Pro Euthanasia Argumentative Essay

Euthanasia is a serious political, moral and ethical issue in today’s society. Most people either strictly forbid it or firmly favor euthanasia. Although, I have no political background or confirmed religion, I choose to formally educate myself on the matter of euthanasia. I feel very strongly about this issue because I am affected by the matter on an almost everyday basis. I am a patient care technician in an emergency room and also work on a cardiac unit in one of Michigan’s top 100 osteopathic hospitals. I’ve actually watched people in pain eventually die. I’ve had to listen to patients beg me to, “pull plugs,” and put pillows over their faces to smother them so they could die faster. Terminally ill patients have a fatal disease from which they will never recover. Euthanasia is when a terminally ill patient chooses to end his/her own life by participating in physician-assisted suicide. After reading the ten sources and extensively researching euthanasia, I still support and promote the legalization of euthanasia. I believe that all people deserve the right to die with dignity.

First of all, I would like to offer my own personal feelings and opinions on the matter of euthanasia because I actually have frequent contact with people who suffer with terminal illnesses. When I was a junior in high school I was offered the opportunity to explore my career options by pursuing advanced learning in the medical field. I attended regular high school for one half of the day, the other half of my day was spent in a nursing home (extended care facility), Port Huron Hospital and also at St. Clair Technology Center. I spent many hours studying medical terminology and proper body mechanics, I also learned how to take care of sick patients while promoting healthy life styles changes. Unfortunately the hardest lesson which was the how to take care of the terminally ill, while being supportive to their many physical, spiritual and emotional needs. I graduated from high school and proceeded to go to college in order to accomplish my goal of becoming a registered nurse. After graduation I moved into my own apartment and took a job at St. John’s Medical Center on an oncology/hospice unit.

I worked at St. John’s for 18 months. Hospice is where terminally ill patients are sent to be cared for during the last stages of their lives. Oncology is the study of tumors, but more specifically, it’s a term usually associated with some kind of cancer. Therefore, for about a year and a half I had to take care of dying patients. These people had a slim chance of surviving for over six months to a year. When my patients were suffering and in pain I had to smile and tell them, “Don’t worry everything will be all right.” We both knew that everything would no be all right and they had just wanted to die. I witnessed patients telling other members of the nursing staff how they had begged and pleaded with god to take their life due to the excruciating pain they were experiencing. The nurse just replied, “Oh sweetie, you shouldn’t say things like that.” I had patients who were so mean and cruel to staff, it was unreal. They were mad at life because they knew it would be taken away soon. I’ve watched patients who were fully coherent and self-sufficient upon admittance in to the hospital become totally confused and bed bound. I watched these people lose all motor skills, which left them crippled and unable to feed or bathe themselves, or even use the toilet. They had lost all of their dignity.

After reading Peter Singer and Mark Sielger’s, “Euthanasia-A Critique,” it is fair to say that these doctors have put forth a strong argument against euthanasia. Singer and Siegler are both medical doctors who are very proficient in their fields. Singer and Siegler make the point that, “the relief of pain and suffering is a crucial goal of medicine,” however, “euthanasia violates the fundamental norms and standards of traditional medicine” (Seyler 333& 335). When a person no longer has the choice of continuing a normal healthy life, unusual circumstances call for rare methods of treatment. Why should a person be tortured with the, “frightening prospect of dying shackled to a modern-day Procrustean bed, surrounded by the latest forms of high technology,” according to Singer and Siegler this is an adamant fear of many fatally ill patients (Seyler 333). Singer and Siegler make several good points in their essay, however, pain control seems to be the biggest issue facing the terminally ill as stated by the doctors. This is entirely untrue. People who are faced with a terminal illness experience just as much emotional turmoil as physical pain. When Singer and Siegler say, “physical pain can be relieved with the appropriate use of analgesic agents,” I am saddened because it has been my own personal experience to watch terminally ill patients become over medicated and drugged up so much that they are unable to think or act for themselves (Seyler 333). When a person can longer speak, think or act for him or herself, that person has been stripped of their dignity.

