Essay, Research Paper: Euthanasia

Legal Issues

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Euthanasia is clearly a deliberate and intentional aspect of a killing. Taking a
human life, even with subtle rites and consent of the party involved is
barbaric. No one can justly kill another human being. Just as it is wrong for a
serial killer to murder, it is wrong for a physician to do so as well, no matter
what the motive for doing so may be. Many thinkers, including almost all
orthodox Catholics, believe that euthanasia is immoral. They oppose killing
patients under any circumstances. Every human being has a natural inclination to
continue living. Canadian and most other law forbids any form of homicide,
including euthanasia and it is alleged that assisted suicide does eventually
accustom a society to violence. It has been claimed that euthanasia brutalizes a
society, as mercy killings are seen as a form of socialized violence. In any
case killing a human being is immoral and unethical. Life should be valued, not
abused, since everyone is only given one chance to live. Because death is final
and irreversible, euthanasia contains within it the possibility that mistakes do
happen and in fact an incorrect diagnosis is possible. If society condemns
patients who are “terminally ill” and in the end a mistake in the diagnosis
is discovered then the suffering and blame would not fall on technology but on
society itself. Suffering is surely a terrible thing and society has a clear
duty to comfort those in need and to ease their suffering when it can. But
suffering is also a natural part of life with values for the individual and for
others that we should not overlook. Knowing that a life can be taken at any time
will incline people to give up too easily, hence seeking an escape in
euthanasia. Killing a human being is not justified under any circumstances,
which is why euthanasia should no longer be in practice. Although many countries
around the world accept assisted suicide as part of their social norm, the fact
remains that any type of murder is illegal in most societies. The American case
of “It’s over Debbie”, in which a gynecology resident gave a lethal
injection of morphine to a woman with ovarian cancer, questions the legality of
any doctor’s intents and actions. First, the resident appears to have
committed a felony: premeditated murder. Direct intentional homicide is a felony
in all American jurisdictions, for which a plea of merciful motive is no excuse.
Second, law aside, the physician behaved altogether in a scandalously
unprofessional and unethical manner contrary to the policy of the American
Medical Association. He did not know the patient: he had never seen her or her
family, he did not study her chart, and he did not converse with her or her
physician. He took, as an unambiguous command, her only words to him, “Let’s
get this over with.” Instead of thinking of ways in which he could ease her
suffering, he brought her death. This is no humane and thoughtful physician
succumbing with fear and trembling to the pressures and wishes of a patient, for
which there was truly no other recourse. “This is an impulsive yet cold
technician, arrogantly masquerading as a knight of compassion and humanity”
who should be punished for his actions. When a patient asks for assistance in
dying, and the doctor then gives the patient a lethal injection, there is no way
of disguising what is happening. The doctor’s intention is clear, this is
undoubtedly a killing and not an allowing to die. An essential aspect of
euthanasia is that it involves taking a human life of a person who is suffering
from some disease of injury from which recovery cannot reasonably be expected.
The action is deliberate and intentional as stated in section 231(2) of the
Canadian Criminal Code: Murder is first degree when it is planned and
deliberate. Section 222(1) of the Criminal Code states: A person commits
homicide when, directly or indirectly, by any means, he causes the death of a
human being. Therefore, when a doctor injects a lethal injection he is doing so
deliberately with the intention to cause death to his patient. Nowhere in the
Criminal Code does it state that one can use a merciful plea as a defense for
murder. People like Dr. Kevorkian of Michigan, who continue masquerading as
“helpful god” to assist terminally ill patient in death, should be
incarcerated for breaking the law. If society allows one or two or three people
get away with cold-blooded murder, then a sure downfall will follow. Hence, due
to the legal aspects, euthanasia should not be part of any society. In a survey
conducted for the purpose of this research project, people were asked whether
given an opportunity to ease the suffering of their loved ones by mercy killing
them, 58% said yes. However it is very interesting to note that when the survey
group was asked questions such as whether people that assist in a suicide should
be convicted of murder, or whether do they think that assisted suicide has no
place in a civilized society, these are the answers that were produced: 83% of
the people answered yes to the first question and 89% answered yes to the second
question. This, in fact, shows quite a contradiction, because those answers
basically mean that part of the same people that would assist in a suicide of
their loved one to ease their suffering, also considered euthanasia immoral and
unethical, as well as a criminal offence equal to murder.* Although human
suffering in its multiple dimensions is a factor of life, which causes great
pain and anguish, it must not be used as a reason for justifying the direct
taking of human life. From an ethical point of view there is no justification
for euthanasia. This conclusion is based on the principle integral to the
Catholic moral tradition of the sanctity of life, which states that every
person’s life must be reverenced because of its personal dignity and value.
God must always be understood as the Creator and Sustainer of life. Norman St.
John Stevas situates this principle well: “The value of human life for the
Christian in the first century A.D., as today, rested not on its development of
the superior sentience but on the unique character of the union of a body and
soul both desired for eternal life. The right to life thus has a philosophical
foundation…Respect for the lives of others *because of their eternal destiny
is the essence of the Christian teaching.” It should be clear that every
