Euthanasia Euthanasia, which means “good” or “peaceful” death, has been practiced through the ages. Doctors have always been dedicated to the task of easing pain and suffering, to make dying easier. Adding the adjective “active” alters the meaning of euthanasia. The emphasis shifts from comforting the dying to inducing death. The practice of voluntary euthanasia and assisted suicide would cause society to devalue all life, especially the lives of the dying, the disabled, and the elderly.

We should not understate the agonies involved in chronic pain and suffering. Nobody wants to see a loved one suffer or make the decisions that accompany medical science’s ability to prolong life. The same technology that keeps people alive today raise a host of questions concerning the nature and destiny of man himself. Comforting the dying is still preferable to assisting in their death. There are many reasons why, but the main one has to do with how much we value human life. God views all human life as sacred. He created us in his own image (Genesis 1:26,27), and it is he who has determined our days on earth (Job 14:5).

God confirms his great love for his people, a love that does not cease when we are old or ill. His command that we not kill one another does not change when we are brain damaged or comatose. Our society, however, teaches certain classes of people that they are not wanted. If a physician’s aid in dying were to become a standard part of terminal care, there is always that possibility that patients might feel the need to request death out of fear of becoming a burden to their families. The right to die could be interpreted by a patient as the duty to die. Chronically ill or dying patients may be pressured to choose euthanasia to spare their families financial or emotional strain.

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Joan Farah states in the New England Journal of Medicine that the elderly are often cited as being vulnerable. If Euthanasia becomes the law of the land, how long will it take before the elderly and sick begin to feel an obligation to get out of the way? There are many complicated ethical and medical issues involved in the discussion of euthanasia. The decisions that family members must make are often as painful as the conditions of their loved ones. Sometimes the families react with wisdom and compassion. However, under stress human beings can make the wrong decisions. In an attempt to avoid such risk we dare not enact legislature that will allow murder simply to make decisions easier. Opponents contend that legalized euthanasia would force medical professionals and patients’ families to judge the worth of others’ lives.

Once a vulnerable group is denied a basic right to life, it is only a matter of time until other groups are placed in the same category. We have accepted the killing of unborn children, allowed children born with severe handicaps to die, and have ignored “mercy killing” of consenting adults. Will we tolerate or accept euthanasia just as we do abortion? There are no easy answers when a loved one faces death. Scientists must continue to seek answers and cures. Active euthanasia does not provide answers: it only tries to avoid the hardest questions.

Thomas Beauchamp, a bioethicist of Georgetown University has written, rules against killing “are not isolated moral principles,” but “pieces of a web of rules” that forms a moral code. “The more threads one removes the weaker the fabric becomes.” Allowing ourselves the liberty of choosing the time and place of death will not lessen our sense of loss. It can only erode the wonder of human life and the worth of each individual. Wekesser, Carol, ed. Euthanasia: Opposing Viewpoints. San Diego: Greenhaven Press, 1995.


Euthanasia Euthanasia Euthanasia is the practice of mercifully ending a persons life in order to release the person from an incurable disease, intolerable suffering, or undignified death. The word euthanasia derives from the Greek for good death and originally referred to intentional mercy killing. When medical advances made prolonging the lives of dying or comatose patients possible, the term euthanasia was also applied to a lack of action to prevent death. There are three practices that are involved with Euthanasia. The first one is voluntary (or active) euthanasia, where the person asks to be killed.

This involves painlessly putting individuals to death for merciful reasons, as when a doctor administers a lethal does of medication to a patient. The second practice that is involved with Euthanasia is involuntary. This concerns the killing of persons who cannot express their wishes, because of immaturity (such as a newborn infant), mental retardation or coma. Here is it decided by others that that person would be better off dead. The third practice is passive euthanasia, where the patient is killed by withdrawing some kind of support and letting nature takes its course.

For example this would include removing life support or stopping medical procedures. It also includes not delivering CPR (cardio-pulmonary resuscitation) and allowing a person, whose heart has stopped, to die. Many people fail to differentiate between euthanasia and assisted suicide. In euthanasia, one person does something that directly kills another. For example, a doctor gives a lethal injection to a patient.

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In assisted suicide, a non-suicidal person knowingly and intentionally provides the means or acts in some way to help a suicidal person kill himself or herself. For example, a doctor writes a prescription for poison, or someone hooks up a device and than instructs the suicidal person how to use it to kill him or herself. Euthanasia has been accepted in some forms by various groups or societies throughout history. In ancient Greece and Rome helping others die or putting them to death was considered permissible in some situations. Voluntary euthanasia for the elderly was an approved custom in several ancient societies also.

However, as Christianity developed and grew powerful in the West, euthanasia became morally and ethically abhorrent and was viewed as a violation of Gods gift of life. Today most branches of Christianity, Judaism, and Islam condemn active euthanasia, although some permit restricted forms of passive euthanasia. The first organizations to promote legalization of voluntary euthanasia in the United States and Great Britain formed in the 1930s. For several decades these organizations remained small and had little impact. However, in the lat 1970s the pro-euthanasia movement gained significant momentum after a highly publicized incident in the United States.

In 1975 a 21-year-old women named Karen Ann Quinlan suffered a respiratory arrest that resulted in severe and irreversible brain damage and left her in a coma. Several months later, after doctors informed them that their daughters recovery was extremely unlikely, Quinlans parents requested that artificial means of life support be removed. The hospital refused. As laws have evolved from their traditional religious underpinnings, certain forms of euthanasia have been legally accepted. In general, laws attempted to draw a line between passive euthanasia (generally allowing a person to die) and active euthanasia (generally associated with killing a person). While laws commonly permit passive euthanasia, active euthanasia is typically prohibited.

The issue of euthanasia raises ethical questions for physicians and other health-care providers. The ethical code of physicians in the United States has long been based in part on the Hippocratic Oath, which requires physicians to do no harm. However, medical ethics are refined over time as definitions of harm change. Prior to the 1970s, the right of patients to refuse life-sustaining treatment (passive euthanasia) was controversial. As a result of various court cases, this right is nearly universally acknowledged today, even among conservative bioethics.

The controversy over active euthanasia remains intense, in part because of opposition from religious groups and many members of the legal and medical professions. Opponents of voluntary active euthanasia emphasize that health-care providers have professional obligations that prohibit killing. These opponents maintain that active euthanasia is inconsistent with the roles of nursing, care giving, and healing. Opponents also argue that permitting physicians to engage in active euthanasia creates intolerable risks of abuse and misuse of the power over life and death. They acknowledge that particular instances of active euthanasia may sometimes be morally justified. However, opponents argue that sanctioning the practice of killing would cause more harm than benefit.

Too powerful schools of thought are presented in this paper and I can certainly empathize with both sides. It is hard for me, however, to take a stand and reasonably justify either position. Justification can not be easily reached without carefully considering and walking in the shoes of the people presented in this paper. Social Issues Essays.


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