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Euthanasia

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The term euthanasia is not new to the twentieth century. Even in ancient societies, terminally ill people requested to have their lives ended; though the meaning of euthanasia for them differed from its meaning today. The English word euthanasia is taken from the Greek eu thanatos "good or easy death." However today it is given a different meaning, because of the social and moral issues it touches. In the present day the term euthanasia is associated with the act of mercifully (although some might argue this point) ending the life of a hopelessly suffering patient with his or her consent. If the patient is incompetent, then the closest living relatives have the power to make "substitute judgment" - the guardian or surrogate "attempts to reach the decision that the incapacitated person would make if he or she were able to choose" (Quinn 289-290). The term "incompetent patient" refers to a condition in which a patient lacks the capacity to make substantially autonomous decisions about his or her own care (Hoefler 36). The movement to legalize euthanasia began in 1906 when the Ohio legislature referred a bill to its Committee on Medical Jurisprudence, which proposed the legislation of active voluntary euthanasia. The bill was rejected by a vote of 78 to 22. Similar attempts to legalize the practice occurred in Nebraska, New York and recently in the state of Washington. Today most states prohibit assisted suicide; Illinois, Ohio and Michigan call it murder. However the prosecution of those who assisted the suicide is unusual. It is not surprising that there is so much variation from state to state, because doctors themselves do not agree on the morality of active euthanasia. The debate, revolving around euthanasia, is based on several questions: Is euthanasia ethical? Is suffering a preparation for death, and if it is, should people be spared it? Do people have a right to die? Does euthanasia go against the Judeo-Christian beliefs? And the final and most topical question is should euthanasia be legalized?

One of the issues that should be given special attention, when discussing euthanasia is the ethical question. Is euthanasia ethical? Even though it is very disputable issue one thing is clear - euthanasia can be ethical only under very specific circumstances. Derek Humphry, the founder of the Hemlock Society and the author of several books on euthanasia, including Jean's Way, Final Exit, and Dying with Dignity, thinks that suicide and therefore certain form of euthanasia can be justified. Humphry describes two forms of suicide: suicide for mental health reasons, which both he and the Hemlock Society oppose; and justifiable suicide, or "autoeuthanasia." He argues that "autoeuthanasia" is an acceptable choice for those suffering from terminal illness or severe physical handicap, and he outlines the conditions under which it can be considered an ethical act: "Being a mature adult (age depending on the individual). That it is clearly a considered decision. That the self-deliverance is not made at

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