Monday, 17 September 2012

Euthanasia / Assisted Suicide: What are your thoughts?

Euthanasia / Assisted Suicide

I have been asked by a friend to contribute for a book into the subject of Suicide for a charity and since I am looking into it I thought I should also look into ‘assisted suicide’ or euthanasia. My thoughts on the subject are no one has the right to take away life. This is a debatable area but I know where I stand on the subject. As far as I am concerned, it is wrong to take away or help take away life. What ever I have compiled is not an attack on anybody’s beliefs but facts based on research. In Africa though, I have not heard much about assisted suicide, it’s more of individual suicide due to various personal or family problems.

 The word euthanasia originated from the Greek language: "eu" means "good" and "thanatos" means "death."

Like so many moral/ethical/religious terms, "euthanasia" has multiple meanings:

One meaning given to the word is "the intentional termination of life by another at the explicit request of the person who dies."  That is, the act must be initiated by the person who wishes to commit suicide.

 The term "Physician Assisted Suicide" or "Assisted Suicide" is preferred because it is unambiguous. It implies that the individual does the requesting and a doctor or other individual meets their needs.

Others define "euthanasia" as including both voluntary and involuntary termination of life.
A Canadian pro-life group, by Environics used an extremely broad definition of euthanasia: "the use of lethal means to take the life of someone who is sick, depressed, elderly or disabled." This is a very broad definition that would cover the following situations from a terminally ill person in intractable pain who is not depressed and who repeatedly pleads for help in dying. This is commonly called physician assisted suicide, to a teenager who is depressed because his first love relationship failed and who wants help in committing suicide.
 It is important to differentiate among a number of vaguely terms:
Passive Euthanasia: Hastening the death of a person by altering some form of support and letting nature take its course.
For example:

  • Removing life support equipment (e.g. turning off a respirator)
  • Stopping medical procedures, medications etc.
  • Stopping food and water and allowing the person to dehydrate or starve to death.
  • Not delivering CPR (cardio-pulmonary resuscitation) and allowing a person, whose heart has stopped, to die.
Perhaps the most common form of passive euthanasia is to give a patient large doses of morphine to control pain, in spite of the likelihood that the pain-killer will suppress respiration and cause death earlier than it would otherwise have happened. Such doses of pain killers have a dual effect of relieving pain and hastening death. Administering such medication is regarded as ethical in most political jurisdictions and by most medical societies.

These procedures are performed on terminally ill, suffering persons so that natural death will occur sooner. It is also done on persons in a Persistent Vegetative State -- individuals with massive brain damage who are in a coma from which they cannot possibly regain consciousness.

Active Euthanasia: This involves causing the death of a person through a direct action, in response to a request from that person. A well known example was the mercy killing in 1998 of a patient with ALS (Lou Gehrig's Disease) by Dr. Jack Kevorkian, a Michigan physician. His patient was frightened that the advancing disease would cause him to die a horrible death in the near future; he wanted a quick, painless exit from life. Dr. Kevorkian injected controlled substances into the patient, thus causing his death. Charged with 1st degree murder, the jury found him guilty of 2nd degree murder in 1999-MAR

Physician Assisted Suicide: A physician supplies information and/or the means of committing suicide (e.g. a prescription for lethal dose of sleeping pills, or instructions on how to commit suicide with helium or carbon monoxide gas) to a person, so that they can easily terminate their own life. The term "voluntary passive euthanasia" (VPE) is becoming commonly used.
 Involuntary Euthanasia: This term is used by some to describe the killing of a person who has not explicitly requested aid in dying. This is most often done to patients who are in a Persistent Vegetative State and will probably never recover consciousness. It has been used to refer to government programs of genocide -- for example the program for exterminating developmentally challenged Germans by the Nazi Government during the late 1930's.

Reasons for Euthanasia
  • Everyone has a right to decide when their life should end.
  • If the quality of life has become so bad, a person may feel too much physical or emotional pain.
  • It provides a way of relief when a person's quality of life is low
  • Frees up medical funds to help other people
Reasons against Euthanasia
  • Doctors have a problem with euthanasia because they have sworn an oath that does not allow them to take part in the killing of people.
  • Sometimes it is not clear if an ill person really wants to die. Euthanasia should only take place if someone really wants it or if they understand how ill they are.
  • Euthanasia devalues human life
  • Euthanasia can become a means of health care cost containment
Euthanasia and Religion
Many religions think that euthanasia is immoral. Some religions regard it as a type of murder.
  • The official Roman Catholic Church is against euthanasia and says it is a crime. Protestants, on the other side, take a more liberal view.
  • Hindus think that, even though helping a person end a painful life may be good, it interferes with the cycle of death and rebirth.
  • In Islam all forms of euthanasia are forbidden.
  • In Japan more than half of all Shintoists think that you should be allowed to help a person die if they ask for it.
I believe no one has the right to take away or even assist in ending another person’s life. Life is a gift from above and is not for us to take away. Would you do it to anybody you love? Something to think about!!

Compiled by Abigal Muchecheti

Author, Married to a Devil








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