To begin with, issues to do with life and death when mentioned in any context bring about a controversy that cannot be solved unless if examined from all possible different points of view. In connection to this, a choice between death and life has brought about a great international debate in regard to whether one should have a right to make a choice between death and life. So to articulate, when used in this context, right to die refers to the idea that a person with terminal illness, and is in a serious circumstance should be permitted to commit suicide before death would, if not occur (Meisel & Cerminara, 2004). As a matter of fact, making decisions regarding the life or death of another human being is neither the responsibility of the law, ethics or politics but it should be left to the hands of God the creator to bring this into being.
In regard to this point, such like types of deaths are carried out within the provisions of the concept that it is a kind of dying without pain. Following this point, there has been the question of who should be empowered to make these decisions. In effort to answer this question; “who” to make decisions on whether to live or not, has been a topic that has been debated over a very long period of time. As such, the topic has effects that range from legal, political, religious and ethical issues from the larger point of view.
Basically, a right to die is a social issue that has many facets and in fact, it requires much debate in order to settle on who should be given to the responsibility of making the decision for one to live or die. Given to the right to die, the interrelated issues involve a person’s wish that the caregivers allow death under certain conditions (Whiting, 2002). In such a situation, death is to be allowed by not providing life support or vital medication. From the larger point of view, it involves the physician assisted suicide at the request of the ill individual or the relatives.
Euthanasia or mercy of killing as a practice that has been debated for long also includes passive euthanasia. Passive Euthanasia in this context is practiced in cases whereby the patient is in a condition that he or she cannot make the decision about treatment. In consistent with this, there are other patients who make the provision of “living wills” and “do not give artificial respiration to” orders prior to their treatment. In such cases, these orders and the will in actual fact, acts as legal instruments to carry out Euthanasia as a means of dying without pain as it is often said (Scherer & Simon, 1999).
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Having provided a basic definition about the right to die and the practice of Euthanasia, it is important to bring into context its effects to the society. Besides, this will include the issues to do with the legal, political, and religious and the ethical aspects of this practice. Arguably, it is given to the right of each individual to have life and the termination of it is left to the hands of the creator. Presumably, to some it is God’s responsibility, while others it is just a creator whose name may not be common to many. Nonetheless, the majority of people in the world believe that life is given by God, the creator of the world and all that is contained in it.
First of all, it is vital to consider the legal issues that surround the right to die and life if it may be said. There has been the use of the terms voluntary euthanasia and physician-assisted suicide. As such, there are many legal issues that surround the Euthanasia. Many people around the world have contributed to the big debate of the right to die. Emerging from many widely varied propositions is the need to die a painless death (Whiting, 2002). In some countries like Netherlands, it is legalized for one to terminate his or her life under the assistance of the doctors if the condition is incurable and unbearable. In such regions where Euthanasia has a legal right, it is only illegal to terminate a life when it does not meet the qualifications of being “unbearable and hopeless”. In this region, not all forms of euthanasia are allowed but rather, there are various forms of voluntary Euthanasia that have been made legal. It is from this account that in the recent past in Netherlands there have been new Dutch based rules that give right to Euthanasia (Cohen-Almagor, 2001). In this context, the right to die is given legal right based on the fact that the Dutch elder people who felt that they were tired of living and at the age of 70 years old or so, were given legal right to terminate their lives under a professional assistance. Having gained much support by the prominent Dutch people, the legal right to professional help in ending life at ones choice was granted.
Principally, there have been many legal issues brought about by the issue to do with a right to die. Argumentatively, it is the desire of many people around the world to allow for Euthanasia or the Physician Aided Suicide (Cohen-Almagor, 2001). The question that then comes in is whether it is legally right to end the life of a person even at his or her request. The law provides that every person has a right to medical care and assistance. Nonetheless, in the US, the law states that a mentally competent adult person has a legal right to refuse medical treatment, even if that refusal would cause his/ her death. Following this point, what is termed as medical treatment involves artificial ventilation, use of feeding tube like nasogastric tube and gastrostomy tube for both water and nutrition (Merriman, 2007, p.404).
