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What is Euthanasia

What is Euthanasia

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Published by: michaelsulivan on Jan 05, 2010
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08/07/2012

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What is Euthanasia?
Euthanasia is the deliberate killing of a person for the benefit of that person.In most cases euthanasia is carried out because the person who dies asks for it, but there are cases calledeuthanasia where a person can't make such a request.A person who undergoes euthanasia is usually terminally ill, but there are other situations in which some people want euthanasia.The ethics of EuthanasiaEuthanasia raises agonising moral questions like these:is it ever right for another person to end the life of a terminally ill patient who is in severe pain or enduringother suffering?if euthanasia is sometimes right, under what circumstances is it right?is there any moral difference between killing someone and letting them die?At the heart of the ethical and religious arguments over euthanasia are the different ideas that people haveof the meaning and value of human existence, and of whether human beings have the right to decideissues of life and death for themselves.There are also a number of arguments based on practical issues.Some people think that euthanasia shouldn't be allowed even if it was morally right, because it would beabused and used as a cover for murder.Killing or letting dieEuthanasia can be carried out either by doing something, such as giving a lethal injection, or by not to dosomething necessary to keep the person alive (for example failing to keep their feeding tube going).'Extraordinary' medical careIt is not euthanasia if a patient dies as a result of refusing extraordinary or burdensome medical treatment.Euthanasia and pain relief It's not euthanasia to give a drug in order to reduce pain, even though the drug causes the patient to diesooner. This is because the doctor's intention was to relieve the pain, not to kill the patient. This argumentis sometimes known as the Doctrine of Double Effect.Mercy killingVery often people call euthanasia 'mercy killing', perhaps thinking of it for someone who is terminally illand suffering prolonged, unbearable pain. The word euthanasia comes from the Greek and means easydeath.Why people want euthanasiaMost people think unbearable pain is the main reason people seek euthanasia, but some surveys in theUSA and the Netherlands showed that less than a third of requests for euthanasia were because of severe pain.Terminally ill people can have their quality of life severely damaged by physical conditions such asincontinence, nausea and vomiting, breathlessness, paralysis, difficulty in swallowing...Psychological factors that cause people to think of euthanasia include depression, fear of loss of control or of dignity, feeling a burden, or dislike of being dependent.
A question of rights
Does an individual who has no hope of recovery have the right to decide how and when to end their life?Why euthanasia should be allowedThose in favour of euthanasia argue that a civilised society should allow people to die in dignity andwithout pain, and should allow others to help them do so if they cannot manage it on their own.
 
They say that our bodies are our own, and we should be allowed to do what we want with them. So it'swrong to make anyone live longer than they want. In fact making people go on living when they don'twant to violates their personal freedom and human rights.It's immoral, they say to force people to continueliving in suffering and pain.They add that as suicide is not a crime, euthanasia should not be a crime.Why euthanasia should be forbiddenReligious opponents of euthanasia believe that life is given by God, and only God should decide when toend it.Other opponents fear that if euthanasia was made legal, the laws regulating it would be abused, and peoplewould be killed who didn't really want to die.The legal positionEuthanasia is illegal in most countries, although doctors do sometimes carry out euthanasia even where itis illegal.Euthanasia is illegal in Britain. To kill another person deliberately is murder, even if the other person asksyou to kill them.It is also a criminal offence in Britain, punishable by 14 years' imprisonment, to assist, aid or counselsomebody in relation to taking their own life.(Legal position stated at March 2002)Changing attitudesThe Times (24 January 2007) reported that, according to the 2007 British Social Attitudes survey, 80% of the public said they wanted the law changed to give terminally ill patients the right to die with a doctor'shelp.In the same survey, 45% supported giving patients with non-terminal illnesses the option of euthanasia."A majority" was opposed to relatives being involved in a patient's death.
Arguments in favour of euthanasia
Regulation of euthanasia
It's not possible to regulate euthanasia
Euthanasia opponents don't believe that it is possible to draft laws and guidelines that will prevent theabuse of euthanasia.
It's possible but very difficult
Those in favour of euthanasia think that there is no reason why euthanasia can't be controlled by proper regulation, but even they fear that regulations won't deal with people who want to implement euthanasiafor bad motives.This is little different from the position with any crime. The law prohibits murder, but that doesn't stop bad people committing murders.
 
 Nonetheless, people worry that whatever regulations are put into place they won't stop, particularlyvulnerable, patients being pressured to choose death when they would rather live for a few more weeks.
Some rules are better than none
It's hard to think that creating a structure to regulate euthanasia will have a worse result than not havingany regulations at all.Since euthanasia will continue to take place, even though it's illegal, it would surely be better to make itlegal and regulate it so as to minimize abuse.A similar argument was used as part of the case for making abortion legal. It's not that convincing if it'sthe only argument.However, vulnerable patients might be better protected if there were set procedures and rules that had to be followed for euthanasia than they are at present.Indeed a patient who feared that they were under pressure to decide in favour of euthanasia would be ableto gain help and support by initiating the formal procedures involved in regulated euthanasia - somethingthat they cannot do now.
Elements of regulation
For safeguards to be meaningful and effective, they have to involve investigations of the patient's psyche,his family dynamics and the financial implications of his death, among with more obvious things such asthe patient's medical condition, and the likely course of the disease.In order to ensure that requests are properly considered, both by the patient, the family, and theauthorities, regulations need to build in a time-period for reconsideration.Proper regulation must also make sure that a patient was receiving good palliative care before a requestfor euthanasia is considered.Although the procedures outlined above are time-consuming and expensive, that does not mean that theyare impractical.
The Oregon approach
The US state of Oregon legalised physician assisted suicide in 1998. During the first three years onlyaround 2 people a month used this to end their lives. This was partly because of the severe conditions thathad to be satisfied before a request for euthanasia could be granted:
 patient must be resident in Oregon
 patient must be aged over 18
 patient must make 2 oral and 1 written request for euthanasia
there must be at least 15 days between the first and the last request
 patient must be terminally ill with a life expectancy of less than 6 months
this prognosis must be confirmed by a second consultant physician
 both doctors must confirm that the patient is capable of making this decision
 both doctors must confirm that the patient does not have medical condition that impairs their  judgement
 patient must self-administer the lethal medicationAbout 30% of patients who started the process died before it was completed. 19 patients in the period whowere given access to lethal medication decided not to use it. One survey showed that 45% of patients whowere given good palliative care changed their mind about euthanasia.Another reason for the low take-up was the difficulty of finding a doctor who go along with the request:The Oregon Health Division reported that only a fifth of physicians of control patients dying of similar terminal illnesses would have prescribed a lethal medication if asked.

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