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Ethics of Euthanasia

Nov 12, 2018 | 0 comments

Nov 12, 2018 | Essays | 0 comments

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Ethics of Euthanasia/ Assisted Suicide

ETHICS OF EUTHANASIA/ ASSISTED SUICIDE 2

SCHOLARLY ARTICLES ON ETHICS OF EUTHANASIA 3

Miller (1995). Assisted suicide and euthanasia: arguments for and against the practice, 3

Arguments that are based on human rights 3

Arguments against euthanasia 4

Religious arguments 5

Swarte and Heintz (1999). Euthanasia and physician-assisted suicide. 6

Werth (2000). The appropriateness of age decisions and positions on assisted suicide. 7

Voss (1999). Ethical Care and Health Care Professionals’ Involvement in Physician-Assisted Suicide. 9

Rachels (1997). Active and passive euthanasia. 11

MEDIA ARTICLES 13

Coyne (2015) The absurd logic of assisted suicide 13

Tutu (2014): A dignified death is our right 14

Chazan (2015). French ‘euthanasia’ doctor gets symbolic suspended sentence 16

BBC News (2015)Assisted Dying: Disability Rights Campaigners Lose Court Challenge 17

Maynard (2014), My right to death with dignity at 29 19

DIFFERENCE BETWEEN SCHOLAR ARTICLES AND MEDIA 21

Sensationalism: 21

The focus of the article: 21

IMPORTANT ISSUES IN THE EUTHANASIA DEBATE 22

Right to die: 22

23

Moral relativism: 23

Futile care: 24

Euthanasia for those who are non-terminally ill: 25

Decision-makers: 26

CONCLUSION 26

REFERENCES 27

ETHICS OF EUTHANASIA/ ASSISTED SUICIDE

The debate on euthanasia has drawn much interest not just in specific countries but the world over. Congress and lawmakers have often found themselves drawn into this controversy. Several cases have been presented in court with individuals seeking the right to euthanasia or assisted suicide. The idea of euthanasia is not new, it has existed for decades. Even in ancient times, individuals who were terminally ill, suffering physically and mentally sought the right to die on their own terms. However, since the advent of AIDS, the issue has become close to rampant. Two decades ago, there was no treatment for AIDS and diagnosis meant a sure and dreadful way to die. Many patients sought help to end their lives from friends and relatives.

Currently, patients diagnosed with terminal cancer are on the highlight of seeking assisted suicide rights. Relatives, friends, and concerned individuals often assist the people seeking this help to present their cases in court. Each case seems to be judged individually, dependent on the condition of the patient and the state of mind while making the decision. However, it has become prevalent that clear laws be set up for individuals seeking euthanasia and assisted suicide. It is important to note that there are states whose laws are more lenient in terms of euthanasia. A majority of patients, who have been given a dire diagnosis, therefore tend to move here to seek death per se. Several issues have been raised in the debate for euthanasia that is:

  • Just because someone is suffering and/or is in pain, is it right to consider and actually take action to end their life?
  • Are there specific circumstances where assisted suicide is completely justifiable?
  • Is there any significant difference between actively killing someone and letting them die?

SCHOLARLY ARTICLES ON ETHICS OF EUTHANASIA

Miller (1995). Assisted suicide and euthanasia: arguments for and against the practice, legalization, and participation.

Miller begins by questioning whether we should just accept the desire of people to die on their own terms, despite emotional and other moral feelings. He states that all rules based on morality and the desire to regulate a society should be universal, otherwise they become unrealistic and impractical. He suggests that the arguments for assisted suicide can be categorized into three groups.

Arguments that are based on human rights

For many proponents of euthanasia, dying is based on the rights of humanity. Controlling the rights to death simply means controlling the life of the human and/or individual.

People have a right to die: death is part of life. People make decisions about their own lives daily. By selecting to engage in some careers for example or some forms of hobbies; they indeed are making life and death decisions. When it comes to death, therefore, we have no right to demand control or even attempt to make decisions about the form of death that is necessary for the individual. (Leone 1999) states that we cannot experience or even purport to imagine the pain that individuals who wish to die are experiencing. Often euthanasia is concerned with individuals who are terminally ill, and whose quality of life has decreased so much that they indeed feel that they no longer have value in life and therefore prefer to elect death. He concludes therefore that all human rights purport a right to die.

Privacy in death: the same privacy that is accorded to individuals in selecting the way they should concur their lives is necessary when they are choosing death. As long as other people are not affected or influenced negatively, individuals’ right to death continues to be private and should not be interfered with by the state or other regulatory bodies.

