Euthanasia, Including Whether to Legalize Term Paper

Pages: 8 (2738 words)  ·  Style: MLA  ·  Bibliography Sources: ≈ 4  ·  File: .docx  ·  Level: College Senior  ·  Topic: Healthcare

A patient must discuss the living will with their physician, so they know it is in place.

Many people also argue that there are many mistakes in the medical field, and that a mistaken diagnosis could cause someone to take their life when it was not necessary. The author continues, "If physicians were often in error about prognosis and diagnosis, then legalizing a mercy-killing process based on such medical expertise was fraught with the potential for abuse" (Dowbiggin 60). This is true, and many opponents of euthanasia cite this as one of the reasons they do not support it. There is also the thought that if euthanasia is allowed, that it will spread to "mercy killings" of the mentally and physically handicapped, the insane, and other people, and that people making those decisions will be playing God with people's lives, which is morally and ethically unacceptable.

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Many of the arguments against euthanasia are moral and ethical, and involve the participation of outside parties who may abuse or misuse the practice. Another writer states, "Physician-assisted suicide and euthanasia involve taking people who are at their weakest and most vulnerable, who fear loss of control or isolation and abandonment -- who are in a state of intense 'pre-mortem loneliness' -- and placing them in a situation where they believe their only alternative is to he killed or kill themselves" (Somerville). They believe that physicians should not be instructed on how to kill, because their mission is to save lives, and that the public would not trust physicians who are trained in how to take lives instead of save them. Author Somerville continues, "Physicians need a clear line that powerfully manifests to them, their patients, and society that they do not inflict death; both their patients and the public need to know with absolute certainty -- and to be able to trust -- that this is the case" (Somerville). People might not trust their physicians to make the right decisions for them, and physicians could view death more callously, and that could lead them to euthanize people who really did not need to be euthanized.

Term Paper on Euthanasia, Including Whether to Legalize Assignment

Many religious groups oppose euthanasia for a number of reasons. First, the Catholic Church maintains that suicide in any form is a sin, and that people who commit suicide remain in limbo instead of entering Heaven. They are adamantly opposed to euthanasia, and have created massive campaigns against the practice in states where euthanasia laws were on the ballot. Many other churches also oppose euthanasia for similar moral and ethical reasons. They believe that health care workers will pick and choose who to euthanize, and they might choose difficult or unruly patients, along with the terminally ill.

It is interesting to note that many physicians and health care workers support euthanasia or the "right-to-die" as many activists call it. The author states, "Gallup surveys indicate that support for active voluntary euthanasia has grown from 37% in 1947 to 69% in 1990. Poll data in 1995 also reveal that support for physician-assisted suicide is growing among American physicians" (Dowbiggin 174). People who work with the terminally ill see how they suffer every day, and that is one reason they support euthanasia. Everyone is going to die eventually, and if health care workers can reduce suffering and pain, it just seems like the right thing to do.

While a large segment of the population seems to support euthanasia, several states have offered legislation that would permit it, and the bills have all been defeated. In Washington, Maine, and Michigan, voters all turned down right-to-die legislation, and the only state where it is legal, Oregon, has faced many court cases over it. Euthanasia has been legal in the Netherlands for several years, and there are many studies that show Dutch physicians underreport how many patients they actually euthanize, which helps support arguments against euthanasia in this country (Dowbiggin 169).

Dr. Jack Kevorkian is one of the most outspoken and well-known supporters of euthanasia, so any research into the topic has to contain information on him. Dr. Kevorkian began writing about euthanasia in the 1980s, and he was always an advocate for physician-assisted suicide. He claims to have helped at least 130 terminally ill patients take their own lives. He is a trained pathologist who had his license revoked in his home state of Michigan, and he invented a "death machine" to help people commit suicide. In 1999, the State of Michigan tried him for the murder of Thomas Youk, the suicide that appeared on 60 Minutes, because he actually administered the suicide drug because Youk suffered from Lou Gehrig's Disease and could not administer it himself. He was convicted and served 8 1/2 years in prison before his early release on good behavior. During his parole, he could not assist in suicide and he could not talk about euthanasia at all. Now, he is speaking on the subject again and fighting for legalization, but he is no longer actively assisting in suicides. While many people do not agree with the outspoken doctor, he is a well-known advocate for the right-to-die, and he has done more to bring the topic to the American public than anyone has in decades. He gave up his medical license to fight for it, and that shows how much he believes in the cause.

Ethically and morally, euthanasia is a complex issue. Those people who oppose it are extremely certain of their opposition, and those who support it are equally certain their ideas are right. With any emotionally charged issue, there are arguments on both sides that make sense and make people stop and think about the issue. Supporters believe that everyone should have the right-to-die with dignity and without pain and suffering. One advocate states his feelings simply and with emotion. He writes, "I insist that if we are to have free will, that free will should include not only how we live our lives, but how long we live them. The government's only role is to butt out" (Taylor). Opponents believe that euthanasia is meddling with human life, somewhat like playing God, and it is never right to murder another human being, no matter what the reason. An opponent says, "To legalize euthanasia would be to change the way we understand ourselves, human life, and its meaning" (Somerville). Both sides have compelling arguments, and both sides show no signs of backing down or changing their opinions.

As this research shows, there are many different opinions about euthanasia, and there are many complex arguments for and against it. It has been hotly debated in the United States from the beginning of the 20th century. Many say it should remain illegal for a variety of reasons, but personally, I believe it should be legalized, because there are many positive aspects of euthanasia, and I do not think people should have to suffer unnecessarily. There will always be people that do not approve of euthanasia, but I think the advantages outweigh the disadvantages, and that many people support it.


Alper, Ty. "Anesthetizing the Public Conscience: Lethal Injection and Animal Euthanasia." Fordham Urban Law Journal 35.4 (2008): 817+..

Dowbiggin, Ian. A Merciful End: The Euthanasia Movement in Modern America. New York: Oxford University Press, 2003.

Somerville, Margaret. "The Case… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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