Euthanasia Essay - Assisted Suicide as an Unethical Option

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Euthanasia as an Unethical Option


Should a question of right and wrong be compromised for a question of convenience? "When I regained consciousness 3 days later, I was in Portland Hospital paralyzed (at first) from the neck down. I also had a severe concussion, collapsed left lung and crushed left collarbone. A pair of metal tongs had been drilled in my skull and attached to weights to stabilize my neck and I was on a slab of bed that turned me from back to front every 4 hours....After I surprised the doctors and lived to get into rehab, they told me, at that time, the average lifespan of a male quadriplegic was 36 years... I am now 45 now and could look back on that laughingly... During that period there were MANY times when I didn't know if I wanted to go on" (How Physician...). This is the story of a quadriplegic man who has been paralyzed from the chest down for over 24 years from an extreme car accident in 1975. His life seemed unbearable. These hopeless thoughts made him consider physician assisted suicide or euthanasia as the easy way out of a tragic situation. Although the doctors had confirmed that he would shortly pass away, he kept fighting and is still alive now, living as a successful journalist. He is incredibly grateful that physician assisted suicide or euthanasia was not an option at that time. This case and many others show how euthanasia or assisted suicide is a bad idea.

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. But euthanasia cannot be just rolled up into one definition. There are many different ways and instances in which euthanasia can be preformed. There is passive euthanasia and active euthanasia. Passive euthanasia is withdrawing medical treatment from a patient with the intention of a patient's death. For example, if a patient needs some kind of respirator or machine to survive, and a doctor disconnects that machine, the patient will probably die soon. Another example of passive euthanasia is the "do not resuscitate order." Basically, in passive euthanasia nothing is done to preserve a patient's life. Active euthanasia is when precise steps are taken to cause a patient's death, such as a doctor giving a patient a lethal injection or suffocating them with a plastic bag.

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The doctor actually does the task of killing the patient. Both are considered types of euthanasia but are extremely different.

There is also voluntary and involuntary euthanasia. In voluntary euthanasia, the patient requests to end his life or stop a treatment with full knowledge of what is happening. In involuntary euthanasia, the patient is unaware that his or her life is going to be ended. This usually means that the patient is unconscious, unable to communicate, or too sick or weak to know what is going on. Courts sometimes declare people 'legally incompetent," which is a case that voluntary euthanasia can be used. With so many different ways that euthanasia can be preformed it is hard to tell if you are for euthanasia or against euthanasia. For instance, during voluntary passive euthanasia the person would decide for themselves that the medical treatment they are getting is worse than the disease or illness that they have and tell the doctor that they would like to end their treatment and go home. Where as involuntary active euthanasia would be if a person believes that another's is not worth living anymore and a doctor takes action and kills the patient. These are two very different things but still euthanasia.

Assisted suicide is much like euthanasia but instead a patient is given a drug or something that could end his or her life but the doctor does not do the action of killing the patient. If a doctor gives you a bottle of pills that can end your life or a hypodermic needle but does not actually make you take the pills or inject you with the needle this is assisted suicide (Types of...). Both euthanasia and assisted suicide have become a major issue in today's world. The decision for legalizing euthanasia and physician assisted suicide (PAS) has heightened, for example both have only being legal in the Netherlands since 2000 and Belgium since 2002 and only legal assisted suicide in Oregon since 1998. The debate is not about letting people die naturally because we have always had that right; it is about giving doctors the right to kill their patients (The Ethics...).

A major concern for people contemplating euthanasia is, "Is the suffering worth the fight and am I being forced to stay alive by not having legal euthanasia or PAS?" Although people with these conditions can have massive amounts of pain and death might seem like a "deliverance" from this pain, there is no law saying that a patient must get any medical treatment imaginable to sustain their life. There is virtually no place in the world where refusing any kind of medical treatment is illegal. This is much like passive euthanasia, which if you look at it in these terms, it should not be considered euthanasia. It is your choice to whether or not you want treatment on your body. You even have a choice on how long you would like the treatment to be carried on. For example, if a patient has a brain tumor, and there is a chance that a surgery can be done to remove this tumor or a risk that he could be put in a vegetable state. The odds for success are extremely low but the patient still consents to have the surgery done, but before the operation takes place the patient signs an agreement asking the doctor that if there is no hope of a successful result, during the operation the doctor is to stop treating the patient. In this instance, the patient is just refusing medical treatment. It is just as if someone was drowning, and you saved their life, you would be called a hero. But if you just stood there and watched someone else save the drowning person, you would not be punished. No one would think less of you if did not save the life of the drowning person. Any doctor that treats a patient without permission commits an assault. The doctors can be criminally prosecuted and civically sued.

