Essay, Research Paper: Assisted Suicide

Legal Issues

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Forty-one year-old Peter Cinque was in the terminal stages of diabetes. He was
blind, had lost both legs, and suffered from ulcers and cardiovascular problems,
as well. He was being kept alive by a kidney dialysis machine. Then one day he
asked his doctors to stop the treatment. As a conscious, rational adult, he had
the legal right to determine what should or should not be done to his body. But
the hospital authorities refused to honor this right until he had been examined
by two psychiatrists to test his mental competence. After this, the hospital
obtained a court order that required him to continue with dialysis treatments. A
few days later, Mr. Cimque stopped breathing. He had suffered from brain damage
and was in a coma. Only after this and two court hearings in the hospital that
he was finally permitted to exercise his constitutional right of
self-determination (Ogg 61). What an unfortunate incident. Mr. Cinque was forced
to prolong his suffering due to a lack of guidelines to ensure the right of
self-determination. For this reason, euthanasia must be legalized in a way that
individuals to decide for themselves what should or should not be done to their
bodies. That is, laws must be strengthened and guidelines must be set to ensure
the right of euthanasia will not be denied to people. The case for euthanasia is
justified on three fundamental moral principles: mercy, autonomy, and justice (Battin
18). First, there is principle of mercy. This means that one ought to relieve
pain of another and that it is a doctor’s duty to relieve pain and suffering
for the patients. Granting mercy sometimes require euthanasia, both by direct
killing and letting die. Moreover, allowing doctors to end the life of
terminally ill patients is more merciful than allowing them to die slowly and
painfully. Second, There is the principle of autonomy. That is, euthanasia is an
individual’s choice. It is the right of those who have a desire to be free
from pain and total dependence on others to end their lives. The degree of pain
experienced by one can never be fully appreciated by another. Thus, no one can
decide for another, and no one can take a choice away from another. Third, there
is the principle of justice. Euthanasia is central to the liberty protected by
the fourteenth amendment (Leo22). Again, every human being of adult years has
the right to decide what should be done with his body. This also applies to
terminally ill patients who are especially in need of choices. They are at a
situation in which they must be allowed to decide for choices. They are at a
situation in which they must be allowed to decide for themselves. Otherwise, it
would be unconstitutional to deny them the freedom of choice in which every body
else has. It would be a crime to deny them this right because they are at the
mercy of other people. A lot of the terminally ill patients who wish to end
their suffering by death are denied by doctors and hospitals and, sometimes, the
law itself. Medical authorities often have to consult courts when it comes to
the issue of euthanasia. They fear of the responsibilities because they lack
concrete guidelines to exercise euthanasia. This only results in prolonging the
suffering of the patients. According to Isaac Asimov, “If a person is subject
to pain that won’t stop as a result of a disease that can’t be cured, must
he or she suffer that pain as long as possible when there are gentle ways of
putting an end to life?” (62). It is absurd to put terminally ill patients
through painful treatments unless they choose to, when euthanasia is available
as an alternative choice. Too often, because of hospitals and court delays, many
terminally ill patients are forced to prolong their suffering. Opponents of
euthanasia contend that life is too precious for anyone to decide to end it.
Cardinal Bernardin, arguing against euthanasia, states, “As individuals and as
a society, we have the positive obligation protect life…not to destroy or
injure human life directly, especially the life of the innocent and
vulnerable” (70). Another opponent of euthanasia, Ph. Schepens, wrote, “A
society in which the individual can exist only if he is wanted by others, and
who therefore ceases to have absolute value” (26). In other words, they claim
that euthanasia would lead to devaluation of human life because it would force
medical professionals and patients’ families to judge the worth of other
lives. However, their views are invalid. On the contrary, forcing hopelessly ill
patients to continue their suffering and total dependence on others would be
devaluation of human life. It is demoralizing for many of these patients to be
in such a situation of continuous pain and helplessness. Recall Peter Cinque’s
incidence at the beginning of this paper. If anything, his life was devalued. He
was forced to suffer even more severely because he was denied his wish of dying
to end his pain. Had he been granted his wish in the first place, he would not
have to he through this torture. Terminally ill patients like Mr. Cinque will
eventually die, and most of the time will be a painful death. It would be much
more honorable to human life to respect these patients’ wishes and give them a
choice to end their pain by euthanasia. This is not to say that they should be
forced to choose death as a method of pain relief. Those who choose to fight
their illness until the end should be respected in the same way. The opponents
of euthanasia also use the “slippery slope” argument to speak against
euthanasia (Leo 22). This argument claims that once euthanasia becomes
acceptable for the terminally ill, it would become acceptable for the less
seriously ill, the handicapped, the mentally retarded, and the elderly. The
opponents fear that it would get out of hand, and unjustified deaths would be
uncontrollable. This view, like the previous one, is too blindly exaggerated. It
is for these reasons why laws must be strengthen to ensure the right of
euthanasia, not to omit euthanasia, completely, The laws that protect the
people’s right to euthanasia will, at the same time, protect the people’s
right from euthanasia. It is not about getting rid of the unwanted people of
society, but it is about a necessity of choices for people who need choices,
such as the terminally ill. Thus, it is necessary to have euthanasia legalized.
This would allow competent patients to decide for themselves how they prefer to
be treated. They could decide for themselves whether they prefer to either fight
their illnesses with painful treatments or to end their suffering by euthanasia.
Patients like Peter Cinque would not have to be forced to suffer. They would be
allowed to determine their own destiny and worth. More important so, terminally
ill patients could have an alternative choice available to them when their pain
is becoming unbearable. The point is that they should be allowed to decide for
themselves, when they are conscious or are incapable of deciding for themselves.
Then their families and doctors can decide on their behalf. The opponents of
euthanasia suggest that instead of having to legalize euthanasia, better pain
relief would make euthanasia unnecessary (Peterson 19). However, the fact is
that pain is not the only reason why people seek euthanasia. Many incapable
patients fear the lost of control of their bodily functions. They are
overwhelmed by the feeling of hopelessness and mental anguish. Thus, reducing
the pain alone cannot solve the problem. Other opponents of the legalization of
euthanasia suggest moving all terminally ill patients into a hospice where they
can be cared for (Schofield 28). In a hospice, patients are visited, read to,
and kept in constant contact with loving people. Doctors can care for the
medical need of the patients and attempt to keep pain at a minimum. The
opponents claim that a hospice would also make euthanasia unnecessary. Sure,
this plan will benefit those who do not want to go through euthanasia, but what
about those who do?. Patients will still be totally dependent on others and
forced to prolong their suffering. There are always those who would rather die
than be totally dependant on others. Why not just let them die to end their pain
and suffering, and why not just let them die peacefully with dignity?. When
euthanasia is legalized, terminally ill patients will have the choice to end
their suffering and die with dignity. Those who wish to go through euthanasia
will not have this right denied to them. They are free to judge their wom lives
and free to exercise their right of self-determination. When euthanasia is
legalized, patients will not be forced to have their pain prolonged due to court
hearing or due to hospital bureaucracies. Lpatients do not have to feel that
they are at the mercy of thers. Furthermore, doctors will be free from the
burden of providing medical care to patients who are hopelessly ill, especially
patients who wish to discontinue painfull treatments. Yet, legalizing euthanasia
does not mean that society would force pople to die when they are incapable or
when they get old. People would simply be granted an alternative choice other
than having to go trough prolonged and painful treatment. It is now clear that
euthanasia is a right that cannot be denied to people. But in order to ensure
that this right is not denied to people, our legislatures must take action. They
must provide concrete laws to ensure that terminally ill patients have the ritht
to choose. They must provide concrete guidelines for medical authorties to act
upon. Moreover, we as citizems need to urge our legislatures to strengthen the
laws to support euthanasia. We must stand together and speak out to let them
know that a right cannot be denied to us. We need to have euthanasia legalized
so that we have this choice available to us when needed. And for those who are
hopelessly ill, legalizing euthanasia will allow them to end their suffering and
die with dignity.

