Against Euthanasia) Essay, Research Paper
Euthanasia nowadays, constitutes a moral issue that from time to time comes into view mainly from its supporters who, contrarily to more traditional opinions, believe that the man is the master of his life and that nobody else can force him to stay alive, especially when his life has become unbearable from the illness and the pain. This dilemma does not have an easy solution. Even if basic thesis can and should- exist, many times the subsumption of the specific cases to these thesis, indicates the weakness of the man in front of some crossroads that happens to meet in his life. My opinion is that the ending of the life should not be looked at as just a demonstration of a humanistic attitude that lacks spiritual consideration for the man, but as a natural situation that should be respected and not abused.
The word euthanasia comes from the Greek words eu ( well ) and thanatos ( death ). It means a painless and gentle death. But in modern usage, it has come to imply that someone s life is ended for compassionate reasons by some passive or active steps taken by another person. Furthermore, today euthanasia is referred to, as passive or active that are differentiated on the basis of the behavior and the intent of the person who helps another person die.
Passive euthanasia refers to someone s helping another person to die by withholding or withdrawing life- sustaining treatment, including the administration of food and water. It is also known as euthanasia by omission. Passive euthanasia is usually requested by the person dying, either verbally or through a written document such as a living will. In passive euthanasia, by withholding intravenous feedings, medications, surgery, a pacemaker, or a respirator, the doctor can let the patient die of the underlying disease.
Active euthanasia, on the other hand, refers to someone s taking active steps to give a dying person, on his or her request, a lethal dosage of drugs in order to hasten death.
We can see through history that the Greeks and the Romans believed in the importance of a death with dignity that they achieved by using poisons. In the second and third centuries AD, the Christian spirit opposed the active or passive ending of life for anyone in order to gain relief. Nevertheless during the Renaissance, people stopped to criticize suicide. The modern euthanasia movement began in England in 1935, when G. B. Shaw and H. G. Wells started a Voluntary Euthanasia Society that later became known by the name Exit . In the United States, the movement was begun by Charles Potter, under the name Society for the Right to Die . Finally, in the early 1970s, other voluntary euthanasia societies were formed in the Netherlands and in Australia as the two edged blade of modern medical technology became obvious .
In this research paper we will analyze the ethics of Euthanasia that can be separated on three major bases: the philosophical, the moral, and the legal base. The debate over these bases for euthanasia has spilled considerable ink since the early 1970s and will probably continue to do so into the twenty-first century. But how these issues should be faced?
Beginning with the philosophical aspects of euthanasia we must first understand the importance of the sanctity of life. As R. Dworkin (p. 82), claims that human life is sacred because on the one hand religious traditions believe that God made humankind in His own image , and that each individual human being is a representation of the Creator. On the other hand the idea that human beings are something special among the whole creation explains why it is horrible that even a single human individual life should be extinguished.
These interconnections are most evident in the lives of people who are religious in traditional ways. However, most people who are not religious or atheists also have general, instinctive convictions about whether, why, and how any human life has intrinsic value. Therefore, supporting the religious viewpoint we would represent a large portion of the demurrers of euthanasia.
The mystery of life continues to tease us even after its end. The intercession of the man into this unknown process that leads the creatures towards their postmortem beginning of another life, the substitution of the Life-giver s authority by the man, it isn t just an act of disrespect, but an impermissible and arbitrary interference of the fiddling creature in God s will. As an ethicist (+arakas, p. 92- 94) in the U.S. writes,
God is the giver of life, and in His hand is the life of every living thing and the breath of all mankind (Job 12:10). To wrongfully take the life of an innocent person is murder and is condemned as a sin (Exodus 20:13). ( ) The only good death for the Christian is the peaceful acceptance of the end of his or her life with faith and trust in God and the promise of Resurrection .
Nevertheless, we shouldn t forget that in vital and crucial moments in our lives, we don t easily loose our hope for a miracle, which in some cases happens.
Looking through the moral aspects of euthanasia, we can divide them in two points of view: of the euthanized (patient) and his environment, and of the responsible doctor.
Starting with the moral analysis of the patient who desires to go through euthanasia, we could say that his or her wish has some logical arguments. This wish, according to G. M. Burnell (p. 251), comes from the need of the patient to avoid or end the unbearable pain during a terminal illness, to have a better quality of life, or to prevent unnecessary financial burden on his family.
However, some equally logical questions emerge. Do the people who are actually contemplating euthanasia for themselves generally put their requests in these terms? Or are they not rather looking for a way to end their troubles and pains? One can sympathize with such a motive, out of compassion, but can one admire it, out of respect? Is it really dignified to seek to escape from troubles to oneself? Is there, to repeat, not more dignity in courage than in its absence?
Euthanasia for one s own dignity is, at best, paradoxical, even self-contradictory: How can I honor myself by making myself nothing? Even if dignity were to consist solely in autonomy, is it not an embarrassment to claim that autonomy reaches its zenith precisely as it disappears? Leon R. Kass (p. 139) in his article about death with dignity, says:
The deaths we most admire are those of people who, knowing that they are dying, face the fact frontally and act accordingly: They set their affairs in order; they arrange what could be final meetings with their loved ones, and yet, with strength of soul and a small reservoir of hope, they continue to live and work and love as much as they can for as long as they can .
