Modern science can successfully overcome a lot of diseases that until recent times were considered incurable. It can return people to normal life from the state of clinic death, ensure the survival of seriously ill newborns, and extend the life in the presence of fatal disease that stops the body’s ability to cope with basic vital functions. Solving some difficult problems, scientific discoveries generate, at the same time, additional and more complex troubles, both from the technical and moral point of view.
With the use of electronic technology, various equipment, mechanical valves and pumps, artificial organs, transplant operations, antibiotics, chemotherapy and promising advances of genetic engineering, the idea about the possibility of unlimited life extension is taking the root in people’s minds. Medicine has achieved considerable success in maintaining human lives in terms of the functioning of body as a mechanism. The human life loses its quality characteristics, because of certain medical indications. Thus, there is a number of extremely difficult questions. Are there any limits on medical procedures over sick people? Should limits be set on the actions aimed at continuing and saving lives at any cost? Finally, is euthanasia morally permissible?
The term "euthanasia" is derived from ancient Greek and means “easy death”. In Ancient Greece, euthanasia did not have any medical content and meant “a happy death for motherland”. In scientific usage, the term euthanasia was introduced by English philosopher Francis Bacon (1561-1626). He considered that the duty of the doctor is not only to restore health, but also to relieve pain and anguish.
Today, the term “euthanasia” means intentional termination of life of ill patients to get rid of their unbearable suffering that can not be treated by medical methods and available tools.
We speak about euthanasia when the following four conditions take place:
- The patient clearly demands to die once the diagnostic and prognosis are known.
- The patient is under great suffering due to an incurable disease that deprives him of the ability to live with the quality of life he wants.
- An action carried out by medical professionals that know the patient, respect his personal decision to die.
- This medical action is the direct and immediate cause of death.
Euthanasia, as a new way to solve the medical problem of death, is actualized under the influence of scientific and technological advances in medical practice. It is due to the development of critical care medicine. In modern scientific literature, an active and passive euthanasia is distinguished.
Active euthanasia – is the implementation of actions to accelerate the death of a man, according to his own decision. Also, active euthanasia can be called an action of the person to accelerate his death on his own. For example, a special organization (and the only such organization is operating in Switzerland) provides an apparatus that sets in motion by the person who is in need of euthanasia.
Active euthanasia, on the legal level, is permitted in three European countries: Belgium, Holland, Luxembourg. Also, active euthanasia is permitted in the USA, in the state of Oregon.
Passive euthanasia – is the termination of any actions to sustain the life, provided that the person himself made such a decision (for example, turning off the respirator). Passive euthanasia is permitted in more than 40 countries.
An important difference between the active and passive euthanasia is that, in passive euthanasia, the doctor does nothing, and the patient dies because the disease has already struck him. During the active euthanasia, doctor does something that leads to the death of the patient, in other words he kills him. For example, the doctor who makes the cancer patient a lethal injection causes the death of the patient, but if he simply stops the treatment, the cause of death is cancer.
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There are a lot of opinions on the issue of euthanasia. The deliberate killing of the innocent is always a moral evil. Euthanasia is the deliberate killing of an innocent human being. So it is the moral evil.
Expressing my viewpoint on this issue, I can actually say that I am against euthanasia.
First, referring to the regulations, it is absolutely safe to conclude that euthanasia is simply contrary to these acts.
The legalization of euthanasia indicates negation of all the principles of humanism, which the proponents of this procedure support. If this psychological barrier to the murder is selected by the person, the moral foundations will change throughout society.
Secondly, modern medicine is developing with a frantic pace. Why should someone "be killed" today, as tomorrow a new life-saving method will be discovered? Terminally ill man is suffering, but no torture is not worth living. Moreover, the suffering can be alleviated by an incredible amount of ways, starting with analginum and ending with drugs.
Who can say with absolute assurance that a particular diagnosis is correct? Imagine, a patient is diagnosed with cancer and prescribed euthanasia, but later it is found out that it was tonsillitis, amenable to treatment. Surely, such obvious mistakes are rare. Mostly, doctors can not correctly predict the further health of the patient. Thus, it would be a fatal mistake if euthanasia is legalized.
The patient, who is diagnosed with the fatal disease, will inevitably fall under the sway of depression. He will regret about life, and think about death. As a result, the decision about euthanasia will be taken under the influence of depression. In any case, the death wish should appear after a full understanding of the decision. The decision should be thoughtful and deliberate, and not provoked by emotional stress.
The assignment of doctors is to treat the patients. Their duty is to save the patients from death, and not to yield to the persuasion of death.
According to all mentioned above, I think there are no nay circumstances, when euthanasia can be justified.
If euthanasia is legalized, people who are most vulnerable will be at a huge risk. Elderly people will be in danger, in particular. “Legalized euthanasia will put pressure on people for a number of reasons. For example, family members who may gain from a person’s will may wish to speed along the death of someone in the family. And the most vulnerable will be on the defensive. The entire class of the elderly, terminally ill and disabled people, says Paul Chamberlain “would be forced to justify their own continued existence, and this at the most vulnerable time in their lives.”(Muehlenberg).
In four states of the USA, euthanasia is permitted (Oregon, Washington, Montana and Vermont).
The state of Georgia passed a law prohibiting euthanasia. According to Georgia Code Section 16-5-5: “Any person with actual knowledge that a person intends to commit suicide who knowingly and willfully assists such person in the commission of such person's suicide shall be guilty of a felony and, upon conviction thereof, shall be punished by imprisonment for not less than one nor more than ten years.” (Procon.org).
As for the state of Oregon, euthanasia has been permitted since November 8, 1994. "An adult who is capable, is a resident of Oregon, and has been determined by the attending physician and consulting physician to be suffering from a terminal disease, and who has voluntarily expressed his or her wish to die, may make a written request for medication for the purpose of ending his or her life in a humane and dignified manner.” (Procon.org).
The problem of euthanasia remains unsolved. Up till now, people have different views on the issue of euthanasia; the public opinion is split up tightly by polar points of view.
In case of full legalization of euthanasia, many will continue to believe that euthanasia is an absolute evil.
With the development of the practice of organ transplants in recent years, there are new problems that in some cases are directly related to the solution of euthanasia problem. Human body, which still dies within a short period of time, could save another person by giving him a chance to live. A lot of people die, while waiting for a donor.
Thus, “euthanasia, too, is a controversial subject, not only because there are many different moral dilemmas associated with it, but also in what constitutes its definition. At the extreme ends of disagreement, advocates say euthanasia, also known as physician aid in dying, or physician assisted suicide, is a merciful method of death. At the other end are opponents of euthanasia, who may consider as a form of murder.” (Vaibhav, 2008).
Despite the complexity of the problem, scientists must continue to look for a decent way to solve it, making compromises and avoiding extremes.