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Euthanasia in the United State

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Euthanasia in the United State

By: Dennis Zabka


Euthanasia in the United States Every year two million people die in North America. Chronic illness, such as cancer or heart disease, accounts for two of every three deaths. It is estimated that approximately seventy percent of these people die after a decision is made to forgo life-sustaining treatment (Choice in Dying). In America and all around the world, the ongoing debate is whether patients should have the opportunity to implement this critical alternative of euthanasia. Although controversial, it is imperative that United States citizens are not denied this right to a humane death. Groups in opposition to euthanasia say that patients who yearn to make this decision are neither in a healthy psychological state of mind nor have the God-willing right to do so. These groups feel if euthanasia were to become a publicly accepted option to the terminally ill that physicians, family, and even patients may abuse it. They also strongly support modern end-of-life treatment, known as palliative care, as a more logical and moral option. Perhaps the strongest belief that euthanasia is wrong comes from those who follow the words of the Bible and believe that every aspect of life belongs to God. The Old Testament records an incident involving King Saul of Israel, who became seriously wounded on the battlefield. Fearing the advancing enemy, Saul took his own sword and tried to fall against it. He cried to a soldier, 'Come and put me out of my misery for I am in terrible pain but life lingers on.' The soldier acted in accordance with the wishes of the king and killed him. The soldier then brought some of Saul's armor to David and said, 'I killed him, for I knew he couldn't live.' David ordered the soldier put to death (Eareckson, 111). Those who believe in the Bible clearly see here that, whether a monarch or a common person, mercy killing is perceived as iniquitous in the Lord's eyes. To see a more recent example of the Catholic Church's disagreement of euthanasia we only have to look back a few years. In 1994, for instance, the Dutch television station IKON's filming of the death of a man with Lou Gehrig's disease in a documentary, 'Death on Request,' brought a denunciation from the Vatican (Branegan, 30). Equally important to those supporting the anti-euthanasia cause is the thought of any physician, family member or patient who would abuse this right if given the chance. Naturally, much trust is bestowed in these key players of our lives if anything were to happen to us. The question in this sense is how do we know that they will make decisions in the best interest of the patient if they are unable to speak for themselves? Would the financial and emotional burden on the family of a terminally ill patient cause them to make an irrational decision to directly affect the life of the patient? If the emotional stress doesn't get to some people, the financial burden may definitely hit some families hard these days with the high costs of modern medical treatment. And who couldn't use thousands of dollars in life insurance? The temptation is definitely there. A harsh example of this can be seen in the experience of a fifty-year-old woman with cancer of the bones, liver, lungs, and breast. Her doctor was a Polish-born oncologist, Dr. Ben Zylicz. Dr. Zylicz explained to the woman that he could lessen her pain with drugs, and offered her a hospital room. Aware of Holland's policy allowing doctors to end the lives of the terminally ill by such means, the woman stated, 'I am Catholic. My religious beliefs would never allow me to accept euthanasia.' Zylicz assured the woman that he would take care of her, and she agreed to take the room. After twenty-four hours of morphine treatment she was able to see her family (Eads, 93). Later, a nurse called Zylicz at home with some distressing news. After Zylicz had left the hospital, another doctor entered the patient's hospital room and asked her husband and sister to leave. He then ordered an increase in her morphine dosage, but refused to confirm the order in writing. Within minutes the woman was dead. Zylicz demanded an explanation from his colleague. The other doctor's reply was, 'It could have taken another week before she died. I needed the bed' (Eads, 93). For reasons like these, if a person were to become disabled without previously completing a living will in a clear state of mind, they should not be put to death. Anyone that would truly wish to die in that state would have taken the initiative to make his or her intentions clear before the crippling event took place. As in all cases, the responsibility of the patient's life should be up to a medical staff in concurrence with the patient and family. Undoubtedly, euthanasia can be gruesome and downright immoral if not managed with extreme responsibility, but groups in support of euthanasia still support terminally ill patient's option to die with dignity and respect. Euthanasia can be administered with positive effects as long as certain situational factors are always considered. These factors include: the type of assistance, the type of assistant, the type of illness being dealt with, and the age of the patient. Furthermore, euthanasia or assisted suicide should only be a last ditch effort after optimal palliative care has been administered. Euthanasia, which means 'good death' in Greek, became a world renown movement launched by a celebrated 1973 case of a doctor who helped her mother die and then was acquitted of criminal charges (Branegan, 31). Since then it has been praised and protested all around the world, the United States is a special case though. In the land of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, I initially assumed that this should not really be an issue. Regardless of race, religion, color, or creed, everyone in this country should have the right to make their own decisions regarding their quality of life and where it is heading. A case in point of where euthanasia may be accepted comes in the following story: On her 85th birthday, Virginia Eddy celebrated with her family at a party with all the trimmings. Then, her son wrote, "She relished her last piece of chocolate, and then stopped eating and drinking." Her son arranged for her to be placed on a self-administered morphine drip to relieve the ...

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