Philosophical arguments

  • Euthanasia happens whether the matter is regulated or not. On daily basis relatives, friends and even medical personnel are assisting their patients to die. Since it is happening, therefore, why not just allow it.
  • Since none of us has experienced death, we cannot conclude therefore that death is bad; therefore we must respect the right of individuals to experience death.

Arguments against euthanasia

Ethical arguments: by accepting that assisted suicide is right, is accepting that some lives remain more valuable than others. The problem is that we cannot purport to measure the quality of life. How can one judge the quality of life?

Secondly, when the law accepts voluntary euthanasia, there are chances that involuntary suicide will also take place. Judging between voluntary and involuntary suicide becomes difficult, with many slipping in the cracks.

Practical arguments: with euthanasia, doctors and medical personnel are likely to become less committed to treating, caring for, and saving the lives of patients with a terminal illness. When patients elect to die, (Leone 1999) states that doctors become less motivated to save lives, since they see that patients will still elect to die therefore there is no need to specially care for them.

It is also most likely that relatives and others who are supposed to care for terminally ill patients will elect to kill them. This becomes a cost-effective way to avoid treatment. Relatives are less inclined to seek new treatments, to help the patients fight and find new ways to handle the pain and the effects of the disease. Instead of engaging themselves in seeking new treatment methods and assistance in handling pain, the relatives are more inclined to encourage euthanasia.

Religious arguments

Miller argues that the majority of the arguments against euthanasia are based on religion. He continues to argue that majority of the patients who are deeply rooted in some form of religion are often conflicted when it decides assisted suicide. Euthanasia in religion covers the following:

  • There are few are religions in which the authority or being worshipped allows people to kill themselves or to commit suicide. This undermines the sanctity of life which is granted by the being worshipped. All the beings are explicit in stating that the gift of life is to be respected and not taken for granted.
  • Suffering is part of life in all religions; it strengthens the faith and belief of the individual. Should individuals be allowed to take away their suffering through euthanasia, they are likely to decrease faith and belief which could easily lead to the death of the religion and despair of the members.
  • Euthanasia is likely to affect society negatively by causing a decreased respect for life. With human beings having the right to take away life, many cases of involuntary manslaughter will arise, with religious authority figures determining the need for euthanasia even against a patient’s wishes.

Swarte and Heintz (1999). Euthanasia and physician-assisted suicide.

In this article, Swarte and Heintz discuss and determine the essence and importance of the attitudes of physicians in determining the outcome of euthanasia. Much of the time, doctors who are for euthanasia have often been looked down upon. According to these writers, doctors are more inclined to understand the desire for a patient to die. They have a closer knowledge of the physical and mental torture that diseases can cause human beings. Also, they tend to have been much closer to the patients during their time of illness. On the other hand, they are trained to respect and assist their patients to fight for life. It is therefore possible to find that doctors are the most conflicted individuals when it comes to assisted suicide.

Pro-euthanasia

For doctors who feel and are positively supporting euthanasia, the simple reason they give is suffering and quality of life. Some patients lack any ability to be productive and to engage in any form of activity that would bring emotional satisfaction. They are controlled by pain, sometimes to the point that doctors have to put them in a completely inactive state. For these doctors, therefore, these patients have reached the point of despair especially when comparing their former productive lives and their current state. With the knowledge that any form of treatment and cure for their ailments would be impossible and perhaps decades away, assisted death is the simplest and best solution.

Against euthanasia

On the other hand, there exists another group of physicians and these are those who are against any form of euthanasia. According to them, euthanasia completely undermines their profession. Doctors are expected and are trained to fight for their lives using any means necessary. Assisted suicide goes against the training and calling of doctors. It decreases the commitment of doctors to fight for their patients.

Swartz and Heintz, conclude by indicating that several factors come into play when determining the attitude of doctors towards euthanasia.

Type of profession: while medical doctors are less inclined to accept euthanasia, often believing that life in any form is worth fighting for. Psychiatrists and psychologists, on the other hand, are more inclined to understand the feelings of the patients, be empathetic, and understand them. Medical doctors are trained to focus on helping patients to live much longer, without concern for the feelings of the patient. On the other hand, psychiatrists often deal with patients’ emotions and feelings, they are therefore more understanding and more inclined to help patients with their decision to die.

Religious beliefs: some religions are more inclined to allow euthanasia while other respect for life is not only necessary it is a must. For example, Christian doctors were found to be not only against assisted suicide but in fact, we’re more inclined to work against the wishes of patients who were seeking assisted suicide.