In such a case, if the patient is able to communicate he or she can assert his or her legal rights. If one is legally allowed to commit suicide or rather in simple terms to terminate his or her life, then, this has got no controversy that can occur. Nevertheless, the legal issues that are controversial then occur when Euthanasia is applied in a case whereby one is not able to communicate. Such occurrences occur when a patient is unable to communicate his or her current wishes typically for the reason that he or she is unconscious. This state can also be termed as a state of being in a persistent vegetative state.
Following such a situation, it is called for someone to assert the patient’s wishes on his or her behalf. Legally, the question about who decides for the patient and what he or she decides are issues that are a must to consider. In early cases like the New Jersey Supreme Court in Quinlan, patient’s family and physicians inclusive of hospital ethics committee were obliged to make end of life decisions by consensus without court intervention (Cohen-Almagor, 2001).
Provided by the law in this case, it is the need for a guardian to assert the wishes of the unconscious patient. There are three options that the guardian of the patient is required to assert the wishes of the patient who is mentally incompetent to assert his or her own wishes about treatment and end of life decision (Schneider, 2000). The first option is whereby a guardian is subjected to subjective test whereby he or she can determine by clear and convincing evidence regarding what the patient would have preferred if he or she was conscious. The second option can be taken in a case whereby the guardian of the patient subjected to a limited objective test. In this case, the guardian should infer what the patient would have wanted. This is carried out on the basis of the patient’s conduct, the patient’s religious beliefs or other reliable sources as it may be required.
Conditions as such, acquire legal rights to withhold or withdraw treatment if two conditions are met. This occurs if and only if there is some trustworthy evidence that the patient would have refused treatment. Additionally, the decision maker should be clearly satisfied that the burdens that are brought about by the patient’s continued life with treatment far outweigh the benefit of his or her living. Such circumstances have legal rights for Euthanasia or Physician aided suicide to be carried out. The third option for legal rights to be granted for a guardian deciding the end of life of a mentally incompetent patient, it is the pure objective test of which it is preferred when there is absolutely no way to determine specifically what would have been the wish of the unconscious patient. In connection to this, the burdens of treatment are weighed against the benefits of living. If the former outweighs the latter, the patient’s life is ended while if the latter outweighs the former, the patient continues with treatment. Likewise, in determining whether there is an absolutely no hope for recovery, evidence is required by law. The Law puts it that the physician attending the patient should confirm this along with two other examiners failure to which one can be judged under the law as a murderer (Huxtable, 2007).
Although the law gives one legal rights to carry out Euthanasia as way of dying a painless life for a patient with terminal illness, it is restricted only in some cases. So to speak, there have been several cases like in the US regarding Physician Aided Suicide (PAS) or Voluntary Euthanasia (VE). Needless to say, PAS was carried out in a case named Barber v. Superior court. In this case, the physicians were charged with murder for disconnecting a patient who was in a persistent vegetative state. Consequently, Appellate court unanimously issued a writ of prohibition that prevented criminal prosecution of the physicians. This happened due to the fact that the physicians held no legal duty to continue life support while it was an exercise in futility.
In conjunction with this, the PAS is a treatment that is highly refuted in the US while giving allowance for dehydration and starvation to death of a patient. Considering the end result of starving or dehydrating the patient, it only leads to death just as PAS can lead to death but in this case at an accelerated rate (Schneider, 2000). Arguably, the law has bound some forms of Euthanasia while allowing other forms. Notably, the law can be said to have some flaws from those that oppose Euthanasia while on the other hand it can be applauded. However, whether one supports it or not, ending of ones life remains to be a controversial issue that seeks for redress.
Meanwhile, it is agreeable that the legal issues to do with Euthanasia only came in at the advent of modern technology based on biology that can prolong life through artificial factors. Along with this, the death should be a natural occurrence and as a result, technology has only taken in the recent past and therefore, it can be said that except for the legal rights, death should be allowed to occur naturally. This is the reason why the doctors have no legal duty to provide life support if it is seen as an exercise in futility. It is wrong to commit suicide, and it is also wrong to assist someone commit suicide in the US law (Keown, 2002). However, the law should be formulated and made application of in such a way that it gives room for reasoning as well as taking into consideration the circumstances in life that can call for Euthanasia or mercy of killing as the only option.
