Ethical Dilemmas: Euthanasia

Is euthanasia, or assisted suicide, humane? Should it be accepted in the medical world? Euthanasia is a very serious ethical dilemma faced in modern health care. Euthanasia is mostly a matter of opinion, and has different meanings to different people. In my opinion, there are many good arguments supporting euthanasia but I believe euthanasia should be ignored. I would personally never be able to perform euthanasia on someone, I would feel too guilty, but not everyone feels the same way.

Firstly, what exactly is euthanasia? Euthanasia, as defined by the Minnesota Citizens Concerned for Life, is when a patient is intentionally killed by another person. This definition says that euthanasia can be requested by the patient, requested by someone else for the patient, or carried out without the patient’s permission. They later go on to define assisted suicide. Assisted suicide is when a patient is provided with instructions on how to intentionally kill themselves. In this paper, euthanasia refers to a mixture of the two definitions. Euthanasia is the intentional killing of a patient by a health-care worker, upon the patient’s request, where the patient is informed exactly how things will be carried out before the procedure is conducted.

As a health-care worker you must respect the Basic Rules of Ethics and the Patient’s Bill of Rights. But what happens when a situation arises that supports and goes against these ethical standards? Euthanasia is one of these situations. Certain parts of the Basic Rules of Ethics conflict with other parts. For example, the Basic Rules of Ethics states: Respect the patient’s right to die peacefully and with dignity. Put promotion of health above all else.

Avoid immoral, unethical and/or illegal practice.

These three rules of ethics are very controversial to each other. The third one states that you must avoid immoral, unethical and/or illegal practice. Euthanasia is legal in some countries, however; it is not in the United States. The first rule states that you must respect the patient’s right to die peacefully and with dignity. No doctor wants to see his/her patients struggling. If it is illegal to perform euthanasia, then how can you respect the patient’s right to die peacefully? If you aren’t ethically or legally allowed to assist their death, are you just supposed to let them die a slow, painful death? That isn’t a very peaceful death. And what about the second rule listed? By performing euthanasia you aren’t promoting health, you are ending a life.

Euthanasia also goes against the Hippocratic Oath. When you become a health-care worker you make a Hippocratic Oath to all of your patients. One specific part of the Hippocratic Oath states, “I will neither give a deadly drug to anybody if asked for it, nor will I make a suggestion to this effect.” By performing euthanasia you violate this part of your Hippocratic Oath. However, the rest of the Hippocratic Oath is about doing what is best for the patient and what the patient wants. So it all comes down to what the patient wants to be done, and how the health-care worker feels about the subject of euthanasia.

Have you ever had a pet that had to be “put to sleep”? Putting animals who are suffering to “sleep” is considered the humane thing to do. We do it to put them out of their misery. We only put an animal to “sleep” when they are in a really bad state, with little or no hope of even slightly recovering; no one wants them to suffer. So, how is assisting someone in their death any worse than putting an animal to “sleep”? If someone is seriously suffering and has no hope of recovering I can see why one would want to carry out euthanasia, but think of all the consequences.

There is also the religious aspect of euthanasia. My personal religious beliefs conflict with the procedures of euthanasia. As a Christian I do not believe in suicide, so by performing euthanasia I kind of feel like one is playing God. By deliberately planning your own death, you are technically killing yourself, even though you did not physically do it on your own. The Ten Commandments state that “One shall not kill”, so by assisting someone’s death are you breaking this commandment? I also believe that you will die
when God believes it is your time, and you shouldn’t rush his plan for you. Of course, this is my own belief and you may not have the same opinions on the matter as I do, as many do not.

Instead of performing euthanasia we could use other methods that make life for the patient easier, without having to kill them. For example, hospices could be used to make a patient more comfortable while they deal with their condition. Hospices are considered humane and legal, they respect the patient’s right to die comfortably, and promote the patient’s health. If euthanasia was ever to be conducted then I believe the patient must meet certain standards and must be in a critical state before they are allowed to go through with euthanasia. Dr. Jack Kevorkian provides an example for this in the movie called You Don’t Know Jack, about his experience with euthanasia. In the movie someone who was severely depressed came to him and asked him to perform euthanasia on them.

Kevorkian refused, he believed that being depressed is not a concrete reason to assist someone in their death. Instead of killing this individual Kevorkian encouraged them to get treatment and recover. So, if someone is to perform euthanasia a patient should be in very critical condition, those who are suffering and have no hope of getting better. A patient should have the procedures of how they will be “put to sleep” elaborately explained to them before they go through with the idea.

As you can hopefully tell, euthanasia is very controversial and complex. It goes against ethical rules, while supporting them at the same time. It goes against the Hippocratic Oath, and some religious beliefs. There are alternatives to euthanasia and more possibilities for someone who is suffering. Like I said before, it all comes down a matter of opinion.

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