But what if it were a human life? What if a fully autonomous individual wished for a painless release from their suffering? Would you let them do it? Would you intervene? How can you say whether or not that their decision is right when you have never experienced what they are? However, the overall arching question to euthanizing humans is, should it be legal? When ether was first used on October 16th, 1846 doctors of that time began to use the pain killer to relieve patients suffering at the ends of their lives (Accidental Inventions).
It took only twenty-four years before a man named Samuel Williams proposed using the anesthesia to intentionally end an individuals life. Williamss suggestion sparked an argument that would last till the current day. However, a very heated portion of the debate on euthanasia took place in the thirty-five years following Williamss assertion. The debate reached its peak in 1906 when a bill was pushed in Ohio to legalize euthanasia (the bill was defeated) (Emanuel). After 1906 support for euthanasia waxed and waned depending on the economic and political events of the time (i. . support was high during the great depression but then took a major blow when it was discovered to be used in concentration camps) (http://euthanasia. procon. org/view. resource. php? resourceID=000130). However, the history of euthanasia dates back much farther than just its debate in America. In fact, the issue of euthanasia dates back to the Roman Empire where physicians often preformed mercy killings for patients (the doctors that did this were also doing it in violation of their Hippocratic Oath).
After the Roman Empire the practice of euthanasia declined as the now dominant religion of Christianity opposed it. The following several hundred years saw a mostly one sided argument on euthanasia, until Samuel Williams began pushing for it in 1870. The following 130 years would see the most turmoil the debate on euthanasia had ever experienced, most of the argument taking place in America. Societies supporting euthanasia were formed, bills were proposed, economic climate changed peoples view of it, war changed their view again, petitions were made, and arguments over patients rights were had.
After nearly 1900 years of nothing but opposition support for euthanasia picked up and fought back. The debate climaxed during the 1990s with Dr. Jack Kevorkian starting to euthanize terminally ill patients who requested it of him. Dr. Kevorkians first assisted suicide took place on June 4th, 1990 and it wasnt his last. Over the next eight years Dr. Kevorkian performed many euthanasia procedures the last being in November 1998 where Kevorkian showed the euthanization of a man on national T. V. , resulting in his arrest and his conviction the following year (Dowbiggin).
Now, thirteen years after his conviction, Kevorkian is still a well known name, but whenever his name is used it is generally in a negative context. But should a man who helped so many people have his name sullied in such a manner? With Kevorkians arrest and conviction the major debate on euthanasia began to die down, leaving thirty-four states with laws that explicitly make euthanasia illegal, nine states with euthanasia governed by common law, five states have unclear laws regarding it, and only two states with legal euthanasia (Oregon and Washington) (Assisted Suicide Laws State by State).
But should those be the only two states who allow their citizens the right to a graceful death? Should only 1/25 of the United States be given an option that should be available to all of the country? The lack of a legal euthanasia processes in forty-eight of the fifty states is an infringement upon United States citizens rights as human beings. In addition to completely fulfilling citizens civil rights a legal practice of euthanasia would save many people (including the government) money, and performing a euthanization would not even conflict with a doctors Hippocratic Oath as some people claim.
The United States Constitution was written with the goal to set up a strong government that guaranteed the individual rights of her citizens. It states that citizens are granted ¦certain unalienable rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness. (The Declaration of Independence). Should euthanasia not fall under the right to pursue happiness? When an individual is terminally ill their quality of life generally declines as they come to the nd of their life. A cancer patient who has struggled for years and is now losing their valiant battle will unfortunately not come to a graceful end. As the cancer cell begin to multiply and take over its victims can experience uncontrollable vomiting and voiding of the bowels, relentless pain, excessive bleeding from the smallest of cuts, drowning in their own bodily fluids, or dying from another horrific disease that slipped by the suppressed immune system (Orac).
These are all possible deaths that one could experience from cancer, and not one of them is appealing, nor are these deaths limited to cancer alone there are many other types of ailments that can result in just as unpleasant deaths. If a patient is suffering from one of those diseases their last days alive will most likely be some of their most unpleasant. The unfortunate truth is that people suffering in such manners will most likely have little to no happiness left in their lives.
There is only one path that can lead to some measure of happiness for those meeting such an unpleasant demise and that path is a graceful death. So if being released from ones suffering brings happiness shouldnt it be protected by the U. S. Constitution? In addition to the preamble of the Constitution supporting euthanasia there are two amendments in it that also support euthanasia. The Eighth Amendment states that there will be no ¦cruel and unusual punishments inflicted. (The United States Constitution).
That amendment was established in order to prevent any torturing of prisoners; however, torture is defined as extreme anguish of the body or mind; agony and is that not the same denying someone euthanasia and letting them suffer for the remainder of their days (Torture)? The Ninth Amendment can also be considered as a safeguard for the rights of the terminally ill as it protect rights of any people not specifically mentioned in the Constitution (The United States Constitution), this can include the rights of the terminally ill to die.
