A medical treatment called active euthanasia which means to actively do something that will end a patient’s life with or without that individual’s consent. Euthanasia in an involuntary manner is usually only done because the patient is comatose or unconscious, or unable to communicate whether or not they want to have their life prolonged through artificial means. In these cases, the physician makes the decision to end the patient’s life because that individual would experience only pain and suffering in their present state. Active euthanasia should be allowed in order to give people the right to die with dignity, without pain and in peace.
Another way that active euthanasia can be viewed as acceptable is taking into consideration the immense amounts of suffering that goes along with terminal illness. When life becomes a burden and it is of no further use to the patient, doctors are required by law to take no action and wait until the illness takes over the person’s body. Professor Pence reminds us that, “ the suffering of terminal patients is not confined to physical plain, as bad as that is: it involves helplessness, stress, exhaustion, terror, loss and other experiences that are difficult to imagine” (Pence). In most cases powerful narcotics are the only alternative for relief, but they usually reduce the patient to a vegetative state in which they have no further use of their life. In addition, the Hippocratic Oath states that the doctor has the duty to practice and prescribe for the benefit of the sick according to their best ability and judgment, as well as keep the patients from harm and injustice (“ Hippocratic Oath”). So in the case of excessive pain and suffering where patients ask for final relief, passive euthanasia goes against the ethical practice of medicine that the doctors have to uphold. Also, it is proven that the physical pain isn’t even the usual reason for patients to ask for physician assisted suicide, but the anguish that comes along with the slow process of dying (Pence). The cases of terminal illness prove that passive euthanasia is morally worse than active, because the doctors have the tools to help their patients but they choose not use them or they are legally bound not to, therefore, the act of relieving the person of their misery is seen as morally correct.
When euthanasia, of any form, is necessary in a certain situation, the patient’s death seems to be no worse than the patient’s continued existence. If the patient is better off dead than alive, the cause of death seems to be irrelevant if the doctors have the same intentions of liberation. In contrast to the belief of actively taking someone’s life is ethically wrong; in some instances taking the tormented person’s life without pain can be seen as better than allowing them to suffer for longer periods of time. As a result, since both forms of euthanasia result in the death of a suffering patient, no one form should be viewed as morally superior than the other.
Many people argue that active euthanasia, taking specific steps to cause the patient’s death, is wrong because it is contradictory of the Hippocratic oath for a doctor to take the life of a patient, and no one person should legally have the power to end the life of another. However, what about Janie’s case? These doctors have the power to end the suffering of a dying infant without any pain or prolonged misery, and yet they are not permitted to do so because it is seen as murder. Is there nothing wrong with standing by and watching an emaciated child die slowly as dehydration and infection take control of her body? Is terminating her pain worse than watching her die when they have the power to 4 suffer for longer periods of time. As a result, since both forms of euthanasia result in the death of a suffering patient, no one form should be viewed as morally superior than the other.
It is important for the families of the patients and the medical experts to work together and do what is best for the patient. The main focus should be on what the patient would want, if it is medically and financially feasible and most of all the “ quality of life” the patient would have. I believe the following paragraph sums this issue up in the best way.
The Catholic Health Association noted that:
Just having medical technology around creates a mind-set that technologies
which can be developed ought to be developed; and, if we have them, we
ought to use them. Available technology becomes part of standard
treatment, even if its use on a particular patient may create more burdens
than benefits. For example, some physicians find it difficult not to use dialysis
machines, ventilators, or feeding tubes even when they only prolong dying.
Similarly, some patients and families find it hard to refuse them, since
technology represents the best standard of care…In a society captivated by
science and its awesome results and efficiency, we can easily lose sight of
the overall purpose to be served by technology. Medical technology is to be
used in service of the total good of the patient. The temptation to be
dominated by technological equipment stands in opposition to the unrecognized
wisdom that not everything that can be done ought to be done. 95
Until we are truly put in this position with a loved one of our own, we will never really
know what we will feel or want for the patient. Each person feels and loves differently for
the people in their lives. Ultimately making this kind of decision is best based on
Compassion for the patient and the family.
“ Active and Passive Euthanasia.” New England Journal of Medicine 292 2 (1975): 79-80. Print.
“ Arguments against Euthanasia.” Pregnant Pause. Pregnant Pause, 2001. Web. 1 Nov. 2009. http://www. pregnantpause. org.
“ Euthanasia Pros and Cons.” Pregnant Pause. Pregnant Pause, 2001. Web. 1 Nov. 2009. http://www. pregnantpause. org.
“ Hippocratic Oath.” Wikipedia. N. p., 31 Oct. 2009. Web. 2 Nov. 2009. .
“ The Hippocratic Oath: Modern Version.” NOVA. WGBH Educational Foundation, 2009. Web. 2 Nov. 2009.