Euthanasia: Merciful Death or Playing God
A death by suicide. Just hearing the word suicide can send chills down one’s spine. How could someone get to the point of self-termination? Why would anybody ever consider such a terrible way to die? The thing is, suicide does not have to be a terrible or scary way to die if one is faced with insurmountable troubles accompanying an untreatable disease. With assistance from licensed professionals, it can give those suffering a painless option if they so choose to make that decision. Assisted suicide can also help the families of sick relatives who want to keep the positive memories of that family member alive instead of having to live through the pain with them. It can also be a much less costly alternative as opposed to an infinite amount of treatments that would tag along to a terminal illness. Not everyone who is given this option has to take it or will even choose to take it, but the legal obligation should still be there for the ones who do. For those reasons alone, assisted suicide should be legalized in the United States.
Assisted suicide, also known by the term euthanasia, really began in the late 1930s in the United States when the Euthanasia Society of America (ESA) was founded. Over the next thirty years, the ESA would work to make one’s right to die legalized throughout the country. As this new movement continued to grow, the World Federation of Right to Die Societies (WFRTDS) was created in 1980. This group’s job is to link other organizations looking to protect the rights of individuals who choose to seek aid in their death. Before and during the eighties, assisted suicide was typically only achieved through dehydration and starvation ruled on by court. This changed after a pathologist by the name of Jack Kevorkian began traveling across the U.S. with his self-created execution machine helping people achieve their wish of dying. Kevorkian was put on trial many times and continued to be let go because he was not the one terminating the patient’s life, he just offered the tools do so. Leading to the early nineties being when physician-assisted suicide (PAS) was just becoming recognized. Over the next decade, right to die societies would push for ballot initiatives with many of them, besides Oregon, not passing after being voted on. Jumping forward to the year 2018, after numerous attempts at legalization for a death with dignity, seven states including the United States capitol have ruled in favor of PAS.
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One reason euthanasia should be legalized is that it is a painless alternative compared to other suicide methods. Not just painless physically, but it can be an emotional release for many patients as well. In the case of Nathan Verhelst a transgender man from Belgium, he saw assisted suicide as a last option after an entire life of depression. He grew up in a family that wished for a boy but had a girl instead. Unfortunately, Nathan’s family was not very forgiving and after undergoing surgical transformation to become a man he was still suffering, but this time physically as well. After an extreme vetting process, Nathan was approved for the medication and ended his journey peacefully in 2013. As shared by author Mary Williams 41 percent of transgender individuals have attempted suicide, a figure that skyrockets even higher among transgender men and women who’ve been harassed or assaulted (Williams). The only other option Verhelst could have received as treatment for his mental and emotional pain was depression medication and help from medical specialists. For the patients who do wish to go through treatment for their condition, it is still a difficult process. In 2010 more than 40% of terminally ill people [..] were aggressively treated for pain and suffering in hospice through palliative care (Ball). Meaning, those patients were not even getting medicine to improve their illness, the medicine was only used to try to ease the pain. When one tolerates something for so long it can feel exhausting and almost useless if there is no cure for the disease. Which is why people should have the option to choose assisted suicide. The patient would have the final say and can die when the time feels right and with whom they choose at their side.
Another reason assisted suicide should be legalized is for the families of sick loved ones who want to preserve the memory of that family member and not see them suffer. There are two cases, both sharing the outcome of a family death, but one ending more peacefully. In 2012, 105-year-old Anastasia Khoreva was found by her family hanged to death in her home. Anastasia’s family and friends said she had become depressed after getting a lung infection and had told them she wanted to commit suicide. Instead of the last memory of Anastasia being her traumatizing death what if her final moments had been in a bed, surrounded by her loving family and friends as she painlessly drifted into unconsciousness and then died (Speckhardt). That leaves one to wonder how different and meaningful the outcome could have been if she was given another alternative. In 1992, 52-year-old Susan Williams received that alternative to end her suffering from multiple sclerosis. She was assisted by Jack Kevorkian who provided her with the medicine needed to end her life. Susan was surrounded by family at the time of her death and had administered the dosage of carbon monoxide herself. Susan felt the quality of [her] life was just existing not living she knew it was time (Dr. Jack Kevorkian).
The final reason euthanasia should be legalized across the country is it is less of a financial burden compared to the endless treatments and hospital bills for incurable diseases.
Opponents of this idea claim that assisted suicide and one’s right to die is not a civil right. They claim the right to die is just a slogan and suicide is different from assisted suicide. Which, to a certain extent they are right. One act can be private, involving only one person while the other has the input of a few people with help from one being trained and licensed. Leading officials to avoid the latter and suggest the prolonging of an illness through other forms of medical care. Yet, just because a treatment could help ease some of the sufferings does not mean every patient will opt to go down that road. People who do suffer from cancer, emphysema, heart failure, or dementia [can] improve slightly (Byock). However, the patients with harsh and incurable diseases like the ones listed are still dying, their death is just being dragged out. So instead of leaving these patients feeling hopeless, they can choose an option that will give them a better sense of honor. They can take control of an otherwise uncontrollable sickness.
Those who are against this idea also assert that assisted suicide is playing God and physicians should not be involved. Most opposition comes from the idea that a doctor’s job is to help those in need, not aid in ending their life. They also worry that PAS would only give way for a misusage with people who are not terminally ill. Such as the elderly and poor feeling pressured down the path of euthanasia. However, the doctors and people in charge do not have to go into a situation like this feeling that their moral well-being is going to be compromised. According to Dr. Lisa Lehmann, director of Bioethics at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, physicians could certify a patient’s diagnosis and prognosis, and patients could then use an independent authority to get a prescription for suicide drugs (Sathya). Therefore, making the need for a doctor or physician to be present for one’s death, not necessary. It eliminates any scrutiny a physician or doctor could receive for helping one through a difficult time while also giving the patient dignity for the choice to die on their own terms.
Ultimately, the decision between one’s choice of life and death only concerns the person who is enduring the disease. Many factors can have an effect on what a patient chooses, but the decision only involves one being. As outsiders, it is not easy to understand that dying may be easier than living but
we don’t have the right to delay our sense of loss so that people who are in pain continue to suffer. Nor do we have the right to impose our religious beliefs regarding assisted suicide on others (Speckhardt).
A diagnosed patient can still live life to the fullest before the oppression that is incurable diseases takes over. The process of euthanasia is painless, it offers a better emotional standing for families of sick loved ones, and the medicine is more cost efficient than most treatments. That is why assisted suicide should be legalized in the United States.