Euthanasia: Status and Medical Implications

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Introduction

One of the most controversial issues affecting mankind since time immemorial is the issue of euthanasia. Two camps do exist, one supports euthanasia either partly or in whole. The other camp rejects it either in part or as a whole. For the last several decades, scientists, theorists, theologians and lawmakers have engaged this issue to great depth. Euthanasia is a very sensitive and controversial issue that demands several dimensions of approach in order to come up with a conclusive decision on which side to follow. After having gone through thorough research and also escapades with euthanasia, I find it imperative to engage the topic of euthanasia in depth with an aim of shedding more light into this important yet controversial issue. Different countries have different stands on euthanasia. This paper mainly focuses on Canada. By all means, euthanasia amounts to taking a life. This paper presents a debate in which the idea of euthanasia is rejected with totality based on the conviction that euthanasia ignores the importance and value of human’s life.

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Euthanasia

It is important to begin any discussion on euthanasia by first making definitions of the main term “euthanasia” as well as related terms. Euthanasia refers to ending someone’s life in the belief that doing so will help the person in avoiding extreme pain and suffering. This can either be voluntary when the person in question agrees or involuntary when the person has not consented. There are two variants of euthanasia. Active euthanasia refers to the situation in which medical intervention is aimed at administering a drug or a medical procedure with an aim of terminating life in a painless and more comfortable way, Passive euthanasia refers to actual withdrawal of life supporting drugs or machines with the hope that such withdrawal will end the life of the person in question.

I have had my own personal experience that demanded making of tough decisions regarding euthanasia. Five years ago, my uncle was in the last stages of pancreatic cancer. This is a terminal condition that is presently incurable. He was ready to end his life because of the suffering associated with the condition. He asked doctor’s permission for euthanasia but doctors forwarded his concerns to us. It was difficult issue to handle and making a decision of such magnitude was challenging. As a family, we didn’t agree to the request and the doctors made every effort to make our uncle felt comfortable. They were able to relieve him of pain and suffering. Though he died months later, he died peacefully and in a dignified way, not because of euthanasia but due to support, love and intervention of everyone.

Canadian History of Euthanasia

Euthanasia has been practiced for so many years. However; the practice came to the Canadian public limelight in early 40s. Since then famous doctors such as Dr. Nachum in 1982 Dr. Alberto in 1991, Nurse Mataya in 1992, Dr. Lambert in 1997 and many others confessed to having practiced either one form of euthanasia or another. Since the Canadian law does not support the practice many of the practitioners who were cornered by the law were charged with either first or second degrees of murder (Eckstein, 1). Others had their licenses terminated or suspended. However the infamous case of Sue Rodrigues pushed the limits of the Canadian justice and legal system regarding euthanasia. Due to her terminal illness she requested the Supreme Court to grant her permission to seek assistance to end her life since she couldn’t do it herself. Although the court declined her request, she did it anyway. This case is usually referred to by people supporting euthanasia. Use of euthanasia is gaining momentum and a recent survey claim that “74 percent of Canadians believed a medical doctor should be able to legally help a terminally ill patient end their life if this is what they want” (Pollard, 1).

There is a noticeable trends in the rate at which euthanasia is being accepted by the global community. More people are accepting euthanasia as a viable option in extreme cases. This rate is alarming since we can only predict that in the near coming future, euthanasia will be so common that other options will be overlooked (Prado, 2000). We will reach a place whereby an adolescent suffering from a curable STD will opt for euthanasia claiming that the quality of life has been compromised. What people need in these dark times is utmost care and respect so as to protect the sanctity of life.

Ethical Implications

It can be argued that euthanasia is an issue of ethical concern. Euthanasia of any form is equivalent to violation of ethics of life. Supporters of euthanasia claim that the practice is aimed at ending the suffering of someone’s life based on the assumption that the life of the person has become valueless and at that time, there is nothing much that can be done. But life of whatever value is life and it should be respected by all means. This is supported by the fact that the quality of life in question is determined by the people handling the case. What might appear valueless on someone might be valuable to another person. It is not right to let the victim, doctors or the relatives of the victim to decide whether the life is valuable and whether it is justified to terminate it (Devettere, 2009).

There are many cases where patients get full recovery and live productive life after nurses and doctors had suggested that euthanasia be administered. Allowing euthanasia gives an excuse for practitioners who are lazy to look for solutions to the problem no matter how ugly it might appear to be. It is more justified to improve the quality of life by measures such as reducing the pain but not terminating the life.

