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Euthansia - A Discursive Essay




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The world really is often a strange place. If you see two men fighting on the streets they are thugs, put them in a ring and pay them lots of money and it's a sport. Likewise when your dog's cancer ridden and is in a lot of pain you are advised to put it out of its misery but when it's a human being in the same situation it's illegal. However nothing is ever as easy as it seems and as there is much more to the fighting argument there is also a lot more to Euthanasia.

Euthanasia, also known as 'mercy killing', is the intentional killing by act or omission of a dependant human being for his or her benefit. The practice of it is illegal in the United Kingdom and the same applies for most countries in the world. Debate about the morality and legality of voluntary euthanasia is, for the most part, a phenomenon of the second half of the tweentieth century yet little seems to change. Personally, I am in favour of legalisng some acts of euthanasia law. Why?

Those who are terminally ill may feel strongly that their own life is no longer worth living because of intractable pain. If this is the case then why is it illegal for their wishes of a peaceful death to be met? If they persistently and actively ask for help in dying there should be, in my opinion, a law that allows them to do so. A heart transplant surgeon, Dr Christian Barnard once said of the matter,
"I have never seen any nobility in a patient's thrashing around all night in a sweat-soaked bed, trying to escape from the pain that torments him day and night...To my mind, when terminally ill patients have reached this stage, the best medical treatment is death."
If someone has an illness or accident rendering them incapable, which may leave one without even the basic control of their own bodily functions then they should be ensured death with dignity. If they are not happy with their lives (and cannot be helped in any other suitable way) then their wish for death should be fulfilled. Does the state have the right to deprive them of this?

Earlier this year the high court granted a full review of the refusal by the Director of Public Prisecutions (DPP) to guarantee that a husband would not be prosecuted if he helped his terminally ill wife to commit suicide. Many people are aware of this case, it is that of Diane and Brian Pretty. A married couple of twenty five years, their lives were turned upside down in 1999 when Diane was diagnosed with Motor Neurone Disease (MND). Diane remains fully mentally competent and today communicates with the use of text messaging equipment attached to her wheelchair. Diane is well aware that MND is incurable and she also understands that, as the disease progresses, the nerve cells in her brain and spinal cord will deganerate, causing the muscles in her diaphragm necessary for breathing to paralyse. This will eventually cause her death by suffocation and choking.

The 1961 Suicide Act Section 2.1 states, "A person who aids, abets, counsels or procures the suicide of another, or an attempt by another to commit suicide, shall be liable on conviction to imprisonment for a term not exceeding 14 years." Diane Pretty will be unable to take her own life and because of this she has taken the matter to courts, stating that her rights under the European Convention for Human Rights have been violated. She believes that she will be subjected by our domestic law to "inhumane and degrading treatment."

I feel that Diane Pretty has a very strong argument. This person is of sound mind but because she is suffering from chronic want (she has physical limitations) is not able to exercise the option of what to do with her life, so she is hence discriminated against due to her disability. This clearly shows that human rights for people in this particular situation are not expressed effieciently in society today. What would be the right thing to do with an aging,beloved family pet facing a distressful death? With animals it is still sad, but so much easier. One would take it to the vets, despite the tears they would shed. You would wish a death with dignity. I think Diane Petty deserves the same, if not greater dignity in her death than any family pet, if that is her choice. It seems tritr comparing this situation to having an animal put down, but that is the way I see it. Anyone keeping an animal in the same conditions as Diane Pretty would have been prosecuted for cruelty - yet the law states that euthanasia is wrong. Animals have no way of communicating their desires, however, each has dies in its own home, following their favourite meal, with someone they love close at hand, comforting them till it is all over. In short, they died with dignity, in aloving atmosphere. The atcual end was quick and painless. One can think of worse ways to die. It is estimated that around 5000 people have MND in the UK alone, all destined to a similar path of deganerative illness as Diane Pretty. When one takes into account that MND is just one of the scores of terrible, progressive terminal diseases around today then one will realise just how many peoples's choices are affected by our law.

Obviously, I recognise that the practice of euthanasia is open to abuse. Greed for an inheritance, an old person suffering from dementia - the cruel could use any of these factors or more to justify euthanasia. Therefore I realise it is not an issue to be taken lightly but I am still very much in favour of it. Why? Because should terminally ill patients be refused choice and freedom because of a few opportunists who may wish to abuse new laws? I believe the state should introduce 'living wills' which would determines ones life and protects you and your family in any of these circumstances including mentally debilitating diseases such as Alzheimers etc. This is supported by the 'Will to live project' who say this legal document would be signed with the name of the person one wants to make health care decisions for them if you develop any condition making you incompetent and also makes clear your wishes to that person. I feel this idea is suitable as the the wishes of the victims would be respected and this legalislative framework would ensure it was carried out.

