Issues/Euthanasia - Response to Anti Euthanasia Essay term paper 5428

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Euthanasia is a topic that provokes as much controversy as capital punishment, primarily because it is irreversible. The question of euthanasia being right or wrong is one that most would prefer left alone. However, recent publicity on changes to existing laws has ignited considerable discussion and has forced open the door to a much wider audience. The issues related to direct euthanasia have raised many questions in my mind, to which I am still searching for answers. I believe it is necessary to consider arguments, both, for and against, in order to come to any conclusion. In this paper I will address Brian Clowes' article in the "Pro-Life Activist's Encyclopedia", located on the World Wide Web, that attempts to provoke a response from the reader and clearly establishes six reasons on which he concludes euthanasia is wrong. I will deal with each reason in turn. In developing countries death remains very much a part of life. From a young age these people are well acquainted with the certainty of death. However, for members of western society, death is an issue that most prefer be left behind the closed doors of a hospital. To a large proportion of our society the topic of death and dying is best left unspoken, many find it uncomfortable and disturbing. This fear of a 'thing' we have little control over is very much apart of our society, and is manifest in the writings of the article "Why is Euthanasia Wrong". The writer of "Why is Euthanasia Wrong", a self confessed pro life activist, has entered the public arena in an attempt to persuade his readers to a point of view that not only shows little understanding of the topic but indicates an obvious malice towards health professionals and the difficult job they face. For Clowes to imply that a health professional's primary concern is the conservation of medical resources and cost containment, as opposed to the betterment of human life, is a gross inaccuracy and insulting to those dedicated to the ethos "the betterment of human life" upon which health care was built. EUTHANASIA IS IRREVERSIBLE The writer starts by clearly defining the differences between direct and passive euthanasia and natural death, terminology that is essential to understanding the issue at hand. However, once established by the writer, these concepts seem to have little relevance to the rest of the argument. He then continues his debate by clearly establishing that euthanasia is permanent and irreversible, a point that is difficult to dispute and does emphasize the importance of the issue to the reader. Yet, his persistent use of medical cases where patients were classified as irreversibly comatose and where all decisions regarding their continual treatment were made by others, neglects to recognize the numerous cases of terminally ill patients, who simply ask for the right to control their own destiny and to die with dignity. His use of extreme cases, all of which were found in 'National Right to Life News', gives the reader a distorted picture and neglects the many types of cases where the prolonging of life would be cruel, inhumane and immoral. (Johnstone, 1994:353) EUTHANASIA SETS A BAD EXAMPLE? I would ask what kind of example are we giving our young by prolonging life at whatever cost to the person? Is quantity of life always the best option? Is the taking of human life always wrong? In the 18th century William Mitford, an English historian stated "Men fear death, as if unquestionably the greatess evil, and yet no man knows that it may not be the greatest good." (Bradley, Daniels & Jones, 1969:194) Here the author compares the act of suicide among the young with the act of euthanasia with the terminally ill. He believes, in making euthanasia an acceptable social practice, it will inevitably have negative repercussions on the rest of society. The writer argues that by condoning euthanasia, we condone acts of suicide as a means to cope with life. In my opinion, there are obvious differences between the act of euthanasia and suicide. In my understanding, both acts are seeking an end to suffering however in most cases of euthanasia, one only wants to end the physical pain for which there is no other treatment. Euthanasia generally reflects an acceptance or willingness to face the inevitable. To the terminally ill, death is the last hope of maintaining any remnants of dignity left to them in a life where there is no longer any control and is the only escape from a life where pain rules their existence. With acts of suicide among the young, it is often an attempt to end mental suffering that in many cases can be fixed. It reflects a non-acceptance of change and an unwillingness to face life. Unlike euthanasia, it is an act based on hopelessness and despondency towards life where death is often only one of many options that could be used to solve the pain of life but often appears to be the easiest and quickest solution. I do not believe teenagers are so incompetent and inapt as to be unable to see the difference between two very separate ways of dealing with life and death. EUTHANASIA IS ENTROPIC? It is difficult to refute an argument that is based on a complex theory where the average person, outside of those who study the physical sciences, would have little understanding. Whether or not this was the author's intention, it does appear he is