By: Alex Rourke
Alex Rourke Rourke 1 Mrs. E. Teague English 110 1 May 1999 Euthanasia The origin of the word ‘euthanasia’ comes from the Greek — eu, “good,” and thanatos, “death,” meaning literally, “good death.” But the word “euthanasia” has acquired a more complex meaning in modern times. It is generally taken nowadays to mean doing something about achieving a good death. Suicide, self-deliverance, auto-euthanasia, aid-in-dying, assisted suicide — call it what you like — can be justified by the average supporter of the so-called ‘”right to die” movement. It is advanced terminal illness that is causing unbearable suffering to the individual. This is the most common reason to seek an early end. Grave physical handicap which is so restricting that the individual cannot, even after due consideration, counseling and retraining, tolerate such a limited existence. This is a fairly rare reason for suicide — most impaired people cope remarkably well with their affliction — but there are some who would, at a certain point, rather die. What are the ethical parameters for euthanasia? The person is a mature adult. This is essential. The exact age will depend on the individual but the person should not be a minor who comes under quite different laws. The person has clearly made a considered decision. An individual has the ability nowadays to indicate this with a “Living Will” (which applies only to disconnection of life supports) and can also, in Rourke 2 today’s more open and tolerant climate about such actions, freely discuss the option of euthanasia with health professionals, family, lawyers, etc. My position is that euthanasia should be legalized for the terminally ill. Because of the increasing number of suicides in Michigan, Gov. John Engler signed an anti-suicide law that made doctor-assisted suicides a felony. During the 21-month trial period of the new law anyone assisting in a suicide can be sentenced to up to four years in prison and fined more than $2,000 (Reuters 1993). In a poll cited in a 1991 issue of USA Today, 80 percent of Americans think sometimes there are circumstances when a patient should be allowed to die, compared to only 15 percent think doctors and nurses should always do everything possible to save a person’s life. It also showed that 8 in 10 adults approve of state laws that allow medical care for the terminally ill to be removed or withheld, if that is what the patient “wishes,” whereas only 13 percent disapproved of the laws. Also, 70 percent think the family should be allowed to make the decision about treatment on behalf of the patient, while another 5 percent think this is suitable only in some cases (Colasnto 62). Seventy percent think it is justified at least sometimes for a person to kill his or her spouse, if he or she is suffering terrible pain caused by a terminal illness. Even suicide is starting to be accepted. About half the public think a “moral right” to suicide exists if a person has an incurable disease or is suffering great pain with no hope of recovering (Colasnto 63). About half of those with living parents think their mothers and fathers would want medical treatment stopped if they were suffering a great deal of pain in a terminal disease or if Rourke 3 they became totally dependant on a family member, and 40 percent of their parents would want medical treatment stopped if daily activities became a burden (Colasnto 63). One reason that just about everyone who favors euthanasia agrees with is that a person has the right to a death with dignity. Another reason is a person should be allowed a “natural death” instead of a prolonged death with medical equipment . Still another reason is that doctors are supposed to ease the pain of people, not prolong it. (Battin 19). Death is one of the few things that all people have in common. This means that there is a chance for anyone to face the decision of letting someone go. People should be allowed to control their own deaths. Why should patients be forced to live if he or she think their present standard of life has “degenerated to the point of


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