The right to die with dignity has become a major moral issue. There are many who believe that we, as humans, have no right to take a life, be it our own or anyone else’s. Others, however, believe we have the right to do as we see fit with our own bodies. It is a personal choice between living and dying with dignity or suffering through the end of our lives in pain and discomfort. Euthanasia allows individuals to live and die on their own terms. The euthanasia debate has no right or wrong ending. Each person has their own set of beliefs about human euthanasia and the debate will forever continue to be discussed.
Definition of Euthanasia
What is euthanasia? To adequately define euthanasia, a person must know what life is. A person’s quality of life can greatly impact their decision to continue living. As defined by Dictionary.com, euthanasia is also called mercy killing. It is the act of putting to death painlessly or allowing to die, as by withholding extreme medical measures from a person or animal suffering from an incurable, especially a painful, disease or condition.
Active vs. Passive Euthanasia
Active euthanasia occurs when a person actively engages in a procedure that will result in their death. This can involve a physician-assisted suicide, the use of injectable drugs and medications or any other means in which the patient actively takes part in the ending of their own life. To better understand what physician-assisted suicide is, read our article on the topic here.
Passive euthanasia is the act of “allowing nature to take its course”. This can involve the removal of necessary life-saving devices such as respirators and feeding tubes. When a person has reached the point where their life is being artificially supported, the family may grant permission for the removal of all forms of life support, allowing the person to die a natural death. When people try to define euthanasia, they normally do not include natural deaths, choosing instead to focus on physician-assisted suicides as the most common form. To get a deeper insight on the difference between active and passive euthanasia, read this article on BooksAndIdeas.net.
The Hemlock Society is a group of chapters located across the United States that promotes an individual’s right to die with dignity. Established in 1980, the group’s main mission was to help individuals who were diagnosed with terminal illnesses exercise their right to maintain a positive quality of life for as long as possible. At a time when that was no longer possible, they could then choose to end their life and die with dignity under circumstances they control.
The Pros and Cons of Euthanasia
Euthanasia isn’t for everyone. There are several pros and cons to the debate that only the person facing the issue can relate to. The main benefit for many is the ability to die while they are still in control of their destiny. They choose the time, the place, the method and the person that will be in attendance. They are in complete control. They are euthanizing themselves and taking control of their own death.
The negative side of euthanasia is that, once the decision is made, it cannot be reversed. No one knows the future or how long a person will be able to live with their condition. There have been numerous cases where doctors have been wrong about a patient’s prognosis. If the patient chooses euthanasia, they may be unnecessarily shortening their lives.
Information Concerning Euthanasia
Articles on euthanasia are abundant, and only a few of them are written from an unbiased point of view. Most articles are designed to support one perspective over the other. Well written articles look at both sides of the situation, taking into consideration that every person’s circumstance is different. In turn, no one set of standards can be applied to every situation. Opponents of euthanasia rarely get to see what type of death a person will experience if they are forced to live out their lives while suffering from a debilitating condition.
Making the Choice to Euthanize
Every person is different. It can be said a million times, but in this case, a person’s life is truly at stake. Dying with dignity and maintaining the highest quality of life possible for as long as possible are extremely important to people who have been given a devastating diagnosis. Euthanization is not taken lightly. In most cases where it is considered an option, the individual has been informed as to what they should expect as their illness progresses.
A good example is cases that involve ALS or Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis. In the beginning, the patient is in control of his or her physical body. As time passes, their mind, emotions and thought processes remain intact, but their bodies literally disintegrate. At first, they lose the use of their arms or legs. As the condition progresses, they can no longer function for themselves. They can no longer feed, bathe or clothe themselves, relying on others to accomplish even the simplest of tasks. You can read more about ALS on MayoClinic.com.
For someone who was once fully functional, this can be devastating and demeaning. Others with the condition may continue to thrive mentally and emotionally to the point where their physical body is no longer a burden. Although they can no longer function physically, they have a support system that allows them to flourish, even when their physical capacity has been diminished. It reverts back to one important factor; personal choice.
A person can choose to refuse medical care or not take their medications as prescribed. Individuals who are considering euthanasia are attempting to control their lives to the point of their last breath. For a person who is in their right mind and can make coherent decisions, the thought of euthanasia is normally a well-researched consideration. Individuals who suffer from depression, bipolar disorder or other mental illnesses may have difficulty making such life-altering decisions. Read more about bipolar disorder and other mood disorder in our article here.
Although every person should have the right to consider what type of healthcare they receive (or choose to refuse it), many people eventually influence their decisions. When it comes to euthanasia, there are many factors that must be considered, first and foremost, the person’s mental state at the time of the diagnosis. Having the right to choose death with dignity is very important to individuals who suffer from debilitating health conditions.
While friends and family members believe it is important to help a loved one make a decision about euthanasia, it is still the right of the person who is ill to choose. If they are thinking clearly and are able to make a valued life decision without the influence of another person’s input, then they should be able to do so. We, as a society, may not agree with their choice, but we are not living their life. As individuals, we have the right to express ourselves in ways that are uplifting and help us to maintain a high level of dignity and respect.