.. her relevant medical records and confirm in writing, the attending physicians diagnosis that the patient is suffering from a terminal disease, and verify that the patient is capable, is acting voluntarily and has made an informed decision” (“Section 3”). Not every patient who had applied under the Death with Dignity Act followed through, and those who did were able to have friends present with them at the end (Brazil). An individual has a right to request the withdrawal or withholding of medical treatment, even if doing so will result in the persons death. Honoring a persons right to refuse medical treatment, especially at the end of life, is the most widely practiced and widely accepted right to die policy in our society.
Most medical, legal, and ethical authorities agree that no ethical decision exists between an individuals request to have life-sustaining treatment removed and a request to withhold this treatment (“Part 2”). Proponents of the right to die have focused mainly on establishing and clarifying patients legal rights to make decisions about their own medical care at the end of their lives. “It was assumed that most health care providers, assured that the law permits them to do so, would respect the decisions of their patient, or of their patients appointed decision-maker” (“Part 3”). “As a result, most advance directive laws impose no adverse consequences on providers who refuse to follow the instructions of an advance directive, and may foster the belief among some that noncompliance is legally acceptable” (“Part 3”). “In recent years, however, it has become apparent that a health care provider who imposes medical treatment contrary to the instructions left in advance directive may be guilty of medical battery” (“Part 3”).
Every year 2 million people die in America alone. 80 percent die in hospitals, hospices or nursing homes. Chronic diseases, such as heart disease or cancer, account for two out of every three deaths. It is estimated that approximately 70 percent of these people die after the decision to forgo life-sustaining treatment (“Part 4”). “Deciding what is right is especially difficult when the permissibility of deliberately ending a human life is involved”(Cauthen). In these extreme situations, the rules of morality are stretched to the breaking point.
Nearly everyone would agree that in some cases it would be socially acceptable to end a life deliberately, such as: self-defense, capital punishment, or intentional suicide by a spy to prevent interrogation tortures (Cauthen). This fact tells us that killing a person is not always and necessarily looked down upon and regarded as a wrong, and that it all depends on the circumstances at hand (Cauthen): In some situations the choice of the patient takes priority over the other considerations: Consider a person with an incurable disease, illness, or a severe disability such that life has become so unbearable and racked with pain or so burdensome that desirable, meaningful, purposeful existence has ceased. Suppose that person says, My life is no longer worth living; I can not stand it any longer; I want to end it now to avoid further pain, indignity, torment, and despair, in the end after all alternatives have been thoroughly considered, the person should have the right to make a choice to die and that choice should be honored and followed through with. The role of the physician is to do what is best for the patient, and in some extreme situations this may include hastening death upon a voluntary request of the dying (Cauthen). “I suggest that the question should be put this way: What is the best thing I could do to help my patients in whatever circumstances arising given my special knowledge and skills? In nearly every case the answer would be to heal, to prolong life, to reduce suffering, to restore health and physical well being, i.e. to preserve and enhance life.
But in some extremes, hopeless circumstances, the best service a physician can render may be to help a person hasten death in order to relieve intolerable, unnecessary suffering that makes life unbearable as judged by the patient. This would be enlargement of the physicians role, not a contradiction of it” (Cauthen). Sometimes ending suffering takes priority over extending life. When death becomes preferable to life, everyone would benefit if it were legal to show mercy (“Euthanasia”). One of the greatest assistants to the euthanasia movement was Dr.
Jack Kevorkian. Dr. Kevorkian assisted over 100 people and even made a machine to do so. In 1986, Dr. Kevorkian discovered that some doctors in the Netherlands were helping their patients who were terminally ill, or who were suffering unbearable amounts of pain and suffering to die. This news caused him to take an interest in dying patients and to get him involved in a campaign to legitimize physician assisted suicide.
In 1989, Dr. Kevorkian learned about a man with quadriplegia, paralysis of the arms and legs, who had made a public announcement for help to end his life (“Kevorkian” 2). Dr. Kevorkian then attempted to invent a device that people who were too incapacitated to end their own lives by other means could by simply pushing a button. He eventually made a device he called the Thanatron, Greek for “Death Machine,” which administered an anesthetic and then a lethal injection of potassium chloride through an intravenous line. Potassium chloride causes the heart to stop beating and is the substance used in executions by lethal injection.
Dr. Kevorkian gained publicity through media coverage of his device. In 1989, Janet Adkins, a 54-year-old woman with Alzheimers disease, contacted Dr, Kevorkian and requested assistance (“Kevorkian” 2). In 1990, Adkins became the first person to die using the Thanatron in Kevorkians presence. Dr.
Kevorkian asked his own patients to donate their vital organs or undergo a critical medical experiment to benefit science, medicine, society, and the lives of others (“Dr. J. Kevorkian”). Perhaps the most common form of passive euthanasia is to give a patient a large dose of morphine to control pain, in spite of the likelihood of the painkiller suppressing the heart and respiration, causing death earlier than it would otherwise occur. “These procedures are performed on terminally ill, suffering people so that natural death would occur sooner.” It is also done on people in a persistent vegetative-state, or individuals with massive brain damage who are in a coma from which they cannot possibly regain their consciousness (“Passive Euthanasia”). Compassion and benevolence demand that we legalize assisted death for the sake of the ill and those who love them (Cauthen). Other methods of relieving the suffering of terminally ill patients are: giving medicine to relieve intolerable suffering despite the fact that it hastens death, providing continuous anesthetic, high levels of medicine to induce terminal sedation, giving medicine to relieve pain and hasten death, and administering a lethal injection that causes death quickly in order to relieve suffering (Cauthen).
Some people argue that patients would be frightened that their physicians might kill them without their permission, but this is not a valid concern, because the patient would first have to request assistance in dying. If that individual didnt ask for suicide assistance, their physician would continue to preserve and extend their patients life (“Passive Euthanasia”). “With the further graying of our countrys population, no doubt, the discussion will intrude into more and more corners of our lives” (“Legality”). Euthanasia is a practice that should be opened to all who want it. It is a practice that should be legalized to benefit the terminally and mentally ill and the physically and mentally disabled people who are in intolerable pain and suffering from tremendous self- pity. Bibliography Work Cited Brazil, Janet. “Enduring the End of Life.” (April 17, 2000). Cauthen, Kenneth.
“Physician-Assisted Suicide and Euthanasia.” (April 16, 2000). “Compassion in Dying.” (April 16, 2000). Domin, Father Edward. Personal interview. April 21, 2000. “Dr.
Jack Kevorkian and Practices:” (April 16, 2000). Egendorf, Laura K. Assisted Suicide Current Controversies. San Diego: Greenhaven Press, Inc., 1998: 116. “Euthanasia Research and Guidance Organization.” (April 16, 2000). Jamison, Kay Redfield.
Night Falls Fast: Understanding Suicide. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1999: 13. “Kevorkian, Jack.” Microsoft Encarta Encyclopedia 99. CD-ROM. Microsoft Corp., 1998: 2. “Legality.” (April 16, 2000).
“New England Journal of Medicine, The.” (April 16, 2000). “Part 2.” (April 16, 2000). “Part 3.” (April 16, 2000). “Part 4.” (April 16, 2000). “Passive Euthanasia.” (April 16, 2000). “Physician-Assisted Suicide.” (April 16, 2000). “Right to Die Society of Canada, The.” (April 16, 2000). “Section 2.” (April 16, 2000).
“Section 3.” (April 16, 2000). Van Biema, David. “Deaths Door Left Ajar.” Time July 7, 1997: 30.