There is also another danger. The medical experience has taught that the incurable man may ask for his end under the state of unbearable suffering, but when his pains shrink or stop, life reappears and the appeal is now for its preservation and not for its ending. In addition, the intolerable pressure of the relatives generates an amount of questions and suspicions, especially when financial and hereditary interests coexist.
To continue with the doctors position on the subject, we must first underline that the Hippocratic oath that is made from the majority of the doctors around the world, and has lead and still leads their consciences for centuries, is outright, and starkly prohibitive to any act or attempt of euthanasia. We copy: I will neither give a deadly drug to anyone, if asked for, nor will I make suggestion to this effect (Drakopoulos, p. 32). According to an American doctor (Leon R. Kass, p. 136), killing patients even those who ask for death- violates the inner meaning of the art of healing .
Undebatably, there are also real and genuine signs of pity and compassion for our weak companion, parent, or child. And maybe most of us have been witnesses of such situations where the pen is unable to describe the deep emotions of dedication, affection, pain, and the appeal for relief in the eyes of both sides. And in the middle, the doctor who is standing incapable to stop the decay, is hovering above the hesitations of his heart and his conscience.
In these difficult situations, the experience of the previous generations of the medicine teaches that the doctor on the one hand must use up all his scientific effort for the relief from the pain, and on the other hand should stand by the patient as the man who tenders the hope and not as his executioner who leads to death.
On the contrary, there are cases where doctors do not respect their Oath and put into practice euthanasia to people for their own benefit or as they say for scientific gain . Doctor Death , Jack Kevorkian, is a grand example. The newspaper New Republic (Betzhold M., p. 22), has written for the famous doctor that he manipulates deaths for scientific gain. Kevorkian has said that euthanasia is just the first step; what he finds the most satisfying is the prospect of making possible the performance of invaluable experiments.
For the legal matter, the third base of ethics of euthanasia, we can concentrate on the issue of the legalization. According to a Greek professor of medicine (Avramedes, p. 68), the fundamental law of the state is obliged to protect the human life, born or unborn, because this is the uppermost human value and right whose violator is punished with the major punishment. About this issue, R. Dworkin (p. 181) claims that the current legislation in most countries does not vary between the state of not being kept alive and being killed. Questions like what are the risks that people will ask to be killed after a misdiagnosis? or that they will die before new treatments are discovered or developed that would have saved their lives if they had waited? , make the laws of all western countries (except, in practice, The Netherlands) to prohibit doctors or others from directly killing people at their own request, by injecting an immediately lethal poison, for example.
As S. Drakopoulos (p. 32), said even in homicide with consent that means with the patient s agreement, there still is a punishment with equity. Our fundamental law has set up some conditions in order to define the homicide with consent like the verification that the disease is incurable, the request of the patient for euthanasia is made after serious thought, and that the perpetrator should be aware of the disease and to act with ruth for the patient.
However, M. Marty and R. Hamel (p. 44- 45), pose some serious questions about the likelihood of the legislation:
It may be premature to move to that direction now. There is a real danger in forging ahead with legislation without having considered ( ) euthanasia in all its breadth and depth. ( ) Does it have its limits? Have we sufficiently thought through the probable and possible consequences, good and bad, of both allowing and disallowing these measures? ( ) Have all reasonable alternatives been tried? Could it be that legalized euthanasia will leave unresolved the root problems associated with care of the terminally ill and dying, and deal with only the symptoms? How would a policy of legalized euthanasia be reconciled with basic moral convictions as well as with the beliefs of most religious traditions? Many such considerations deserve to be thought through before we try to settle the issue through legislation .
The state and the society ought to offer compassion and sympathy to the dying man and not death. Because, nothing and nobody can enable the murder of an innocent man, whose life does not belong to anybody not even to him (Avramedes, p.91- 92).
The doctor everyday, poises and counts the heavy moments of the passage from life to death, without any power to hamper this line knowing that the intimate fibers that link life with the other side are in the hands of someone Else. The One that gave them. So, the doctor knows that he should never presume that an illness is incurable, considering the probability of a mistake, a surprise, a miracle. On the other hand, we perceive the revulsion of the people who support the act of euthanasia when the end concerns themselves. It is different to think for euthanasia cold-bloodedly than when you suffer. Time and Life count differently then. Unappreciated feelings come back, rise, and lighten. The whole life is being transvalued, the spirit is getting smoother, and the rivals turn down. Nobody intimates the soul s sensitive tosses and gambols a little while before the Final Exit.
The Great Mystery of Life is Given, not granted.
Everyone should serve it, each one from his angle; especially the Doctor. _
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2. Betzold, Michael. The selling of Doctor Death.
New Republic 26th May 1997: pp. 22- 28.
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Medical Technology. New York: Plenum Press, 1993
4. Drakopoulos, Spyridon. Euthanasia.
Piraeki Ekklisia October 1992: pp. 30-33
5. Dworkin, Ronald M. Life s Dominion: An Argument About
Abortion, Euthanasia, and Individual Freedom. 1st ed.
New York: Vintage Books, 1994
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Euthanasia, Religion, and the Public Debate.
Philadelphia: The Park Ridge Center for the Study of Health,
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