Thursday, August 23, 2007
The strongest anti-euthanasia arguments of areas are:-
A) Against medical ethics
Doctors take what is called the Hippocratic Oath at the commencement of their practice, in which we find written: 'I will give no deadly medicine to anyone if asked, nor suggest such council...' The doctors are breaking their oath when they administer lethal drugs to patients.
B) Euthanasia does not necessarily provide a painless and dignified death
The pro-life campaigners cite examples that to show the painless, easy and respectable death with the help of a death-pill or a gentle injection that the patients want may actually not be there. For starters, the methods of Euthanasia are not necessarily mild and painless. Contrary to the picture painted of the patient gently leaving his body surrounded by his close ones, injection of certain lethal chemicals can cause pain and visible bodily reactions that others may not be able to watch. 'Death with Dignity' is thrown out of the window when patients are killed with gasses like carbon monoxide or smothered to death with plastic bags.
C) The 'Slippery Slope' argument
The gist of this famous argument is that to legalize Euthanasia once, no matter how strong are the restrictions placed on it, means to open the floodgates to a change that will inevitably go out of control. The Nazi and Dutch Euthanasia practices are used as examples of this. As we have seen earlier, the original Nazi Euthanasia program later degenerated into state-sanctioned misuse eventually leading to the death of millions of innocent people. In the Netherlands also, anti-euthanasia activists see a similar shift in the public attitude towards Euthanasia. Although, it was earlier sanctioned to be used at the 'explicit request' of the patient and only in exceptional conditions, recent cases have appeared in which both Involuntary Euthanasia as well as Euthanasia under less extreme medical conditions have been carried. This is exactly the point the pro-life people are making. After Euthanasia is legalized, acceptance of it by the public will grow and its misuse will landslide.
D) Alternative treatments do exist
Medical practitioners and researchers argue the condition of intractable pain in which the patient asks for Euthanasia can be cured without his death. State-of-the-art technology in pain management and the growing hospice movement in the West mean that patients no longer need to choose death over life even during a terminal illness.
E) Doctors and medical personnel get too much power
Since doctors wield so much influence over patients' decision-making, a negligence or mistake on their part can lead to unnecessary voluntary deaths. Also, a patient's request won't necessarily be voluntary. In a society where Euthanasia is legal, more terminally ill and old people will feel the pressure to accept it to relieve the burden they place on their close ones and the government.
In many countries where the government pays for the medical care of the poor, medical personnel are increasingly under pressure to cut costs. And the people who are trying to cut down such government funding are also supporting Euthanasia. Legalization may lead to a situation where health care budget is reduced and poor needy patients subjected instead to 'death treatment'.
F) Many quarters are against it
Anti-euthanasia supporters dispute the claim that the only convictions for rejecting Euthanasia are religious in nature and have tried to show that very few in the opposition are actually motivated by religious reasons. For instance, when California tried to legalize it, many prominent medical associations and influential newspapers were against it.
Balancing the Scales
If we look with an equal eye at the arguments given by both supporters and denouncers of Euthanasia, we might have trouble taking sides. The fact is both sides seem to have valid points in their favour. To know what these points are, let us take a close scrutiny at their claims.
The Pro-choice Argument
Regardless of reminders of the Nazi misuse of Euthanasia, the pro-euthanasia campaigners do have a genuinely strong case for its legalization.
Participants include both family members who believe that their close ones who had painful deaths could have been saved from such suffering had they been allowed by law to Euthanasia, and doctors who have seen their patients in terminal conditions suffer intensely.
A) The Right to Die
The argument begins with the assertion that there does exist such a thing as the 'Right to Die'. Patients suffering intense pain have the right to say, "Enough of this. I want to die" and their choice must be respected. This brings in the slogan, 'Death with Dignity'. Furthermore, they argue if doctors are expected to be compassionate to their patients why can't this apply when the patient is dying? A person who is neither dead nor living is like a living corpse. In diseases like cancer where intense pain is experienced, if such pain is not properly managed, the patient experiences a living hell.
B) Living Will
An important development in this regard is the formulation of laws in some countries - e.g. Denmark - providing for a Living Will. This means that you can make a will, when you are still healthy, in which you state the kinds of conditions during extreme ill health when you want your treatment to be stopped. This also has another name - Advance directive. Such a directive can also include the 'Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care' in which you empower another person to make the decision for you if you are unable to yourself.
C) Not sufficient pain control
Usually, patients ask for Euthanasia when their physical pain becomes unbearable. Although vast improvements have been made in pain-control know-how, there are instances when all the known technologies cannot bring relief to a patient.
D) Should be voluntary
For a segment of the pro-choice movement mercy killing is out of the question. The patient has to state explicitly that he wants Euthanasia. This rules out for them also abortions of deformed foetuses during pregnancy and like babies immediately after birth as well as mentally handicapped patients who cannot state their death wish.
