“If we are to have free will, that free will should include not only how we live our lives, but how long we live them” (Taylor 2003, 30). Euthanasia, the specific term for assisted suicide, has been a century old controversy (Clarfield 2003, 38). Its leader in the controversy is Dr. Jack Kevorkian, who has assisted in over 30 deaths since 1990. Dr. Kevorkian claims that the medical, religious, journalistic and legal communities won’t stop him. Psychologist Joseph Richman says that, “All suicides, including the “rational,” can be an avoidance of or substitute for dealing with basic life-and-death issues.” So which is right, helping dying people to achieve their last wish, or waiting for God to do his part while the ill sit there and die slowly and painfully? Euthanasia should be legalized in the United States.
Hearing the negatives about euthanasia, the U.S. citizens need to also hear the good points of the topic. The question of who has the right to give or take life has played an important part in the history of technology, with designer babies and altering DNA. But it also contributes to the challenging question of who should be able to take another’s life as in physician’s aide, or euthanasia (Clarfield 2003, 38). In 1972, the Dutch Council of Health did their own study and decided that euthanasia should be legal. They stated that doctors needed to follow rules and regulations to assist with death (Clarfield 2003, 38).
Rob Jonquiere states that, “These reactions are often very hypocritical. Doctors all over the world perform euthanasia, but they don’t report it.” (Kolfschooten 2003, 1352) So even if euthanasia is not legalized, doctors may continue to perform the procedure. So why not legalize euthanasia anyway! “If your life is yours, then it is no one else’s business if you choose to discontinue having experiences” (Flynn 2003, 25).
Then the moral issue comes in. Do individual’s lives belong to God? Religious leaders will argue that God had control over everyone’s life until death, and physicians shouldn’t take that into their own hands. Although the conflict of euthanasia seems new, the actual procedure has been around since World War I (Clarfield 2003, 38). It became a strong issue in the 1920’s and 30’s, growing again in the 60’s and 70’s (Clarfield 2003, 38). New laws are still occurring, the last one updated by Dutch euthanasia describes new regulations on April first 2002 (Kolfschooten 2003, 1352). Many supporters of euthanasia also advocated sterilization laws (Payne 2003, 57). But are the supporters agreeing with euthanasia because of their feelings towards the ill? Seventy to eighty percent of people polled that they felt sympathetic towards the terminally ill (Payne 2003, 57). Even if this happens to be true, euthanasia still was morally acceptable in their views. Just like divorce, marrying outside of a persons’ racial class, and issues dealing with social classes, euthanasia shall overcome obstacles of moral, ethical, and political views with time. People just need to realize that keeping someone alive against their will, happens to be more morally wrong than giving them what they want and rightfully deserve.
Although euthanasia is illegal in the United States and its considered a taboo by most; some examples are shown in the following lines that would like to see physician-aided death prevail (Flynn 2003, 24). Freddie, who after being diagnosed with cancer refused chemotherapy as a treatment for the illness. He went in for surgery and had his bladder removed. A few days later the doctors told him that the surgery was unsuccessful, and the cancer had spread to other organs. Freddie’s first week in the hospital was unbearable, waking up to day after day of pain because of laws against assisted suicide. His had spent the last three weeks in the hospital, the last one of which he spent unconscious, hooked up to machines. With a needle in each arm: one to keep him alive, and the other to keep him asleep safe from the pain (Taylor 2003, 29-30).
Sidney Cohen was diagnosed with cancer in November and was told that he would die within three months. By January 1st, Sidney was in pain, and bed-bounded praying for euthanasia. He was allowed only to drink water for six weeks, and became desperate, isolated, and frightened (Arthur 2002, 1). Sidney had no reason to live his life, because in his position his life couldn’t be acceptable. People should be able to decide if their life amounts to a “life not worthy to be lived,” as Dr. Leo Alexander said that the euthanasia debate started with this question. Alexander said that there would be a rising time of death with dignity movement, or assisted suicide, which Oregon has now legalized (Washington 2002, 1). The law legalizing euthanasia became a landmark law for the Oregon people when they received adequate pain relief (Washington 1991, 1).
If the option of euthanasia is not available to some, the ill may take their own life as Carol Ezzell did. She did not qualify for physician aide in Holland. So she took her own life in a needlessly vile way, and her loved ones had no chance to say their last goodbyes. Because of Carol’s many years of anguished sickness and the doctors only promising worse to come, she did not see any other solution to her problem (Flynn 2003, 25). That brings us back to the controversy of should euthanasia be legalized? Yeah, there happen to be ways to live longer for those that are not quite on their deathbed, but it is the patient’s decision if they don’t want to live longer. Is it not?
Having so many ways to misuse euthanasia, the United States has not passed a bill to legalize. Most doctors today in the United States that have patients in a comatose state do what their family feels happens to be right or with his or her own discretion. And if that is keeping them asleep until their last minutes of life, most doctors consider what they call terminal sedation, legal in the United States (Kolfschooten 2003, 1352). “Physicians the world over administer pain-killing drugs to terminally ill patients that have the effect of killing them. The difference is that we do it openly,” says Henk Leenen, lawyer of the medical ethics department (Wright 2003, 1061). Doctors can sneak around the euthanasia debate this way. They call it the administration of a sedative medication to ease pain and agony. Doctors in the Netherlands use terminal sedation to get around having to get a second opinion. Although this technique will help the patient out tremendously it is proved that the sleep inducing drugs ends lives early (Kolfschooten 2003, 1352).
Using euthanasia properly in the United States, there needs to be a system of rule that is followed religiously. The Netherlands adopted the first laws that allowed euthanasia to be legal. The Dutch euthanasia regulations were set into law on April first of 2002 and Henk Leenen says that all it needs to do to stay legal is follow the guidelines that the Dutch Medical Society introduced, while Europe allows the issue (Wright 2003, 1061). The rules and regulations have to be followed in order to qualify for the procedure in the Netherlands; the rules include these four regulations: (1) that the patient would have to be 21 years of age or older (2) to be “of sound mind” (3) to be suffering from severe physical pain (4) and to have an incurable ailment (Clarfield 2003, 38). Although the ESA (Euthanasia Society of America) proposed a bill in the United States that would make the patient have to petition the courts and other doctors would have to examine the patient for the treatment before euthanasia to be performed, however the bill did not pass (Clarfield 2003, 38). The United States should come up with rules like the Netherlands did, or just use regulations that they came up with. US doctors or doctors in general are not hanging over the bedside of these ill people trying to save money for the hospital or for the persons’ family (Payne 2003, 57).
I think that Wesley Smith stated it best when he said, “We all age. We fall ill. We grow weak. We become disabled. A day comes when our need to receive from our fellows adds to far more than our ability to give in return. When we reach that stage of life…will we still be deemed persons entitled to equal protection under the law?” I certainly hope so. When I get old I want to have the right to choose to end my life. I want my rights that were guaranteed to me in the United States Constitution about my personal freedom. I would like to be able to do what I please without the government running my life. I thought that happens to be what a capitalism government is all about. Being to do what you want, when you want to, without some official questioning your sanity.
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