BibliographyAsimov, Isaac. “No Mercy.” Euthanasia: Opposing Viewpoints. Ed. Neal
Bernards. San Diego: Greenhaven Press, 1989. 62. Battin, Margaret Pabst.
“Euthanasia Is Ethical.” Euthanasia: Opposing Viewpoints. Ed. Neal Bernards.
San Diego: Greenhaven Press, 1989. 17-23. Bernardin, Cardinal Joseph.
“Protecting Life.” Euthanasia: Opposing Viewpoints. Ed. Neal Bernards. San
Diego: Greenhaven Press, 1989. 70. Leo, John. “Assisted Suicide’s Slippery
Slope.” U.S. News and World Report 16 May 1994: 22. Ogg, Elizabeth.
“Euthanasia Should Be Legalized.” Euthanasia: Opposing Viewpoints. Ed. Neal
Bernards. San Diego: Greenhaven Press, 1989. 61. Peterson, Lynn. “Would Better
Pain Relief Make ‘Elective Pain’ Unthinkable?” Washington Post 12 July
1994: 19. Schepens, Ph. “Law of the Jungle.” Euthanasia: Opposing
Viewpoints. Ed. Neal Bernards. San Diego: Greenhaven Press, 1989. 26. Schofield,
Joyce Ann. “Euthanasia Is Unethical.” Euthanasia: Opposing Viewpoints. Ed.
Neal Bernards. San Diego: Greenhaven Press, 1898. 28.
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