Euthanasia The modern legalization of Murder
Euthanasia (better known as murder) robs one of a natural death. If Euthanasia is legalized, then it should be carefully regulated and practiced by a competent individual, not of the medical society, in that person s home with family member s consent and presence. If Euthanasia is not regulated carefully, then medical institutions will abuse this practice and consider Euthanasia an acceptable way of lowering health costs and giving up hope on a sick individual too soon. Moreover, doctors have a moral obligation not to kill, and Euthanasia goes against that obligation.
In April of 1988, a gynecology resident was called to the aid of a young woman dying of cancer. The resident had never seen or taken care of this woman before. The resident was alarmed by her pain; the young woman uttered a phrase saying, Let s get this over with, (Not knowing this person or what let s get this over with really meant) the resident administered a lethal dose of morphine, purposely killing the young woman. The resident then submitted a description of this event to the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) who published the resident s story, but not his name. However, act cannot be considered anything other than murder. Having no past experience with this patient or her family, this was clearly an uneducated decision by the resident, resulting in the death of a person. Five words spoken at a time of agony and confusion were taken to the limit. Many were outraged by this event. Gaylin Willard, author of Euthanasia: The Moral Issues saw this event in much the same light:
What is to be done? Regarding the case at hand, the proper course is clear. JAMA should voluntarily turn all the information it has regarding the case over to the legal authorities in the pertinent jurisdictions. The physician s name should also be reported to his hospital directors and to his state and county medical societies for their scrutiny and action. The Council on Ethical and Judicial Affairs [CAJA] of the American Medical Association[AMA] should examine the case, as well as the decision to publish it. Justice requires nothing less. (Gaylin, Willard et al. 27)
Regardless, the resident never went to prison nor did he endure any type of punishment for this murder. This case and many others are a prime example of the abuse that could take place if Euthanasia becomes a legal procedure.
Moreover, doctors have a moral obligation to treat a patient until nothing more can be done to help that person and he or she dies a natural death, meaning without the aid of a poison or something of that nature being administered. Doctors are the ones people look to with a sense of hopelessness and confusion. People feel that a doctor knows what is best and that they are the ones who can ease the pain. In a time like this, a doctors words and opinions are very powerful. Being optimistic is the key. A doctor should not have the lack of courage or hope required assisting in a person s self-inflicted death.
This is where the term Euthanasia must be defined. Euthanasia means the painless killing of a person or animal suffering from an incurable disease, or (physician administered aid in dying). Euthanasia contradicts every natural physical or psychological instinct of survival. Taking a patient off of a life support system would not be considered Euthanasia because if that person needs a life support system or machine to keep them alive then one is doing nothing other than letting that person die a natural death. [Euthanasia can then only be defined as the willful administration of a deadly poison causing a human death, better known as premeditated murder, a first-degree felony in the United States.]
Although California considers murder a felony, they still considered legalizing Euthanasia at one point. California proposed a bill allowing Euthanasia or physician administered aid in dying to take place only in an institution such as a hospital. The doctor would not need to consult anyone other than a board of other physicians if the patient had been requesting Euthanasia on a consistent basis. The doctor would then need to get one more physician s opinion of the patient s illness. If the other physician also considered the patient to be terminally ill, then Euthanasia could be administered whether or not the patient was competent at the time of the decision. The patient s family would neither have to be informed of, or consulted before, any of this would take place. In some cases, this may be an acceptable way of deciding on Euthanasia; in many cases, though, it is not. California shot down the proposed bill, showing that there are still many people who know that allowing Euthanasia to be legalized would not be moral, ethical, or fair to a sick patient.
