Today there are five to ten thousand comatose patients in long term care facilities (Wheeler A1). There are countless elderly people in care facilities that have repeatedly expressed a desire to die. There are countless terminally ill patients that have also begged for death. Should these people be allowed to die, or should they be forced to keep on living? This question has plagued ethicists and physicians throughout the years.

In the Netherlands, courts have begun to permit the administration of lethal injections to terminally ill patients (Jacoby 101). To many people, this is a barbaric practice. To others, it is the only humane thing to do. When a person is dying of a terminal illness with no hope of recovery, that person should be allowed to die if they wish. Deliberately keeping them alive to endure the pain and suffering of their illness is the barbaric practice. If they wish death, death should be given to them. Activists for the “Right to Life” don’t stop to consider the right to die. I believe that the Right to Die is as sacred a right as the Right to Life. People who believe in the Right to Die are not alone. The Hemlock Society, which advocates the right to die for terminally ill patients claims to have 28,000 members in forty chapters nationwide (Derr 3).

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One of the controversies over the right to die is: who should choose? If the patient is comatose or is unable to make rational judgements, should the doctor or a family member be permitted to make the final decision? If family members were allowed to make the decision Right to Life advocates claim, a family member could get away with the murder of a relative just because that person can’t make up their own mind. Right to Death advocates have a simple answer to this problem. Every person should have a ‘Living Will’ which simply states that that person wishes death if they are fatally injured or become terminally ill. A ‘Living Will’ would permit people to make their own decisions about life and death with no possibility of being misunderstood.

Today, Holland has legal euthanasia where an estimate for the figures for deaths from active euthanasia would be in the range of six to eighteen thousand deaths (Moody 712). This number may seem horrible to some, but to others, it simply means another six to eighteen thousand people who are no longer suffering.

I do not know why the Advocates for the Right to Life insist on keeping people who are suffering alive, but I do know that they have no right to dictate to a person whether or not they have the right to die. I can understand the concern of these people that euthanasia might be used for unethical killings, such as the Nazis did in World War II, but if euthanasia were strictly regulated to include only those who had specifically asked for euthanasia, or those who had asked for it in living wills, then what happened in Germany could be prevented.

When someone is suffering extreme pain from an injury or a terrible disease, do we deny them drugs to make them more comfortable? Of course not. I see no reason to deny the same suffering and dying people the comfort of death.

* Derr, Patrick. “Euthanasia and the Future of Medicine.” Hastings Center Report December 1988: 2-3
* Jacoby, Tamar. “‘I Helped Her on Her Way'” Newsweek November 7, 1988: 101
* Moody, Harry R. “Legal and Ethical Issues in Elder Care: The Right to Die” Gerontologist October 1988: 711-712
* Wheeler, David L. “Euthanasia: an Increasingly Pressing Issue for Ethicists and Physicians” Chronicle of Higher Education November 9, 1988: A1, A6


2000 SEP 19 — ( — Patients with advanced stage cancer favor policies that allow euthanasia and physician-assisted suicide if pain and physical symptoms become intolerable, according to an article in the September 11, 2000, issue of the Archives of Internal Medicine.
Keith G. Wilson, PhD, from The Rehabilitation Centre, Ottawa, Canada, and colleagues surveyed 70 terminally ill cancer patients (median survival was 44.5 days) to evaluate their attitudes about euthanasia and physician-assisted suicide. This is the first study to directly examine the attitudes of cancer patients who are nearing death, according to the authors.
They found that 73% believed euthanasia or physician-assisted suicide should be legalized — their major reasons included pain and the right to choose. The participants who were opposed to the legislation cited religious and moral objections.
Forty patients (58%) reported they might make a future request for a hastened death, if it were legal, particularly if pain and physical symptoms became intolerable. Twelve percent would have made such a request at the time of the interview. This group was different from the other participants in that they reported a greater loss of pleasure or interest in activities, they felt more hopelessness and they had more desire to die. They also had a higher prevalence of depressive disorders; however, they did not differ on ratings of pain severity.
“People who are against legalization are motivated primarily by religious or secular moral concerns, which place the sanctity of human life above other considerations,” Wilson et al. explain. “Those who are in favor of legalization are more concerned about the relief of uncontrollable pain and suffering, as well as with the rights of the individual to exercise choice and control. These are fundamental differences in the premises on which the two positions are based, which suggests that there is little common ground between them on which to reach a compromise solution.”
According to background information in the study, cancer patients are the largest group to select euthanasia or physician-assisted suicide in jurisdictions that allow physician-hastened death (Arch Intern Med, 2000;160:2454-2460).
The study was supported by a grant from the National Health Research and Development Program of Health Canada, and by a Career Scientist award from the Ontario Ministry of Health to co-author Ian D. Graham, PhD, from the Ontario Ministry of Health.
By: Gorsuch, Neil M.; Harvard Journal of Law & Public Policy, Summer2000, Vol. 23 Issue 3, p599, 112p
/ Pages : 414 / 24