Mercy killing – examining historical cases and examining the pros and cons of the practice
A rather serious and touchy subject that a lot of people have heard about or even have discussed before is the subject of mercy killing and euthanasia. There are a lot of situations where people experience great suffering – a person may have been horribly injured to such a degree that they have become paralyzed almost entirely or even a vegetable. A famous case of the latter was with a woman named Terri Schiavo, who was the subject of the most intense controversy and discussion due to the question of whether she should be removed from life support. No matter what side you landed on, most decent people feel to this day that the whole escapade was a media disaster, and in the end, the coverage served as a great deal of disrespect to Schiavo, and made her a laughing stock of many a people. South Park, despite its consistently offensive tones, does great satire of this that spoke to a lot of people about respect.
There are people on both sides of the matter of mercy killing, with some saying that it is immoral to let a person die – a common religious argument is that suicide causes a person to go to Hell. On the other hand, supporters of mercy killing feel that it is immoral to force people to suffer through the pain. No matter if the pain is Huntington’s Disease, cancer, or whatever, these people believe that those who are far gone should not be forced to suffer through it all. In this article, we will discuss and elaborate upon what a mercy killing is, the pros and cons thereof, and offer some greater insight into the act.
What is mercy killing?
The definition of mercy killing as found in the Merriam Webster dictionary is as such:
: the killing of someone who is very sick or injured in order to prevent any further suffering
This is a pretty cut and dry way to define mercy killing. Some people consider the idea of a mercy killing to be wrong – that even though the motives focus on ending suffering and pain of people, it is a bad thing to do overall. There are a number of examples of ways people can do it, including (but not limited to) :
• Suffocation – This is an older tactic, and is usually used by people outside of the medical community to commit a mercy killing. This is less than optimal, as depending on the patient, it can be a slow or desperate death.
• An injection – One of the most common ways people commit a mercy killing within the medical community is through the use of an injection of certain chemicals. This is sometimes used by nurses to end the suffering of people who are basically beyond help.
• Turning off their life support – You might have seen this in a lot of movies – basically, it is the process of ending someone’s suffering by turning off a person’s life support, which eventually leads to that person flat lining and then dying.
• Removing their feeding tube – This method of mercy killing is usually used for people who have been legally declared dead, and are merely vegetables. This is a simpler process than the other ones, and because they do not have any brain activity, the suffering of lacking food does not cause them any real pain.
Is mercy killing legal?
Mercy killing’s legality usually depends on the context, but it is typically not considered legal to perform. A famous example of a doctor committing euthanasia and mercy killings was Dr. Jack Kevorkian, who assisted people in committing suicide. These people were those who wanted to die, and Kevorkian believed strongly in a person’s right to die. He claimed to have assisted in the voluntary suicides of 130 people, and was given the nickname of “Dr. Death” when he entered the media. He was charged and convicted of second-degree murder and sentenced to 10-25 years, but was released after eight years of prison time on parole – on the condition that he offer no advice or assistance related to suicide.
Much of the support for Kevorkian was due to their similar views and his assistance with advancing the discussion on assisted voluntary suicide, and even the Judge who presided over his trial felt remiss about the situation, and felt that he got a bum rap due to a poorly written law. Opponents are typically those in the religious moral right – particularly the Catholic Church – and people who feel that Kevorkian’s methods were inappropriate, and that he was too reckless and not ensuring that his patients were of sound enough mind to make such a significant decision. Kevorkian is viewed as a hero of euthanasia mercy killing by some, and a villain by others for committing mercy killing euthanasia. The debate rages on to this day.
Mercy killings during the Great Depression
The public opinion on mercy killing going into and during the Great Depression was much more positive towards it. Specifically, 45% of Americans felt that killing babies who were born premature or with a mental handicap was not wrong. Due to financial difficulties, the idea of taking one’s life rose in popularity, where people viewed the idea of others who are of sound minds taking their own lives in order to not suffer the harms of the economic crisis in a positive light. These sentiments grow stronger during trying economic periods, due to the above mentioned reasons. Critics and psychologists have suggested that such thoughts could be better curbed if more money went towards those in poverty, and if more physical and mental health care was earmarked to help people cope with their illnesses.
Pros and cons of mercy killing
There are always going to be two sides with valid points in a lot of situations. Let’s examine some of the mercy killing pros and cons.
The pros of mercy killings and euthanasia (and the legalization thereof) include:
• Ends suffering of people who are struggling with disease, physical ailment, or crippling depression
• Provides better assistance for people who wish to die
• De-criminalizes those who want to kill themselves, and improves efforts to help them get better rather than imprisoning them and making their situation worse
• People who are worried about being burdens on society for their physical or mental ailment have the right to not have that be the case
• Provides assistance for those who are brain dead to be taken off life support if kept alive against their will
Of course, there are some potential cons to be discussed, too.
• Morally questionable – how do you determine who is mentally or emotionally fit enough to be killed?
• If a person wishes to be kept alive on life support after becoming brain dead but does not include this as a part of his or her will, how do you protect that person’s rights?
• What to do about young people who are looking to participate in a voluntary assisted suicide? Should parents need to consent to it?
• Are mercy killings the right way? If the medical community offered better support for those who are suffering from mental difficulties, should mercy killings still be an option for people who can get alternate treatment?
• If legalized, can a medical professional who has religious objections to voluntary assisted suicide be compelled to perform one despite his or her objections?
Mercy killing articles
Mercy killing is a pretty serious subject, so it’s important to get as much information as you possibly can. Here is a list of articles that can help improve your understanding:
• The Wikipedia article about euthanasia
• An article discussing whether euthanasia is mercy or murder, and discusses in part the late Terri Schiavo
• Opinion piece discussing the morality of mercy killings
• A news article about a mother performing a mercy killing on her son, who was suffering from Huntington’s Disease
Now that you have seen some mercy killing articles, mercy killing quotes, the mercy killing definition, mercy killings pros and cons, mercy killings facts, and seen some examples of mercy killing cases, we hope that you have come out of it all with a better understanding of both sides of the mercy killing debate. While some people view it as abhorrent and consider it to be no different from murder, others feel that it is utterly immoral to let someone suffer, especially if they are going to die soon. If you need any more mercy killing facts, you can use Google, Wikipedia, or the library to conduct some further research. Hopefully, you will never find yourself in the position where you will have to perform a mercy kill yourself.