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Death with Dignity

What exactly is the value of life? Who decides whether or not someone's life is valuable? These and many other questions are asked when the controversial topic of euthanasia is debated. Certain groups and politicians disapprove of the legalization of euthanasia, arguing that it is immoral. Doctors use modern medicine and expanding technology to "extend" one's life. However, court mandates and/or politicians should not decide our rights, especially when it involves our own bodies. The individual and/or the individual's family should make the final decision. A patient of a fatal disease such as cancer ought to have the right to be granted a dignified death free of shame. Forcing a human to sit in a bed endlessly suffering, spending thousands of dollars in a prolonged death is a waste of time, money, and avoidable pain. America was built on freedom and the individual choices we make: choosing how and when we want to end our life should be a legal freedom of every American citizen. Liberty is a constitutional right; if death is the only viable method of liberation- so be it.

Euthanasia can be traced as far back as to the ancient Greek and Roman civilizations. The word "euthanasia" comes from the Greek language, meaning "good death" (Jussim 45). It was sometimes acceptable in these ancient societies (Jussim 45). As time passed, religious influence grew, and life was viewed as a sacred gift from the creator. Euthanasia, in any form, was deemed wrong.

In this century, there have been many groups formed that are for and against euthanasia. In 1935, the first group that was for the legalization of euthanasia was formed (Finsterbusch 246). It was called the Voluntary Euthanasia Society and was started by a group of doctors in London. The first society established in the United States came soon after, in 1938 (Finsterbusch 246). It was called the Hemlock Society, and it now consists of more than 67,000 members (Finsterbusch 190). This group gained so much support advocating legalization that the issue became a large debate splitting the country in half. The purpose of this society is to support your decision to die and to offer support when you are ready to die. As generations passed, it became more and more requested from relatives that their loved ones die peacefully. It became less possible to watch a loved one hooked up to machines that carry out daily tasks as simple as breathing until the end approached abruptly. Euthanasia is a way to spend the last moments in life with family, not with machines, procedures, and most definitely not pain.

Many individuals who have lost the capability to make their own decisions have what is called a surrogate make health-care decisions for them (Jussim). Living wills are a major part in the legal aspects of euthanasia. A living will can express a patient's thoughts towards his or her future medical treatment (Jussim). Living wills are legal in forty states (Jussim). They permit anyone capable of making decisions to tell the doctor beforehand that they do not wish to be put on life support (Jussim). If the patient is unconscious or in a state where he or she isn't capable of making decisions, they surrogate becomes a relative/spouse and can therefore make the decision.

When debating the legalization of euthanasia, many people look to the Netherlands, and other selected locations where euthanasia is legal. Euthanasia is most prominent though in the Netherlands. There are certain guidelines, which allow only doctors to perform the act to end a patient's life and not be prosecuted. The guidelines are that the patient must have full information, and the decision to die must be voluntary and enduring, the patient must be experiencing unbearable suffering, all alternatives acceptable to the patient for relieving the suffering have been tried, and the physician must tell public officials that euthanasia has taken place (Jussim 88).

Legal euthanasia in the Netherlands has been a very successful practice. Facts taken from the Netherlands have shown that simply because euthanasia is legal, doesn't necessarily mean once a patient has an illness of any sort he or she will be immediately a euthanasia case. Many opponents to euthanasia say that euthanasia is out of control in the Netherlands and doctors are abusing the practice. This is called the "slippery rope" argument (Jussim 89). In fact, every year almost 25,000 people request that their doctor allow them to resort to euthanasia if necessary (Jussim 89). Hardly one third of these requests are carried out (Jussim 89). Therefore, doctors provide alternative care to the two thirds being turned down. How can something be seen as abused if only one out of every three people requesting the service receive it? A poll taken by the Time magazine in 1991 shows that almost 75% of physicians were reluctant to perform euthanasia but would if necessary (Robinson). The previous two facts alone show that the practice would hardly be abused. Legalization of euthanasia will allow the government to control how and when it is allowed. Having government controls force certain conditions and criteria to be met preventing abuse.

Freedom of choice is undisputedly a part of American life and culture. The philosophy behind democracy is freedom. The respect given to individual's means that they do not need to suffer without cause, and they have the freedom to do whatever they want to do, including when and how they die. Famous euthanasia advocate, Derek Humphry, once stated that euthanasia is the "ultimate civil liberty" (Jussim 45).

Those people/groups opposing legalization of euthanasia say it is not only morally wrong, but also against the Christian religion. Peter Weil, a lawyer and euthanasia advocate, says "No one is suggesting that those opposed chose it for themselves or family members, but they do not have the right to impose



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