E) Assisted suicide
There are countries where suicide is not illegal but Euthanasia is. Because the latter is also taken as an 'assisted suicide', the pro-choice activists ask the question - "If suicide is legal, why is the means to it not so?" Scotland is one such country where the pro-choice supporters are crusading for the rectification of what they call an inconsistent law.
F) Public support
In many cases, the pro-euthanasia movement believes that the public is behind it. Take for example the 1936 bill in England that was rejected by the parliament. Even though they failed to get Euthanasia legalized, the movement truly believed public sympathy was with them.
All said, the pro-choice movement is still careful in stressing the fundamental fact that although they believe a patient has the right to die if he wants to, legalization of Euthanasia should only be carried out with the imposition of specific conditions and stringent requirements to prevent its misuse.
The Nazi Connection
If you go even deeper into Euthanasia's history, be prepared to stumble across a Nazi closetful of skeletons. Yes, Euthanasia also has an infamous past.
The story begins about a decade before the start of the 2nd World War, when German doctors guided by a truly compassionate gesture towards patients suffering incurable illnesses began to administer Euthanasia. Sanctioned by law, the practice was slowly extended to people whom the institution thought of as being ideologically and racially unwanted as well those who were considered worthless in society. Later, this was applied to all non-Germans.
The chilling result of this was the Nazi holocaust in which as many as 6 million Jews, apart from other unwanted minorities, were massacred. Around 4 million of who met with their death in extermination camps like Auschwitz, Majdanek and Sobibor. After the war, the World Medical Association, in response to the Nazi Euthanasia policy, included in the International Code of Medical Ethics the following wording: 'a doctor must always bear in mind the obligation of preserving human life from the time of conception until death'.
Heart of The Matter
This is only one such case in the stormy history of Euthanasia. Because it means the death of one person in the hands of another, it is seen as homicide and is punishable by law. For which Euthanasia provokes the kind of response in Western society, as does abortion. It has both staunch supporters and merciless denouncers.
Euthanasia in the Law
Organized pro-euthanasia movement, as we know it today, is traced back to England when the Voluntary Euthanasia Legalization Society was established in 1935 by C. Killick Millard and whose bill was defeated in the House of Lords the following year. In 1950, another motion on the same issue was again rejected. Around this time, the pro-choice movement within the United States was also gaining momentum and in 1938, the Euthanasia Society of America was established.
Since then, numerous other countries have experienced similar developments in their legislative organs. In the State of Oregon of the United States, a statute titled 'Measure 16' was passed and was held up by the court. The law allows doctors to assist in the suicide of a patient by way of lethal drug prescription. This makes the state the only one in the US, and possibly the world, to sanction the doctor's assistance in a patient's suicide. Other US states like Washington and California have also tried to flow in this direction. In the former, such an attempt failed as recently as 1991 and in the following year, California also witnessed a similar development. In Australia, the Northern Territory actually passed a Euthanasia bill in 1995, which became effective the following year, only to have the federal parliament give a ruling against it in 1997.
Any mention of Euthanasia remains incomplete without a reference to the Netherlands. The country, liberal in many of its social issues, also extends like an umbrella over the practice of Euthanasia. The situation there is quite peculiar. Euthanasia is practiced, although by law it is still illegal. The Dutch try to protect their Euthanasia practice from degenerating into misuse by making sure that the patients truly make a will to die. For this, the Netherlands State Commission on Euthanasia uses the wording 'explicit request of the person who dies' in its definition of Euthanasia. A line of stringent measures are also enforced to prevent malpractice.
Euthanasia denotes the taking of a patient's life by a doctor in a terminal illness, old age, vegetative state or any similar case in order to give him or her a peaceful death. The word Euthanasia is derived from the Greek words euthanatos, which is translated by The New Shorter Oxford Dictionary as 'a gentle and easy death'. The dictionary further explains it as 'the action of bringing about such a death, especially of a person who requests it as a release from incurable disease'. Euthanasia can be voluntary, meaning the patient has expressed his desire to be killed, or nonvoluntary, also called mercy killing, when the patient is killed without his or her consent, with someone else making the choice on his or her behalf. Nowadays however, the word Euthanasia is generally used to mean Voluntary Euthanasia unless otherwise stated.
Dr. Cox complied after continuous pleas from Mrs. Boyes, to perform on her Voluntary Active Euthanasia. This meant he would, with her active consent, help speed up her death with the help of drugs. He injected her with potassium chloride and she died peacefully. However, life for Dr. Cox became hardly peaceful after this incident. His action elicited strong emotions from the public. Legal action ensued. In the eyes of pro-life activists, he was a murderer. But for Euthanasia supporters, he was a hero.