Death With Dignity: A Right or Not?
The issue of “euthanasia” is a matter of great controversy today. It is often difficult to judge who the “right” to die under the influence of euthanasia without the “power of attorney” should be afforded. Religiously, one cannot predict the “miracle” of God in daily life. For a patient to live through feeding-tube for the rest of his/her life in the hospital or nursing home does not show any dignity to our beloved ones. This paper will examine the issue of death and dignity from the perspective that all patients deserve to die with dignity, but face many obstacles in doing so.
One of the more frequent arguments against voluntary active euthanasia in the media and in literature is that “the push for a legalized right to die with medical assistance is a radical movement” carrying with it “alarming implications” for society (Ballis & Magnusson, 1999:312). Many feel that allowing one to voluntarily end life would perhaps result in a devaluing of life and the potential for abuse of vulnerable or ill patients (Ballis & Magnusson, 1999). However this argument is largely unfounded and based on fears and irrational misgivings about death rather than fact. There are many circumstances within the United States where patients have actively requested assistance to die in situation where they face debilitating illnesses. In this case there is no devalue of human life, but rather value in respecting a patients last wishes.
Proponents of euthanasia claim that every person should be afforded the opportunity to die with dignity. Perhaps the most well document and discussed discourse on dying with dignity emerged as a result of the actions of a Michigan physician, Jack Kevorkian, who in 1990 used what he referred to as a suicide machine to enable a fifty-four-year-old woman suffering from Alzheimers to end her life (Zucker, 1999:235).
Kevorkian ended up assisting 130 voluntary suicides by March of 1999. Michigan state had issued an injunction against use of Dr. Kevorkians machine, and he was even charged with first degree murder, however these charges were unsuccessful and dismissed when a tape was produced showing that the individual he helped requested his assistance.
At the time there was no state statue that prohibited assisted suicide. Michigan legislature subsequently banned assisted suicide in February of 1993, however the act was later repealed (Zucker, 1999). Juries acquitted Kevorkian of three more trials through 1996. In 1998 however Kevorkian was charged and convicted of second degree murder, when he produced a videotape injecting a paralyzed man Thomas Youk with a lethal solution due to Lou Gehrigs disease (Zucker, 1999). The court would not permit family testimony thus the jury convicted him.
Kevorkian has been described as both sinister and a life saver depending on who you talk to. His actions certainly bring to light the question of death with dignity (Bachman et. al, 1996). Kevorkian is one example of many physicians that support a patients right to choose to participate in physician-assisted suicide. Such allowances could be administered with regulation to ensure that patients are not abused and that the patients wishes are carried out.
There is a large body of research that has been conducted suggesting that most.