Aveneu Park, Starling, Australia

the can go on for years without

 the touchiest topic that is being talked about
in today’s time, both morally and legally, is assisted suicide, sometimes known
as bill c-14. Assisted suicide is helping along a person to an easier death
(i.e giving a person an amount of pain killers to help death). Many people in Canada
are Living in a vegetative state, with no help or recovery in the future.

Living in constant pain and agony is a terrible way to die as the pain can go
on for years without relief. Terminal illnesses corrupts the well-being of not
only the person with it, but also their loved ones.

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So many Canadians are against the use of euthanasia. While Christianity plays a
large role in the dispute of euthanasia, the main reason of their opposition is
the fact that an old or financial unstable person may be pressured into
choosing euthanasia by penny pinching family members or the person’s physician.

They feel that an exploitation of a euthanasia system is inevitable. However,
these abuses and exploitations can be prevented through a strict regulatory
system.

The Canadian support of active euthanasia has been seen in organizations all
over the world. In a nation-wide Gallup poll in April, results showed that a
majority of seventy five percent of all Americans allowing doctors to end the
lives of the terminally ill (Van Biema 60). In fact, studies show that one
fifth of all doctors have actively helped to end a patient’s life (Van Biema
61). Now imagine how many other doctors passively helped to end the life of a
patient, or how many doctors did not take the survey or were too afraid to
admit to helping in the death of a patient. A euthanasia system in our country
would be accepted by a large percent of the population and would also be
accepted by many doctors as well.

Physion helped death is
not only used in North America. A few different  countries have gotten unique systems of euthanasia.

In the Netherlands for example, suicide is highly regulated but it is common;
last year there were 1000 cases in which a life was terminated without a
specific request (Van Biema 61). However, this can be rectified by instituting
stricter laws governing the cases in which a person may request assisted
termination of their life. In Australia, a law was passed in 1995 that permits
active euthanasia in 1999, once certain other laws are passed (OCRT 5). In
Holland, euthanasia is illegal, but doctors cannot be prosecuted for ending a
patient’s life if the patient is in intolerable pain, if the patient has
repeatedly asked to die, if two doctors agree on the procedure, and if the
relatives of the patient are consulted (OCRT 6). In Japan, mercy killing is
legal if the patient is suffering in unbearable physical pain, if death is
inevitable and imminent, if all possible measures have been exhausted to
eliminate the pain, and if the patient has clearly expressed their will to approve
the hastening of their death (OCRT 6). While these systems do have their
problems, the United States can learn from these problems to make a better
active euthanasia system in which there are few to no abuses of the system.

The world views euthanasia in all different ways. These views are influenced
highly by religion, but also by culture and tradition. In a poll held in the
United States, Canada, Great Britain, and Australia, the result were very
varied. According to this poll, sixty percent of all Americans support
euthanasia, along with seventy four percent of all Canadians, eighty percent of
the British, and eighty one percent of all Australians (OCRT 4). Many countries
have euthanasia systems. And if a majority of Americans support euthanasia, then
our countries should also implement a system of assisted suicide.

Many courts in our country seem to be for active euthanasia. An appeals court
ruled that a patient who is terminally ill and mentally competent has the right
to receive lethal drugs from a doctor to hasten death (Klaidman 62). The ninth
circuit court in San Francisco ruled that assisted suicide is a right protected
by the fourteenth Amendment’s due process but the state needs compelling
reasons to deprive someone of the right to life, liberty, or property (Klaidman
62). The crime of assisted suicide is rarely prosecuted. The issue of liability
is raised most often in cases where a close relative or a medical professional
helps a terminally ill person take their own life. Unless there is proof that
there is an interior motive involved (i.e. financial), the judicial system
normally is reluctant to undertake criminal proceedings against a relative or
loved one who may have assisted in a person’s death (Flanders 5).

The Supreme Court has established the rights of a person to die by the removal
of life support equipment, but not by direct intervention. Instead of dying
peacefully, the person must starve or dehydrate (in the case of removing of a
feeding tube). And by letting a person dehydrate or starve, you are putting
this person through more pain, when all the patient wanted was an end to their
suffering. So, the terminally ill must pay a price for being put out of agony-
they must go through the pain of not having a sip of water for up to two days.

