Why Euthanasia Should Be Legalized Law Medical Essay


Euthanasia should be permitted everywhere because it is a free society, and everyone should be able to choose the way they want to die for several moral and economic reasons.

Maxence Charmetant

Professor Socheat

Engl 130

April 18, 2013

Why euthanasia should be legalized?

After a terrible car accident in September 2000, Vincent Humbert, a young French quadriplegic, blind and mute, asks to the president the right to die, which was refused. Confined to hospital bed and aware of the heartbreak it causes to his family and especially his mother, Mary, who watches over him tirelessly, Vincent expects only one thing: the deliverance that will put end his torment. His cry to death and his harrowing confidences has reignited the debate on Euthanasia. Does Justice can refuse a dignified death to those whom life has abandoned? In some cases, the only solution to shorten their suffering is to have recourse to euthanasia. So, by definition, what exactly is Euthanasia? According to the website movetoact.org, Euthanasia is defined as "the act or practice of ending the life of an individual suffering from a terminal illness or an incurable condition, as by lethal injection or the suspension of extraordinary medical treatment." More specifically, the term, 'Euthanasia' comes from the Greek words, Eu (good) and Thanatosis (death) and it means "Good Death, "Gentle and Easy Death." (as mentioned in the website life.org.nz). Indeed, this mercy killing is often referred to an easy and painless death. It can be made from the request of a dying patient or that person’s legal representative. When this is done it is known as Voluntary Euthanasia. Not doing something to prevent someone’s death is known as passive or negative Euthanasia. In simple terms, Active or passive Euthanasia is when someone takes deliberate action to cause a death. Despite the fact that euthanasia has gained considerable media attention recently, the history of this phenomena date back in early times. Indeed, the ancient Greeks felt that there was no need to preserve the life of a person who had no interest in living. Likewise, as Plato says, "Mentally and physically ill persons should be left to death; they do not have the right to live." (according to life.org.nz) Therefore, voluntary euthanasia was practiced and allowed in the ancient Greek civilizations. Whereas, in the Middle Ages in Europe, Christianity is strongly opposed euthanasia. For the same reason as Judaism and Islam, they believe that every individual has the right to live and God is the only one who creates and the only one who may take life away. Today, this practice of assisted killing may be legal or illegal, depending upon a country's jurisdiction. It was not until April 2002 that the Netherlands became the first country in the world to legalize euthanasia, followed then by the Belgium. In the U.S. state of Oregon and in Switzerland, euthanasia is not legal; however, these countries allow suicide assisted by doctors. These are the only places in the world where laws specifically permit euthanasia or assisted suicide. Euthanasia should be permitted everywhere because it is a free society, and everyone should be able to choose the way they want to die for several moral and economic reasons.

