Who Decides? Live or Die?
Euthanasia is a very controversial issue today. By definition, euthanasia is the act or practice of ending the life of an individual suffering from a terminal illness or an incurable condition, as by lethal injection or the suspension of extraordinary medical treatment. Many people feel that this act should never be practiced. Many other people think otherwise. People have their own views towards euthanasia based on different circumstances. Some of the people that agree with euthanasia feel that it is a freedom of choice. Some of the people that disagree with euthanasia feel that it is not another person's right to take someone else's life. Personally, I am not taking sides on this issue. I feel that euthanasia should be legal so that those who consider it will have access to it without the criticism of others. For those who would rather not consider it, they know that it is their personal decision.
The word "euthanasia" comes from the Greek "eu," which means goodly or well and "thanatos," which means death. These two words together indicate "the good death": a welcome way to depart quietly and well from life. It is recorded that during the 1st century B.C., before the onset of Christianity, physicians in ancient Greece and Rome granted the requests of suffering patients to receive poison. The actual usage of the term "euthanasia" did not come into play until the 17th century by Francis Bacon. He was a scientist and philosopher during that time.
The Netherlands became the first country in the world to legalize euthanasia in April 2002. There are no states that have actually legalized euthanasia, but in November 1994, Oregon enacted a physician-assisted suicide law. The U.S. government has been trying to defy this law, but has not yet been successful. During the year 2003, physician-assisted suicide in Oregon had an increase of about ten percent. There were thirty-eight patients who committed suicide legally in 2002 and forty-two patients who killed themselves in 2003.
Pavlat (2006) names strategies for talking to Democrats about euthanasia. The main strategy is to mention that autonomy is a big issue to Americans because it really is. Autonomy is the quality or state of being self-governing. Pavlat states that the desire for self-determination resonates strongly with many Democrats, and they believe that the denial of these rights is un-American. Many people tend to think that patients have suicidal feelings because of their terminal illness. According to Pavlat, suicidal feelings in a person who has been diagnosed with a terminal illness are no different from those experienced by someone who is not terminally ill. Depression, family conflict, hopelessness, feelings of abandonment--these are the conditions that lead to suicidal thoughts, regardless of one's physical state.
Hendin (1995) states that death ought to be hard to sell. He believes that euthanasia is starting to become the answer to illness, disease, and depression because a cure cannot be found to help patients. He states that by rushing to "normalize" euthanasia as a medical option along with accepting or refusing treatment, we are inevitably laying the groundwork for a culture that will not only turn euthanasia into a "cure," but may prove to exert a coercion to die on patients when they are most vulnerable. Coercion is the use of pressure, threats, and/or intimidation to force another to engage in any activity they may disagree with.
"In the fall of 1993, an article was published in the New York Times Magazine capturing the last few weeks of a patient named Louise who was suffering from an unnamed, degenerative neurological disease" (Hendin, 1995, p.19). In this article, she tells that suicide is the last thing on her mind. She does not feel that her symptoms are getting worse but her doctor notifies her that they will. The doctor also calmly notifies Louise that her only option will be euthanasia because once the disease becomes active, it will progress very fast, and she will become mentally helpless and will not be able to care for herself anymore. The only reason Louise agrees to go along with euthanasia is because her doctor, and later a reverend, convince her of it. This is comparable to the way Hendin states how a patient changes their mind about euthanasia.
I believe that euthanasia provides a way to relieve pain. Some patients that have been battling AIDS, cancer, or other diseases for years might choose to end their life. They are simply tired of suffering. No one wants to be alive if they feel that they are slowly wasting away.
There have been many cases where a terminally ill patient might only be suffering from depression. A patient might be thinking that they will never become well again and that they would be better off if they just ended their life. Before the patient considers euthanasia, they should see a psychologist. By doing this, the patient will be able to understand how depression conflicts with their choice of euthanasia.
Alex Schadenberg, president of Ontario's Euthanasia Prevention Coalition said by recognizing the nature of the request for euthanasia we must also recognize the need to keep euthanasia and assisted suicide illegal, in order to prevent vulnerable people from being killed when what they really needed was good care. (White, 2006)
I am a Christian and I see nothing wrong with euthanasia, but there are many who completely opposed it.
Christians are mostly against euthanasia. The arguments are usually based on the beliefs that life is given by God, and that human beings are made in God's image. Some churches also emphasize the importance of not interfering with the natural process of death. (ReligionFacts, 2005)
I believe that a terminally ill patient should not have to deal with a person telling them that euthanasia is an awful decision based on their religion. If a patient really feels that their time is up, they should not have to deal with the criticism of others.
In conclusion, the legalization of euthanasia would be approved by some but also disapproved by some. If euthanasia became legal, those who would choose to practice it would be very thankful that it is available to them. For those who are against it, they might feel very angry that the U.S. would give people the choice of ending their lives. Many people would probably state that this issue would cause a disturbance in the Supreme Court and also, this issue could lead to more activity in the courts, such as suing physicians. Although many people would have their different views on this issue, I would just like for people to understand that you do not have to go along with something you completely disagree with. No one can force you to live and also no one can force you to die, if it is your choice. It's all up to you.
Hendin, Herbert. (1995, May/June). Selling Death and Dignity. Hastings Center Report, 19-23.
Pavlat, E. (2006, April). Pulling the Plug. Crisis Magazine, 24, 12-18.
ReligionFacts. (2005, November 9). Euthanasia and Christianity: Christian Views of Euthanasia and Suicide. Retrieved November 17, 2007 from http://www.religionfacts.com/euthanasia/christianity.htm
White, Hilary. (2006, January 16). Dutch Study Shows Patients Requesting Euthanasia Likely Depressed. Retrieved November 17, 2007 from http://www.lifesite.net/ldn/2006/jan/06011607.html