This violates the eighth amendment, which prevents cruel and unusual
punishment. An active euthanasia system would prevent this increased pain
before death.

The most prominent group in support of active euthanasia is the Hemlock
Society. It was formed in 1980 by Derek Humphrey and his second wife, Ann
Wicket. Several years prior to the forming of the Hemlock Society, the couple
published Jean’s Way, the tale of how he helped his first wife, who was
terminally ill, commit suicide. The Hemlock Society believe in a person’s right
to “self-deliverence” for terminally ill and those who are severely,
and incurably physically impaired (Klaidman 47-48). The group has brought many
bills and petitions before the justice system in an effort to pass assisted
suicide into law.

Kevorkian is perhaps the first word though of when “assisted suicide”
is heard. It is, of course, the last name of Jack Kevorkian. Jack Kevorkian is
an M.D. who has been acquitted on several occasions for assisting in suicide;
so popular is he that he has been labeled “Dr. Death”. One of his
“patients”, was Ronald Mansur, a real estate agent. Mansur had been
too sick to drive and carried a morphine pump with him to fight the pain. He
had bone and lung cancer. He eventually began to almost go insane from the
pain, and he called Dr. Kevorkian. Mansur inhaled a large amount of Carbon
Monoxide, given to him by the doctor, and died. Kevorkian was acquitted (Long
90).

One of the most adamant groups in favor of assisted suicide is the Gay Men’s
Health Crisis. They released the quote “The fact that the circumstances of
the disabled population are, as a whole, far less than ideal in this country,
and are likely never to be perfect, is no justification for depriving those who
have a terminal illness of the right to end their suffering. These individuals
are entirely capable of making rational decisions.” They feel that even
though a person may be destined to die, they can still make rational decisions
and should be allowed to have their agony put to an end (Times 2).

But what about those in comas and permanent vegetative states, or those who are
not mentally competent but still terminally ill? Don’t these people deserve the
right to die also? An association called the Surviving Family Members in
Support of Physician Assisted Dying took on this challenge. They proposed the
question “How ‘natural’ is it to die of convulsions and dementia?
Similarly, how ‘natural’ is death by starvation and dehydration, or an induced
coma, both of which are legal in Washington and New York states? The Second
Circuit courts concluded that these deaths are no more ‘natural’ than a doctor
prescribing medication to expedite death (Times 2).” 
The story of Nancy Cruzan is a tragic one. She was injured in a car accident,
and was not near death, but her family is convinced that she would not have
wanted to live in her present vegetative state. Ms. Cruzan had “lain so
still for so long that her hand had curled into claws; nurses wedged napkins
under her fingers to prevent the nails from piercing her wrists” (Long
55). The family had been fighting with courts to remove the feeding tube from
her stomach. Finally, in the case of Cruzan vs. Missouri Dept. of Health in
1990, the courts allowed the feeding tube to be removed and Cruzan died. This
established a patients right to be taken off life support. Many activists feel
that if a person has the right to have themselves taken off life support, that
they have the right to seek assistance in ending their own lives. This is
blending passive euthanasia and active euthanasia. While this is not bad
persay, it can create problems. The gap between passive and active euthanasia
is not that small, as many people believe.

One of the most profound euthanasia cases is that of a patient of Howard
Caplan, a doctor of geriatrics in Los Angeles, California. His patient had
burst an aneurysm and later had an astrocytoma removed from her brain. She went
on in a vegetative state. Then, in a cruel twist of fate, her skin broke out in
sores all over her body and her bladder, which required her to have a catheter
inserted. Her husband begged the doctor to remove the feeding tube from her
nose. The doctor refused, saying that he would rather give her a lethal dose of
a medicine than let her starve to death (Bernards 90). If there was an active
euthanasia system in this country, this woman and her husband would not be
having to go through all of this pain. Why should this person have to live in a
permanent sleep- an existence halfway between life and death?

