www.whyville.net Aug 1, 2003 Weekly Issue



redsky
Times Writer

Euthanasia: Should It Be Legal?

Users' Rating
Rate this article
 
FRONT PAGE
INTERVIEW
CREATIVE WRITING
GALLERY
SCIENCE
FASHION
MEDIA

The definition of Euthanasia as given by the Oxford English Dictionary is: "the painless killing of a patient suffering from an incurable disease or in an irreversible coma". It comes from the Greek, literally translating as "a good death".

Euthanasia is a controversial matter, becoming a bigger issue with high profile cases like Diane Pretty's, a woman suffering from Motor Neurone Syndrome who lost her battle to have euthanasia legalized and died of natural causes in 2002.

Euthanasia is legal in the Netherlands and in the state of Oregon in the U.S.A. Recently, the government on the Isle of Man has made a much debated decision to legalize euthanasia. There is a lot of pressure mounting on other governments to follow suit, with more terminally ill patients expressing the wish to end their lives legally. The primary reason, they say, is so that they can die with dignity.


I am going to discuss this topic and strive to give the arguments of both sides. I will then come to a conclusion based on what I have learnt.

People who are against euthanasia are called "Pro-life"; this is also the view of Christians who regard euthanasia as a sin. There are other non-Christian reasons: one of the strongest arguments against euthanasia is the question of who can decide how advanced a terminal illness is in order for euthanasia to be acceptable.

For example: the case of American Sidney Cohen, who was diagnosed with cancer and given three months to live. He asked for euthanasia to be administered. He was suffering agonizing pain and was bed-ridden, but was refused euthanasia because it was illegal. Eight months later, he was still living, and said, "I now know that death is inevitable and since coming under hospice home care I now enjoy a full life." His fears of an agonizing death had been allayed and he was now staunchly opposed to euthanasia. The point here is that once fears are laid to rest and pain relieved, many people change their wish to have euthanasia administered. Also, it shows that doctors are not always correct in their diagnoses. Another point that the "Pro-life" lobby try to get across is that they believe no one dies painfully now, because of hospices and modern drugs, so euthanasia is not needed.

Other arguments include the fact that many patients feel they are a great burden on their relatives and are causing them much pain. For these reasons, they might ask for euthanasia to be administered, when they may not want to die -- they just do not want to cause their family any more suffering.

Also, someone could pressure a terminally ill person for their own personal or financial gain. For example, an elderly relative could be manipulated by someone who stood to inherit their estate. Unscrupulous doctors may want to remove elderly patients from their lists if they require a lot of care for little financial return. And so on.


On the other side of this argument are those campaigning for a change in the law which would legalize euthanasia, including The Voluntary Euthanasia Society.

One of their most publicized arguments, which was used extensively by Diane Pretty's lawyers, is that if a person was more physically able and did not need third party assistance to administer euthanasia, they could commit suicide, which is not necessary illegal on its own. Therefore it is argued that this is discrimination against people with physically deteriorating illnesses. That, they say, is in direct violation of the Human Rights Act, Article 14 which outlaws discrimination.

They feel that the fact that euthanasia is not administered to people suffering agonizing pain if they wish it is another violation of the Human Rights Act. Article 3 clearly states that it is everyone;s absolute right not to be subjected to inhuman or degrading treatment. By not allowing people the choice end their life, the law condemns them to prolonged suffering and increasing loss of dignity.

One argument of the "Pro-Life" camp is that we might see mass deaths if euthanasia became lawful. But those who are campaigning to legalize euthanasia say that figures such as those from Oregon show the opposite. In Oregon, only 0.1 percent of deaths in the last five years have been as a result of euthanasia.

The "pro-life" argument regarding improvement in pain control through drugs, hospices etc. only covers those dying in pain. It does not apply to those suffering debilitating illnesses and physical collapse of their body -- for example, those suffering from Motor Neurone Syndrome. In these circumstances, the loss of independence and the breakdown of all bodily functions ensures a slow, undignified death, understandably some of these patients would welcome euthanasia.



Before I began writing up this discussion, I would have said that I felt that euthanasia was a viable option for those with terminal illnesses, but now I accept, not the moral and Christian views which say euthanasia is a sin, but views of people such as Sidney Cohen. He understood that he was going to die, was relieved of pain, and began to live a full life for the short while he had left. He was thankful euthanasia was not an option when he requested it. On the other hand, he was still in physical control of most of his body, unlike cases such as Diane Pretty's. She could never live a full life again after her debilitating illness set in on her. She was totally dependent on others. For this reason I have come to the conclusion that I would like to see euthanasia legalized. If it was legalized, then I would strongly recommend that hefty safeguards be put in place, in order to protect the vulnerable.

I think euthanasia should always be the last option, and all medical means should be exhausted to try to give the patient different options.

Whatever way you look at it, euthanasia is a subject which cannot be ignored. There definitely needs to be a national -- if not international -- debate on the subject, maybe even a referendum (where everyone votes on just one issue).


My name is redsky, and I live in Ireland.

 

Did you like this article?
1 Star = Bleh.5 Stars = Props!
Rate it!
Ymail this article to a friend.
Discuss this article in the Forums.

  Back to front page


times@whyville.net
3041