First of all, deciding if one want to be alive or not is a personal decision. Neither the doctors, nor the family or the government should have the power to force someone to live and in extreme cases, only the family should has the right to act on one's behalf. Throughout life people has the liberty to decide their job, their religion, their family, and to make decisions in their life according to their own conceptions, beliefs, and feelings about where they want their lives to go. They take responsibility for their own lives, and the choices people make about ending their life should be a part of these responsibilities. As long as it is a free society, people can claim the right to die with dignity, and the preferred place of dying is certainly not the hospital, a place that inspires death, but rather a home cozy and warm in which patients lived their entire live. Indeed, spend the rest of the life lying down in pain in a hospital bed is hardly a life anyone would want to live, and as humans being, forcing this life upon someone is an immoral and selfish thing to do. Mercy killing is not just use for human; indeed one can see this act every day in veterinary clinic where pets are put down by their owner’s consent, which is seen as a humane way to relieve pets suffering. Thereby, there is no reason to do not show the same compassion for humans. Furthermore, the right to die with dignity is not an ordinary law. It is not a right granted to someone to kill, but it should be seen as an option for a conscious and free person to be understood and helped in a special request that is to end his life. Consider the case of Chantal Sébire, a former school teacher and mother of three suffering from esthesioneuroblastoma, a rare form of cancer. Sébire has refused any treatment at the time of her diagnosis, not wishing to take the risk of the surgery or medications. Then, with time, the cancer burrowed through her sinuses, nasal cavities, and eye socket, leaving her face severely disfigured. She also lost her senses of sight, taste, and smell and suffered severe pain. She fought for the right to die through euthanasia, but she lost her case in a French court because she was not seen as a terminally ill patient, and the French law does not allow a doctor to take action to end a patient's life. Two days later, Chantal Sébire was found dead in her home. Blood tests revealed a toxic concentration of the drug pentobarbital, a barbiturate used elsewhere in the world for the purpose of physician assisted suicide. (dailytelegraph.com) In this case, Chantal Sébire asked for the right to "die with dignity, surrounded by her loved ones".(dailytelegraph.com.au) She argued that she did not want to endure further pain as her condition worsened before she fell into a coma, and added that "One would not allow an animal to go through what I have endured,". (dailytelegraph.com.au) Life is not an absolute value, and this is not respected the dignity of a person to save it, no matter the price. Respect the dignity, it is also recognized that, for some people, they need more than a functional brain to be fully human and have an acceptable quality of life. If someone decides that his life is meaningless and prefer ending it, no one should be able to oppose it, and the society has the duty of accompanied him or her to a gentle death with dignity. Similarly, patients with an incurable disease and that doctor’s keep alive by machines are not free, they are dependent, they cannot do what they want and therefore lose their human dignity: they are reduced to the status of a slave, a slave to these machines. With these reasons in mind, people should consider euthanasia as one of the most moral treatments in the world today. It provides relief for everyone suffering from an incurable and painful disease and gives the opportunity to avoid overtreatment which is designed to keep patients alive at any price.

"Why are doctors hounded me to keep me alive? By what right? [...] In my case, make me live, forcing the fate to save me at all costs and to turn me into what I am now was bullshit." (Vincent Humbert) Today, people are able to live longer and to delay death thanks to the advances in medical treatment. However, the ability to prolong life often entails for those who suffer from degenerative or incurable diseases, a diminished quality of life. The aggressive therapy can be defined as the attitude which consists to carry on a heavy therapy at curative goal, which would be subject only to prolong life regardless of its quality, while there is no reasonable hope to obtain an improving state of illness. (According to the website afif.asso.fr) This aggressive treatment can lead to disastrous consequences for the patient who has had to endure the suffering, which has been forced to change his entire lifestyle in order to continue tregvatment (radiotherapy, chemotherapy...). Moreover, he will be mostly diminished physically and psychologically, and his life is now based on a hypothetical future. The patient and the family are in a situation of powerlessness, they can only rely on the doctor who is placed in a position of omnipotence through a "technical expertise" and knowledge that he is the only one to control. Indeed, the traumatized family could do nothing to alleviate the patient's pain; they can only try to prepare themselves, and the patient, to a close ending. Furthermore, there will always be a small percentage of people who cannot be completely relieved, even with the best treatments. For them, the pain is present every day, every moment, and cannot be stop legally. While the disease and a condition of disability are deteriorating, these patients suffer physically but also morally, and they have no interest in life, no desire, except to die. The disease is socially perceived as degradation, and these patients probably wish that their loved ones maintain good memories of them, and being seen as a person dynamic, in great shape, which enjoyed the life. Legalize Euthanasia would be the best way for patients in terminally ill who do not want unnecessarily prolongs their life using aggressive means, to avoid being seen by their loved ones in a vegetative state, and be allowed to die in peace. Tolerate euthanasia, it is not to give the right at some people to quantify the value of human life; this is also not a way to escape a situation that bothers, it is about stop the suffering to end its degradation. Moreover, the aggressive therapy brings also to a matter that is a taboo subject and may shock some people, but which is nevertheless a non-negligible issue; it is the cost of medical treatments.

