Euthanasia: A Necessary Relief
According to Webster’s Ninth New Collegiate Dictionary, euthanasia is that act or practice of killing or permitting the death of hopelessly sick or injured individuals (persons or domestic animals) in a relatively painless way for reasons of mercy. How can anyone disagree with this concept? Euthanasia is acceptable when the person involved, or the family if the individual is incapable, makes a conscious decision while suffering from an incurable disease.
The whole idea of assisted suicide was started in the thirties and forties when Hitler went on his genocidal rampage. This fact alone gives the term "euthanasia" a negative connotation, but one must examine the differences between our time and his. "Hitler was bent on exterminating Jews, even if he destroyed a few thousand others before he found his focus" (King 1). This is where the distinction lies. Our society is out to relieve pain and suffering for certain individuals who would benefit from it, not to cause it. Hitler’s victims were people who had no rights, choices, or any influence in the outcome of their lives, and we, as a society, need to realize that although this trend may have begun in Germany, everything hateful, cruel, and selfish ended there as well.
A person’s right to choose is even incorporated into our national laws. "The Declaration of Independence states that a person has certain unalienable rights which are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness" (Day 2). According to this statement, any person denied this right is a victim of violation. This said, I do believe that there should be, and is to an extent, some distinction between someone openly committing suicide for paltry, insignificant reasons, and someone who is asking for death for health reasons of grief and misery. Given, if a family loses a family member by the euthanasia technique, it can cause a great deal of personal heartache, but that pain can be matched if not doubled to have to see their loved one suffering in a bed not able to even care for himself.
The legal jargon is another aspect of it. Dr. Jack Kevorkian was recently put in jail for performing assisted suicides on patients. Even though Kevorkian had a video to prove that the subject (Thomas Youk) was indeed consenting to this, the doctor was sentenced to 10-25 years in jail (Humphry 1). As the law is at present, we have difficulty justifying deaths that are unnatural and though the issue of euthanasia is a fairly new problem, somehow we have got to come to some conclusion. "The law does not accept that a person can ask to be killed" (Humphry 1). And why is that? The law needs to recognize that while it can decide what is best for the nation as a whole, it cannot limit a person’s rights when it comes to making personal decisions. We are all taught to think for ourselves, and one can only hope that we all make the right decisions.
Some people are of the opinion that it is cruel and inhumane to "just kill" someone and while the definition of cruelty differs among people, inhumanity is not an issue here. As practiced at the EXIT facility (Society for Human Dying) in Switzerland:
An EXIT team member provides and anti-emetic ... to the patient and half an hour later, 10 g of sodium pentobarbitone is given. Within five minutes, the patient falls into a deep sleep and within two hours, with few exceptions, will die peacefully. The team member stays with the patient [until] death occurs and there is always a witness present, usually a close relative. (Schaer 1)
The process contains no coldness, just serenity and closeness. Other people believe that instead of purposefully killing a person, would it not be better to simply let them die naturally? They say that people should be offered an alternative. For example "if a person does not take food or water, he will die a peaceful death in 2 days to 2 weeks. Usually it is less than a week" (Pilgrim 1). Essentially these people are opting to let the patient starve to death or die from malnutrition. Assuming that the person is a proverbial vegetable, this might be the favorable choice, but if the person is of sound mind, that treatment is far more cruel that the typical medications that are administered during euthanasia.
What it amounts to is the individual’s choice versus the government versus the family’s choice. The man wants to go through with the process, the government will not allow it, and the family wants the man to be at peace, but does not want to let them go. Euthanasia might as well be spelled "c-o-n-t-r-o-v-e-r-s-y" because it seems that we all go in circles with our points of view. What we need to do is sit down and put ourselves in a situation of pain, suffering, and incompetency, and then decide what we would like our outcome to be.
Day, Jackie. "The Rights of Euthanasia." 1997. Online Posting. 18 June 1999. http://www.death-dying.com/survey/paper.html.
"Euthanasia." Webster’s Ninth New Collegiate Dictionary. 1986 ed.
Humphry, Derek. "Dr. Jack Kevorkian, prisoner # 284797." 20 April 1999. Online Posting. 18 June 1999. http://www.finalexit.org/dr.k.html..
King, PJ. "Lessons from History: Euthanasia in Nazi Germany." 4 October 1996. Online Posting. 19 June 1999. http://www.ohiolife.org/euth/nazieuth.htm.
Pilgrim, Ira. "Birth and Death." 15 January 1999. Online Posting. 19 June 1999. http://www.mcn.org/c/irapilgrim/MED30.html.
Schaer, Meinrad. "The Practice of Assisted Suicide in Switzerland." Online Posting. 18 June 1999. http://www.finalexit.org/swiss.html.