attempting to present an argument as right by simply associating it with another truth. He attempts to make a moral association between a physical and social phenomenon through the use of a physical law to back up his belief that "what ever is man influenced and grows by itself is 'bad'"(Clowes: p7). However, I am not convinced that laws of physics can be used to explain a sociological occurrence, nor am I convinced physical quantities have an inherent moral nature (i.e. good, bad or evil). For myself, I am hesitant to accept a social argument that is based on a physical law and would question whether the laws of physics can be used to predict the social outcome of legalizing euthanasia. Further, for the writer to suggest rating something good or bad by the amount of confusion it causes would, I believe, take us back to the days preenlightenment where any new theory or thought that questioned the established structure was considered witchcraft. He believes "if something is incomprehensible to the common man, it is usually something that is not in his best interests." Yet history is the story of people who dared to challenge those things readily accepted by others. Those who dared to question existing standards bought about social change, both good and bad. History demonstrates the need to question the confusing in order for society to advance and learn. To blindly accept things as right and to never ask 'why' I believe would lead to little or no social progression, good or bad. EUTHANASIA IS MYOPIC AND LAZY? Here the author accuses pro-euthanasia lobbyists of being both shortsighted and lazy, lacking imagination to see beyond to the long term consequences of euthanasia that will plunge society into an inevitable downward spiral or slippery slope. He attempts to paint a picture in the reader's mind by using a human biological example to demonstrate the possible effects of euthanasia on society. Euthanasia, he argues, should be seen as a type of social leukemia where the individual cells of a society will 'at an ever increasing rate' self-destruct, eventually destroying society itself. However, I fail to see the benefit to society, of prolonging the lives of individuals at whatever cost to the person. Whether the whole is greater than its parts or the parts greater than the whole has been a long-standing debate. In this case, I can not see the benefit to the whole of rejecting euthanasia, nor do I believe the whole is always greater than its parts. Let the author look these patients in the eye and tell them their suffering will somehow benefit society. Further, I find it hard to accept that all health professionals, forced to face the issue of euthanasia on a regular basis, are either myopic or lazy. They are asked to make decisions no one else wants to make that many in our society hope to never confront. In my opinion, to choose to stop treatment, to withdraw lifesaving measures is a far more difficult decision than to continue treatment. I believe that for many health professionals it is easier to save a life than to let it go. When there is no longer any quality of life, I am forced to wonder if death is so bad an option and whether prolonging life is the best care we can give. EUTHANASIA IS NOT OF GOD The writer openly proclaims his Christian beliefs and has prior to this point attempted to put forward an argument aside from God, for both the believer and non believer alike to consider. However he chooses to end his debate on a premise that is only valid to those who believe in God, and for some that is sufficient ground on which to base an argument, without the above. A problem only exists when God alone is offered as the reason for an action. For the atheist or even the agnostic such a statement is of little significance and gives no substance to an argument. Further it is a statement that is difficult to judge or prove as either true or false. CONCLUSION The topic of euthanasia is complex; a Pandora's box of doubts and unanswered questions. I do not claim to hold the answers to the difficult questions euthanasia raises, nor do I claim to be a pro euthanasia lobbyist. However, I believe it is an issue that society needs to address and confront. The question is, do we go that one step further and legalize acts of direct euthanasia? It is a question to which I am yet to find a satisfactory answer, however I believe it is an issue that needs to be shared by more than the health profession. Johnstone (1994:355) argues "the question society needs to answer is not: is euthanasia morally permissible (it has tacitly conceded that it is), but which type of euthanasia is permissible, and under what conditions?" The power to terminate life, at present, solely rests in the hands of the medical profession and is not exempt from misuse or abuse. The law needs to confront the matter of euthanasia, as safeguards are essential and assist to diffuse or dissipate the power already firmly held and practiced by the medical profession. (Johnstone, 1994:354)

Bibliography

Clowes, B., "Why is Euthenasia Wrong?" Chapter 106 in The Pro-Life Activist's Encyclopedia (The American Life League) [http://hebron.ee.gannon.edu/~frezza/plae/encyc106.htm]

Bradley, J., Daniels, L. and Jones, T., The International Dictionary of Thoughts (Chicago: Ferguson Publishing Company, 1969).

Johnstone, M., Bioethics: A Nursing Perspective (Harcourt Brace & Company, 1994).

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