Mind and Machine Suicide
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In the traditional society, Euthanasia was used to refer to an act of good death but the term is currently used to refer to a death free of any anxiety and pain which is in most cases brought through the use of medication. The term has further been extended to mean “mercy killing” which refers to the act of deliberately putting an end to someone’s life in order to spare the individual’s suffering. Euthanasia can be carried out in two ways. Passive euthanasia is the process through which a suffering person is allowed to die through withholding essential factors that could terminate his/her life. Such essential factors include: withholding medication, water, food or removing the patient from a life saving machine. The second way through which euthanasia can be carried out is through active euthanasia which refers to the act of terminating a suffering persons’ life through the interventions of another person more so a physician who under takes some measures in order to terminate a persons life. Some of the interventions that a physician can under take include injection of a lethal dose to the patient which in turn ends the patients’ life. The other concept that falls under this debate is physician assisted suicide which refers to the act of a physician providing medications or other lethal substances to a suffering person with the understanding that the patient intends to use them to terminate his/her life. For the two to be carried out, the physician must have consent from the patient and in situations where the patient is critically ill, the patients’ relatives should provide the physician with the consent. Any action taken by the physician to terminate a patients’ life without a well informed consent from the patient is against the Hippocratic Oath of do no harm and can make the physician to be charged with murder.
For many decades, the debate regarding the use of euthanasia and physician assisted suicide has been a persistent issue in many societies. Many have questioned whether the two issues are ethically right in a society which is surrounded by a lot of misunderstandings. Ethicists have come out clearly to defend the two issues but their efforts have been met by a lot of challenges from the opponents of the two ideas more so those from the religious sector. The big question knows is: - Is it morally acceptable, and so ought it be legally permissible, for a physician to take the life of a competent, terminally ill patient who requests it, or for a physician to assist the competent, terminally ill patient in taking his/her own life. To answer this question it would be wise to focus on the arguments that are raised by the proponents of the idea.
One of the major arguments that have been put forward in support for the idea is that it alleviates suffering from the patient. Proponents argue that, patients who are terminally ill under go through a lot of suffering before they die naturally. They find it necessary that the physician should at this point take these interventions in order to give the patient a less painful ending in his/her life.
The other issue that has been put across concerns the burden which the patient’s relatives do under go through both financially and psychologically during the times when their patient is undergoing through the suffering. It is obvious that, maintaining a patient who is terminally ill in a hospital is very expensive in such a way that, the people who are left behind after the death of their patient are left with a lot of debts to clear with the hospital. It is also a very traumatizing experience to watch a person whom you value in your life going through a lot of suffering. Proponents therefore argue that euthanasia is the only way through which people can be saved from these two situations.
Autonomy refers to respect for persons. Proponents of euthanasia and physician assisted suicide have argued that the two issues are examples of situations where autonomy is highly respected. Life is individually owned and a person has a full control over his/her own life which gives him the right to decide on what to with the solely owned life. This therefore implies that, any request that is made by a patient to terminate his life should be respected.
Physicians are guided by the Hippocratic Oath in choosing between what is right or wrong when handling patients. Under the Hippocratic Oath, physicians are warned against doing any harm to their patients. Proponents of euthanasia strongly challenge this concept by arguing that, by the mere fact that the physicians are watching their patients undergoing through a lot of suffering, they are in a way acting against the Hippocratic Oath which makes it loose its relevance in the medical field.
Having identified this few arguments, to some extent one may find it logical to agree with Wolf in opposing the move to legalize euthanasia. From the biblical teachings, life is described as something sacred and only God has the right to terminate a persons’ life just kike the way Wolf’s father died. Wolf also says that she had a price to pay for taking a longer way a fact that made her change her stand on the use of euthanasia in the medical field. I disagree with her because, despite the fact that people are affected by the suffering of a terminally ill patient, there is no price to pay for letting him die naturally than when the death is induced.