Assisted Suicide Forty-one year-old Peter Cinque was in the terminal stages of diabetes. He was blind, had lost both legs, and suffered from ulcers and cardiovascular problems, as well. He was being kept alive by a kidney dialysis machine. Then one day he asked his doctors to stop the treatment. As a conscious, rational adult, he had the legal right to determine what should or should not be done to his body. But the hospital authorities refused to honor this right until he had been examined by two psychiatrists to test his mental competence.
After this, the hospital obtained a court order that required him to continue with dialysis treatments. A few days later, Mr. Cimque stopped breathing. He had suffered from brain damage and was in a coma. Only after this and two court hearings in the hospital that he was finally permitted to exercise his constitutional right of self-determination (Ogg 61).
What an unfortunate incident. Mr. Cinque was forced to prolong his suffering due to a lack of guidelines to ensure the right of self-determination. For this reason, euthanasia must be legalized in a way that individuals to decide for themselves what should or should not be done to their bodies. That is, laws must be strengthened and guidelines must be set to ensure the right of euthanasia will not be denied to people.
The case for euthanasia is justified on three fundamental moral principles: mercy, autonomy, and justice (Battin 18). First, there is principle of mercy. This means that one ought to relieve pain of another and that it is a doctors duty to relieve pain and suffering for the patients. Granting mercy sometimes require euthanasia, both by direct killing and letting die. Moreover, allowing doctors to end the life of terminally ill patients is more merciful than allowing them to die slowly and painfully.
Second, There is the principle of autonomy. That is, euthanasia is an individuals choice. It is the right of those who have a desire to be free from pain and total dependence on others to end their lives. The degree of pain experienced by one can never be fully appreciated by another. Thus, no one can decide for another, and no one can take a choice away from another.
Third, there is the principle of justice. Euthanasia is central to the liberty protected by the fourteenth amendment (Leo22). Again, every human being of adult years has the right to decide what should be done with his body. This also applies to terminally ill patients who are especially in need of choices. They are at a situation in which they must be allowed to decide for choices. They are at a situation in which they must be allowed to decide for themselves.
Otherwise, it would be unconstitutional to deny them the freedom of choice in which every body else has. It would be a crime to deny them this right because they are at the mercy of other people. A lot of the terminally ill patients who wish to end their suffering by death are denied by doctors and hospitals and, sometimes, the law itself. Medical authorities often have to consult courts when it comes to the issue of euthanasia. They fear of the responsibilities because they lack concrete guidelines to exercise euthanasia.
This only results in prolonging the suffering of the patients. According to Isaac Asimov, “If a person is subject to pain that wont stop as a result of a disease that cant be cured, must he or she suffer that pain as long as possible when there are gentle ways of putting an end to life?” (62). It is absurd to put terminally ill patients through painful treatments unless they choose to, when euthanasia is available as an alternative choice. Too often, because of hospitals and court delays, many terminally ill patients are forced to prolong their suffering. Opponents of euthanasia contend that life is too precious for anyone to decide to end it. Cardinal Bernardin, arguing against euthanasia, states, “As individuals and as a society, we have the positive obligation protect life..not to destroy or injure human life directly, especially the life of the innocent and vulnerable” (70).
Another opponent of euthanasia, Ph. Schepens, wrote, “A society in which the individual can exist only if he is wanted by others, and who therefore ceases to have absolute value” (26). In other words, they claim that euthanasia would lead to devaluation of human life because it would force medical professionals and patients families to judge the worth of other lives. However, their views are invalid. On the contrary, forcing hopelessly ill patients to continue their suffering and total dependence on others would be devaluation of human life.
It is demoralizing for many of these patients to be in such a situation of continuous pain and helplessness. Recall Peter Cinques incidence at the beginning of this paper. If anything, his life was devalued. He was forced to suffer even more severely because he was denied his wish of dying to end his pain. Had he been granted his wish in the first place, he would not have to he through this torture.