Sidney Hook’s, “In Defense of Voluntary Euthanasia,” was emotionally charged and very gripping. Sidney Hook is a philosopher, educator and author (Seyler 338). Hook has been so unfortunate as to have sampled death and was left with a bitter taste in his mouth. He suffers with congestive heart failure, which one can live with but which if not treated or maintained properly will cause a painful death.

He offers his first hand account of meeting with the Grim Reaper:
I lay at the point of death. A congestive heart failure was treated for diagnostic purposes by an angiogram that triggered a stroke. Violent and painful hiccups, uninterrupted for several days and nights, prevented the ingestion of food. My left side and one of my vocal chords became paralyzed. Some form of pleurisy set in, and I felt like I was drowning in a sea of slime. (338)
If this sharp use of imagery isn’t enough to make the reader understand this mans pain, maybe his next account will persuade one to rethink euthanasia, “At one point, my heart stopped beating; just as I lost consciousness, it was thumped back into action again. In one of my lucid intervals during those days of agony, I asked my physician to discontinue all life-supporting services or show me how to do it. He refused and predicted that someday I would appreciate the unwisdom of my request” (Seyler 338). It is important to add Hook’s quotes when reflecting upon his personal experience with death. Hook feels as though he was robbed of the peaceful serenity of death and will have to suffer through it once more, when death comes knocking again.
Euthanasia is a serious issue in today’s political world. Arguments for and against euthanasia are cause for major debate.

Proponents and opponents disagree on at least four controversial issues. The four major issues are, but not limited to, the nature autonomy, the role of beneficence, the distinction between active and passive euthanasia and the public and social implications of legalization. The nature of autonomy basically means that all people are granted the right to think, feel and act for him or herself. The first and fourteenth amendments were put into place to protect an individual’s freedom of religion, speech, privileges, immunities, and equal protection. The role of beneficence involves the physician’s duty to relieve suffering. The distinction between passive and active euthanasia, or killing and allowing one to die. The public and social implications of legalization are totally based on one’s individual feelings.

Euthanasia is a serious topic because it goes against the norms of traditional medicine. Euthanasia is not always applied to terminally patients either. People who have been in serious accidents, or who have debilitating diseases such as severe cases of Cerebral Palsy, Multiple Sclerosis, Muscular Dystrophy, and Cerebral Vascular Diseases (which lead to strokes and heart attacks) are often in consideration for the application of euthanasia. The problem is, however, these patients typically are in a persistent/permanent vegetative state. A persistent/permanent vegetative state (PVS), is a condition in which a person is neither in a coma nor unconscious. In other words, these patients cannot act or speak for themselves or in addition, respond to much stimulus.

Personal experience and opinion may be a factor that weighs heavily on the issue of euthanasia, but the real substance comes from the facts. The legal ramifications play a major role in the legalization of euthanasia. Euthanasia began with its roots in both the Hippocratic tradition and the Judeo-Christian ethic of sanctity of life, Western medicine has long opposed the practice of physician-assisted suicide. However, the controversy over euthanasia is not new. Beginning in about 1870 (after the introduction of chloroform and ether) and continuing in today’s society, euthanasia is still a hot topic of discussion. Ohio is the only state in the United States of America that does not explicitly prohibit euthanasia by jurisdiction of the federal law.

After interviewing Dr. Caleb Dimitrivich, an oncologist, who most directly works with terminally ill patients at St. Joseph’s Mercy Hospital, it is easy to see that he definitely opposes euthanasia. Doctors have real difficulty dealing with death. “Dying is something that I, as doctor, am trying to prevent. If a patient is terminally ill, I strive to make that patients life as comfortable as I possibly can,” says Dr. Dimitrivich. After reading, Matters of Life and Death,” by Professor Lewis Wolpert, one is reminded by the’ “doctors attitude” towards dying patients. Wolpert is a professor of biology and how teaches how biology is applied to medicine “Dying is something patients are not allowed to do. It is an affront to so go against the doctor’s efforts and advice, and this is completely understandable but cannot be the basis for not helping a patient die” (Wolpert 42).