Another question asked by undecided patients is, "Have there ever been any problems or side effects from performing euthanasia and PAS?" There have been a number of PAS cases that have gone utterly wrong. In one case, after taking the drugs he was given to induce death a man from Oregon had physical symptoms so horrendous that his wife called 911. He was taken to a hospital where he was revived. Some problems that have been recorded from PAS have been extreme gasping and muscle spasms, losing consciousness, vomiting, feelings of panic and terror, and assaultive behavior to other people because of confusion from the drug. There are also problems of taking the drug and a number of days might elapse before death. The main substance for PAS is usually barbiturates, which is in the class with barbituric acid with sedatives and hypnotic properties. In 14% of physician assisted suicides patients did not lose consciousness, instead they awakened or lingered far longer that expected. Complications like muscle spasm, gasping and vomiting occurred in 7% of PAS cases. In 18%, other problems occurred, and doctors had to perform euthanasia. It is likely that there are many more of theses cases, but they are not reported because the doctors whose patients have experienced the worst complications with PAS are the most unwilling to answer questions about the events that happened. Patients involved in physician assisted suicide and euthanasia might have more suffering from the procedures when they were meant to alleviate (Problems Associated...). Euthanasia is also performed in inhumane ways. The most common way it is performed is by lethal injection, a prescription drug or carbon monoxide. When a person can't afford such an expensive death, which happens a lot, a plastic turkey bag, found in any grocery store, is used to suffocate the patient. Most of these procedures take at least five minutes or longer for a person to die. Lethal injection takes 5-10 minutes, pills take about 1-5 hours and suffocation takes about 15 minutes before death.

Other questions asked by terminally ill patients wanting to end their lives are, "Isn't suicide a "right?" Isn't it my body, my right?" This is just like saying that it is a "right" to sell and use heroin. This is not true. It may be legal to commit suicide but it is not a right (The Right...). There is also the question that euthanasia and PAS are morally and ethically wrong. You are given your body and soul as a gift. A gift that is so miraculous that only one person can give it. It should not be taken away so easily. Any self-respecting person would not do this (The Verbal.). It is wrong for the same reason slavery is wrong. It is an act where a person takes away his liberty and does not use it any further (The Ethics...). People are severely punished when they take away this precious life. Why shouldn't doctors be punished the same as people who murder? In the Bible we are told "Thou shall not kill." It was meant for everyone, not just for specific people. Doctors have the power to rescue people who are ill and are on the verge of death. They work so hard to save people, but now want the "privilege" to kill people (What the...).

By legalizing euthanasia and physician-assisted suicide, the people believe that it will put the medical community on a "slippery slope." This "slope" they are talking about is if they allow euthanasia and PAS legally it will allow it in other situations. They worry that it might be used in such cases as those who are disabled, those who have chronic or debilitating illnesses and those who are clinically depressed or just elderly. Psychiatrist and executive director of American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, Herbert Hendin, fears that PAS will be extended to those who are not terminally ill. He has found a number of cases in the Netherlands where patients were killed that should not have been. From Hendin's studies, he found that in about 1,000 cases annually, Dutch doctors have admitted to ending patient's lives without the patients consent. Some of these patients were not mentally competent. With many issues today, legal PAS and euthanasia can open many doors to new and different things ('Slippery Slope").

Euthanasia and physician assisted suicide will destroy the ethics of our world today. Although there are other options to ending a life, people still chose a procedure that has a number of side effects and is not a "right." A question of right and wrong should not be compromised for a question of convenience.


Works Cited
"Euthanasia and Assisted Suicide: Frequently Asked Questions." International Task Force. 21 Oct. 2003
"How Physician Assisted Suicide Could Effect People With Disabilities." Euthanasia.com 22 Oct. 2003
"Problems Associated With Assisted Suicide." International Task Force. 21 Oct. 2003
"'Slippery Slope' Debated." Facts.com 22 Oct. 2003
"The Ethics of Euthanasia Overview." Thunder Bay Right to Life. 22 Oct. 2003
"The Verbal Battle Over Euthanasia." Religious Tolerance. 22 Oct. 2003
"Types of Euthanasia." Pregnant Pause. 21 Oct. 2003
"What The Bible Says About the end of Life." Family.org. 22 Oct. 2003
Williams, Rob. "The Right To Do Evil." Euthanasia.com. 21 Oct. 2003 http://euthanasia.com/williams2.html


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