January 20, 2010

Legalization of Doctors

        The purpose of this paper is to argue about the subject of doctor assisted suicide. It will specifically argue with regards to the issue on the legalization of doctor assisted suicide for a terminally ill patient. This paper will also presents arguments and perspectives to defend the chosen position of the writer.

            The legalization of doctor assisted suicide for the terminally ill are subjects of strong debates from all sectors of society in such countries as the United States, Canada and United Kingdom. It has become a hotly contested topic for special advocates groups and organizations that espouses a particular view or standpoint in life. This topic has touched and has been discussed and argued about in the fields of politics, sociology, medicine, medical ethics and moral creating factionalism and divisiveness inside a society on the legality or illegality of this practice. To better understand this practice and give further explanation to the people about this social and moral issue, it would upright to present both side pf the fence, both sides of the argument. To facilitate ease of use and free flowing arguments, doctor assisted suicide in this paper will be equated to euthanasia.

            Euthanasia can be defined as mercy killing or killing a person because of unbearable and incurable pain. To further expand, euthanasia can be committed indirectly or directly. Direct euthanasia can refer to the act made by a person to finally ease and end his/her pain while indirect euthanasia is accomplished by a doctor who uses drugs, methods and operations that would kill the patient but would ease his/her pain (Wellie, 1992). A doctor who knowingly provides a patient with a drug or a prescription medicine in quantity that would induce death can be termed as an indirect euthanasia. Within the sphere of euthanasia, acts can be further classified as voluntary, involuntary and non-voluntary. Voluntary would mean that euthanasia has been performed because of the instruction and consent of the patient who is able to competently distinguish the results of his actions (Steinbock, 1994). In the non-voluntary procedure, the patient cannot give his/her direct consent with regards to a medical procedure that would end her sufferings. The unconscious state or the incapacity to make decisions for the patients and his/her guardian can be clearly applied to the situation that would involve non voluntary euthanasia. In layman's term, this kind of euthanasia can be called "pulling the plug" (Zucker, 1999).

            Involuntary euthanasia meanwhile refers to the procedure that is both objected by the patient and his guardian (Prado, 1998). Although the patient or the guardian of the patient refuses to undergo euthanasia, the method is done anyway.

            Religious, political, lobby and ethics groups have been debating and arguing about the legality and illegality of euthanasia. To clearly illustrate this point, it would be better to state the arguments and standpoints of these two contesting groups. In the negative side on the issue of legalizing doctor assisted suicide, arguments that concerns ethics, religion and morality are used. To these groups, euthanasia must not be implemented because this act is against the will of God. Although these groups argue that God gave man the power of free will, they stated that suicide and euthanasia are one of the acts that is considered to be wrong in the eyes of the Lord (Palmer, 2000). They further equate that although God gave man a free will, it does not mean that man can do all things and all acts that is desired by human beings and even though man has free will, there are things and actions that can are against the law of God and man. For instance, if man has a free will, it does not translate that he can rob, rape and injure other persons and properties without repercussions. To them, free will given by the Lord has some clearly defined lines and boundaries that must be crossed and one of these is the purposely ending or aiding a person to end his life (Donnelly, 1998).

            Euthanasia argued by these groups also degrades and destroys the perception of society and its people towards life and its importance. Euthanasia, they argued would make the human perception on the value of life worthless and useless because each and every persons from suffers from pain would be easily eased from his agonies by asking for euthanasia, voluntary or non-voluntary (Donnelly, 1998). The society and the people in it would be able to see the value of human life using pain, suffering and agonies as a benchmark thereby modifying their outlook and value with regards to the importance of human life. Euthanasia also serves as a social jurisprudence that would release inhibitions regarding the human life. If today, euthanasia is legalized, what assurance does the society has when men would in turn kill and exterminate persons who are considered degenerates, imbeciles and handicapped. If euthanasia is legalized, what prevents a person from committing a murder and then claiming that that act is an act that would free and ease the suffering of a person. If the society permits laws and public policies that in the short term would give beneficial effects like euthanasia, in the future, it cannot prevent the inclusion of policies and actions that would be harm individuals. If a society goes astray by legalizing euthanasia, it would never be in the right path. 