Age: younger doctors are more willing to accept the desire for patients to die. Older doctors are often against assisted death in any form. Older and more traditional doctors have come to value the life of patients, and have probably lost too many patients. With this loss, they are therefore more likely to be against any form of death that can be avoided.

Werth (2000). The appropriateness of age decisions and positions on assisted suicide.

Perhaps the biggest decision in Euthanasia currently is the appropriate age for decision making. Who is allowed to choose between life and death? Since young children are often found to not be legally responsible for their decisions, what happens to children who are suffering and would wish to die? Are parents allowed to end the suffering of their children? Werth (2000) found that as many adults as are diagnosed with a terminal illness, there are even more children expected to fight the disease. The children are more susceptible to pain and have a hard time leading any form of life. Parents sometimes feel the desire to end the life of their children; while on the other hand, children may also request to die when the suffering becomes unbearable. Since a child is yet to become a productive member of society, it is difficult to determine when they have become unproductive.

Werth (2000) states that in the majority of the child euthanasia cases and experiences included in the study, the decision was much harder to come by. While the decision for assisted suicide for adults is based on the person who existed before the disease, for the children there is no basis for comparison. He cites that the majority of the critics of child euthanasia often compare it to infanticide. They are adamant that children should at least get a chance to be somebody, to make their own decisions before life is taken away from them. He concludes that for child euthanasia, there are some few factors to consider that is:

  • The nature of illness: (Keown 2002) concurs that some illnesses are too difficult for a child to bear. Forcing a child to live in the pain, to undergo endless treatment with much of the time spent in a semi-conscious state due to the nature of the disease and the treatment that comes with it is inhumane. It might be easier and more humane to end their suffering. However, this decision should be based on the nature of the disease and the possibility of successful treatment.
  • The physical ability of the child: in this case, it is not only about the health, it is also about the ability of the child to complete simple tasks. Can the child, for example, dress and feed themselves? If any form of simplistic activity causes incredible pain and could lead to severe injury, then the quality of life of the child can be determined as not only low but perhaps also non-existent. In this case, also, the conscious level of the child can be used to make the decision. A child who spends much of the time unconscious due to the disease or the nature of the treatment may not be necessarily alive.
  • The decision of the parents: while adults have the ability to make their own decisions, children are more reliant on their parents. While doctors and medical personnel may feel that assisted suicide is the best option for a child, it is only the parents who can understand and make decisions about the life of their child. However, this has often drawn much debate, with many feeling that parents have no right to make decisions on behalf of their child.

Voss (1999). Ethical Care and Health Care Professionals’ Involvement in Physician-Assisted Suicide.

While many articles in the past about physician-assisted suicide have focused more on the morality of the issue, Voss takes a unique aspect. He examines the role of health care professionals in assisted suicide. For many patients, it is important to have the help of their physicians while making decisions about how to deal with disease and in support of the attempts to end their lives. Voss states that in every condition from the moment patients become aware that they are terminally ill, to the end, the help of physicians is completely necessary. The following roles are identified in the article by Voss (1999):

  • Advisor: health care professionals are the most ideal in advising patients. While relatives and friends are ideal confidants, they lack the right knowledge that is necessary to advise properly. Health care professionals understand not just the diagnosis but also the progress of the disease. This means that they understand not just the current symptoms, but also future symptoms which will affect the quality of life. They have already gone through their experiences with similar patients and are therefore in a better position to advise the patient correctly.
  • Manager: the majority of people imagine that assisted suicide is more of an action rather than a process. The process begins with not just making the decisions; there are other matters which need to be considered. These include; the timing of the action itself for assisted suicide, the nature of the assisted suicide that would be most ideal, and the making of final decisions. Patients may need to explain the decision to family members and make a final will. Health care professionals are the most ideal in explaining the process of assisted suicide and euthanasia to the patient.
  • Counselor: just because patients have chosen to die, does not mean that they do not face the fear of death. Healthcare professionals understand the conflicts that come with the decision and are therefore better situated to counsel the patient, preparing them for the end. Furthermore, close breast cancer. Ann has been a staunch Christian since childhood just like the rest of her family members often need counseling to accept the decision of the patient.

Voss states that the process of euthanasia has been difficult for patients who do not include health care professionals. Such cases have ended up in court with quality of life. Arthur should be educated during the discussion with the doctor and also his family members and friends who have participated in the process of getting into trouble with the law. Sometimes, doctors treating the patient are against the process because they were not involved from the beginning, therefore they become resentful when the patients die. To avoid all this trouble, it is much wiser for health care professionals to be involved. In this way, they can create a case supporting the decision of the patient and advice accordingly.