As earlier on highlighted, Euthanasia as a practice, is surrounded by political issues as well. Politically speaking, Euthanasia has been used by politicians as a political tool since it has those that support it and those that do not. Factoring in these issues, politics have been carried out making the decision of voting on the bases of those that support and those that oppose it. Politics is naturally a matter of taking sides in a certain social issue that affect the society as whole. In the current era, technology discoveries and innovation are so many that their use remains to be the only way out.
Euthanasia in this case, touches all the aspects of life. There is no one of course who would love to live in a law that permits the physicians to end the lives of the patients (Schneider, 2000). In some cases, this is allowed while in others it is not. If legal rights are given in this case of Euthanasia without careful follow up and regulation, the right may be abused and some of the doctors may end up applying the doctor assisted suicide without validated grounds of doing it. In choosing to die or live, it is not quiet clear what becomes of the individual who is not mentally competent to make a decision regarding his or her treatment (Merriman, 2007). Even though such a case may be allowed by the law, issues of politics and the voice of majority comes in. This is why it can be unreservedly stated that Euthanasia has effects in the political aspect of the society.
At the same time, issues of religion and ethics are some of the aspects of the society whose effect cannot be underrated. Basically, death is a natural occurrence of which every individual is entitled. While this is true to every human being, science and technology has brought about technologies that prolong a life of an individual. Notably, for the few countries like Belgium, Netherlands and Oregon State, whereby Voluntary Euthanasia and Physician Assisted Suicide is legalized in some cases, issues of religion and ethics stand out to condemn the practice (Meisel & Cerminara, 2004). From a religious point of view, there is an answer to the question about “who should decide the end of life of a patient? “ There are always very many reasons that can prompt a patient to request for a Euthanasia or PAS.
Among the many that have been pointed out by researchers, patients can prefer ending their lives not merely for reasons of pain but distress and depression play a major role. Some of these patients request for euthanasia or mercy of killing as a result of worry and fear that they may burden their families due to the high expenses that are incurred while treating the disease. It is from this point that one ought to put it that the dictates of religion requires that no one that should commit suicide. It is only God, the creator of the mankind who is allowed to play that role. The role of ending someone’s life should be left to the creator and it should by no means be violated by the dictates of medicine and use of euthanasia and PAS. Religion derives its power from a moral point of view in that it is not human to take somebody’s life away. No matter the request and how great the need may be, however, the decision to end one’s life should be the absolute decision of God.
In particular, the practice of Euthanasia is kind of playing God as a creator as it suggests that, it is unlawful to commit suicide as well as the fact that it is unlawful to murder (Hartocollis, 2009). Fundamentally, religious views cannot allow for Euthanasia and PAS as a means of allowing one to die a painless death. It is within the givens of nature and the plan of God according to religion to bring death or life. Men in this case should leave the choice between death and life to be the decision of God alone. He should not be helped or rather assisted by making such practices as Euthanasia and mercy of killing. Why should one help God do what he alone knows? There is no one who has power to give life and therefore according to religion the giver of life is God and he should be the only person that can decide and who In fact has a right to make decisions regarding the life or death of human beings. This implies that there is no one else who is supposed to be given the right to make decisions for another human being regarding death and life apart from God alone.
Remarkably, many proponents or rather those that argue in favor of making a decision on behalf of another person while making a choice between death and life, will dispute the religious views (Scherer & Simon, 1999). Nonetheless, there are so many issues that surround assisted suicide along with Euthanasia. As such, ethical issues are not an exception in this context. Based on the code of ethics that governs life and death, death is inevitable as a natural occurrence and therefore life should be treated with honor. As a matter of fact, it is not right, neither is it ethically right to make a choice for somebody between life and death. Practice of Euthanasia and assisted suicide by a doctor is not accepted on the basics of ethics.
Again in this context, though legal right for Euthanasia is based on sympathy and compassion, there are some conditions that make Euthanasia ethically accepted (Whiting, 2002). Following this point, there are some of patients who undergo much pain to an extent that there is no medication that can reprieve the pain. The pain may become so much that benefits of death may be preferred for life. In such a situation, Euthanasia or assisted suicide may be applied without necessarily violating the code of ethics.