individual has a goal in life to continue living. “Our natural reflexes and
responses fit us to fight attackers, flee wild animals and dodge out of the way
of trucks.” In the daily lives, people exercise the caution and care necessary
to protect themselves and the bodies are similarly structured for survival. When
one is cut, the blood clots, and fibrogen is produced to start the process of
healing the wound. When one is sick, antibodies are produced to fight against
the alien organisms. Hence, euthanasia does violence to this natural goal of
survival. It is literally acting against nature because all the processes of
nature are bent towards the end of bodily survival. It is enough to recognize
that the human behavioral responses make the continuation of life a natural
goal. By reason alone then, euthanasia sets people against their own nature, and
in doing so it does violence to one’s dignity, which comes from seeking our
ends. When one of the goals in life is survival and actions are taken to
eliminate that goal, then the dignity suffers. Unlike animals, human beings are
conscious through reason of their nature and their ends. Thus, euthanasia denies
basic human character and requires that people regard themselves or others as
something less than fully human. Central to both Catholic and Protestant
theology on the question of euthanasia, is the conviction that God is Lord of
Life and Death. This conviction is another way of affirming that the ultimate
value and sanctity of human life comes from God. This conviction implies that no
one can ever claim total mastery over one’s own or another’s life. In other
words, life is God’s loan to people; not only because life is grounded in God
but also because God has given people life as a value to be held in trust and to
be used according to his will. Saint Thomas Acquinas thus taught: That a person
has dominion over himself is because he is endowed with free choice. Thanks to
that free choice a man is at liberty to dispose of himself with respect to those
things in this life which are subject to his freedom. But the passage from this
life to a happier one is not one of those things, for one’s passage from this
life is subject to the will and power of God. Since life is a gift from God then
the primary responsibility of each human being is to honour God in one’s
living. A decision to take one’s life thus appears to be a denial that one
belongs to God. It should also be noted that God does not abandon people in
times of suffering. Pain may seem unbearable, life might seem no longer worth
living, suffering may appear beyond relief, but suffering calls upon people to
trust God even in the valley of the shadow of death. As John Paul II affirms,
“Christ has taught men to do good by His suffering and to do good to those who
suffer…No institution can by itself replace the human heart, human compassion,
human love or human initiative, when it is a question of dealing with the
suffering of another.” It calls on people to let God, and not suffering,
determine the agenda of their life and their death. Therefore, being contrary to
the Christian teachings, euthanasia should no longer be allowed to continue.
Euthanasia is not acceptable as it accustoms society to violence. Most doctors
and nurses are totally committed to saving lives. A life lost is for them,
almost a personal failure, and an insult to their skills and knowledge.
Euthanasia as a practice might alter this. It could have corrupting influence so
that in any case doctors and nurses might not try hard enough to save the
patient. They might decide that the patient would simply be “better off
dead” and take the steps necessary to make that come about. This attitude
could also carry over to their dealings with all patients less seriously ill.
The result would be an overall decline in the quality of medical care. The most
powerful objection to the legislation of euthanasia is that once society begins
to allow some people too kill others, it will begin sliding down a slippery
slope that leads to killings of a kind that no one wants. It will start with
strict controls designed to ensure that euthanasia is only carried out after a
patient in an unbearable condition has repeatedly requested it, but it shall
gradually slide to euthanasia for people who are not capable of requesting it,
or for people who are not suffering unbearably, but whose continued life puts a
burden on their families. In the end we will end up with a state that, like Nazi
Germany, kills all those whom it considers to be unworthy of life. It is the
slippery slope argument that helped to persuade the Supreme Court of Canada to
rule against Sue Rodriguez. Although Rodriguez argued that assisted suicide is
contrary to the Canadian Charter of Rights, which has in it a clause
guaranteeing equal protection and benefit of the law to all, and ruling out
discrimination on the grounds of disability, in the view of the judges a
prohibition on assisted suicide was reasonable and justified by the need to
protect life, and particularly the lives of vulnerable members of society.
Therefore, people should recognize euthanasia as harm done to society. To
conclude, euthanasia should not exist in any society, as no person in the world
has a right to murder another human being. Euthanasia is an ethical posture,
which gives up on “life support.” It is not death itself but the dying
process that frightens individuals, which is why many turn to death when
suffering. The appeal for release is certainly understandable, but killing the
patient, even when done with the kindest of motives, is not the moral way to
address the problem. We may legitimately seek for others and for ourselves an
easeful death. Euthanasia, however, is not just an easeful death, but it is a
wrongful death and it is not just dying, but in fact killing.

BibliographyBaird, M. Robert and Rosenbaum, E. Stuard. Euthanasia: The Moral issues.
Buffalo: Prometheus Books, 1989. If Mercy Killing Becomes Legal. 3 March 2000.
http://www.euthanasia.com/mercy.html Johansen, Jay. Euthanasia: A Case of
Individual Liberty? 3 March 2000. http://www.ohiolife.org/euth/liberty.htm Key
Points for Debating Assisted Suicide. 3 March 2000. http://www.euthanasia.com/debate.html
Peck, M. Scott, M.D. Denial of the Soul. 1st edition. New York: Harmony Books,
1997. Singer, Peter. Rethinking Life and Death. New York: St. Martin’s Press,
1995.
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