The religious community has taken a negative stance on the issue of euthanasia. The majority of Christian religions ban the application of euthanasia to the terminally ill or PVS patients. In the bible, one can read about the absolute sin of taking another human being’s life, it is iniquitously wrong. After interviewing Maryanne Chapman who is a practicing member of the Catholic faith and who has also worked as a secretary for 15 years at St. Valerie of Ravenna in Clinton Township, MI, her opposition to legalized euthanasia is very clear. “It is a crime against God to end a life,” states Chapman. However, Maryanne is 72 years old and suffers from Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD), also makes the comment, “people don’t live on machines, so therefore why should we die on them, God didn’t intend for that.” Basically what Mrs. Chapman is trying to say is that for patients suffering with a PVS, it is also a sin to try to sustain a life that has no purpose or function in society.

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It is apparent that euthanasia should be permitted everywhere for the following reasons: individual liberty; one s undesired pain, suffering, and misery; and the individual s frustration from having a valueless life. First of all, one should be able to understand the term euthanasia. In ancient Greece, eu thanatos meant easy death. Today s euthanasia generally refers to mercy killing, the voluntary ending of the life of someone who is terminally or hopelessly ill (Euthanasia 1). Knowing that, it is seemingly appropriate to say that one has the right to die an easy death if, and only if, he is terminally ill. Otherwise, different situations should not play any part in this issue. To understand more about the pro-euthanasia side of this issue, it is best conceived through the viewpoints, strong beliefs, and perspectives of proponents of euthanasia.

An individual has liberty, which includes the right of owning his life. He is the possessor of his life. Just as he can do whatever he wishes with his possessions, such as selling his new house, he can also wish to discontinue his life if the reasons were rational. In a typical situation, a person has some terrible, deadly disease. He is trapped in a hospital bed, with all sorts of medical equipment connected to him, unable to move or do much of anything except exist. He is in terrible pain; he begs to have these machines disconnected so he can go home and live out whatever life he has left and die in peace. He does not want to endure the pain, but instead, to assuage it. However, the doctors refuse because to turn off the machines would surely result in his death, and they have a presumed bias against doing this. If a person decides that he wants to die, and someone does not think that this is a good decision, what right does the opposing person have to tell him that he cannot do this? It is clear that a patient s decision to ask for a cessation in treatment, reflecting his own preference for death rather than for a continuation of discomfort or suffering, must be respected, barring exceptional circumstances (Behnke 17). Therefore, that individual s decision should be carried out because he has that right to his own personal decision, which is only one of many reasons why euthanasia should be legalized.

In addition, one should have the right to end his life by euthanasia because of the unsolicited pain, suffering, and misery he feels due to the disease he has or the condition he is in. People in this position would most likely want to alleviate their pain, suffering, and depression just to name a few partially because of the inconveniences, emotional and physical burdens, and drawbacks imposed on family members, relatives, and friends. Furthermore, family members may be sensitive to the costs accumulating during terminal care (Hagen 91). Consequently, patients may feel guilty in this entire ordeal. Even more, people who, maybe because of a serious illness, are extremely depressed partly because they want to live their lives to the fullest by perhaps participating in energetic and active events but know that that is not possible now that they are severely ill and sick. Since they recognize that enjoying life in those ways is no longer possible, they may want an easy way out euthanasia. Others simply do not want to sustain suffering. Everybody has different amounts of pain and suffering that he/she can tolerate (Behnke 17). In considering suffering of terminal patients, one cannot exclude from thought the grief due to distress, fear, and agony. Nor must anyone underestimate the bearable level of pain in the periods between doses of medication or simply from being turned over in bed. There is still too little known about what is actually experienced by patients as they approach death so it is evident that the individual, and only the individual, has the right to choose when he wants to die. These factors, along with unwanted suffering, pain, and misery are only some of the components considered in allowing the act of euthanasia.