Take Alzheimer s disease, for example. A patient with this illness is not completely competent Due to the deterioration of the brain resulting in memory loss and brain damage. After enough requests for Euthanasia and the proper steps, (as mentioned above in the proposed law in California) such a patient could legally be killed. Alzheimer s disease is terminal at one point or another, but life expectancy can never be determined accurately, one hundred percent. C. Everett Koop wrote in Euthanasia: The Moral Issues about this situation:
To show how difficult predictions might be, Medical World News on May 5, 1974, reported a case of a woman with myasthenia gravis who lived artificially for 652 days in intensive care and then made a remarkable recovery. Said a hospital representative at the Harbor General Hospital in Torrance, California; she made us recognize that there was no such thing as inordinate effort. She had such a tenacity for life we felt that everything we did, no matter how extraordinary, was appropriate to the situation. (C. Everett Koop 73)
In fact, there have been many cases in which a doctor gives his or her professional opinion of a patient s life expectancy and miraculously this patient lives far beyond that opinion and even possibly overcomes sickness, but Health costs play a big role in the decision to kill
Unfortunately, health costs are a big consideration in the choice of life or death. Many doctors and law makers feel that it makes more sense to end someone s life prematurely and reap the financial benefits than to let life take its course and possibly be faced with a large bill at the end and no loved one to go along with it. This is a valid emotion, but not a valid argument. Hospitals and doctors are forced to look at patients as dollar signs. Long stays in intensive care units force people to look at the financial side of the decision to kill as closely as the moral side. A woman named Opal Burge had a seventy-three year old husband who died after nearly six months in the intensive care unit. When all was said and done, she was left with a 208-page hospital bill totaling over 250,000.00 dollars and loneliness. Fortunately, her Medicare and insurance took care of almost all of the total cost. This may have been a case where might have considered and it would have been acceptable to pull the plug, for keeping someone alive on a machine is not natural.
Situations like this happen all together too often. These are the cases People hear about and naturally they do not agree with keeping people alive like that. But, clearly, taking someone off of a respirator or machine of some sort is not Euthanasia. No one is arguing against natural death, but everyone should all argue against legal murder.
One solution to the financial decision making process of Euthanasia may be taking financially involved individuals such as doctors and institutions out of the decision making process of someone s life or death. Dana E. Johnson, who practices at the University of Minnesota hospitals in Minneapolis, her suggestion supports this thought!
A realistic approach would be the utilization of individuals, review committees, etc., within the community who are familiar with both the difficulty and the necessity of making life or death decisions, but are uninvolved and unaffected by the financial aspects of the decisions. These consultants will need to be utilized in a formal manner to assure a course of action that is in the patient s, rather than the institution s or health care provider s best interests. (Dana E. Johnson Euthanasia: Opposing Viewpoints 142). By taking the financially involved individuals such as
Doctors and the insurance companies out of the decision process, The patient would then be assured that the decision of life or death was not influenced entirely by the financial aspects of their possible recovery.
Some illnesses that were chronic in the past are now curable because of research and new found information. If Euthanasia was legal thirty years ago, the medical community may not have that information and research may have slowed drastically. If Euthanasia is legalized now, who knows what cures or vaccines may never be found? For instance there has been a big step taken in the direction of finding a cure for H.I.V, in the last ten years. Aids can be a very painful disease and many people have wanted to die instead of try experimental drugs. Had this been an option, the medical profession would not have half as much information about the disease as they do now.
Euthanasia should not be looked at as a decision based on laws, but rather one of ethics and morals. No human, whether they be a doctor or priest, or whether they are committing this crime out of pity, mercy or out of financial interest should be legally authorized to take someone s life. A natural death consists of many possible things. This death may be painful and it may not be. It may be quick, or long and drawn-out. It may include family member s near-by, or it may be cold and lonesome. Unfortunately the methods and the scenario of one s death should not be decided by any person. The world now is a society of legal loopholes and technicalities, meaning, society holds many double standards depending on what is in their best interest at the moment. The United States as a society is making a mistake if it allow Euthanasia to be a loophole and technicality of murder. Until men and physicians become gods, they should let the mystery of death confront everyone in its own way.