Legal Implications of Assisted Suicide Book Report

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Legal Implications of Assisted Suicide

The way people think about assisted suicide or euthanasia is often determined by their religious beliefs about life and death. However issues regarding the right to die ultimately boil down to matters of the law. The idea of legislators making it legal for doctors to help their terminally ill patients die seems ludicrous to some people, while refusing to pass such a law seems just as ludicrous to others. I believe that it should be legal for doctors to help their terminally ill patients end their lives as long as the patient is completely coherent and able to make rational decisions.

The debate about euthanasia in the United States has centered on the case of Dr. Jack Kevorkian, also known as Dr. Death. In 1999 the pro-euthanasia campaigner was sentenced to 10 to 25 years in prison. He was found guilty of second-degree murder for delivering a fatal injection to a terminally ill man at his own request. Dr. Kevorkian had recorded the actual euthanasia on video and handed the tape to television network CBS. It was broadcast nationwide, fuelling the already emotional discussion about euthanasia. Dr. Kevorkian says he has helped at least 130 people to end their lives (Olen, 1999).

Defining the Terms

The question at the heart of the euthanasia debate is whether or not euthanasia is, or should be legally acceptable. However in order to fully address these issues, we must examine the four basic types of euthanasia, which are; passive voluntary, active voluntary, passive non-voluntary, and active non-voluntary (Olen, 1999).

Passive voluntary euthanasia exists when a patient refuses treatment that would extend his or her life. In these cases it is the patient's decision and the doctor does not physically harm the patient in order to hasten death. Active voluntary euthanasia occurs when a patient has a doctor perform an action to induce death, such as giving a lethal injection. Passive non-voluntary euthanasia cases include those in which a patient is unable to communicate his or her wishes about death and a family member asks that the treatments be stopped. Active non-voluntary euthanasia describes a situation in which death is induced by the doctor (i.e. By lethal injection) at the request of a family member who makes the decision for a patient who cannot communicate (Olen, 1999).

Issues of Debate

The distinction between active and passive euthanasia is as much an issue of debate as the pro/con argument regarding euthanasia. Many contend that although it may be permissible in some cases to withhold treatment and allow a patient to die, it is never permissible to take any direct action to bring about that death (Gifford, 1993).

The controversy over Dr. Kevorkian not only sparked numerous ethical debates, but many legal ones as well. A central issue to the euthanasia debate centers on the legal right a person has over the ending of his or her life. With so many technological advances to prolong life… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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Legal Implications of Assisted Suicide.  (2010, November 21).  Retrieved January 25, 2020, from https://www.essaytown.com/subjects/paper/legal-implications-assisted-suicide/717364

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"Legal Implications of Assisted Suicide."  Essaytown.com.  November 21, 2010.  Accessed January 25, 2020.
https://www.essaytown.com/subjects/paper/legal-implications-assisted-suicide/717364.