The Case For
Elizabeth S. Davis
National American University
The purpose of this paper is to define euthanasia as well as give a brief history of the debate throughout the years. Then the author will show the reader that there is no reason as to why euthanasia has not been legalized. This paper will walk you through many aspects and issues of the debate and try to disprove those who wish to see the debate buried.
Euthanasia is the act or practice of killing or permitting the death of hopelessly sick or injured individuals in a relatively painless way for reasons of mercy ("euthanasia," n.d.). Mercy is kind or forgiving treatment of someone who could be treated harshly ("mercy," n.d.). Why then, is the debate to legalize euthanasia still going on today? Why do we continue to let our loved ones suffer when they should have the right to mercy? This debate has been talked about for ages and history proves that it will be inevitably legalized. Feelings have changed politically, morally, ethically, and even religiously throughout the years, so much so that there is no reason today why it should not be legalized.
The euthanasia debate has been around since before the 19th century but for our purposes we will start there. Lavi, S. J. (2007) states that during the late 19th century euthanasia gained the meaning we all know today: the use of anesthetics to guarantee a swift and painless death. This was followed by the first attempt to legalize medical euthanasia in 1870. Previous proposals, notably by Thomas More which doesn’t include physicians at all and Francis Bacon, whose proposal doesn’t include active killing, differ from the proposals in the late 19th century on to today’s proposals as they are the first to include physicians. The change in the meaning of euthanasia correlates with the change in the viewpoints of death and the increase in the physician’s presence at the deathbed. Death had moved from religion to medical and gave a new task for the medical profession, to assist dying patients much like the previous religious figures had. These 19th century physicians looked for medical ways to help the dying patient and thus in 1887 a British physician named William Munk published his book, Euthanasia; or, Medical Treatment in Aid of an Easy Death. Munk and many other physicians at the time believed that dying was painless and attempted to uproot the common belief that dying was indeed painful.
In the 20th century, it became important to demonstrate that dying is painless by nature. Not only did these physicians of the 20th century believe that death is painless, but many argued that death was pleasurable (Paterson, C, 2008). It was hard to challenge the opinion of the populace within the last hour of life. So a leading physician of the time, Sir William Osler, conducted research to attempt to prove their theory. His research included about five hundred patients and only ninety showed pain or distress. Following his lead physicians everywhere strode to alleviate the dying patient from the pains of death which became their true calling. A great physician of the time Albert Schweitzer stated that “We must all die. But that I can save [a person] from days of torture, that is what I feel as my great and ever new privilege. Pain is a more terrible lord of mankind than even death himself”. Schweitzer was a smart man that understood the effects of pain on people and the release that euthanasia would provide.
Throughout the 20th century the question of euthanasia’s legal status emerged. The first attempts at legalizing euthanasia took place in 1906 in Ohio. This became the first bill regarding euthanasia to ever be brought to legislature in an English speaking country. The bill titled “Concerning administration of drugs, etc, to mortally injured or diseased person” placed the initiative on the physician themselves (Lavi, S. J. 2007). This