It is also important to note that the action of euthanasia itself should be as humane as possible. Without the help of a healthcare official, it is difficult to access the right resources and determine the quickest and most painless way to end the life of a patient. History has shown cases where assisted suicide has failed or has taken too long so that the reasons behind it became nullified. Also, there have been cases where the patients have suffered in the process of death. Healthcare professionals know necessary for making the process easier.

Rachels (1997). Active and passive euthanasia.

Rachels (1997) highlights points in a debate that has been raging for a while, on the morality of both active and passive euthanasia. While active euthanasia has only come into the limelight in recent decades, passive euthanasia has been in existence for a long time. Active euthanasia is the deliberate steps and actions taken by individuals such as healthcare personnel, relatives, and even the patients themselves to end their lives. Passive euthanasia simply defines denying forms of treatment, drugs, and procedures that would be necessary to prolong life. Patients can be taken off life machines with the help of medical personnel, denied surgery and other treatment procedures as well as stopping the intake of drugs. The result is that the patient’s life ends but at a much earlier time. Rachels (1997) continues to state that majority of the people make a distinct difference between active and passive euthanasia.

Morally, many believe that passive euthanasia is not wrong compared to active euthanasia. It is quite fine to deny a patient treatment so that they can die much faster, but it is completely wrong to take action that would end the life of the patient. However, as (Paterson 2008) shows there is no real distinguishable difference between the two. Withholding drugs and treatment in itself is an action that is intended to kill much in the same way as poisoning a patient. The intention of both actions is quite the same. Inactive euthanasia, the doctors take a particular action supported by the patient or their relatives to cause death. The same can be said of passive euthanasia, patients are denied treatment so that they can quicken the process of death. In the article, an example is given of a patient suffering from lung cancer and under the support of respiratory machines. Doctors, relatives, and friends can take action such as giving the patient the wrong medicine which in turn causes his death, which is active euthanasia. On the other hand, they can simply switch off the respiratory machine causing his death and this is passive euthanasia. In this case, it can be said that the patient indeed dies of lung cancer but the actual act of switching off the machines supporting him caused his death. In both cases, individuals took actions whose intention was to kill rather than to preserve life. They are therefore both morally responsible can be held accountable for such actions. Whether we choose to kill a person or to simply let them die, the intention remains the same.

In actual comparison, Rachels (1997) suggests that active euthanasia may be in fact more humane than passive euthanasia. Passive euthanasia prolongs the suffering of the patient sometimes for much longer than intended. The patient is forced to contend with the decision daily which can cause emotional distress not just to the patient but also to those close to them. Also, because they are not supported by drugs and other life-prolonging technologies, they suffer greatly in terms of pain and discomfort. On the other hand, active euthanasia ends life much faster, quicker, and easy for the patient. In comparison therefore although both actions are morally questionable, passive euthanasia is much worse and more inhumane than active euthanasia.

MEDIA ARTICLES

Coyne (2015) The absurd logic of assisted suicide

This article is among the first mocking the absurdity of euthanasia. The writer raises several questionsabout assisted suicide. While many are arguing on the morality of assisted suicide and euthanasia, the article argues the little subjects that are never considered. The act itself of euthanasia is pointed out to include various absurd rules which become an issue yet when compared to the main act itself, they are completely absurd. He cites the following absurdities in euthanasia:

  • When doctors are using a lethal injection, designed and structured to kill the recipient, are they expected to adhere to the rules of treatment? For example, is the doctor expected to sterilize the injection yet the individual is not being treated but rather is ending their life? This article cites that doctors by force of habit and in many cases as expected by law, are required to sterilize the injection. Now, the act of sterilization itself in itself beats the reason for the injection which is death. It would be expected that since doctors are administering the injection to end a life they would not be as careful, they would not consider sterilization.
  • Advocates of euthanasia, equate the right to die to the right to drive. However, in doing so, some groups are exempted from these rights. For example, those who are mentally impaired and unable to make their own decisions draw much controversy on whether they have a right to die. Just because one person is unable to make their own decision, do they still have a right to end their own suffering? And in this aspect, who can determine and measure their suffering and quality of life? The writer suggests that indeed by denying them the right to die, we are saying that they have fewer rights simply because they are disabled.
  • In the same way, he raises an issue with age, euthanasia is considered moral is an adult is involved. However, does this mean that children would be subjected to eternal suffering simply because of their age? In essence, children should be given increasing consideration since their suffering is much greater than that of adults. Since advocates of euthanasia, support death as the only way of releasing patients from suffering, then children should be at the forefront. Again the same question is raised, who can determine the level of suffering of children and who is responsible for deciding for euthanasia?