Terminally ill patients like Mr. Cinque will eventually die, and most of the time will be a painful death. It would be much more honorable to human life to respect these patients wishes and give them a choice to end their pain by euthanasia. This is not to say that they should be forced to choose death as a method of pain relief. Those who choose to fight their illness until the end should be respected in the same way. The opponents of euthanasia also use the “slippery slope” argument to speak against euthanasia (Leo 22). This argument claims that once euthanasia becomes acceptable for the terminally ill, it would become acceptable for the less seriously ill, the handicapped, the mentally retarded, and the elderly.
The opponents fear that it would get out of hand, and unjustified deaths would be uncontrollable. This view, like the previous one, is too blindly exaggerated. It is for these reasons why laws must be strengthen to ensure the right of euthanasia, not to omit euthanasia, completely, The laws that protect the peoples right to euthanasia will, at the same time, protect the peoples right from euthanasia. It is not about getting rid of the unwanted people of society, but it is about a necessity of choices for people who need choices, such as the terminally ill. Thus, it is necessary to have euthanasia legalized.
This would allow competent patients to decide for themselves how they prefer to be treated. They could decide for themselves whether they prefer to either fight their illnesses with painful treatments or to end their suffering by euthanasia. Patients like Peter Cinque would not have to be forced to suffer. They would be allowed to determine their own destiny and worth. More important so, terminally ill patients could have an alternative choice available to them when their pain is becoming unbearable.
The point is that they should be allowed to decide for themselves, when they are conscious or are incapable of deciding for themselves. Then their families and doctors can decide on their behalf. The opponents of euthanasia suggest that instead of having to legalize euthanasia, better pain relief would make euthanasia unnecessary (Peterson 19). However, the fact is that pain is not the only reason why people seek euthanasia. Many incapable patients fear the lost of control of their bodily functions.
They are overwhelmed by the feeling of hopelessness and mental anguish. Thus, reducing the pain alone cannot solve the problem. Other opponents of the legalization of euthanasia suggest moving all terminally ill patients into a hospice where they can be cared for (Schofield 28). In a hospice, patients are visited, read to, and kept in constant contact with loving people. Doctors can care for the medical need of the patients and attempt to keep pain at a minimum. The opponents claim that a hospice would also make euthanasia unnecessary. Sure, this plan will benefit those who do not want to go through euthanasia, but what about those who do?.
Patients will still be totally dependent on others and forced to prolong their suffering. There are always those who would rather die than be totally dependant on others. Why not just let them die to end their pain and suffering, and why not just let them die peacefully with dignity?. When euthanasia is legalized, terminally ill patients will have the choice to end their suffering and die with dignity. Those who wish to go through euthanasia will not have this right denied to them.
They are free to judge their wom lives and free to exercise their right of self-determination. When euthanasia is legalized, patients will not be forced to have their pain prolonged due to court hearing or due to hospital bureaucracies. Lpatients do not have to feel that they are at the mercy of thers. Furthermore, doctors will be free from the burden of providing medical care to patients who are hopelessly ill, especially patients who wish to discontinue painfull treatments. Yet, legalizing euthanasia does not mean that society would force pople to die when they are incapable or when they get old. People would simply be granted an alternative choice other than having to go trough prolonged and painful treatment.
It is now clear that euthanasia is a right that cannot be denied to people. But in order to ensure that this right is not denied to people, our legislatures must take action. They must provide concrete laws to ensure that terminally ill patients have the ritht to choose. They must provide concrete guidelines for medical authorties to act upon. Moreover, we as citizems need to urge our legislatures to strengthen the laws to support euthanasia.
We must stand together and speak out to let them know that a right cannot be denied to us. We need to have euthanasia legalized so that we have this choice available to us when needed. And for those who are hopelessly ill, legalizing euthanasia will allow them to end their suffering and die with dignity. Bibliography Asimov, Isaac. “No Mercy.” Euthanasia: Opposing Viewpoints. Ed.
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