            The third argument raised by individuals and organizations that is against the legalization of euthanasia is that suffering and pain experienced by a person has a purpose or value. In a religious point of view, suffering would make the person realize the suffering made by Jesus Christ and this realization would of course translate to greater understanding of godliness and holiness (Palmer, 2000). Suffering and death also reminds us that this life is not permanent and that this life can be claimed at anytime by the Lord and in order to give meaning to this life, we must strive to use our life effectively in helping and caring for other people. Suffering and death reminds not to concentrate on the worldly things and ways of this Earth but to focus our attention and strength to objects and things that would please God (Prado, 1998). Suffering for other individuals helps us to reflect and gain wisdom and a renewed perspective in life. By removing suffering and pain, these lessons of life cannot be totally understood by all men.

            Euthanasia also touches some ethical dilemmas and arguments with regards to the importance of life. Groups and individuals who rally against the legalization of euthanasia says that euthanasia presents a mentality to the people that it is better to be dead than being sick or disabled. This mentality therefore would advocate for the elimination of all persons and individuals who are suffering or have some physical/mental disability as lower kinds of human beings that must be erased with or without their consent (Steinbock, 1994). This mentality degrades their status in society making other people look down at them while treating them with contempt and scorn. Society thinks therefore that disabled individuals and suffering patients are burdens to the community. Another argument related to this point of view is who is going to decide who is going to undergo non voluntary euthanasia if patients are unconscious or incompetent in making decisions. Since all men are creatures that have built in feelings, outlooks and thoughts, bias and prejudice cannot be excluded in the selection process. Since men are creatures that are exposed to the workings of society, doctors and other medical authorities will be inherently subjected in making decisions (Mcmahan, 2003). The medical profession, in implementing euthanasia, is playing God since they have the capacity to levy death or life even if the individual asked for it or not.  If checklists and standards will be used in classifying and determining who is going to undergo euthanasia and who is not, this condition would degrade the value of life into simple enumerations and checklists of present illnesses and symptoms experienced by a patient.

            Euthanasia can also be contrary to the best interest of the patient asking for it. An argument against euthanasia with regards to this aspect clearly highlight the inability of a patient to critically make a decision and is a direct contradiction taken up in voluntary euthanasia. Anti euthanasia groups advocate that critical and good judgment on the part of the patient cannot exist because he/she is in a state that can destabilize his/her decision making process. This inability to competently decide can be attributed to depression, medicinal side effects and psychological stability (Keown, 2002). The thought of ending one's life through euthanasia is brought about by the perspective that the patient has been a burden to his/her relatives and that death will ease the burden that he/she is bringing to them (Keown, 2002).

            To legalize euthanasia, opponents said that this move would entail the neglect on the research and development with regards to finding cures and treatment to illnesses such as AIDS and other prevalent diseases nowadays. In allowing euthanasia, the medical profession and the public in general will be forced to just kill and end the life of a person afflicted with an incurable disease (Mcmahan, 2003). Since euthanasia offers a comfortable way out, research and studies with regards to the specific incurable disease afflicted on a patient will not prosper. Euthanasia will be viewed as a risk free and financially stable option in treating patients who are gravely ill.

            There are also arguments that supports and defends the practice of euthanasia. Some nations and states government in the United States have legalized this practice but euthanasia is done with strict restrictions and conditions that must be complied upon (Dowbiggin, 2003). These conditions and restrictions regarding euthanasia are present in the governing laws and regulations on euthanasia practice in the Netherlands and in the state of Oregon in the United States. Advocates of euthanasia primarily advocate that euthanasia is beneficial because the patients is undergoing excruciating and painfull feeling in his/her ordeal (Hillyard, 2001). This conception stem from the fact that people who have incurable and painful diseases suffer greatly and horribly when dying. They state therefore that in order to help and minimize the pain felt by the patient and the emotional trauma that is also felt by relatives and friends, ethanasia must be implemented. Other patient meanwhile state that they do not want to suffer and to experience a painful and humiliating death so they choose and order their doctors and guardians to facilitate euthanasia when they don't have the capacity to decide anymore. This was the primary arguments that was passed in the Terry Shiavo case.

            In this legal and medical battle, a patient named Terry  Shiavo has suffered from a brain damage and his husband wanted to remove the feeding tbe that is inserted to his wife. This order as stated by the husband was specifically requested by Terry when she was still alive since she does not want to suffer and be a burden to the family. The parents of Terry meanwhile were strongly against the removal of the feeding tube countering that Terry was still alive since she was still responding to visual and auditory stimuli. A legal battle ensued between the husband and the parents of Terry dragging with it the  religious groups, conservative and liberal sectors of the American society. Different doctors and medical practicioners were summoned by the court but they all had conflicting and confused opinions regarding the case. In the end however, the arguments made by the husband won and the feeding tube was removed.