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Religious Implications

When the issue of euthanasia is investigated under the lens of religion, it amounts to killing. Killing is prohibited in almost all religions. According to most religious beliefs only the giver of life has the authority to take it. The main religions which include Christianity, Islam and Buddhism have no exception to their laws regarding life and death. It therefore becomes important to honor these beliefs and respect the dignity of life by all means. This means that euthanasia should be prohibited. An exploration through religious books such as the Bible or Koran shows that not a single case of euthanasia happened. If our religious forefathers did not practice it why should we? However, “the influence of religion on attitude suicide has however lessened considerably in the contemporary world” (Hood et al, 196).

Moral Status

A philosophical approach to the issue of euthanasia proves that it should be discouraged altogether. It can be argued that people have some degree of importance associated with life. All stages of life beginning from time of conception to the time of actual death are equally important. A person on a death bed still has moral status which should be protected and respected the same way we respect life of an unborn baby. We should endeavor to sustain the life by all means and improve its quality but not to assume that simply because the condition has worsened then the person in question has lost moral status that it now becomes important to terminate or assist in terminating it.

Many people have recovered from terminal illnesses such as cancer and yet lived productive lives thereafter. Their moral status had not decreased when they were terminally ill, they were equally important. Based on this argument, we have no reason whatsoever to support euthanasia. According to Paterson “a life is valuable to the extent that a person actually values it” (Paterson, 21), He argues that it may be justified to let the person opt for euthanasia based on this argument.

Legality of the issue in Canada

Euthanasia is illegal in Canada and anyone found guilty of the practice is liable to conviction on first degree of murder and is liable to imprisonment. In addition, anyone found guilty of assisting in killing is also liable to imprisonment. The doctor or any person performing or assisting in euthanasia can be said to be committing first degree murder since the act is premeditated and planned.

The legal debate concerning all forms of euthanasia is still taking place in Canada and presently, the laws have been amended and many bills supporting the right to die with dignity introduced. The euthanasia proposals suggest that euthanasia should be legalized for extremely difficult medical conditions such as terminal, painful medical conditions with no prospects of pain relief (Stingl, 2010). “2005 official study of euthanasia in the Netherlands indicated that 7.1% of all deaths were by sedation and dehydration” (LifeSiteNews, 1). If the current stand on euthanasia is not upheld then Canada will become like Netherlands.

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Medical Implications

Euthanasia has negative medical implications, in that it denies the person the time to explore the remaining medical interventions and innovations. A person may give up on life and request for euthanasia simply because the condition is already bad according to his judgment. But the medical fraternity hardly runs out of options. Every day medical scientists come up with solutions to these medical conditions. This means that euthanasia denies both the patient and the medical practitioner to push their abilities and imaginativeness to the extreme. We should be caregivers with an aim of protecting life not life takers. Quist proposes a solution “Ultimately, there is another positive alternative to euthanasia, and it is in the further support, research and funding of palliative care and hospice” (Quist, 2008).

Conclusion

Euthanasia is very sensitive issue demanding many degrees of approach in order to come up with a good judgment. Whereas proponents argue that euthanasia aids in protecting the dignity of life at death, it fails in that it amounts to killing. The issue of euthanasia was engaged using different dimensions. A philosophical approach suggested that euthanasia amounts to degradation of moral status and thus should be discouraged. Ethically, euthanasia amounts to corruption of ethical values. It is morally wrong to terminate someone’s life willingly. Religion does not support euthanasia as it is a form of killing thus in religious aspect euthanasia should be discouraged. Medically, euthanasia deprives both parties to explore the remaining options and also a chance to invent new methods of solving the problems. Euthanasia is illegal in Canada and anyone practicing it is guilty of first degree of murder. However, there has been increased support for euthanasia both in Canada and worldwide. If left unchecked it can become the order of the day.

References

Devettere, R. (2009). Practical decision making in health care ethics: cases and concepts. Georgetown: Georgetown University Press. Print.

Eckstein, C. (2007). History of euthanasia in Canada, Part I. Web.

Hood et al,. (2009). the Psychology of Religion: An Empirical Approach. New York, NY: Guilford Press. Print.

LifeSiteNews. (2010). Sharp Growth in Dutch Euthanasia Deaths. Web.

Paterson, C. (2008). Assisted Suicide and Euthanasia: A Natural Law Ethics Approach. London: Ashgate Publishing. Print.

Pollard, J. (2011). The Impact of Religious Affiliation and Religious Practices on Attitudes Toward Euthanasia. Web.

Prado, G. (2000). Assisted suicide: Canadian perspectives. New York, NY: University of Ottawa Press. Print.

Quist, D. (2008). A Time To Live And A Time To Die – Who Decides? Web.

Stingl, M. (2010). Price of Compassion, the: Assisted Suicide and Euthanasia in Canada. Calgary: Broadview Press. Print.

Tiedemann, M., & Dominique, V. (2008). Euthanasia and Assisted Suicide in Canada. Web.

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