In legalizing euthanasia for children and the mentally challenged, the country will be following in the steps of Belgium and Switzerland. In doing so, he cites the example of the support granted to a father who killed his daughter because she suffered from severe cerebral palsy. He indicates that this is indeed a form of a black hole from which we cannot recover once we get in. accepting euthanasia and allowing and giving people the right to kill themselves or others, is giving up on life. People feel they can no longer endure suffering, any simple suffering can be easily considered a condition that lowers the quality of life and therefore a reason to end life. Such culture supports death much more than life which in turn becomes a nihilistic society.

Tutu (2014): A dignified death is our right

Surprisingly this article is not based on an elaborate speech by advocates of the death penalty, or even a politician seeking a platform for his debate: the article found in the guardian is based on a speech presented by Bishop Desmond Tutu to the House of Lords in England. Whereas many religious leaders have been against the act of assisted suicide, Bishop Tutu takes a turn from this. He cites that the right to die is a right that should be granted to everyone. The article begins with Tutu indicating that in his pastoral duty he has often thought about the importance of life. The decision to end a life is not one that should be taken lightly; however, every individual deserves the right to die with dignity. From the article, the writer highlights the importance of Desmond tutu’s stand:

Dying is not a taboo: from the beginning of the world, since the time of creation, God destined man to live for a particular period of time and then depart from the world. In the same way, it should be noted that death is part of us; we are born to live and then die. We cannot continue existing forever and ever, the earth itself cannot sustain us and future generations. Since dying is part of life just like being born, it should not be a taboo to religious individuals. Religion should provide for individuals the right to die at peace and with as much dignity as they can have for themselves. In doing so, they can prepare their own should, re-establish their faith, and maintain their calling even to the very end. For individuals who have chosen to end their lives because they feel that any sort of life after this would not be one that would increase their dignity, would be one that would cause questions about their faith; for such, support in their faith should be granted. This support allows them to maintain a strong relationship with God, to be at peace even to the very end.

Why prolong a life that is already ending: he points out that there are two things to consider that is, the nature of life that is currently being experienced as well as the cost that is being used to maintain such life. In his own words, he explains that sometimes the maintenance of life is much too costly yet the same life will still come to an end. He points out that sometimes maintaining a low-quality life is in selfishness rather than out of kindness. Relatives and loved ones are left with too little, having spent much of the resources in maintaining life whether through machines, drugs, or any other method. Such resources would have been otherwise used to pay for organ transplants and treatments for those who have higher chances of surviving. If a patient, therefore, has even a small chance of survival, ending such life would not only be unethical but also immoral. However, where chances of survival are nil, where the patient will eventually die then a dignified death is allowed. Denying individuals the right to die on their own terms, forces them into undignified ways of dying, painful suicides, and lonely deaths.

Chazan (2015). French ‘euthanasia’ doctor gets symbolic suspended sentence

The story of Bonnemaison began in the year 2010 when he was working as an emergency doctor in a hospital. Here he chose to end the life of several elderly patients who were terminally ill. When arrested, it was expected that the world over people would be angry and perhaps call for the toughest punishment. After all, he had selfishly chosen to kill several people. However, the majority of the articles that have been written featuring this, indicate that at the time of his arrest, the authorities wanted to make an example out of him. It is to be remembered that France has not legalized assisted suicide or euthanasia. Each of these actions is considered simple suicide when a patient kills themselves or murders when another participant is involved. The story of Dr. Bonnemaison would have been like any other except for the emotions it elicited.

In this article, it is seen that the relatives and friends of those he had euthanized testified on his behalf. They praised his sacrifice stating that life for their loved ones would have been difficult. This shows that many relatives are willing to help their loved ones die with dignity; however, they are unable to take the necessary steps. It is often difficult for example for a relative or a close family friend to pull out the plug on a machine supporting a loved one. The action in itself would prove to be traumatizing to them. However, doctors who are willing to help their patients to the end are highly regarded and touted as heroes as was seen in this case. It is due to the sympathy that he gained from the public with many feeling he was being unfairly persecuted that earned him what many terms as his own people who have been slaves all their lives will eventually have their freedom. The theme song words describe a following, a movement towards the acquisition of freedom. Even the prosecution requested and recommended a suspended sentence. Many however felt that he should not have been arrested in the first place. Because of his arrest, more patients will continue to suffer lacking the help of someone to die with dignity.

