Euthanasia Term Paper


A considerable size of society is in favor of Euthanasia mostly because
they feel that as a democratic country, we as free individuals, have the
right to decide for ourselves whether or not it is our right to determine
when to terminate someone\'s life. The stronger and more widely held
opinion is against Euthanasia primarily because society feels that it is
god\'s task to determine when one of his creations time has come, and we as
human beings are in no position to behave as god and end someone\'s life.
When humans take it upon themselves to shorten their lives or to have
others to do it for them by withdrawing life-sustaining apparatus, they
play god. They usurp the divine function, and interfere with the divine
plan.

Euthanasia is the practice of painlessly putting to death persons who
have incurable , painful, or distressing diseases or handicaps. It come
from the Greek words for \'good\' and \'death\', and is commonly called mercy
killing. Voluntary euthanasia may occur when incurably ill persons ask
their physician, friend or relative , to put them to death. The patients
or their relatives may ask a doctor to withhold treatment and let them die.
Many critics of the medical profession contend that too often doctors play
god on operating tables and in recovery rooms. They argue that no doctor
should be allowed to decide who lives and who dies.

The issue of euthanasia is having a tremendous impact on medicine in
the United States today. It was only in the nineteenth century that the
word came to be used in the sense of speeding up the process of dying and
the destruction of so-called useless lives. Today it is defined as the
deliberate ending of life of a person suffering from an incurable disease.
A distinction is made between positive, or active, and negative, or
passive, euthanasia. Positive euthanasia is the deliberate ending of life;
an action taken to cause death in a person. Negative euthanasia is defined
as the withholding of life preserving procedures and treatments that would
prolong the life of one who is incurably and terminally ill and couldn\'t
survive without them. The word euthanasia becomes a respectable part of
our vocabulary in a subtle way, via the phrase \' death with dignity\'.

Tolerance of euthanasia is not limited to our own country. A court case
in South Africa, s. v. Hatmann (1975), illustrates this quite well. A
medical practitioner, seeing his eighty-seven year old father suffering
from terminal cancer of the prostate, injected an overdose of Morphine and
Thiopental, causing his father\'s death within seconds. The court charged
the practitioner as guilty of murder because \'the law is clear that it
nonetheless constitutes the crime of murder, even if all that an accused
had done is to hasten the death of a human being who was due to die in any
event\'. In spite of this charge, the court simply imposed a nominal
sentence; that is, imprisonment until the rising of the court. (Friedman
246)

Once any group of human beings is considered unworthy of living, what
is to stop our society from extending this cruelty to other groups? If the
mongoloid is to be deprived of his right to life, what of the blind and
deaf? and What about of the cripple, the retarded, and the senile?

Courts and moral philosophers alike have long accepted the proposition
that people have a right to refuse medical treatment they find painful or
difficult to bear, even if that refusal means certain death. But an
appellate court in California has gone one controversial step further.
(Walter 176)

It ruled that Elizabeth Bouvia, a cerebral palsy victim, had an
absolute right to refuse a life-sustaining feeding tube as part of her
privacy rights under the US and California constitutions. This was the
nation\'s most sweeping decision in perhaps the most controversial realm of
the rights explosion: the right to die...

As individuals and as a society, we have the positive obligation to
protect life. The second precept is that we have the negative obligation
not to destroy or injure human life directly, especially the life of the
innocent and invulnerable. It has been reasoned that the protection of
innocent life- and therefore, opposition to abortion, murder, suicide, and
euthanasia- pertains to the common good of society.

Among the potential effects of a legalised practice of euthanasia are
the following:

"Reduced pressure to improve curative or symptomatic treatment". If
euthanasia had been legal 40 years ago, it is quite possible that there
would be no hospice movement today. The improvement