Friday, October 14, 2011


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Euthanasia means mercifully ending a person’s life in order to release him/her from pain, suffering or some incurable disease. The word Euthanasia has been derived from the Greek implies the idea of a kind, good, or pleasant death. There are two forms of euthanasia, which include voluntary or involuntary and active or passive. Voluntary euthanasia is the withholding or withdrawing of medical treatment with the patients consent. Involuntary euthanasia occurs when medical treatment is withheld or withdrawn without the patients consent. Active euthanasia is synonymous with mercy killing and indicates that an action is performed that will promote death for the patient (such as injecting a lethal medication). Passive euthanasia is simply a decision to do nothing, or to withhold or withdraw interventions (i.e., mechanical ventilation or renal dialysis), allowing the patient to die.

One of the most undeniable arguments for aid-in-dying is its use for relieving unbearable pain and suffering. In view of current technologic advances, this argument appears contradictory. It is possible to relieve pain through adequate medication, even though liberal dosages may result in addiction, loss of consciousness, cessation of respirations, and eventual death. If the goal of such medication is to relieve pain and not to cause the patients death, then legal sanctions are already in place for this measure.

An incompetent person falls under the category of Non-Voluntary Euthanasia. As we discussed above “Involuntary euthanasia is when a patients life is ended without the patients knowledge and consent. This may mean that the patient is kicking and screaming and begging for life, but in practice today it usually means that the patient is unconscious, unable to communicate, or is too sick and weak to be aware of what is happening or to take any action on his own behalf. (Leibson, Charles M., The role of the courts in terminating life-sustaining medical treatment. Vol. 10, Issues in Law & Medicine, 0-01-15, pp 47-451.)

Incase of active euthanasia if the person who is in an incompetent state hasn’t declared that in his will whether he should be put to death or not someone closer to him can make the decision for him. Whereas in case of passive euthanasia again with the consent of someone close the treatment is stopped.

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In assisted suicide, a doctor provides a patient with the means to end his own life, but the doctor does not administer it. For example, if a doctor gives you an injection of morphine sufficient to cause your death, this is euthanasia. But if the doctor puts the hypodermic needle beside your bed, explains to you what it is, and leaves, and you later inject yourself, this is considered assisted suicide. Physician-assisted suicide is spurring a political and moral debate of extraordinary intensity in American society. In mid-1, only one U.S. state, Oregon, had enacted a law allowing physicians to actively assist patients who wish to end their lives. However, Oregon’s law concerns assisted suicide rather than active euthanasia. It authorizes physicians to prescribe lethal amounts of medication that patients then administer themselves. The Netherlands is another country where physician-assisted suicide and euthanasia are legally tolerated and publicly accepted in and where about percent of people who die in a given year die in this way. On April 1, 00, the Netherlands became the first country to legalize physician assisted dying and voluntary euthanasia. The law formalized practices used in Dutch hospitals and homes for decades, turning guidelines adopted by Parliament in 1 into legally binding requirements. Requirements of the law include that patients must be experiencing irremediable and unbearable suffering, be aware of all other medical options, and have sought a second medical opinion, and that requests for hastened death must be made voluntarily and persistently while the patient is of sound mind. On September , 00, Belgium became the second country to legalize voluntary euthanasia. To be eligible under the law, patients must be incurably ill, in constant suffering, and of sound mind. Additionally, patients must be at least 18 years old and make specific, voluntary, and repeated requests for hastened death. Each hastened death is registered with a federal commission. (Dougherty CJ. The common good, terminal illness and euthanasia. Issues Law Med 0-1-00 151-166.)

The difference between active and passive is that in active euthanasia, something is done to end the patients life in passive euthanasia, something is not done that would have preserved the patients life. “Active euthanasia is taking specific steps to cause the patients death, such as injecting the patient with poison. In reality this is usually done by giving the patient overdose of painkillers or sleeping pills. “Passive euthanasia is usually defined as withdrawing medical treatment with the deliberate intention of causing the patients death. For example, if a patient requires kidney dialysis to survive, and the doctors disconnect the dialysis machine, the patient will presumably die fairly soon. In other words the doctors are not actively killing anyone, they are simply not saving him. The usual difference between active and passive euthanasia requires critical analysis. The predictable principle is that there is such an important moral difference between the two that, although the latter is sometimes permissible, the former is always forbidden. This principle may be challenged for several reasons. First of all, active euthanasia is in many cases more compassionate than passive euthanasia. Secondly, the conventional principle leads to decisions concerning life and death on inappropriate grounds. Lastly, the principle rests on a distinction between killing and letting die that itself has no moral importance. (Author not available, Krischer v. McIver. Issues in Law & Medicine, 0-01-18.)

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