By choosing to end the life of his patients, Bonnemaison did not exemplify a monster in modern terms. In fact, it showed a new level of commitment to help patients avoid legal battles and to die easily without extended legal wars. The case of a French man who was comatose for many years echoes greatly in the article. In the case, the family of the man chose to end his life but some disagreed suing the doctors and the hospital. The French Supreme Court overturned the decision of lower courts allowing doctors to end his life. Lambert continues to suffer in a coma, with millions of dollars spent keeping him alive yet he shall never awake. Bonnemaison chose not to let his patients suffer this indignity but instead sacrificed everything to allow his patients the comfort of dying on their own terms. Many physicians would not sacrifice much, but his commitment to his patients perverted not just in fighting for their lives, in caring for them, and ensuring that they get the best treatment but also in respecting their wishes to end their lives. His patients were not healthy, they were not only old but also terminally ill lacking any form of quality in continuous living.

BBC News (2015)Assisted Dying: Disability Rights Campaigners Lose Court Challenge

Perhaps the most debated factor in euthanasia is the fact that disabled individuals often fall into two distinct categories. In the last year, an amendment to the assisted suicide laws allowed the disabled the same right to die as much as those who were not disabled. Unfortunately many feel that this is an open abyss through which many disabled individuals are likely to experience involuntary suicide. This is because caretakers may feel exhausted, tired, and just unable to care for the individual. Based on this, they may seek the help of healthcare professionals to end the life of the disabled. This is especially a risk where the individual is mentally disabled, and may not possess the right faculties to make the decision. This article lays its foundation on this debate which has raged on for many years.

Kenward, a human rights activist who is disabled and paralyzed brought a case to the court objecting to the amendment that protected healthcare officials who had participated in assisted suicide. In this case, the two felt that the change had been made in whimsical terms. The terms of the act meant that the country was taking life too easily and making the decision for death too quickly. According to Kenward’s, focusing and allowing healthcare officials a loophole by which they could participate in euthanasia without the fear of prosecution means that country no longer values its people. Fear for the disabled forced the couple to decide to pursue the case even into appeal.

The decision: the judges voted unanimously to uphold the amendments made. (Keown 2002) cites that this is not a testimony of a society that is continually becoming obsessed with killing the disabled and terminally ill. However, it is a testimony that our society is becoming more comfortable with death. today, more and more people are willing to make will and testaments that indicate what should be done when the time comes when they are terminally ill, terminally disabled, or in a condition where they are unable to make their own decisions. In 60% of these wills and testaments, people desire that doctors, relatives choose to end their lives quickly. Surveys have also proved that people are less willing to be subjected to support by machines and drugs, they are willing to give up the battle early and die with as much dignity as they can master from their own decisions. It is based on this evidence that judges voted to support the decision for individuals to end their lives and the actions of health care officials to support them in the decision. Just because doctors are allowed to participate in ending lives does not mean that they become less committed to caring for their patients. In fact, the act of supporting patients in death is one that involves the ultimate sacrifice and true commitment by the health care professionals. Doctors are not willing and in fact, are often at the forefront fighting for the lives of their patients. However, should such patients choose to end their lives, doctors have to make the ultimate sacrifice, against their training and the oaths they have taken, even against their own belief, they use the same instruments and tools that prolong life to end life.

Maynard (2014), My right to death with dignity at 29

The story of Brittany Maynard is one that has been featured in many media outlets. She is touted as one of the greatest faces of pro-euthanasia. Brittany envisions the picture of what we consider to be a productive life. She was young and therefore expected to be strong and to survive for much longer than many patients her age. She was recently married and in fact, was working towards starting her own family. It is important to note that as the article shows, she had tried various methods of treatment. However, a recent diagnosis showed that there was no cure for the tumor ailing her. From this article we can draw several factors which influenced her decision to end her own life at the time of her choice:

  • Brittany had considered admitting herself into a hospice where she would be cared for until the point of her death. However, this meant that her family would have to spend much of their savings paying for her care, and eventually, she would still die.
  • As a young woman who was particularly healthy, it was quite possible that while her brain continued to rot and lose function, her body would survive for months. Her family would therefore be forced to watch her waster away, tormented by the disease until eventually, she would die.
  • Whether she chose to die today or waited until the disease had taken over her own body, she would still eventually be forced to die. Whichever way she chose, she would die eventually.

Brittany brought to light an issue that has rarely come to light. In the article, she is quoted by stating that she is not suicidal and she also does not want to die. In fact, she received the right medication to end her life and kept it for months. She was not only advocating for simple death at any time, instead, but she also focused on insisting that all people with terminal illnesses have a right to die at what they consider to be the right time. The timing and conditions of death needed to be on her own terms. This is what is defined as death with dignity. Terminal illness robs patients of dignity, forcing them to die in pain with little or no productivity. The family is forced to survive their changes, to continually become stressed and strained with caring for their sick.