There is only two places in the world that currently permit euthanasia, those being the Netherlands, who were first to legalise it, and the state of Ohio in the United States of America. This is surely progress. As medicine slowly gains success in the ability to prolong life we will all begin to have to make decisions about at what point prolonging life ceases to become a benefit and starts to become an unwanted burden. To me this is a highly personal decision, one for each individual to make for themselves. Although the option of the ability of euthanasia should be there for all to use not just people from certain countries. I feel this is too much of 'playing with peoples lives'. How can something so important in society today be right in one place in the world but wrong in another? It doesn't make sense. Everyone is entitled to the same treatment, not alienated because of where they live in the world.

Why is legalising euthanasia not happening you may ask? Is there not enough support for the cause? It exactly the opposite. A national opinion poll, in April 1993, showed that 81% of Scots agree with the aims of the 'Scottish Voluntary Euthanasia Society'. Its aim is made clear by the director of the Scottish Voluntary Euthanasia group, Chris Docker,
"Everyone of us has an interest in our own death: a change in law would increase our options."
A recent phone-in after a TV programme gave a figure of 93% in agreement, from a total of 23,000 calls. A survey published in the British Medical Journal in 1994 showed that a considerable number of doctors are already acceding to requests for active voluntary euthanasia and many more doctors feel that a change in the law is overdue. Surely if people of such a high profession who day in day out deal with life and death feel this way then something should be happening. So why is nothing happening? Simple opposition from the government.

I don't believe that putting someone to sleep for such strong reasons is a sin. The person involved would not be doing it for their own benefit but would be helping another. This shows euthanasia can be an act of love and I feel that love should not be illegal. Though many people would disagree, those being anti-euthanasia belivers and supporters. The majority of such people are against the aims of legalising euthanasia mainly because of religion reasons. I agree with the aspect that life is sacred but I am still content with my views on this matter. The religious aspect is very important to consider because virtually all of them (Not just Christian but Jewish, Muslim and other religions etc included) states "Thou shalt not kill". We know almost instinctively that murder is the worst crime any of us could commit. The opposition say humans have no moral right to dispose of their lives or the life of others as God was the one who gave us it so only he should take it away. Euthanasia would be,
"considered as a rejection of God's sovereignty and loving plan."
This is an important belief for a member of one of these religious groups. They also say that it is more compassionate to care for the dying than to speed up death. Euthanasia for opponents represents the ultimate 'hand-washing' exercise by a society that would rather kill than care.

However, I maintain that people who want an early peaceful death for themselves or their relatives, personally, are not rejecting the sanctitiy of life. I agree with the popular argument that life should be cherished but I think life is a gift with a heavy price for millions of people arund the world and that sometimes the gift runs out leaving nothing more than an evil filled with pain and distress. God wants people to have quality of life, therefore if someone has no quality of life euthanasia should be acceptable. God is love. Likewise stopping suffering is a loving thing to do, so euthanasia could bring more glory to God than keeping a suffering person alive against their wishes. Most importantlt, people have been given free will by God which means we should be able to lead our own lives our own way, learning as we go along.

However, the reason I feel very strong about this is that I have experienced a first hand exprience thats important to this issue. My mother had a terminally ill cancer resulting in her suffering excruciating pain that lasted for months and she died in hospital when she had desperately wanted to be allowed home to be with her family. When she was alive she I used to hear her cry out in pain at night. She never asked but if she had asked in help in killing herself I know I would have a very difficult situation on my hands and probably be in the same situation as Diane and Brian Pretty.

No matter how meticulous you plan your life nothing can prepare you for the cruel and seemingly indiscriminate blow of terminal disease. Personally I don't think we should make it worse than it needs to be.

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Comments about this review »

dollydancer 08.05.2008 01:10

Excellent review. You make very good points. It is such a debatable subject but I agree with the points you have made. I don't think people should have to suffer, especially if they are in a situation where illness is going to drag them to a slow and painful death. A very interesting read X

teresacrew 07.09.2005 11:02

Excellent!!! Especially because you used legal source to back up your arguement. Are you studying law?. Tre x

Hollyshaw 12.05.2005 14:58

An interesting read.

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This review of Essays has been rated:

"exceptional" by (42%):

  1. dollydancer
  2. teresacrew
  3. steerpyke

and 2 other members

"very helpful" by (50%):

  1. Hollyshaw
  3. Bollinger28

and 3 other members

"helpful" by (8%):

  1. Finno

The overall rating of a review is different from a simple average of all individual ratings.