The final element worthy of discussion in legalizing euthanasia is an individual s frustration in living, in his opinion, a valueless life after becoming critically ill. People who suffer from illnesses that make them unable to communicate do not want to live any longer. This includes people who are in a coma, are paralyzed, or simply so sick and weak that they cannot make meaningful sounds or other communication. If the person is no longer able to relate in any way to his relatives and friends, he might not want to live a day further (Bender 28). In addition to that, some people believe that their quality of life is so low that they would rather die. If this is the case, then what position do others have to go against this? No one other than the patient has any right to deny the patient his way of dying. Therefore, euthanasia should and must be a legal choice.

Like any other issue, there are opposing viewpoints regarding the legalization of euthanasia. Pro-lifers, people who are against euthanasia, place the emphasis on killing. They believe that we are merely stewards of our lives; it is for God to decide when our lives are to end. Further, suffering, is an inevitable part of life; our task is to understand and grow from suffering, not evade it (Mabie 65). Pro-euthanasia people, who place the emphasis on mercy, argue that stewardship has not prevented the religious from exercising control in other areas of their lives for example, in using analgesics for surgery and childbirth. If it is for God to decide when life will end, if suffering is ennobling, then the very practice of medicine is and always has been wrong. Further, they hold that theological arguments against euthanasia pertain only to the religious; the constitutional separation of church and state requires that opposition to euthanasia on theological grounds alone not be codified in law Mabie 66). Therefore, the counter-argument against euthanasia was objectionable and absurd. In our increasingly secular society, many believe that humans are sovereigns, not stewards, of their own lives. For them, it follows that respect for autonomy should mean respect for a person s decision to end his or her life. How can we demand that someone endure unbearable pain just so that we can be morally comfortable (Mabie 67)? Other arguments facing this issue focus on medical grounds. Critics say that diagnosis can be wrong. Furthermore, a cure for what is today incurable might be found tomorrow. And what of informed consent? Can a patient struggling with pain and the enormity of death make a truly rational decision to end his or her life (Mabie 65)? Pro-euthanasia people debate that diagnoses can be wrong, but for the most part they are very accurate, especially when disease is so far advanced that euthanasia is discussed. At that stage death will not be held off even if a miracle cure is found. Proponents of legalizing euthanasia respect the trust that springs from the physician-patient relationship. But they feel sure that that essential trust can be protected by establishing tight procedures to ensure that euthanasia is not abused (Mabie 67). Just as before, the pro-lifers are proven wrong.

Individual liberty, undesired misery, pain, and suffering, and one s frustration in having a worthless life all serve as critical circumstances to be considered thoroughly in legalizing the act of euthanasia everywhere. Euthanasia is a death option that should not raise controversy if performed solely in the appropriate predicaments mentioned earlier. Knowing this, shouldn t euthanasia be legalized? The solution to that question would have to be yes. Coming to an end, the crux of this matter is summarized in one simple sentence: The emphasis of euthanasia should be placed on the purpose of the act, not the nature of the act (Bender 50).

Works Cited

Behnke, John A., Sissela Bok. The Dilemmas of Euthanasia. Garden City: Anchor Press/ Doubleday, 1973.

Bender, David L. Problems of Death. St. Paul: Greenhaven, 1981.

Euthanasia. Compton s Interactive Encyclopedia. Softkey Multimedia Inc., 1996.

Hagen, Richard C. Death and Dying. St. Paul: Greenhaven, 1980.

Mabie, Margot C.J. Bioethics and the New Medical Technology. New York: Atheneum, 1992.

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