Brittany’s experience as is shown in the article also shows the challenges that those who wish to end their lives have to endure. After making her decision, she had to move from her hometown in California where euthanasia is illegal to the state of Oregon where it has been legalized. Also, she had to completely uproot her life, changing her voter registration, getting new driving licenses to satisfy the conditions of the state. Relatives were not left off; her husband had to take a leave of absence to support the wife. The majority of her family felt that she was being suicidal, perhaps out of despair that she would not survive the experience of brain cancer. This is perhaps the biggest challenge for patients, making their families accept and respect their decision to end their life rather than go through endless treatments.

DIFFERENCE BETWEEN SCHOLAR ARTICLES AND MEDIA

Sensationalism: perhaps the biggest difference between scholarly articles and those from the media is that the media seems to focus less on the matter of euthanasia instead of becoming more focused on the experiences of individuals. The story of Brittany, for example, focused more on her pain, her experiences; with the language employed to elicit emotion such as mercy, pity, and even anger. While many may think that sensationalism is always negative, in this case, there have been some positive remarks from the media. Through the use of catchy subject lines, cleverly placed pictures, and the right language; the media fraternity has managed to draw the interest of the world into euthanasia. In the past, few if any were aware of the matter of euthanasia. Policies were non-existent about euthanasia, in fact, it was a matter largely ignored. However, with the media presentation, more and more people are becoming aware and forming opinions about euthanasia. Also, policymakers have been forced to not only take interest but in fact take a stand forming policies and highlighting the standards and guidelines for euthanasia.

 The focus of the article: scholarly articles are more focused on educating the reader about the matter of euthanasia. The articles present facts, engaging the reader to understand the history, elements, and nature of euthanasia. It is through scholarly articles that we learn of the different types of euthanasia. While the media presents euthanasia as a simple end of life, scholarly articles show that there is a difference between voluntary and involuntary euthanasia. Through scholarly articles, readers can gather facts about the issues surrounding the problem of euthanasia. These include studying and understanding the attitude of healthcare professionals, the policies in different states about euthanasia. On the other hand, the media often focuses on just getting the attention of the reader, capturing and maintaining it. For the media writer, he knows that his readers are most likely to just glimpse the article and move on unless their attention is captured. Facts and knowledge about the issue being discussed may not be ideal; however, experiences of individuals such as the French doctor and Brittany are perfect for ensuring that the reader remains to crave for more. In this way, the media writer, the journalist can make a profit and keep the media outlet afloat and in the eye of the consumer. This writer is, therefore, more focused on that which will increase sales, income, and profit into his business as opposed to that which will educate and enlighten the reader. Hence as can be seen in the above articles, journalists write using the “inverted pyramid” principle, which protects the bulk of the article, should the editor and/or media outlet decide to trim out the article making it shorter. With this principle, the majority of the last paragraphs are either a repetition of information presented in the first paragraphs or simply information which the writer already knows. On the other hand, the academic writer is expected to finish their article.

IMPORTANT ISSUES IN THE EUTHANASIA DEBATE

Right to die: this issue is often presented by both sides those supporting euthanasia and those against euthanasia. On the one hand, pro-euthanasia often considers the quality of life that every individual is leading. When the quality of life has decreased so that the individual is no longer living the life that they would be expecting, they should be given the time defined as lack of essential human needs such as food, shelter, clothing and education. To some people, however, poverty is the lack of freedom to die. This means that individuals with a terminal illness, the aged, and those who are severely disabled and indeed require to be supported by artificial machines so that they can live have a right to end their life should they choose to. This however does not mean that every individual with a terminal illness will be forced to die. The right exists in a matter of choice, just in the same way patients have a right to choose the form of treatment that would be most ideal for them, and they have the same right to refuse treatment and also to select the alternative of death.

However, those against euthanasia often state that this is an open door for involuntary suicide. Patients who are under the care of their relatives and especially those who are old and disabled are most likely to be coerced into selecting assisted suicide. Where they cannot make the decision themselves, the healthcare officials and the relatives could include ending the life simply because they would like to be done away with the responsibility of caring for the individual. It is also expected that healthcare officials will be less inclined to test and discover new treatments of ailments simply because a majority of their patients are choosing death, having lost the desire to live. They are also likely to lose commitment towards caring for their patients in the best way possible, encouraging them to seek new alternatives for treatment. In this way, the right to die will open the door to a society where death is more desirable than life.

