Euthanasia: Who Makes the Final Decision

“Life is pleasant. Death is peaceful. It’s the transition that’s troublesome” (Isaac Asimov). A person can have a disease that cannot be cured, causing high levels of discomfort and agony. When it comes to the matter of death, unfortunately not everyone receives an ideal ending. Typically, one’s final days or weeks are determined by doctors or loved ones. This can be well after the patient has decided that they no longer have any fight left in them. For some, it can become very tragic. Euthanasia can give a patient, along with their loved ones, a more peaceful and respectable passing. People who have a terminal illness should be able to elect the option of euthanasia.

There are two types of euthanasia, one being active and the other being passive. Passive euthanasia is already playing a role throughout today’s modern health care, by taking an unresponsive person off all lifesaving machinery. Active euthanasia is when a physician gives a patient with a terminal illness such as cancer a lethal dose of medication to end their life. The article “Right to Die” explains, “In 1994, Oregon became the first state to legalize the practice after voters approved it in a statewide referendum” (“Right to Die”).

The state of Oregon recognizes this as their Death With Dignity Act. The most known member of medicine in correlation to euthanasia was pathologist, Jack Kevorkian. Dr. Kevorkian was one who supported what his patients wished, even though in most states it was illegal. In the article “Right to Die”, the author states, “During the 1990’s, Kevorkian – whom the media nicknamed ‘Dr. Death’… had helped more than 130 people end their lives” (“Right to Die”). Active euthanasia, also known as physician assisted suicide, is way for a doctor to grant someone a less disturbing end of life scenario. According to the article, “Support For Physician-Assisted Suicide” states “57% of Americans surveyed in 2017 believed that doctor-assisted suicide is morally acceptable” (Support For Physician-Assisted Suicide).

Focusing on physician assisted suicide, those that suffer with a terminal illness should not have to live the rest of their life in pain. People who have been diagnosed with a terminal medical condition can undergo a substantial amount of discomfort as they go through the process nearing the end of life. These people “fear experiencing intolerable pain and suffering, losing control over bodily functions, or lingering with severe dementia” (To Live Each Day With Dignity). There are various side effects one may experience during this time including a high volume of pain, along with a failure to thrive resulting in no quality of life and being bed bound.

The article, “Right to Die” says “For many human beings the value of their lives is inextricably linked to the quality of their lives, and life below a subjective threshold is no longer worth living”. If at any given moment an individual has reached this stage of their life, and they come to the determination that they no longer have the will to carry on, then they should have the option to choose an assisted death by a physician. No one can measure the amount of pain that another individual might be enduring. Someone’s pain tolerance will differ from the next person’s. While going through life, even if one is not actively dying, no one deserves to suffer or be in agonizing pain.

Having the right to be able to choose euthanasia gives the patient control of their care. When someone is informed that they may have less than six months to live, they lose control over their life. Every aspect of their life is now dictated and controlled by a sickness. Those with a debilitating disease sacrifice leaving their loved ones behind, what they have built over time, and who they were destined to be. In the article, “Right To Die,” the author writes ‘I do not know what I would do if I were dying in prolonged and excruciating pain… I am certain, however, that it would be a comfort to be able to consider the options afforded by this bill”.

Patients get to choose other areas of care they may partake in, such as where to go for the care they receive, the gender of a physician, a particular doctor, when to seek medical treatment, or the course of their care plan. Added to the other multiple possibilities of what services a patient may be able to handpick, should also be the option of euthanasia if it is what they see is fit for them. The article “Right To Die” shows ‘This right to physician aid in dying quintessentially involves the inviolable right to human dignity—our most fragile right’. Having the option available, gives them back a voice after everything else is being stripped away.

The option of euthanasia provides an individual a humane, dignified end of life experience. Euthanasia is an alternative that can grant a dying human being an exit without the lingering ailments from a terminal illness that is overtaking their body. Also, the article “To Live Each Day With Dignity” expresses that “They are afraid of being kept past life’s natural limits by burdensome medical technology”. The Death With Dignity Act gives not only the patient but the family members a form of peace, making the dying experience more bearable. The article “To Live With Dignity” also expresses “they worry about being abandoned or becoming a burden to others”. When the individual with a terminal medical condition goes through the end of life experience in a drawn-out or painful manner it can also be traumatic for the family and friends. For those individuals, witnessing the ones they care about in such an inhumane state of discomfort, especially over a long period, is another tragedy they must cope with in addition to the actual loss. Having such a negative experience can also give them a sense of fear when it comes to death in the future.

