Euthanasia Should It Be A Legal Option Philosophy Essay

“Euthanasia: The word “euthanasia” comes straight out of the Greek — “eu”, goodly or well plus “thanatos”, death = the good death — and for 18th-century writers in England that was what euthanasia meant, a “good” death, a welcome way to depart quietly and well from life”(MedicineNet.com).

Euthanasia is an issue that has and will remain up for debate for many years and will stay there forever. There are many issues that are focused on when debating the topic of euthanasia. A couple of these things that are always involved are the ethical, moral and political questions concerning euthanasia. The decision of euthanasia is the one issue that can affect anyone, no matter what race, religion or social group the person comes from. Euthanasia is an issue that is always going to be controversial for everyone and is an issue that is felt deeply throughout the world. Congress and other governmental bodies have a responsibility to address euthanasia and look at all facts involved.

When I talk about topics like this, I am truly passionate. I do believe that there should always be great thought and discussion when it comes to something as drastic and difficult as euthanasia.

I personally have worked in the funeral business for several years and in long-term care. I have seen all sides of death. I have had loved ones who have died, been around many families during and after the death of a loved one. I have seen people who have died a number of different ways, many not pleasant.

I have personally experienced what it feels like to watch someone wither away day by day until there is nothing left. I have seen the pain in their eyes, heard the desperation in their voice when they ask god to let them die and release them from the suffering they are going though. It is a very hard thing to do. I have watched cancer patients and many others sit and dread the day that they all know will come when their family has to see them suffering. I have heard them tell family that they wish they could have control over how they are going to die. I believe from the statements that they have expressed to me that they feel this way, because then they could prepare their families and have their families understand that when they feel like they are at a point of misery they could choose not to suffer anymore.

When you sit with someone and try to comfort them as they are dying, you are able to see all of the fear and pain by the look in their eyes. I was with someone in this situation; I held her hand as the tears ran down her face as she trembled from fear of the unknown. This was a heart retching experience because throughout the time I had known her I grew very close to her. The reason I am telling you this is that before she reached this point in her life all she spoke about was her desire to die before she reached the point of suffering every day.

The first time that I remember watching anything in the news about assisted suicide was when Dr. Jack Kevorkian made it into the public eye. As a young adult, I remember watching everything in the news about Dr. Jack Kevorkian and the assisted suicides that he orchestrated. I know at that time in my life I was not able to understand all aspects fully of what was really happening. After doing much research on Dr. Jack Kevorkian I understand his feeling of needing to help people. Euthanasia is the way he knew how to help them. From what I have read most average people in society think, he is a monster or the devil, but many doctors do agree with his outlook on the terminal ill. From the information that I have read there were assisted suicide happening throughout the entire span of his career. Below is some information that I was able to find on the history of Dr. Jack Kevorkian.

Timeline of Dr. Jack Kevorkian’s Life

· 1952- He graduated from University of Michigan medical school with a specialty in pathology.

· 1956- He published a journal article, “The Fundus Oculi and the Determination of Death,” discussing his efforts to photograph the eyes of dying patients, a practice that earned him the nickname “Doctor Death.”

· 1980’s- He publishes numerous articles in the obscure German journal Medicine and law outlining his ideas on euthanasia and ethics.

· 1989- Kevorkian builds his “suicide machine” in his Royal Oak, Michigan, apartment.

· November 20, 1991- The state Board of Medicine summarily revokes Kevorkian’s license to practice medicine in Michigan.

· April 27, 1993- A California law judge suspends Kevorkian’s medical license after a request from the state’s medical board.

· March 14, 1998- Marks Kevorkian’s 100th assisted suicide.

· April 13, 1999- Oakland County Circuit Judge Jessica Cooper sentenced Kevorkian to 10-25 years in prison for second-degree murder and 3-7 years for delivery of a controlled substance.

· June 1, 2007 Kevorkian was released from prison.

(All information dealing with Timeline of Dr. Jack Kevorkian’s Life) (Detroit Local News)

One thing that I find very interesting about his situation is that throughout all for the deaths that he helped with, he faced criminal charges with a lot of them, but he was always acquitted or the case would be dropped. I read that the total number of patients that he assisted ended up being around 130 people.

Now let us discuss the pros and cons of legalizing euthanasia. Many strong emotions surface when talking about a topic like euthanasia. I have read so much from both sides of legalizing euthanasia. I believe that the main arguments for the legalization come from personal experiences and the argument against it is personal opinions and worries. The worries seem to be based on the fact of doctors performing euthanasia on unwilling/unknowing patients. Which, in my opinion is a good point. I strongly believe that the fear for god needs to be instilled in any doctor that may consider performing euthanasia/assisted suicide. The choice should solely be that of the patient and no one else’s.

