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Is Euthanasia Ethical or Unethical – Ethical

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Physician assisted suicide has been a continually growing issue over the past 30 years. During the early and mid 1990's, it was perfectly acceptable to let patients die as a result of termination of treatment, but to let the physician assist in hastening death was not. When Oregon's Death With Dignity Act passed; however, this view changed. This law gave physicians the right to provide terminally ill patients with lethal drugs. It is the "right patients have to make a request for medication to end one's life in a humane and dignified manner" (Beauchamp 647). Oregon is the only state that it is legal to assist in suicide, but is it really ethical to let someone live in pain and suffer?

Oregon's law was passed in 1994 and protects physicians from be prosecuted under the following conditions: "the patient has an incurable and irreversible disease that will cause death within six months, the patient has given written informed consent, and the attending physician's conclusions are confirmed by a second physician"(Sclar 639). The passage of this law changed "refusals of medical technologies to requests for aid in hastening death;" (Beauchamp 648) autonomy rights have expanded and views on the right to die have been permanently altered. According to Teresa Grove, RN, EDD, in Portland, Oregon is the leading state in pain management and percentage of people who die at home instead of the hospital. "Having control over how one will end one's final days brings great comfort to many dying patients and their families" (Grove).

One of the biggest arguments about euthanasia is whether physicians are killing their patients, or simply letting them die. "Withdrawals or withholdings of treatment are classified in the letting die' category; physician assistance in hastening death has, by a crude default, often been placed in the killing' category" (Beauchamp 649). Letting a patient die is permitted, but "killing" is socially and morally wrong. This obviously irrelevant distinction should be erased altogether. All it suggests is that the "autonomous choice of the patient is not the relevant consideration in deciding whether to comply with a patient's preference; it suggests that only the type of action is important" (Beauchamp 649). This choice should be most important factor in deciding the distinction between killing and letting die.

Many philosophers' argue that it is the individual's right to choose, and that the government can't take that away from anyone no matter the case. A life is owned by the person who lives it; it is a gift and the government should not take part in making decisions regarding moral and/or religious matters. "The best way to live and die is to do so deliberately, autonomously, in a way that enables us to view our lives as our own creations" (Sandel). Every individual has a choice "central to personal dignity andautonomy. Such freedom includes nothing less than the right to define one's own concept of existence, of meaning, of the universe, and of the mystery of human life" (Sandel).

No matter what religion one is or what they were taught is moral or immoral, there are still ethical reasons for allowing physician assisted suicide. The most obvious case would be a terminally ill patient; they are going to die regardless so why not let them choose when it happens? It would be a great relief for them to not have to live the rest of their lives in unbearable pain while their families have to watch them suffer. Even though there are certain treatments that can ease this pain, not everyone has adequate health coverage to cover it. Also, discrimination plays a great part in this debate; "Suicide is a legal act that is theoretically available to all" (Robinson). Any other able bodied individual has the option of suicide, and no one is cracking down on them. If a healthy person can commit suicide and get away with it, why can't ill patients do the same? There are no legislative acts being passed or protestors crying out to stop the suicide of healthy people; it would be quite ridiculous. Trying to stop euthanasia and assisted suicide is equally silly. If a person is kept alive against their will using expensive treatments, is that really ethical? In an age where medical funding is continually being cut back, money is being spent on those who have a limited time to live and is "not available for pre-natal care, infant care, etc. where it would save lives" (Robinson). When you stop and think about it, religion holds a weak argument against euthanasia. "For each deeply religious person in North America, there are many nominally religious or secular people" that "treat euthanasia as a morally desirable option in some cases" (Robinson). Believers do not have the right to take their personal beliefs and apply them to the entire population; it would not be acceptable, or even ethical, to use those beliefs as a public policy for everyone, including atheists, liberals, etc. Everyone has different beliefs about different issues; we should leave it up to the individual to decide what they want to consider right or wrong.

Everyone has different opinions about euthanasia, it's expected because it is such a touchy and on-the-fence subject. It is very easy to take sides on the issue, even support your reasons, the problem; however, is that once someone forms an opinion about something it is hard to sway them. Assisted suicide may seem wrong to many people, but by taking a deeper look into it, exploring the background, one will be more understanding and willing to solve the problem. The passing of the ODWDA opened many people's eyes, and the practice became more acceptable. There are quite a few reasons why someone would be against it, but even so, there are a great deal more that push us to accept it. Each individual is in charge of their own life; therefore, one is in charge of when they end it. Not only should one be able to take charge of this life, but they also should be able to do so without being discriminated against and pushed to change their minds.

Works Cited

Beauchamp, Tom. "The Right to Die as the Triumph of

Autonomy." Journal of Medicine & Philosophy 31.6 (Dec. 2006): 643-654. Academic Search Elite. EBSCO. Torreyson Library, Conway, AR. 6 Apr. 2008 <

Grove, Teresa. "Oregon's law reaps extra benefits." Nursing

36.3 (Mar. 2006): 8-8. Academic Search Elite. EBSCO. Torreyson Library, Conway, AR. 6 Apr. 2008 <

Sandel, Michael J. "Last rights." New Republic 216.15 (14

Apr. 1997): 27-27. Academic Search Elite. EBSCO. Torreyson Library, Conway, AR. 6 Apr. 2008 <

Robinson, B. A. "Euthanasia and Physician Assisted Suicide:

All Sides." 9 April 2008. <>

Sclar, David. "Recent Developments in Health Law U.S.

Supreme Court Ruling in Gonzales v. Oregon Upholds the Oregon Death With Dignity Act." Journal of Law, Medicine & Ethics 34.3 (Fall 2006): 639-646. Academic Search Elite. EBSCO. UCA Library, Conway, AR. 6 Apr. 2008 <

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