Moral relativism: which states that what is true for one individual does not necessarily translate to the beliefs of another person in the same realm. For example, Christians are trained and a majority comes to believe that euthanasia of any kind is wrong. The bible, beliefs in God do not necessarily allow for assisted suicide. Christian families are therefore expected to care for their loved ones through the process of terminal illness until death. Christian patients on the other hand are expected to suffer through their illness, with death only coming naturally as a relive from God at his own time of choice. No human effort should be used to manage, decide, and bring forth the date of death. However, there are several Christians who do not agree absolutely with this stand. They are more inclined to support the right to death. In their perception, when an individual’s quality of life has decreased so significantly so that they are only supported by machines, then in essence they are already dead. In fact, they are only alive through the selfish desires of those living, they want to keep their loved ones for much longer yet the patient is already suffering greatly.

Futile Care: for terminally ill patients, the sentence of death comes at diagnosis. Doctors often give these patients the expected duration of survival before the disease kills them, or even take over their body functions. As such, care and treatment for such individuals are considered not only costly but also futile since they will not recover. Instead, the doctors and healthcare institutions focus more on patients who are most likely to recover. As the chances of recovery decrease, the patients are subjected to involuntary suicide simply by being denied high-quality healthcare. Access to services becomes difficult, sustenance becomes less difficult and death is hastened. Taking, for example, in New Zealand there are increased cases of patients being denied healthcare simply because they are more likely to die from the disease ailing them or they have become too old to survive much longer. In New Zealand there has been an increase of young adults suffering from diabetes, unfortunately, the cost of dialysis continues to be quite costly for the government to support. It is expected that with the legalization of assisted suicide, there will be an increase in the rationing of healthcare.

On the other hand, proponents of euthanasia indicate that the situation would be easier in such countries if the cost of caring for and treating terminally ill patients was managed through assisted suicide. With a decrease in these costs, these monies could be used to care for those suffering from diseases such as diabetes which still allow for some productive life. Opponents of assisted suicide are therefore concerned that with increased healthcare costs patients will be forced into palliative care and when these have been exhausted coerced into assisted suicide which could be morally detrimental for the country. The focus will shift from caring for patients to killing and doing away with patients.

Euthanasia for those who are non-terminally ill: in the past, little has been said on the non-terminally ill with the focus being more on those who are suffering terminally. For the terminally ill, the line is easy to draw. On the other hand, for the non-terminally ill, an issue arises on whether they too have a right to die. More specifically some patients suffer from debilitating psychological conditions. They may be depressed or suffering from schizophrenia which in turn does not allow them to be quite productive. In many cases, these individuals are paralyzed by an extreme desire to die and to end their life. Psychiatrists, therefore, indicate that the emotional pain that these individuals are dealing with is similar to the physical pain that terminally ill patients are dealing with. The question remains, therefore, if such patients have the right to die, a right which is similar to those who are terminally ill? For the depressed individual, may have tried several to commit suicide and are continually expected to do so, their care requires income and energy of relatives; perhaps even more than the terminally ill. Yet, because of their condition, they are more likely to be saved rather than allowed to die peacefully which is their desire.

Decision-makers: questions still arise on who has the right to decide to end a life. Several cases have been highlighted where healthcare professionals have taken matters into their own hands, choosing to end the lives of their patients having deemed them unredeemable. Relatives, parents, and even friends have also taken matters into their own hands and decided to end their lives. For the opponents of euthanasia, legalization opens the door for every person to decide to end a life. Amendments are likely to be made increasing the circle of people who can make decisions to end lives. Proponents of euthanasia, however, feel that the decision-makers can easily be controlled by determining the nature of the life of the patients, the current state of quality of life, and finally those who have been close to the patient and can therefore stand on behalf of the patient such as parents and spouses.

CONCLUSION

The euthanasia debate is one that will continue to be a leading topic as long as life and death continue to co-exist. It is one of the debates that continue to draw two conflicting sides apart. While the modern world is slowly coming to terms with the fact that there are cases where euthanasia is not only ideal, it may in fact be more humane than keeping patients alive; there are other traditionalists who think that the modern world is becoming a death-obsessed society. On the one hand, opponents of euthanasia have often been heard claiming that the rush to legalize euthanasia in the current society is more an issue of economics with the cost of healthcare rising each day. Proponents, however, indicate that indeed euthanasia should have been legalized a long time ago to allow for the dignified death of patients.

Medical technology has advanced greatly, to the point where many would have been thought dead a long time ago have been kept alive. This has denied them the right to peacefully die and give their loved ones some sought of emotional closure and relief. However, proponents of euthanasia believe that the issue of euthanasia has come to balance the scales.

REFERENCES

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