The financial cost of long term medical and nursing care is very expensive. It has been proved that individuals incur their highest health care costs in the final days of life. "The American federal government estimates that 70 percent of health-care expenditures are spent on the elderly, 80 percent of that in the last month of life -- and often for aggressive, life-sustaining care that is futile." (According to mercurynews.com) America has serious health care problems, and the easiest way to save billions of dollars without affecting health care quality at all would be to legalize euthanasia. Indeed, patients with terminal illnesses are resource sinks for society and are no longer in any position to contribute economically to society. Patients dying may be personally meaningful to those who love them, but for the society, and from an economic perspective, they only seen as a cost without any benefit. Thereby, there is a delicate balance between sustaining life and containing health care expenses. Moreover, with a population moving more and more into the older age groups, the increasing in health care needs and attendant costs will become increasingly apparent. Due to financial shortcomings, some patient cannot afford to pay those expensive hospital bills, not knowing if the patient is going to get any better. A good example is with cancer. Its treatment is very expensive and it causes terrible second effects. After reach a certain step of the sick, there is very few possibility that the situation get better, euthanasia is the last chance to stop the sufferance, and to avoid relatives to have to live paying all the debts. Indeed, Incurable illnesses need a long treatment and expensive medicine; they are spending time and money on a situation that won’t get better. In a way, they are paying to make a longer-painful life. If euthanasia is made a possibility, families would then not be burdened by the hefty medical bills as they are on a patient who they know is going to pass on soon anyway. Added to that, the patient who decides to die serves to society by releasing medical resources. Indeed, today, hospital space is very limited. Instead of wasting a bed on a suffering patient who probably no longer wants to live, the bed could be used to save another life. It should be permitted to make a choice that gives meaning to his death by an honorable, generous and helpful action to others.

To conclude, Euthanasia should be considered as an opportunity to give people the right to choose how they want to live and die, stops the person from having a bad quality of life and it also saves money in medical bills. It has been argued that for people on life support systems and people with long standing diseases causing a lot of distress and pain, euthanasia is a better choice. It helps in relieving them from pain and misery. Some people, against the legalization of Euthanasia, argued that it is not ethical to assist or be involved in a human beings death; but, they do not take into consideration the involved person’s quality of life. Indeed, spending the rest of his life on a hospital bed, unable to walk, and unable to do the things by our self, does not define a good quality of life. Moreover, saying that the legalization of euthanasia poses many moral and ethical concerns, particularly the implied message that some lives are not worth living, make no sense. If there is one person in the world who is able to decide that the life not worth living anymore, it is oneself. No one but the patient can decide on this matter. Life and death is a personal decision, and if the patient is not able to take this decision by himself (in a coma for example); the only ones who are able to decide for him/her are the loved ones. Moreover, tolerate euthanasia would finally allow to consenting doctors, to no longer perform euthanasia in the shadows. Indeed, in hospital, approximately 1500 deaths per year are due to a stop in treatments in France. (Humbert 153) However, there is no question for patients, to live in constant apprehension of seeing their own doctors treated donor death. It is not about making it an obligation or practice applicable to all. Legalize do not mean make it become a commonplace. It is about recognize the exercise of individual freedom. Nevertheless, laws should be put in place to make sure that there are proper standards to take each case into consideration to avoid decisions on a whim and unnecessary deaths in the already stress-filled lives. Indeed, there is great potential for abuse if it were to be legalized. Indeed, depressed, elderly, and very frightened people are especially vulnerable to this and may feel pressured into giving up. Thereby, Euthanasia should be allowed if the patient has intolerable and incurable suffering and wants to end his life. Before to act, the physician must consult at least one other of his colleagues for independent judgment. Every act of euthanasia must then be reported to a committee composed of a doctor, a specialist ethics and a lawyer who decide if all due care criteria have been met.