opportunity to be able to make that decision for ourselves.

When someone is deathly ill and cannot communicate with others whatsoever,
family members sometimes make the decision of euthanasia for the patient. This
is a mistake in my mind. Although they may be doing what the patient wants, you
never know what he/she really wants. It would be a tragedy if the patient
wanted to keep fighting and his loved ones murder him. That is why I believe
that if euthanasia is to be completely legal, the only person who can make that
decision is the patient. In the near future, there would have to be a well
devised legal system that the patient would have to go through before being
legally approved for the euthanization. But as far as other people making the
decision for the patient, I think that should never be legal. There is just no
way to tell what the patient wants. The Catholic Church stated some very good
points in my research. I was very influenced by what they had to say as a whole.
I do think that euthanasia is morally wrong, but deserves to be legal since we
have free will. But I think that Catholic doctrine may want to revise their
standpoint. In the extreme cases of terminal illness, I believe that the church
could exonerate those who need it and would want to follow through in the act of
euthanasia. After all, we learned in class that under Natural Law, there are
three drives that keep us alive: self-preservation, preservation of the species,
and the desire to live in a society. When we lose these drives what else keeps
us alive? What else is there to live for? I'm sure that some people on their
death bed have lost all three of these drives. Basically, what I'm trying to
say is that under the most extreme of conditions, if the patient could, in their
right mind, make the decision for themselves, then I believe that the decision
should be morally approved and legally approved. I think God would understand.

I'm glad that I decided to do this topic. I went into this paper completely
behind the idea of euthanasia. I believed that we all should have the right to
put ourselves out of misery and put others out of their misery. I also believed
that might be legally alright and maybe even morally correct to kill yourself
for trivial reasons just because of our own free will. After researching the
Catholic standpoints on the subject, I was heavily influenced in the their
direction. I saw many excellent points that the author made. I still didn't
completely give up my conviction to euthanasia, but lessened it to only the most
extreme of conditions. I can definitely say that I have learned a lot from my
research and I ended up reshaping my philosophy on the principles of euthanasia
in today's society.


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