I'm in year 9 and this is for philosophy
Is Euthanasia Ethical?
‘In life there are two things that we can be sure of: death and tax.’ Death is a major part of our existence and is unavoidable. It is something that for century’s humans have feared and tried to understand. In the past people lives were significantly shorter due to disease. In today’s world medicine has enabled life to be prolonged but it fails in some cases to keep the quality. It’s in these cases that some patients would prefer to have a dignified death rather then a long painful one. This is the issue of euthanasia. Euthanasia means ‘good death’ in Greek and it has come to mean the intentional end of a person’s life to stop their suffering. In the past there have been different views on suicide and euthanasia. For example the ancient Greeks and Romans accepted euthanasia for their seriously injured soldiers. In our society it has become more relevant because of the way we prolong life. The prolonging of life is due to better medicine and the Hippocratic Oath. This oath is taken by doctors who swear to preserve life at all costs. However some doctors believe that the goal of medicine is to relieve suffering. This means that some doctors will act on what is called the double effect. This usually includes a legal but lethal dosing of a drug like morphine which relieves the pain. The view of religious groups such as the Christian, Jewish and Islamic faiths believe that life is sacred and must be preserved. These religious groups believe that life is a gift from God. However in today’s society people have different ideas on whether they support or condone euthanasia despite their up bringing and beliefs.
All people die one way or another due to our frail existence. In some cases there is a want to end a life before a person has a chance to suffer. This is the action of Euthanasia. However there are many different ways and means of committing the act of euthanasia. Euthanasia can be voluntary or involuntary. Voluntary euthanasia refers to a person who is of a sound mind and understands the consequences of what he or she wants. Involuntary euthanasia is very controversial because it occurs without the patients consent. Another person usually a close relative makes the decision. Two other key terms are active euthanasia and passive euthanasia. These terms refer to the way a person is euthanatized. Active euthanasia is when a doctor directly and deliberately gives the person something to shorten their life. Passive euthanasia is the most common way of someone been killed in countries where it is illegal. It is the case where doctors withhold or withdraw treatment that sustains life. It can be seen by these terminologies that there are complications overlapping them. It is these terms that make the euthanasia debate such a strong one.
“The prime goal of medicine is to alleviate suffering and not to prolong life…when the terminally ill patient has reached this stage the best medical treatment is death.” This pro-euthanasia statement by the late doctor Christiaan Barnard is at complete odds with what doctors normally practise. However there are many reasons why people wish to die. Some of these reasons included being in constant, unbearable pain and have untreatable or incurable illnesses. These are believed to be valid reasons for euthanasia to occur. Some people believe that humans should have as much control over their own life as possible. That is the right to die and the right to die with dignity. Dignity comes into it because when a person is suffering from a terminal illness the treatment can be almost as bad as the ailment. This is where people need to ask themselves what is more important; the quality of life or the sanctity of life? Another argument for legalizing euthanasia is to stop doctors resorting to the double effect which is practised in place where it is against the law. These assisted suicides often go unreported and can’t be reviewed to make sure everything went right. By making it legal it would bring it under the control of the medical profession and cases could be monitored, as there would be a striked set of guidelines to follow. These guidelines have been tested and proven to work in countries where it has been legalized. It has also shown that legalizing euthanasia has not increase the amount of people wanting to die. Support for euthanasia is high with around 8 in 10 Australians supporting its legalization.
“I will prescribe regimen for the good of my patients according to my ability and my judgment and never do harm to anyone. To please no one will I prescribe a deadly drug nor give advice which may cause his death.” These are lines taken from the Hippocratic Oath. This oath was made in the 4th century and even today is very highly regarded. Its main principle is to treat people to the best of your ability. This is the basis of most medical objections to euthanasia. Doctors today still feel strongly about this oath; so they don’t believe that killing someone could ever be considered an act of mercy. Doctors also fear that legalizing euthanasia could lead to their patients loss of trust. Another group that is against euthanasia is the Christian church. St. Augustine, one of the main figures in the Christian church had his views on euthanasia. They are basically say that life is precious, that it must be preserved at all costs and that it is up to God where and when we die. This opinion is shared by many of the other churches. All anti-euthanasia groups fear the ‘Slippery slope’ effect. This is the fear that once we start euthanizing people it will be difficult to keep control and they don’t want people to be desensitize to euthanasia. This could lead to the elderly and the severely ill feeling that they have the duty to die. Especially in this time of financial insecurity, where any extra pressure is a burden on the community. These groups have differing ideas on euthanasia but whether it be a duty of care, religious beliefs or just a fear of death they are all against it.
The euthanasia debate is very complex with many groups having different reasons for supporting it or condemning it. It is difficult to understand it unless individual cases are looked at. One of these cases is that of Theresa Schindler or as she was known to the world ‘Terri’. Her case was highly publicised and controversial because of the factors involved. She was born in 1963 in America. In 1990 at the age of 27 she had a cardio-repertory arrest. When she arrived at the hospital it was found that her brain had been damaged due to lack of oxygen. This left her in a state where she was forced to use a ventilator. She recovered to the point where she could keep her vitals up but was left in a condition where she was dependent on others. She needed to be tube feed to sustain her nutrients and keep her hydrated. In 1993 Theresa’s husband (Michael) stoped most therapies and entered a “Do Not Resuscitate” order. Dr. Jay Wolfson said that Michael’s decision was made after finding that there was no hope of significant recovery. Then in 1998 Michael started a seven year fight against Theresa’s parents. He wanted to stop Theresa’s tube feeding. Michael believed that Theresa wouldn’t want to live the way she was but her parents argued that she was a devoted Roman Catholic and wouldn’t go against the will of the church. Michael won but lost when the parents appealed. Finally after numerous court cases on February the 18th 2005 Michael won the right to remove the tubes. Theresa Schindler died thirteen days later of dehydration. This is a case of passive, involuntary euthanasia where the patient was allowed to die without their consent. This case went though many of the complexities that are found in euthanasia.
This topic of euthanasia has raised many ethical, religious and legal questions. It has many pros and cons which people all over the world have to question. It has many different parts some of which are more controversial than others such as involuntary euthanasia. This denies humans of their right to choose their own path. While euthanasia in its simplest form we are still allowing someone to kill themselves. Despite this there are people who still believe that it is the right thing to do. They believe that all humans have the right to a dignified exit. Others believe that in no way is our death our right but Gods and that there are no circumstances for it. Some fear for the consequences of allowing people to choose their own death; because people may feel that they are a financial and emotional burden and feel the duty to die. All these groups have strong opinions on the issue of euthanasia. It can be seen that it is not a simple topic. Each case needs to be looked at individually. One realises though that as medicine improves and our lives are prolonged even further that the question of euthanasia will become even more prevalent.
By * * 9A
2. Euthanasia: Religion and Ethics
3. The Ethics of Euthanasia
4. Theresa Marie Schindler
5. ActNow – Story of Euthanasia
6. Terrie’s Story
1. Gifford, Clive (2004). World Issues: Euthanasia . London : Chrysalis Children's Books.
2. Gott, R, & Linden, R (1993). No Easy Way Out: The Euthanasia Debate.Australia : CIS Publishers.
3. Jackson, Linda (2005). Just The Facts: Euthanasia. Great Britan : Heinemann Library .
4. Landau, Elaine (1993). The Right To Die. America: Library of Congress.
5. Healey , Justine (Ed.). (2002). Issues in Society: The Euthanasia Debate. Australia : The Spinney Press.
6. Healey , Justine (Ed.). (2008). Issues in Society: Voluntary Euthanasia. Australia : The Spinney Press.
Thx for the help