Pros

Cons

“Americans should enjoy a right guaranteed in the European Declaration of Human Rights — the right not to be forced to suffer. It should be considered as much of a crime to make someone live who with justification does not wish to continue as it is to take life without consent.”

— Faye Girsh, Ed.D.

Winter 2001

“Laws against euthanasia and assisted suicide are in place to prevent abuse and to protect people from unscrupulous doctors and others. They are not and never have been, intended to make anyone suffer.”

— International Task Force on Euthanasia and Assisted Suicide

Aug. 9, 2006

“Especially with regard to taking life, slippery slope arguments have long been a feature of the ethical landscape, used to question the moral permissibility of all kinds of acts… The situation is not unlike that of a doomsday cult that predicts time and again the end of the world, only for followers to discover the next day that things are pretty much as they were…

— R.G. Frey, D.Phil.

1998

September 1991 official government Remmelink Report on euthanasia in the Netherlands revealed that at least 1,040 people die every year from involuntary euthanasia. Their physicians were so consumed with compassion that they decided not to disturb the patients by asking their opinion on the matter.”

— Nat Hentoff

Oct. 3, 1992

“If the prevention and relief of suffering are the aims of medical interventions — and not only the preservation or prolongation of life — it seems imperative to rethink our profession’s reluctance to participate in euthanasia or even be present during an assisted suicide without legal guarantees of protection.”

— Sherwin Nuland, MD

Feb. 24, 2000

“The prohibition against killing patients … stands as the first promise of self-restraint sworn to in the Hippocratic Oath, as medicine’s primary taboo: ‘I will neither give a deadly drug to anybody if asked for it, nor will I make a suggestion to this effect’…”

— Leon Kass, MD, PhD

1989

Chart Above: (Procon.org)

Euthanasia and physician-assisted suicide is a topic in which everyone is going to have an opinion. There are going to be different reasons to support different opinions. Below are some (pro and con) quotes, some unexpected.

(Pro) “My Administration is dedicated to the preservation of America as a free land, and there is no cause more important for preserving that freedom than affirming the transcendent right to life of all human beings, the right without which no other rights have any meaning”(Ronald Reagan, former U.S. president).

(Pro) “A man, even if seriously sick or prevented in the exercise of its higher functions, is and will be always a man … [he] will never become a ‘vegetable’ or an ‘animal,’” the Pope said. “The intrinsic value and personal dignity of every human being does not change depending on their circumstance” (Pope John Paul II, 2004).

(Con)”You matter because you are you. You matter to the last moment of your life, and we will do all we can, not only to help you die peacefully, but also to live until you die” (Dame Cicely Saunders, founder of Hospice).

(Pro) “The fundamental question about euthanasia: Whether it is a libertarian movement for human freedom and the right of choice, or an aggressive drive to exterminate the weak, the old, and the different, this question can now be answered. It is both” (Fenigsen, Richard).

–Above Quotes: (Euthanasia.com)

The next information that I want to give you is about some of the laws in place when dealing with euthanasia. In my opinion, anyone that makes laws dealing with euthanasia must ask themselves some of the following questions. People have to ask themselves what they would want if they were in a condition where they were unable to take care of themselves in any way at all. If a person knew that death, was around the corner and the only thing keeping them alive, would be medications, feeding tubes, or machines what would they do? If a person is unable to make the choice to kill their own body then, truly who has the right to their body, society?

Now, let us talk about the different places that have already legalized euthanasia or a form of euthanasia. There are four countries where euthanasia is legal. Belgium, the Netherlands, Switzerland, and the United States are the countries that have legalized it at least in certain areas/states. The status of euthanasia as a legal option for ending one’s own life is in a state of legal limbo in many other countries/states because of the complexity of the issues.

The first state within the United States to legalize euthanasia, assisted suicide was the state of Oregon. “On November 8, 1994 Oregon became the first state to legalize assisted suicide when voters passed a tightly restricted Death with Dignity Act. But legal appeals kept the law from taking effect” (Detroit Local News). This law seemed to shock many people throughout the United States. “On November 5, 1997 Oregon residents voted to uphold the states suicide law, the first kind in the nation. The law allows doctors to prescribe lethal doses of drugs to terminally ill patients” (Detroit Local News). If you read the Death with Dignity Act, you will learn that there are strict rules and procedures that must be followed in order to participate in this Act

The second state to legalize euthanasia/assisted suicide was Washington. Washington had a harder time trying to pass a law legalizing euthanasia/assisted suicide. The state of Washington tried to pass a euthanasia law three times before the law was finally passed in 2008. As of 1997, there was a law that forbidden assisted suicide. It declared that assisted a suicide was a felony: “A person guilty of [that crime] when he knowingly causes or aids another to attempt suicide” (Ninth Circuit Court).

