The subject of Euthanasia is a heated battle, in which lines have been drawn between warring social, religious and political groups. Many people want this controversial institution erased from the volumes of lawful medicine, but others say that we should be able to choose our fates in extreme cases. Neither the lawmakers of the country nor the people have been able to find a solution to this debate without causing an intense opposition, and the possibility for an end to this war of ethics seems very far in the distance. A definition of euthanasia is, “a painless killing, especially to end a painful and incurable disease; mercy killing. (World Book, p. 733). This intentional termination of life by another is at the request of the person who dies, but like so many other religious, social and political terms, euthanasia has many meanings. Passive euthanasia is defined as, the hastening of death of a person by withdrawing some type of support and letting nature take its course, examples of this are, removing life support systems, stopping medical procedures, stopping food and water, not delivering CPR and letting the patient’s heart stop. The most common form of passive euthanasia is to give a person large doses of morphine to control pain, despite the likely hood that the pain killer would suppress respiration, thus causing death earlier than normal, passive euthanasia is usually used on patients who are terminally ill, suffering greatly, or in a persistent vegetative state (Robinson, p. 1). There are three types of euthanasia that are illegal or very close to illegal even in places where euthanasia is permitted. The first is Physician assisted suicide. Physician assisted suicide is when a doctor supplies information and/or means of committing suicide to a person, so that they can terminate their life easily. This type of assistance has come to the public’s eye as the media has covered the actions of Dr. Jack Kavorkian. Dr. Kavorkian has assisted in the deaths of hundreds of patients. 2 Another form of euthanasia used by Kavorkian is active euthanasia, this involves causing death through direct action, in response to a patient’s request; basically a mercy killing. A well documented case of this is the death of a patient with Lou Gherig’s disease by Dr. Kavorkian. Kavorkian injected the patient with controlled substances that resulted in his death, Kavorkian was found guilty of 2nd degree murder in March of 1999. The last form of euthanasia is involuntary euthanasia, nothing but a euphemism for murder (Robinson, p.2). There are two major beliefs concerning euthanasia, the traditional religious and social beliefs, and the more liberal. Traditional religion condemns all suicide, assisted or not, because it violates the natural desire to live, it harms other people, and life is the gift of God and thus can only be taken by God. The other major viewpoint argues that suicide is a matter of personal choice and that it is rational under some circumstances. These two positions remain virtually the same today. Euthanasia is only one of the many hotly debated topics of our time which revolve around personal choice. The other two prominent topics are whether gays and lesbians should be given a choice of whether to marry and should women be allowed a choice to abort their unborn children. All three of these questions are emotional laden and have entered the political and judicial systems. The issues become muddied when they are no longer the individual’s and become society’s decision. Many believe that euthanasia targets the most vulnerable of human beings when they are no longer in a position of making proper decisions. Ultimately, I believe, that euthanasia is a question of choice. Each of us should be empowered to have choice over our own bodies and that choice includes the right to not live if life is not going to maintain the dignity that we feel is necessary for life. Due to legislation, you do not have a right to choose unless you live in Columbia, 3 Japan, the Netherlands, or the state of Oregon (Robinson, p.2).. It does not matter what your life is like or how much pain you may be in. The opposition to euthanasia comes from many places: conserve religious groups, often the same who oppose access to abortion; medical organizations whose members are dedicated to saving and extending life; and groups concerned with disabilities who fear that euthanasia is the first step towards a society that will kill disabled people against their will. Groups that promote access to assisted suicide seem to publicize cases where people have terminal illness or are in intractable pain, and want to end their life. Although such cases do exist, they are in a small minority. The majority of persons that are dying are probably individuals whose quality of life has shrunk to zero or those who find the indignities of being cared for difficult to bear. They would like to choose to die with dignity before they become sicker and become a greater burden on their loved ones. Unfortunately. groups on all sides have scare tactics. They do not attack the issues directly, but feed the media to alarm the public. These methods may work on the short term to bring the issue to the forefront but I do not believe the will work in the long run. Eventually, each person will need to decide on their own and disregard the media hype. Some groups in the pro-choice faction have described horrendous cases of terminally ill individuals, suffering terribly in intractable pain, even though such cases are not the norm. Some of the pro life groups have been implying that physicians have become murderers. That doctors will get out of hand and begin to exterminate those that they believe are not worthy of life. There are many issues concerning euthanasia. One of the most prevalent arguments is whether the state has the right to deny a person the right to take their own life. Another argument is whether the sick have as much right to choose as the 4 healthy. The most prevalent argument is centered around religion. Many people feel that it is against their religious beliefs for a person to take their own lives, but should they be allowed to impose that belief on someone who does not feel this way? I do not believe that it is fair for decisions to be made about their life based on beliefs that they do not hold. Religion is one of the most prevalent factors in the debate of euthanasia. On the anti-euthanasia side of the battle is the more conservative religious groups including; The Christian reformed church, Islam, the Lutheran church, the Mennonites, Orthodox Christianity, Orthodox Judaism and The Roman Catholic church. These groups and many others have two main statements concerning euthanasia; the first is, that life is a gift from God, and that each individual is its steward, thus, only God can start a life, and only God can end one; An individual who commits suicide is therefore committing a sin. The second statement is that God does not send us any experience that we cannot handle; God supports people in suffering; to actively seek an end to one’s life would be a lack of trust in God’s promise (Euthanasia, p.2). The opposition to this side comes from groups including liberal Christians, humanists, secularists, agnostics, atheists, non-christians, and others who do not accept the theologically based arguments. Their arguments can be summed up in two statements; The first is that each person has autonomy over their own life, persons whose quality of life is nonexistent should have the right to decide to commit suicide, and to seek assistance if necessary. The second statement is sometimes terminal illness causes life to be an unbearable burden; death can represent a relief of intolerable pain. The main political question is whether individuals should be allowed to choose suicide, or whether they should be forced to follow the theological beliefs of the dominant religion. This point is similar to that raised in discussions on 5 choice in abortion and prayer in public schools. At what point does the church and state overlap? Many polls have been taken to research the public opinion on euthanasia. However, the the results vary according to the precise question asked. A poll taken by CNN/USA Today in 1997 shows that the support of euthanasia choice is, 57% in favor, and 35% opposed. Given this statistic, one would assume euthanasia to be a legal choice, but still it is legal only in the state of Oregon. Only time will tell whether euthanasia will become a legal choice nationally, but for now, the battle still rages on.
Works Sited Egan, Timothy. “Oregon’s Assisted-Suicide Law Threatened by a Technicality.” The New York Times . USA: November 19, 1997. “Euthanasia, Synod of the Great Lakes, Reformed Church in America” at: http://www.euthanasia.com/lakes.html Horgan, John. “The Right to Die.” Scientific American. USA : 1996. Mullens, Anne. Timely Death. USA: Knopf, 1996. Reed, Christopher. “Oregon Tackles Mercy Killing.” Globe and Mail Newspaper. Toronto: November 6, 1997. “Religion and The Right to Die.” at: http://euthanasia.org/religion.html Robinson, Bruce. “Euthanasia and Physician Assisted Suicide.” All Sides of the Issues. at http.//religioustolerance.org World Book Dictionary. Chicago: Childcraft International, 1982.
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