In order to protect the Constitutionality of euthanasia a federal law would have to be established that creates a legal euthanasia process. Such a law would be closely modeled after the laws in Oregon which sets out a specific outline for who can apply for euthanasia. This outline states that the individual must make three requests to die (two verbal and one written), be terminally ill with no more than six months to live, certified by two doctors that it is a serious request, checked to make sure that they arent mentally incompetent or epressed, informed of possible alternatives, and finally made to wait fifteen days to think it over (Euthanasia Oregons Euthanasia Law). When a patient has finally gone through all of that the doctor then prescribes a deadly dose of barbiturates which the patient is allowed to pick up at their leisure and have the freedom of deciding whether or not to take it (A New Fight to Legalize Euthanasia). Such a law would limit any abuse as there is currently little to no abuse in Oregon already (Top 10 Pros and Cons).
Even with a small amount of abuse the population of Netherland continues to support their euthanasia laws (Zurich Rejects ban on Suicide Tourism). However, even with strong Constitutional support and the experience of both a state and a country there is currently no push for a euthanization law in Congress, even though studies show that over 80% of adult American citizens support euthanasia (A New Fight to Legalize Euthanasia). Euthanasia is not only beneficial in the sense that it should be a civil liberty, but also it is economically beneficial.
As cold and callous as that may sound euthanasia is a much cheaper, and much more pleasant, alternative to other treatments. The drugs required to euthanize an individual cost between $35 and $45 (Mathews) whereas the first six months of treatment for cancer range from $2,568 to $24,204 depending on the cancer type and severity (Costs of cancer Treatments). The cost for someone with leukemia is even greater, paying up to $150,000 for the first round of chemotherapy (Benzene and Leukemia).
Those arent one time costs either, cancer treatments and treatments for other terminal illnesses can last for months or years and can rack up hospital bills in the range of hundreds of thousands to millions of dollars. The real question though is who has to foot the bill? Well, for fifty million Americans who dont have health insurance the answer is themselves, meaning theyre paying out of pocket thousands of dollars that they probably dont have (Christie).
There are also the people who are on Medicare or Medicaid who are now costing the government massive amounts of money for a treatment that may not work and could easily bring about more pain and suffering for a patient and their family. So if there is a family who cant afford the treatments for a relative, and that relative has decided that there is no more they want to do with their life and that they are at peace and dont want to spend months or years suffering horrendously, then that relative can choose an option that costs a mere $35 and saves hemselves from suffering and their family for descending into un-escapable debt (or pushing the government further into debt).
Some of the opposition of euthanasia springs from the belief that euthanasia would break a doctors Hippocratic Oath as the general idea behind the Hippocratic Oath is the preservation of life. It is true that a version of the Hippocratic Oath says I will neither give a deadly drug to anybody if asked for it, nor will I make a suggestion to this effect¦ (Top 10 Pros and Cons). Another version of the oath has a similar statement, ¦avoiding the twin traps of overtreatment and therapeutic nihilism. That same version of the Hippocratic Oath also reminds the doctor to remember the effects a treatment could have on a patients relatives (Tyson). While the Hippocratic Oath may say it that a doctor should avoid over-treating a patient it also says that I will apply, for the benefit of the sick, all measures that are required¦ (Tyson). Well if the only benefit left to a dying patient is to do so with poise and dignity should euthanasia not be required (only if first requested by the patient of course)?
Also, since the oath asks that a doctor keep in mind the effects on a patients relatives, shouldnt a doctor be allowed to euthanize a willing patient to prevent the emotional scarring of watching a loved one die slowly and painfully? As for the preservation of life in the Hippocratic Oath one must ask, at what point is the life really worth living? When a patient reaches a certain degree of agony preserving their life would do more harm than good (Top 10 Pros and Cons). Though technically the Hippocratic Oath would actually be a non-issue, and there are two reasons for this.
The first reason is that under the laws in Oregon (that a federal law would be modeled after) a doctor would not technically end the patients life; they would merely prescribe a lethal dose of barbiturates which the patient then takes (A New Fight to Legalize Euthanasia). The second reason is that since there are currently multiple versions of the Hippocratic Oath shows that it is an active and malleable document and subject to change at any point. Euthanasia is a touchy topic with many excellent points on both sides of the argument.
Some people take issue with it for religious reasons and others condemn it for its use in Nazi death camps (Arendt, 53). But the only question that should be asked about legalization of euthanasia is, can you make that decision for everyone else? Should you make that decision for anyone when you havent experienced what they have? Unless everyone goes through the horrendous events that some of the terminally ill go through each day, there is no reason to not give them the freedom of a choice.