Respondents, four Washington physicians who occasionally treat terminally ill, suffering patients, declare that they would assist these patients in ending their lives if not for the State’s assisted suicide ban”( Ninth Circuit Court).The Ninth Circuit’s and respondents’ various descriptions of the interest here at stake-e.g. a right to “determine the time and manner of one’s death,” the “right to die,” a “liberty to choose how to die,” and “the liberty to shape death”-run counter to that second requirement. Since the Washington statute prohibits “aiding another person to attempt suicide,” the question before the court is more properly characterized as whether the “liberty” specially protected by the clause includes a right to commit suicide which itself includes a right to assistance in doing so. This asserted right has no place in our nation’s traditions, given the country’s consistent, almost universal, and continuing rejection of the right, even for terminally ill, mentally competent adults”( Ninth Circuit Court).

In 2008, all of the counter dictions in Washington’s laws were looked and carefully and the euthanasia/assisted suicide was legalized. Washington based their euthanasia law on Oregon’s Death with Dignity Act.

When making decisions congress/legislation needs to be focused on the protection of the terminally ill or dying patient’s right to self-determination. At the same time, they must take the necessary steps to recognize that, a terminally ill or dying patient’s wish to die never constitutes any legal claim to die at the hand of another person. It also must be recognized that a terminally ill or dying patient’s wish to die should never constitute any legal action being taken against someone who has justification to carry out any actions intended to bring about death, such as assisting by not calling (911) or other emergency services.

The statement above I believe is why two other states have found it important to legalize forms of euthanasia. These two states are Texas and Montana. These states laws read similar to each other.

Texas Euthanasia Laws

Code Section

Health & Safety 166.45-51

Euthanasia Condoned in Statutes?

Mercy killing or euthanasia is not condoned or authorized by Texas law, nor is any act or omission other than to allow the natural process of dying.

Effect of Withholding of Life-Sustaining Procedures

Withdrawal or withholding of life-sustaining procedures does not constitute offense of Aiding Suicide

(Findlaw/Texas)

Montana Euthanasia Laws

Code Section

50-9-205; 50-10-104

Euthanasia Condoned in Statutes?

Montana’s Right of the Terminally Ill Act does not condone, authorize, or approve mercy killing or euthanasia.

Effect of Withholding of Life-Sustaining Procedures

Death resulting from the withholding or withdrawal of life-sustaining procedures pursuant to a valid DNR order is not, for any purpose, suicide or homicide.

(Findlaw/Montana)

If the governments of the countries are unclear on the euthanasia laws, it is unfair in law that the average citizen would be charged with understanding and abiding by the same laws or face criminal charges. The final decision to legalize euthanasia is left up the congress/government that is unable to honestly understand what the patient is going through, how they are disintegrating, and their agony. Many terminally ill patients have the feeling that they should have the means to leave this world when they are ready and they should never have the fear of being faced any higher authority telling them that ending their own life is illegal. Some patients feel that they have lost the right to control their own lives and destiny.

I truly believe that all laws like this must have stipulations. This does not allow everyone to kill themselves just because of depression or something along those lines. I feel that in cases discussed throughout this paper about the terminally ill and dying people that laws like these can relieve a lot of pain and stress for them as well as their families.

Throughout everything that I have read about euthanasia, a few people and/or situations have made an impact on the way I think about euthanasia. I honestly feel that when one takes their own life (when terminally ill), they are hurting no one but they are taking away all the pain they are suffering. Terminally ill patients fear the fact of being alive but not living. I believe that by providing euthanasia as a legal option it would allow the patient to die with dignity, to have the right to die when and how they want without suffering. They also feel that it may ease the worry and stress placed on family members. A family may feel overwhelmed and confused when a family member is very ill and dying. The family could decide to move them to a care facility or some other type of institution; however, this move could prompt an ill person to take their life while alone and scared. When a terminally ill patient is unable to take their life into their own hands, it places an agonizing responsibility on the family. If the patient is coherent when making the choice of euthanasia then the family members should not be forced to choose between respecting the wishes of a loved one and obeying the law when it comes to their loved one suffering. Most family members are motivated solely by their love, dedication, and compassion for the ill family member, and the need, at least in their mind, to help the family member so that there is no more suffering and pain.

The first person I would like to tell you about is an author by the name of Derek Humphry, he has written many books, essays, journals, newsletters and much more on the topic of euthanasia. After reading some of his work, I know that he believes very strongly about the information that he is providing to the public. His passion for legalizing euthanasia (which he calls ‘self-deliverance’) stems from the death of his first wife. She suffered from breast cancer that spread to her bones and then metastasized to all her vital organs. When she reached the point of complete misery after two years of battling this cancer she choose to end her life with the help of her husband ,Derek Humphry. He wrote a book called “Jean’s Way”, it tells the heartbreaking story in detail. You can also read parts of the story on his web page at http://www.finalexit.org /lit-essays.html. It will pull at your heartstrings.

