Term Paper: Against Euthanasia Death

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[. . .] S. Attorney General from allowing exceptions, and its effect would have overruled the Oregonian Death With Dignity law, which permits physicians to assist terminally ill people in committing suicide

The constitutionality of such a Federal law was highly doubtful. The U.S. Supreme Court decision of 1997 implied that states could pass laws, which permit physician - assisted suicide, and that individuals would then have a right to take advantage of these laws if they wish. The Federal Government would hardly be able to prevent such access. The law stalled in Congress and has not been revived at this writing.

If the law had been passed, it would have had a profound effect on the management of pain: from a positive aspect, patients currently unmedicated or severely under medicated might experience some pain relief... To a degree. The law would have permitted doctors to prescribe narcotics for pain relief, even if the drugs had side effects, which would shorten the patient's life.

Has this law passed, this very routine method of pain control would have been legalized and perhaps free physicians - currently leaving their terminal or chronically pain-ridden patients in agony - to use prescriptive medications to assist with pain management.

Fear for being charged with murder - if prescribed medications shorten the patient's life by even a few days - prevents many doctors from prescribing even minimal levels of pain narcotics. If this bill were ever passed, these same doctors would be protected from criminal charges in the ethical and reasonable care of their patients.

The downside to passing this bill, however, would mean that physicians would be afraid to give adequate narcotics at all. If the dosage was misjudged - human errors ensue - and the patient died, the doctor could be charged under the act and end up with a 20-year jail sentence for murder.

Any doctor prescribing a narcotic - justified or otherwise - would have a troop of DEA investigators watching every move made, evaluating each dose and attempting to assess the doctor's intention.

The natural, human tendency will be for most doctors to err on the side of their own safety and refuse to prescribe adequate levels of medication to control their patient's pain. In this way, the physician will be able to make certain that the patient's death is not unnaturally accelerated and attract the DEA's attention.

Study after study demonstrates that doctors typically under-treat pain by using mild, ineffective medications when opiates would be appropriate in pain management. The reasons most doctors give for this under management are fear of scrutiny or discipline from state and federal authorities.

Over and over, studies have shown that patients experiencing chronic and/or intractable pain want to die because of under treatment for the pain. With good medical care, however, the pain is almost always manageable and these same people regain their desire to live. With the addiction conundrum not a factor, even mental acuity is rarely impaired.

Euthanasia's Legal Position Today

The Netherlands is currently the only country in the world where euthanasia is openly practiced. Although not specifically permitted by law, Dutch judiciary recognizes a standard defense from doctors who have adhered strictly to official guidelines, which through logical progression is specifically permitted by law (i.e., official guidelines provide the vehicle upon which a physician may euthanize a patient; were euthanasia unacceptable in form, guidelines would never have been developed at all). The State Commission on euthanasia defines Dutch law as the "termination of life by a doctor at the express wish of a patient. The request to the doctor must be voluntary, explicit, and carefully considered, and it must have been made repeatedly. Moreover, the patient's suffering must be unbearable and without any prospect of improvement."

On October 27, 1997, Oregon adopted a legal medical option for terminally ill Oregon residents. At present, only the state of Oregon has a statute permitting doctor-assisted/physician-assisted suicide (DAS/PAS) and then only within very narrowly prescribed circumstances, i.e., for a terminally ill patient.

In the November 1998 elections, voters in Michigan defeated a ballot measure to legalize doctor-assisted suicide.

Earlier in the last decade, voters in California and Washington State defeated similar ballot measures.

A bill similar to Oregon's PAS law died in the Maine Legislature's Judiciary Committee in February 2000 and the issue before Maine voters as a referendum in the November 2000 election was narrowly defeated by some 51% of those voting [315,031 for; 332,280 against].

Such legislative measures - although often introduced - often die within committee hearings and seldom reach the floor of the full legislative body.

An example of such proposed legislation is California's Death With Dignity Act, proposed in early 999. Permissive DAS legislation is overshadowed by measures prohibiting DAS under penalty of law.

