Euthanasia: Is There a Duty to Die?
Before the coming of Christianity, attitudes toward active euthanasia and suicide had tended to be tolerant. As Christianity continued to spread, religion became a major factor in influencing the actions and beliefs of many people; the idea of hastening a human’s death through euthanasia or assisted suicide no longer seemed humane. In the late 1900s, organized action in favor of the legislation of euthanasia and assisted suicide were taken back into consideration. During this time euthanasia was considered a “mercy killing,” a bringing about death to a sufferer. However, this action initially focused on newborns and young children; with the lack of medical advancements and technologies it was difficult for a child’s body to fight off illnesses on their own without the proper medication. Today, euthanasia and physician –assisted suicide (PAS) is a worldwide social issue. The idea of “playing God” to relieve a person of their illness through these actions is an issue that is accompanied by a profuse amount of ethical concerns and questions that surround the legalization of these actions. Focusing on one of many ethical problems of euthanasia and PAS is questioning the right of an individual who has no hope of recovery. Who has the right to decide when and how to end their life? What effects does it play on the patient, their family, physician and/or caretaker?
Along with the aging of the population and progress in medicine, a significant number of terminally ill persons are maintained alive, regardless of the pain, suffering, depression, or other uncomfortable situations they undergo. Although there maybe terminally ill patients considering euthanasia or physician-assisted suicide, these options are limited to a select few due to the legislation of these actions. The idea of hastening the death of terminally ill persons is illegal in almost all of the United States and some countries. The restricting legislation can put the patient and their family through often difficult times. As an illustration, when I was 15 years old, my Grandma was diagnosed with primary lung cancer; this is when cancer begins in the lungs and continues to spread if not treated. My Grandma resided in Mexico City, Mexico, making it difficult for my mom to fly down to visit and care for her mother. We would often receive calls from family members to keep us updated on her condition. My family and I would constantly pray for my Grandmother’s health, but despite our prayers her condition worsened. Slowly she began to lose her sight until she went completely blind, she lost motion in her legs, and lost her memory, my Grandma was no longer aware of who was in her presence. My family was cognizant of the fact that my Grandma was in a vegetative state and her life would soon come to an end. Despite the desire to hasten her death out of mercy, my family was unable to because of the legal issue physician-assisted suicide poses on other countries like Mexico, and most of the United States. For a patient who resides in locations where assisted suicide is legal, and meets all the requirements necessary for a physician to administer the action, it comes down to deciding between euthanasia or PAS. Is the final decision supported, argued against, or become biased based on the views of family, doctors, caretakers and/or others? Or should others also have the right to make the decision if the patient cannot manage it on their own? These concerns all reflect back to the ethical problems of a patient’s right in choosing how to end their life. The debate between euthanasia and PAS has continued throughout many years, creating more and more ethical concerns and questions; how and why is it that patients choose these pathways leading them to their dignified death, is it their decision or was their decision triggered by other factors; based on assembled information, each with a different perspective, and come to conclude the true reasons