- Term Papers and Free Essays


Essay by   •  March 25, 2011  •  2,402 Words (10 Pages)  •  1,334 Views

Essay Preview: Euthanasia

Report this essay
Page 1 of 10

Medical advances have allowed doctors to lengthen the lives of patients. But many patients ask for life ending procedures when faced with pain that is too much to deal with and devastating loss of quality of life. Which is one of the biggest reason why patients ask for their lives to be over with.

Many tribulations, such as Alzheimer's disease, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, and persistent vegetative states completely destroy the quality of life a patient has, often leaving them completely dependant on others or on machines for survival. Three main options are available to these patients: voluntary euthanasia, mercy killing, or physician-assisted suicide. A patient may ask for euthanasia or assisted suicide before an event or disease puts them into the grave circumstances necessary for these options to be considered.

The debate on euthanasia and physician assisted suicide has been ongoing for years, and will continue for many lifetimes to come. The medical advances that have occurred over the last hundred years, medical staff is able to extend people's lives almost indefinitely. The failing in medical advances is the inability to prolong quality of life as well as life itself. When facing a lifetime of horrible pain, or a rapidly decreasing quality of life, which will eventually lead to death many people ask for the choice to preemptively end their lives. Euthanasia is defined as "the act or practice of killing or permitting the death of hopelessly sick or injured individuals (as persons or domestic animals) in a relatively painless way for reasons of mercy." To truly understand the issues surrounding euthanasia, we must further investigate into the meanings of the term..

In practice today, there are three general categories of acts of euthanasia. Withholding and or withdrawing treatment involves a patient deciding not to accept a lifesaving practice. These actions are taken to allow death to come sooner, but for it still to be a "natural death". Common actions taken include ceasing to use life support systems, not using Cardio-Pulmonary Resuscitation (CPR), ending the use of medications, or stopping the delivery of water and food. The patient usually takes these actions, through an advance directive. An advance directive is a legal document containing a person's wishes as to the medical treatments they shall, or shall not receive.

In the United States, every individual is guaranteed the right to use advance directives, thanks to the Patient Self-Determination Act (PDSA). This act clarified the legality and the effects of advance directives; however, the rules governing advance directives still vary state to state . A major factor behind the creationof the PDSA was the case of Nancy Cruzan .Nancy Cruzan, 25 years old, was left in a persistent vegetative state following a brutal car accident . She remained comatose for more than four years before her family considered ending her life, as there was little hope of her recovering . A legal battle ensued over her parents' decision to remove Nancy's feeding tube. Many groups fought to prevent her family from ending her life, as Nancy had left behind no health care directives .

The Supreme Court sided with the Cruzans, but would only support their wishes if "clear and convincing evidence" could be produced .

A group of Nancy Cruzan's friends testified about conversations that they had with Nancy before her accident . Their testimony was eventually considered evidence enough for the courts to allow Nancy's parents to remove her feeding tube. Nancy passed away eleven days after her feeding tube was removed. This case had a huge impact on the euthanasia debate. Protesters fought the courts decision and sought to have Nancy's feeding tube reconnected . They felt that despite the fact that Nancy's family had been acting in her best interests, Nancy Cruzan had been murdered.

Two main documents make up the majority of advance directives: the living will and the Durable Power of Attorney. Combinations of the two documents are used in some situations. A living will, lays out what the person's wishes are, medically, should they become incapacitated . The signor must be found to be mentally sound at the time of signing, and there must be no signs of coercion. Living wills are only considered if the person is unable to make healthcare decisions. Living wills are subject to the interpretation of the attending physician, not the family. Living wills are also only valid if the person is terminally ill .

When a person ends the life of someone who is suffering, and the person sufferings unable to ask for the life-ending act to take place, or has not asked for the life-ending act to take place, this is categorized as mercy killing . A huge issue surrounding mercy killing is that there is often a lack of consent .Historically mercy killers were subject to murder charges. This is also known as active euthanasia .

The third category is physician-assisted suicide. Many people whom request euthanasia are hesitant to follow through with the act on their own, and request the aid of a physician, to voluntarily end their life . The physician supplies the patient with the knowledge and or the means to commit suicide, and the patient follows through with the act .The physician to speed up death may use painkillers. Large doses of painkillers can have a secondary effect of shortening life, as well as its primary effect of relieving pain . This is called the "Double Effect" ("Assisted Suicide"). This principle makes it morally permissible to follow through with the act as long as the act was done for the good effect, and the bad effect was not the intention of the act ("Assisted Suicide").

We now live in a time, where physicians can keep our bodies alive almost indefinitely. This ability has created many problems . There are several reasons that people ask for an early termination to their life. Diseases such as cancer, or AIDS cause excruciating pain and suffering. The number of people stricken with these diseases has risen sharply. Excruciating pain is a major factor in euthanasia cases;patients just want the pain to stop. Other than pain, the biggest factor in patients asking for euthanasia is a severe decline in their quality of life . Patients with conditions like Alzheimer's Disease, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) and persistent vegetative state face catastrophic declines in their quality of life. These diseases rob patients of their minds and/or their bodies, leaving them completely dependant on others or machines until they die.

Sue Rodriguez fought Canadian Law, in order to escape the final stages of ALS(Roberts



Download as:   txt (14.6 Kb)   pdf (162.2 Kb)   docx (14.5 Kb)  
Continue for 9 more pages »
Only available on
Citation Generator

(2011, 03). Euthanasia. Retrieved 03, 2011, from

"Euthanasia" 03 2011. 2011. 03 2011 <>.

"Euthanasia.", 03 2011. Web. 03 2011. <>.

"Euthanasia." 03, 2011. Accessed 03, 2011.