Peter Cinque was a forty-one year old man dying in Freeport, Long Island. He
was kept alive by a continuously operating kidney dialysis machine. He was
blind, lost both legs, and suffered from ulcers and cardiovascular problems as
well. Before asking doctors to stop treating him so he could die, he consulted
several priests who convinced him that it did not violate Roman Catholic
Doctrine. He believed that as a conscious, rational adult, he had the right to
determine what should or should not be done to his body. The hospital sent two
psychiatrists to test his competence before they could consider his request.

Mr. Cinque signed the necessary legal forms, but this did not stop his agony.

The hospital lawyers got the State Supreme Court to require Mr. Cinque to continue
with the dialysis treatment. About a week later, Mr. Cinque stopped breathing,
and suffered irreversible brain damage. He was now in a coma and unable to
follow through with his request to die, but the hospital used the papers he
signed to get the court to allow treatment to be discontinued. Peter Cinque
soon died, and was thus put out of his misery (Bernards 61).

Another valid argument in favor of assisted suicide is the fact that while
assisting a person in committing suicide is illegal, providing them with
information on how to commit suicide is not (Flanders 41). Many books have been
written (one by Jack Kevorkian) on the subject of suicide methodology. And know
with the increasing popularity of the internet, methods on how to commit
suicide is readily available to anyone with a modem. The argument is that if a
person can be told how to commit suicide, then why can’t that same be person be
aided in committing suicide. A wise man once said “Knowledge is
power.” By giving people the knowledge on how to commit suicide, aren’t we
giving them the power to commit suicide. Providing someone with the knowledge
to end their own lives is helping them to end their own lives, which is what
assisted suicide is. Their death may not come in a bottle of pills or a loaded
gun, but on bound sheets of paper or a computer screen.

A living will may be a possible solution to the problem that arises when a
person who has become unable to make the decision of whether or not they want
to die should they become terminally ill or fall into a vegetative state. But
it is nearly impossible to cover all possibilities in which a person cannot
make the decision of whether or not to die by themselves. Another downside to
the living will is that a person may change their views or wants between the
time that the will is written and the time that the person becomes ill. But the
living will can prevent misuse of a euthanasia system by lawyers, doctors, and
loved ones who are against euthanasia or who do not want the person to die
(Bernards 176).

The principle of mercy establishes two component duties for a doctor to uphold.

The first of these principles is that a doctor must not cause further pain and
suffering to a patient. The second principle is that a doctor must act and do
all possible to end pain and suffering already occurring (Bernards 19). These
two principles are two of the most basic principles of assisted suicide. By not
hastening the death of a patient, the doctor is not only leaving his or her
patient in pain but possibly increasing the pain. By killing the patient, the
doctor is ending the agony that a patient is going through.

An idea for a system for active euthanasia would be through a system of living
wills, committees, and next of kin decisions. The first stage in the euthanasia
system should be the living wills. These should whether to figure out wither or
not if  a person has the right to death
has become if unable to make the decision themselves. For those who do not have
a living will, or do but are mentally competent, a committee should first be
used to determine the person’s mental competence, then to rule whether or not
the person should be allowed to have a doctor end their lives. This decision
should be based on several factors. The most important influence should that
all measures to cure the illness or end the pain have been exhausted, followed
closely by the person’s asking to die or having asked to die. The final factor
should be the will of family members or close friends. This should not be an
important factor in order to prevent cost-conscious loved ones from ending the
life of the patient just to end their financial burden. Ultimately, and in
best-case scenarios, the decisions to die should be up to the patient to make.

Otherwise, the line separating America, the free nation where a person can die
with dignity, and Nazi Germany, a society in which hundreds of Jews are forced
to commit suicide, become blurred.

 

Even with opposing forces are strong or the
misuse of the euthanasia system, assisted suicide is a beneficial act that may
help end the chronic pain of many people with incurable illnesses. With the
many recent laws being concerted, decision of next of kin, wills and real-estate
will be made under pressure with many hurt in the process, the end result will
be a society where a person will not have to exist in intolerable pain if they should
fall terminally ill. People should be able to go out with some dignity and pride.

By revoking a individual of a peaceful death and wreaking the hope for a better
life, we neglect ourselves of our own humanity.

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