Similarly, ethics can allow the practice of Euthanasia in a situation whereby the patient has asked for it and his or her hope is lost. Such a person may be living under the support of technology that may burden the family without gaining so much from the prolonged life of the patient. This presents a case whereby ethical and critical analysis should be included to see the best option to safeguard the family from the trauma and the burden of paying for the support. Research has pointed out that the families that suffered their patient being hospitalized for a long time with unbearable pain and no hope of living being supported by technology have shown high percentages of trauma than those that preferred euthanasia or mercy of killing. Therefore, in some incidences, Euthanasia is ethically acceptable as a necessary evil to safeguard the life of the patient as well as the family.
More to this point, there are some challenges that come along with application of Euthanasia both to the doctors and the family members of the patient and in the larger perceptive the patient. Often times there are patients who have asked for Euthanasia only to be refused. While others have ended up suffering under great pain and finally dying, there are those that have recovered and even gotten healed after a declined request for Euthanasia. This is a great challenge and ethical contradiction when application of Euthanasia is carried out on an individual who if it was not allowed would have lived. This sounds like denying the patient the right to live (Keown, 2002).
Although the patient has a right to die, there is also a right to live, but, the bottom line is no one that has the permission to make decisions regarding the life or death of another human being. It is illegal, immoral, irreligious and unethical at all levels of reasoning. It is also a challenge to the nurses who are always attending the patients. They suffer the agony of being disturbed every now and then by the patients requesting for mercy of killing. Others deal with mothers who request the euthanasia of their babies (Holt, 2005). Even though it is within the power of the doctor or the nurse to assist the patient to die painless death, he or she is confronted by his or her religious views, legal restrictions and ethical issues to address the issue. It should not be forgotten that those that are entitled to the duty of Physician assisted suicide, have human feelings and they are also morally and religiously accountable for any act that they commit.
Above and beyond, making choice between death and life will remain to be a controversial issue that will continue to be debated over and over gain. Just as it has been highlighted, a right to die has been an issue that has brought about a lot of debate. As a matter of fact, a right to die is a topic that has affected the society as whole. It has brought about legal issues, political issues, religious issues and ethical issues from a broader point of view. Surprisingly, there seems to be no hope of coming to a consensus on the question about who in reality should be responsible to make decisions regarding the life or death of another human being.
Taking the example of Netherlands whereby Voluntary Euthanasia has been legalized, several cases of abuse as well as violation of this law has been reported. Many of the doctors have ended up performing Euthanasia without the limits once prescribed by law. The individuals willing to commit suicide without necessarily bearing much pain, those that are tired of life and others, who are disabled, have been associated with some kind of violation at different levels. For example, for people with disabilities, unable to talk, walk or even hear just to mention a few, their rights to live may be violated in cases whereby they are unconscious and decisions regarding their life or death are being made.
Additionally, the legal rights that grant one’s rights to die may be violated generally if a people realize that it has been legalized. In the US, however, starving or dehydration of a patient who has no hope to live with concrete evidence is allowed with assisted suicide by Physicians being objected. In the same line of thought, the religious views put it that no one that is given to the responsibility to make decisions regarding the life or death of another human being. This means a violation of a natural law by God and as such it is like playing him altogether. He is portrayed as the giver of life and it is condemnable for one to commit the sin of Euthanasia or assisting in suicide of those that are terminally ill and require that they may be given to the mercy of killing. It is treated as the same as killing and the penalty of a murderer is the due penalty for such an individual.
Ethically speaking, although there are few exceptions as stipulated above, it beats logic to make decisions regarding the life or death of another human being. Based on the morals of right and wrong, this is very wrong and cannot be tolerated and therefore it should not be practiced. In reality, it is like playing God who is the author and giver of life. Another point to note, is that it is not morally right and in this sense it is illegal as legalizing it will lead to abuse and violation of the law. Euthanasia should not be legalized as many will misuse the opportunity and doctors will lead to unjustified deaths along with others dying out of no genuine reasons. Consequently, Euthanasia should not be made legal at any level of consideration but instead regulations should be made on the few exceptions that ethics, law, politics and religion allow. Needless to say, making decisions regarding the life or death of another human being is neither the responsibility of the law, ethics or politics but it should be left to the hands of God the creator to bring this to accomplishment.
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