During the 2002 legislative session in Hawaii, several legislative observers believed that proceedings might finally yield enabling legislation either a bill to legalize DAS or a ballot initiative for voters - both, however, failed.

The Appendix compiles a summary of reports summaries on different states seeking to gain legal sanctions when permitting or prohibiting doctor-assisted suicide for 2003 legislative sessions.

In the remainder of the states outside Oregon, DAS/PAS is subsumed under assisted suicide. Thirty-nine states have a statute prohibiting assisted suicide.

Six states - Alabama, Idaho, Massachusetts, Nevada, Vermont, and West Virginia - prohibit assisted suicide through application of common law.

In spring 1999, Maryland was the latest state by statute to outlaw assisted suicide.

Four states - North Carolina, Ohio, Utah, and Wyoming - have neither a statute nor common law, which prohibits assisted suicide.

If the Pain Relief Promotion Act of 1999, passed by the House, received in the Senate on November 19, 1999, and referred to the Committee on Judiciary, becomes the law of the land, the legal and political landscape surrounding doctor assisted suicide will once again be markedly altered.

On November 6, 2001, U.S. Attorney General Ashcroft blocked Oregon's assisted-suicide law authorizing federal drug agents to punish doctors who prescribe federally controlled drugs to help terminally ill patients die. The action was suspended two days later by a temporary restraining order pending a hearing on a permanent injunction to be heard within 10 days. That restraining order was extended on November 20 for five months at which time arguments will be heard. However, on April 17, 2002 a federal judge that the U.S. Justice Department lacks the authority to overturn an Oregon law allowing physician-assisted suicides.

Subsequently, on September 23, 2002, the Justice Department asked the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals to strike down Oregon's assisted-suicide law as counter to a U.S. drug law, the Controlled Substances Act. As of this writing, the case is waiting for a date for oral argument in this continuing emotional debate.

United States Supreme Court Decisions

On January 8, 1997, the Supreme Court heard the issue of whether assisted suicide is protected by the Constitution, and whether criminal penalties for those who aid in assisted suicide violate the 14th Amendment's Due Process Clause. On June 26, 1997, with a vote of 9 to 0, the Court found no constitutional right to die with the help of a physician and upheld state bans on assisted suicide.

Conclusions

The issue of euthanasia is a prickly one for both sides; the pro-euthanasia side believes it to be a fundamental human right to choose when, where, and how to die. Michel de Montaigne (1533-1592) was the first major European dissenter. Arguing that suicide should be considered a matter of personal, human fundamental rights, he defended it as the only rational option in some circumstances. In A Defense of Legal Suicide, he wrote: Death is a remedy against all evils: it is a most assured haven, never to be feared, and often to be sought: All comes to one period, whether man makes an end of himself, or whether he endure it; whether he run before his day, or whether he expect it: whence soever it come, it is ever his own, where ever the thread be broken, it is all there, it's the end of the web. The voluntariest death is the fairest. Life dependeth on the will of others, death on ours."

This argument, while flawed, is a strong emotional one, promising peace in suicide and something most terminally ill patients lose early in the disease process - control.

The case for euthanasia is seriously flawed, however. The act of suicide violates a person's natural will to live, harms other people, and is a gift a man or woman doesn't own - life is given by God and is to be taken by God.

Consider this portion of the Hippocratic Oath: the moral and ethical agreement into which physicians enter upon being trained and licensed to practice medicine:

will use treatment to help the sick according to my ability and judgment, but I will never use it to injure or wrong them.

I will not give poison to anyone though asked to do so, nor… [END OF PREVIEW]

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Against Euthanasia Death.  (2003, April 18).  Retrieved June 19, 2019, from https://www.essaytown.com/subjects/paper/against-euthanasia-death-always/1504511

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"Against Euthanasia Death."  Essaytown.com.  April 18, 2003.  Accessed June 19, 2019.
https://www.essaytown.com/subjects/paper/against-euthanasia-death-always/1504511.