            This argument that states that patients must be killed because they experience pain and suffering is a flimsy and weak standpoint. Since patients who request euthanasia have painful and incurable diseases, emotions and outlooks in life can have a great effect on the decision making process of an individual. Although they are asking for death,what they really want are compassion, care and love from their relatives and friends. There decision making processes is also clouded by medication, pain and depression. In a study conducted by the state of New York in 1994 in a report entitled "When Death is Sought: Assisted Suicide and Euthanasia in the Medical Context", it stated that patients with severe pain, disfiurement or disability do not wish to commit suicide and that patients who ask for euthanasia have major  symptoms of major depression (Zucker, 1999). The report further stated that patients who have experiences pain and suffering felt hopelessness and depression and can wrongly see that death and the process of euthanasia are the only way that would end their ordeal (Zucker, 1999).

            Another argument that is being pushed by pro euthanasia groups is that each and every person has the moral and intrinsic right and autonomy to control and set the course of his/her destiny (Hillyard, 2001). This would mean that if a man or a woman decided to end his/her life there are no legal and ethical hindrances that would prevent him/her for doing it so. Althogh this argument is accepeted by some groups, they correcltly said that euthanasia is not an individual action being undertaken by a patient. In order to commit euthanasia, there must be cooperation on the part of the attending doctor and hospital staff and when other persons and individuals are now involved, suicide and killing one's self will now be in the realms of public interest and order since in most countries, the assistance and help offered by an individual in a suicide is  classified as an offense in many states and countries (Donnelly, 1998).

            For the sociologist, the issue on euthanasia can be a great oppurtionity to understand and to closely examine the mentality, outlook and conciousness of a particular society with regards to the subect of death. This study would not only elicit information regarding euthanasia practices in such societies but it would also answer prevailing questions like what are the factors that greatly hinders or advance the practices of euthanasia practices in an specific society?, does society exert pressure and influence when euthanasia is committed?. The field of sociology and sociologists therefore can clearly and adequately answer these qestion by using research methods. Sociologists can provide a unbiased and unprejudice opinion and examination to this emerging phenomena and hopefull, sociology can provide man and society with a way, a compromise in order to reconcile different opinions that are against and for euthanasia. Sociology can therefore be a bridge that will provide society with answers that would help us comprehend this particular issue.

            I would say that euthanasia is a personal standpoint; it is a stand regarding a certain subject which is death. Euthanasia is a personal preference made by an individual but it will have negative and far reaching consecquences to society. Although this thought can be relatively harmless when viewed at a glance, it can weaken and create confusion in the society because its effects are wide and encompass subjects such as religion, ethics, health care and psychology. This subject therefore creates tension and advocacy in terms of people and organizations who particularly advocates a certain topic or perspective. For me, I would agree and perfectly convinced on the arguments that supports the move not to legalize euthanasia or physician assisted suicide. Leagalizing it would create societal conflict and discord because status quo and established mores, laws and customs with regards to death and the idea of death will completely be changed.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

REFERENCES

Donnelly, J. (1998). Suicide: Right or Wrong?. Amherst, New York: Prometheus Books.

Dowbiggin, J. (2003). A Merciful End: The Euthanasia Movement in Modern America. New York: Oxford University Press.

Hillyard, D. (2001). Dying Right: The Death with Dignity Movement. New York: Routledge.

Keown, J. (2002). Euthanasia, Ethics and Public Policy. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Mcmahan, J. (2003). The Ethics of Killing: Problems at the Margins of Life. New York: Oxford University Press.

Palmer, L. (2000). Endings and Beginning: Law, Medicine and Society in Assisted Life and Death. Westport, Connecticut: Praeger.

Prado, C. G. (1998). The Last Choice: Preemptive Suicide in Advanced Age. Westport, Connecticut: Greenwood Press.

Steinbock, B. (1994). Killing and Letting Die. New York: Fordham University Press.

Welie, J. (1992). Euthanasia: Normal Medical Practices. The Hastings Center Report, Vol. 22, p. 34-49.

Zucker, M. (1999). The Right to Die Debate. Westport, Connecticut: Greenwood Press.


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