Sept. 12, 2014
EuthanasiaThe Right to Die
When faced with impending death and intolerable agony many would find solace in the fact that at any time they could end their suffering in a comfortable and painless way. Euthanasia could possible provide those who are suffering the relief they so desperately long for. Euthanasia is defined as "the intentional putting to death of a person with an incurable or painful disease intended as an act of mercy” (Nordqvist). For many, euthanasia is seen as the most practical way to finally put an end to the ceaseless suffering they experience on a day to day basis. Despite the ease it could bring to many, euthanasia remains illegal throughout many countries around the world and most states within the United States. The subject of euthanasia is a heated battle, in which lines have been drawn between warring social, religious and political groups. Many people want this controversial institution erased from the volumes of lawful medicine, but others say that we should be able to choose our fates in extreme cases.
The reason that I chose euthanasia as my topic of research was that I was unfamiliar with the subject. I had previously heard of patients choosing to end their lives rather than continue to suffer as they were or doctors and families deciding to remove the machinery keeping a person in a vegetative state alive, but I never had knew that the act had a name. In fact, it was mere luck that I happen to stumble upon the topic at all while I was looking for a subject for my paper. As I began to delve more into the topic of euthanasia what I found truly captured my interest. I wouldn’t say that I have an obsession with death, but the topic is extremely fascinating to me and it’s amazing to me that someone could be experiencing enough pain that they see as death is their only option. I’ve never had the tragic personal experience of seeing someone I love perishing slowly in front of me so I can’t even begin to imagine what emotions that would evoke. While I hope no one I know, or myself, would ever need it, I’d like to think that one day the option to undergo euthanasia would be made available to me or my loved ones.
The history of euthanasia has been a long and tumultuous one, dating back to ancient Greece and Rome. In his Hippocratic Oath, one of the most widely known of Greek medical texts, Hippocrates stated “I will not give a lethal drug to anyone if I am asked, nor will I advise such a plan” (Pickert). In this statement Hippocrates strictly prohibits the use of lethal drugs, such as morphine and other opiates, to end the life of a patient. Despite this anti-euthanasia stance however, the “Greeks and Romans were not strong advocates of preserving life at any cost, and were tolerant of suicide when no relief could be offered to the dying” (Nordqvist). In 1937, Switzerland became the first country to make to legal for a physician to assist a patient in ending their lives, as long as “the doctor ending the patient's life had nothing to gain” (Nordqvist). The next instance of euthanasia making any legal headway wasn’t until 1996 in Australia were it was legalized when the Rights of the Terminally Ill Act was passed; the victory was short lived however, as the law was abolished two years later. In 2000 the Netherlands decriminalized euthanasia, followed by Belgium in 2002. In 1994 Oregon became the first state within the United States to make euthanasia legal by passing the Death with Dignity Act, which allowed