In an essay that appears in a book of his he writes; “One is ’emotional suicide’, or irrational self-murder, in all of it complexities and sadness. I believe that there is a second form of suicide — justifiable suicide, which is rational and planned deliverance from a painful and hopeless disease.”(Humphry, Derek).

Another person that caught my attention was an attorney named Dick Marty, of Switzerland.

“He presented a report to the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe on the Committee for Social, Health and Family affairs asking the Committee to consider enabling legislation to confirm that euthanasia is legal among the Council States and further demonstrating the trend in Europe towards addressing euthanasia in a multi-national forum” (Assembly debate). The report explained in detail the need to bring the laws of Europe in line with the reality of the suffering of terminally ill patients and the practice of euthanasia that, according to the report, was confined to the shadows of discretion or secrecy and, though illegal in most Council of Europe member states, are rarely punished” (Assembly debate).

Throughout Mr.Dick Marty proposal to legislation, he explained that they need to create laws in order to protect the interests of the people who are suffering and making an end-of-life decision.

After seeing everything that I have I sincerely believe that terminally ill patients should have the right to have a doctor-assisted suicide or euthanasia as a legal option when they know that they are going to be suffering. Euthanasia should be legal so patients can die with dignity. However, I strongly believe that there must be rules and stipulations that accompany the legalization of euthanasia. Many people believe that it should be an individual’s right to choose when and how they want to die when they are terminally ill. Any person that has worked or cared for an elderly or a terminally ill individual knows that it may be a very stressful, saddening experience and just plain hard thing for most people to do especially if the person is a family member.

The terminally ill want to have the choice to die with dignity. By this I mean, die without withering away, and suffering. This decision also includes being able to make the choice that gives a patient the feeling of relief and peace when they know for certain that their suffering is over when they choose. To me death with dignity also means dying while one still has a meaningful quality of life. Some people feel that euthanasia is better than watching someone die from failure to thrive (not eating or drinking). A lot tend to survive only by depending on large amounts of painkillers, other medications, and being allowed to slip away in a nursing home, hospital or even in their own homes alone and scared. When a person is able to make the choice about living or dying when they are terminally ill it seems to give them a sense that they still matter and are important to their family and friends.

In conclusion, the legal community must address the issue of euthanasia because the population is eventually going to confront them with end-of-life issues. We are all aware that the elderly/terminally ill population is growing. As people have learned to face their destiny, they have also learned that having a legally binding end-of-life directive or living will has afforded individuals facing terminal decisions more freedom of individual choice. The legal and political communities have begun to address euthanasia to provide individuals with definitive answers on their rights, however, it will likely be decades before individual countries and the international community have defined what euthanasia means, let alone how euthanasia should be regulated and administered or if euthanasia should be an option at all.

Everyone that has an opinion needs to think whose opinion matters the most, theirs or the terminally ill patients.

Work Cited

Assembly debate on 10 December (see Doc. 9898, 24th sitting, report of the Social, Health and Family Affairs Committee, rapporteur: Mr. Marty) (Extract from the Official Gazette of the Council of Europe -June 1999) Print.

Detroit Local News, Click on Detroit. “Timeline of Dr. Jack Kevorkian’s Life”. Detroit Local News- WDIV Detroit May 24, 2007: www.Clickondetroit.com/news/13382296/detail.html.

Euthanasia.com Richard Fenigsen, Pope John Paul II, 2004, Ronald Reagan, former U.S. President, Dame Cicely Saunders, founder of hospice http://www.euthanasia.com/quotationsoneuthanasia .html

FindLaw Law/Texas, Legal Information – . Ed. Thomson Reuters Business. Aspen Publishers Online. Web.12 Nov. 2009. .

FindLaw Law/Montana, Legal Information. Ed. Thomson Reuters Business. Aspen Publishers Online. Web. 12 Nov. 2009. .

Humphry, Derek. “Tread carefully when you help to Dir.” The World Right-to-Die Newsletter 41 (June 2002). Print.

Marty, Mr. Dick. United States. Social, Health and Family Affairs Committee. Official Gazette of the Council of Europe. Parliamentary Assembly Cong., Debate sess. Cong. Rept.9898. Europe: Official Gazette, 1999. Print.

MedicineNet, Inc. “MedicineNet.com.” (Last Editorial Review: 11/13/1998) http://www.medterms.com/script/main/art.asp?articlekey=7365.

ProCon.org, “ProCon-Should euthanasia or physician -assisted suicide be legal?”. November 13, 2009 .

Ninth Circuit, Court. (Argued January 8, 1997 — Decided June 26, 1997). Supreme Court of the United States. Washington State. No. 96-110.