In recent years, a great deal of public debate has swelled over the issue of euthanasia, also known as physician assisted suicide. Although the argument on both sides offer valid points, it is absolutely crucial that all human beings be entitled the essential right to be painlessly and safely relieved of suffering caused by diseases and other painful terminal conditions. Persons experiencing constant pain and misery as a result of health issues must be allowed the right to die with dignity if they so choose. In a society such as ours that is very concerned with issues of autonomy and personal rights and guarantees and is quick to make heated argument on both sides, there is no reason why our freedom to choose should end at the right to die a peaceful death if a medical situation is hopeless and causing unending pain and suffering.While the those who oppose euthanasia or assisted suicide and make the argument that the right of those suffering to have access to euthanasia or physician-assisted suicide contend that allowing such freedoms will lead to wholesale slaughter of persons society deems “unwanted" and offers other more speculative and ethereal reasons to prevent this right from being granted, persons with painful terminal conditions are being kept alive against their will. As this argument in favor of euthanasia suggests, however, as a sign of respect for personal freedom and of one’s right to be relieved of hopeless medical conditions where death is guaranteed and pain is constant, the speculation should be overlooked in favor of those who are suffering and do not have recourse. In other words, by making the argument that not allowing the right for a person to have access to this solution of a safer more humane suicide that is safer and better for ending one’s life, the state is effectively making it impossible for a person to die with dignity and thus they are doing a great disservice to those suffering with no other recourse to end the great pain of their condition without undue suffering on the part of family members or themselves. Cancer, advanced cases of AIDS, and other terminal conditions often are incredibly painful and enduring. Patients suffering from such illnesses can often survive for long periods of time because of advanced treatments but often, the treatments themselves are crippling. Some who suffer from such terminal conditions have the right to make the argument that they should be able to choose assisted suicide as not to put themselves through such pain and instead cope with their illness at home. No matter what the case, the point remains that these are people who are suffering and who do not see a light at the end of the tunnel—they know that death is imminent and they often are reasonably certain that until that moment comes, the remainder of their time will be spent being in pain and putting their families through pain as well.
According to one study that poses a similar argument about assisted suicide or euthanasia, “About two-thirds of oncology patients and the public found euthanasia and physician-assisted suicide acceptable for patients with unremitting pain… More than a quarter of oncology patients had seriously thought about euthanasia or physician-assisted suicide and nearly 12 percent seriously discussed these interventions with physicians and others" (Emanuel 1807). Given such results, it is clear that the people who matter the most in this debate, those who are in great unending pain seeking relief, should have their needs addressed. Given the fact that many of them see a need for a right to die with dignity and not prolong agony for themselves and their family members, there should be no reason why these wishes should not be respected.
You may have heard of the stories of a doctor or nurse deliberately helping their incurable patient pass on to the other side. They are usually promptly arrested, and the mass media enjoys giving these persons names like “Angels of Death” or “Suicide Helpers.” Some people might think such doctors’ actions are merciful and graceful, since many patients who are terminally ill are waiting to die, sometimes being in severe pain. Yet, there are also opponents to this rationale who claim that killing is still killing, no matter what motives the murderer had, or how difficult the patient’s suffering was. One of the main questions in treating patients who cannot be cured is whether mercy killings are to be allowed legally to help end someone’s suffering—the answer should be, “No.”
Euthanasia—the proper term for mercy killing—is the practice of intentionally ending a life in order to relieve pain and suffering. This assumes a patient is aware they are going to die, and in some cases, they must administer the poison themselves. This is also called assisted suicide.
Arguments supporting euthanasia usually present the fact that the patient would have no cure, and no way of contributing to society in the state they are in. They claim humanity cannot help such individuals either: all that can be done is prolonging their agony when suffering from terminal diseases, or letting them live with a defective life in the case of suffering from serious mental deviations. However, the very thought of killing people due to their disabilities seems unnatural; besides, who is competent and authorized enough to decide whom to kill and whom to let live?
The German child Gerhard Kretschmar, whose case is one of the most well-known examples of euthanasia, was born blind, missing limbs, and prone to convulsions. Adolf Hitler gave Kretschmar’s doctor permission to commit a child murder, since medicine could not help him. This incident started the Nazis’ T4 Program (that implied killing incurably ill people, as well as physically and mentally-disabled individuals), and led to the killings of almost 300,000 mentally and physically handicapped people who otherwise would have no other way of being cured (BBC). The problem is that while Kretchmar’s killing was done by parental consent, 5,000 to 8,000 children were forcibly taken from their parents because the state decided to do so. These children were either starved to death or killed by lethal injection.
As the T4 Program continued, handicapped people were killed with gas vans and killing centers, eventually leading to the death of 70,000 German adults. Since this campaign was clearly being used as a murderous machine to take out the unwanted, the definition of euthanasia was stretched to fit the government’s viewpoint. The main danger here is that in the scenario of modern society weakening its control over the issue of euthanasia, history can repeat itself and soon it will be up to the government whether or not you are able to contribute to society.
People who want to commit suicide—due to despair, disappointment, or for any other reason—seem to be unwilling to make this fearsome step on their own. Thus, they strive to share the responsibility of cutting their lives short in the presence of others, basically with doctors. But if a person feels they want to die, they should not bring in someone to do it. If suicide is illegal, then why are we helping people commit suicide? The very fact that people call it mercy killing does not mean that it stops to be a murder, since you still take their lives away.
Euthanasia is an act of seeming mercy, and should not be allowed legally. While being justified as humane towards people who suffer and cannot live a full life, it is a murder no better than many others and different only in motives. No person is authorized to decide whether another person should live or die except that person. In the case of an individual deciding to pass away beforehand, no one should help him or her in this deed. Besides, there exists the danger that governments may take the role of a judge deciding whom to kill, as it has happened in Nazi Germany. The consequences of this could be truly dreadful.
BBC-Genocide Under the Nazis Timeline: http://www.bbc.co.uk/history/interactive/timelines/nazi_genocide_timeline/index_embed.shtml.
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