Saturday, October 30, 2010
Do I have the right to end my own life?
The day will come when people will also be able to carry a card, notarized and legally executed, which explains that they do not want to be kept alive beyond the humanum point, and authorizing the ending of their biological processes by any of the methods of euthanasia which seems appropriate.... Suicide may or may not be the ultimate problem of philosophy, as Albert Camus thought it is, but in any case it is the ultimate problem of medical ethics. (Baird and Rosenbaum 95)
Looking back, the above-quoted article was only a prophecy in 1979 but around five years later, the prediction became a reality in Oregon. As of 2004, euthanasia was legal in Oregon. “Currently in the United States the only state where physician-assisted dying, in the form of assisted-suicide, is legal is in Oregon” (Zanskas, and Coduti, cited Quill 2004) and three more states followed after. Despite the fact the euthanasia is legal in a few United States (US) states and in some European countries, it is not a settled issue. “Euthanasia is legal in the Netherlands” (Welie), and Belgium while suicide is legal in Switzerland. ("Miracle Survival of the" 9) In fact, “In 2003, 1,626 cases of euthanasia were reported in Holland. Usually, a sedative is given to induce a coma, followed by a muscle relaxant to stop the breathing." (“Miracle…”)
Debates and many deliberations, programs and critics in favor of and against euthanasia and/or assisted suicide, are ongoing public spectacle. What does each side say? Who sounds more reasonable? Which side sounds more practical? Euthanasia, if applied rightfully and for the right reasons and timing can be advantageous but once abused or a mistake is committed, it becomes futile outright. Thus, it may be perceived from a lot of angles and perspectives and has various implications vis-à-vis each scenario. There would be thousands of points to present what the proponents of euthanasia want to emphasize to support their cause and the same is true for the opposing side, those who are against the practice. Even the perspective in looking at these points are so many, such as ethical, psychological, medical, legal, religious, medical ethics and the likes. This paper is dwelling on a single strong reason for each side.
"I have terminal cancer. To have a terminal disease drag on, to endure the pain is absolute hell. At the end, I want the choice to accept treatment, to refuse treatment, to die on my own terms in a dignified manner." (Hillyard, and Dombrink 1)
Above, in the preceding paragraph, was the pro-reform television advertisement from the 1991 Washington Initiative 119 campaign. The statement obviously denotes “freedom” of the person involved. “Those who plead for the legalization of euthanasia think that it is cruel to allow a human being to linger for months in the last stage of aging, weakness and decay, and to refuse him his demand for merciful release.” (Hillyard, and Dombrink 20 cited Williams 1969:134) Indeed, if one has to live and yet only live to suffer, make his or her loved ones suffer, what is the point of living at all?
On the other hand, euthanasia is very susciptible to abuse. Some patients may opt for euthanasia or assisted suicide only to save their family from financial distress. "In Oregon, 83% of doctors stated that financial pressures were a factor in a patient's request to die. (Zanskas, and Coduti cited Bilchik, 1996) Some fear that a right to die may soon become a duty to die, in order to eliminate families from financial ruin. Thus, opting to terminate one’s own life in this manner is nothing else but a plain suicide. From a religious perspective, "Pope John Paul II sought to emphasize that life is sacred and to counteract these vicious trends in the encyclical The Gospel of Life, and carried this message throughout the world on his many journeys. " (Hamel and Walter 243)
Which side has a stronger reason? In fact both sides have their own good reason but since no one can make everything perfect, it is more likely that euthanasia will be abused. In this regard, it is safe not to practice it. However, given that there is a strict set of rules in controlling the process, euthanasia would be a great help for suffering patients.
Baird, Robert M., and Stuart E. Rosenbaum, eds. The Moral Issues The Moral Issues. Buffalo, NY: Prometheus Books, 1989.
Hamel, Ronald P., and James J. Walter, eds. Artificial Nutrition and Hydration and the Permanently Unconscious Patient: The Catholic Debate. Washington, DC: Georgetown University Press, 2007.
Hillyard, Daniel, and John Dombrink. Dying Right: The Death with Dignity Movement. London: Routledge, 2001.
"Miracle Survival of the Woman Doctors Were Going to Let Die; SENIOR CONSULTANT ADVISED 84-YEAR-OLD'S DRIP SHOULD BE REMOVED." The Evening Standard (London, England) 14 Oct. 2005: 9.
Welie, Jos V.M. "Why Physicians? Reflections on the Netherlands' New Euthanasia Law." The Hastings Center Report 32.1 (2002): 42+.
Zanskas, Steve, and Wendy Coduti. "Eugenics, Euthanasia, and Physician Assisted Suicide: An Overview for Rehabilitation Professionals." The Journal of Rehabilitation 72.1 (2006): 27+.