Physician assisted suicide takes the financial burden away from the family members and saves on medical cost. Medical cost is incredibly expensive, and for prolonged medical services the price will vastly expand. Patrick Richard, Regine Walker, Pierre Alexandre state, “The rise in treatment costs and associated cost sharing for individuals and families with chronic health conditions have been found to impose a significant financial burden on families or individuals, even those with health insurance”. Inevitably, leaving the bill with those left behind to be accountable for, in addition to the funeral service arrangements.

Also, Alexandre, Richard, and Walker express that “The financial burden of adverse health events ranges from filing for bankruptcies the extent of which is controversial, for e.g. to medical debt. Furthermore, uninsured families with medical debt have even depleted their savings and other assets or forgone the consumption of necessities such as food, heat or rent to pay for their medical debt”. Those who are nearing the end of life do not want to add any additional financial strain to their family members by raking up a significant amount of medical cost that they will not be around to pay for.

On the other hand, some people might disagree and will argue the concept of euthanasia is not ethical. Those who dispute the concept of physician assisted suicide believe that it is a form of murder, it goes against the natural course of life and devalues it as well. The article “Right To Die” explains that “Physician-assisted suicide is fundamentally incompatible with the physician’s role as a healer, would be difficult or impossible to control, and would pose a serious societal risks”. They continue to say, “Opponents contend that, rather than helping people die, doctors and policy makers should reform the U.S heath system to improve end-of-life care and pain management” (Right To Die). Liz Szabo writes in the Washington Post “Critics of aid-in-dying laws have warned that such legislation could set the country on a ‘slippery slope’ in which lethal prescriptions are dispensed not just to the terminally ill but to anyone with a disease that harms their quality of life”. Even with all these arguments against euthanasia, the fact remains that it is ultimately a personal choice and should be treated as such.

In conclusion, there are people who currently are facing a great deal of discomfort in their final days, but this could simply be changed by active euthanasia. If everyone could be granted one final wish, to not complete their journey in unmanageable distress then it should not even be a question if it is acceptable or not. If someone feels their life is not worth living anymore and has thought carefully about ending their life, then we should respect this decision. For example, if someone is in a persistent vegetative state and their life is considered not worth living. People need to make decisions in their life according to their own conceptions, beliefs and feelings about where they want their lives to go.

People take responsibility for their own lives and since dying is a part of life, the choice should be up to each individual. If someone feels their life is not worth living anymore then they should be able to end their life on their own terms, after all it technically isn’t illegal for one to commit suicide. The financial cost of long term medical and nursing care is very expensive. Legalizing euthanasia would remove the need to spend money on this type of care and free up money that can be spent elsewhere. Death is an inseparable part of life. If we are to live life honestly and without fear, we must also accept that death is ultimately inevitable.

Death should not cause us to live in fear, but rather to live our lives in the very best way that we can. It is important to make responsible preparations including financial and legal arrangements, as well as talking about our wishes with our family and friends. Each person is only given one life and isn’t the whole purpose of living to embrace every aspect of it, including the good and bad. Death is the very last objective to the course of life and should also be a positive experience as well.

Works Cited

  1. Asimov, Isaac. https://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/isaac_asimov_103611
  2. ‘Euthanasia Devalues Human Life and Limits Individual Freedom.’ Euthanasia, edited by Margaret Haerens, Greenhaven Press, 2015. Opposing Viewpoints. Opposing Viewpoints in Context, http://ezproxy.mcckc.edu:2075/apps/doc/EJ3010134271/OVIC?
  3. u=morekcmetroccpv&sid=OVIC&xid=d04be801. Accessed 6 Nov. 2018. Originally published as ‘To Live Each Day with Dignity: A Statement on Physician-Assisted Suicide,’.
  4. ‘Right to Die: Do terminally ill patients have a right to die with the assistance of a physician?’ Issues & Controversies, Infobase Learning, 10 Nov. 2016, http://icof.infobaselearning. com/recordurl.aspx?ID=6342. Accessed 6 Nov. 2018.
  5. ‘Support for Physician-Assisted Suicide and Euthanasia among US Adults, 2001–2017.’ Gale Opposing Viewpoints in Context, Gale, 2018. Opposing Viewpoints in Context, http://ezproxy.mcckc.edu:2075/apps/doc/LTJZAM104286745/OVIC?u=morekcmetroccpv&sid=OVIC&xid=d51217b4. Accessed 6 Nov. 2018.
  6. Szabo, Liz. ”Death with dignity’ isn’t just about easing end-of-life pain.’ Washington Post, 25 Oct. 2016. Opposing Viewpoints in Context, http://link.galegroup.com/apps /doc/A467720555/OVIC?u=morekcmetroccpv&sid=OVIC&xid=9a83560c. Accessed 7 Nov. 2018.