|Categories:||Health and Social Care Ethics Euthanasia|
Euthanasia is the practice of intentionally bringing the life of a patient to an end so as to reduce their level of suffering. Patients subjected to such a practice are primarily those that are under severe pain and suffering from terminal illnesses. Euthanasia can be carried out by different means depending on the circumstances. However, it is an issue that has raised a lot of concern both legally and ethically. This essay will describe the types of euthanasia, highlight the differences and ethical issues raised by the various forms of euthanasia, discuss the laws that govern euthanasia in California, U.S.A and finally offer a personal opinion on the subject.
Types of Euthanasia
There are a number of practices that fall under the definition of euthanasia. The practices are classified into active and passive forms of euthanasia. This classification is mainly based on the means through which death is attained. As such, they merely highlight the level of causal connection that there is between the death of a patient and the action that causes the death. Nevertheless, both types of euthanasia do not address whether or not the terminally ill patients consented to them. This is because their classification only focuses on the actions of the medical practitioners. The differences between the two forms of euthanasia and their associated ethical issues are discussed below.
Active Vs Passive Euthanasia and Their Ethical Issues
Euthanasia is usually classified as active if the medical practitioner or any other member of the medical staff deliberately intervenes in a manner that causes the death of a patient. In this case, the deliberate intervention is not hinged on other contributing factors but rather the commission of an action that directly interferes with the normal bodily function of the patient. This can be through the introduction of large of lethal doses of drugs such as sedatives (Winograd, 2012). However, this type of euthanasia has raised ethical issues as it is known to undermine the value of life and results into the perpetrators direct participation in murder. This phenomenon has also been associated with the abuse of power by medical practitioners and a direct infringement of the right to life since it may not be in the patients best interests.
As opposed to active euthanasia, passive euthanasia does not directly interfere with the patients normal bodily function. Rather, it occurs when medical practitioners intentionally withhold or withdraw artificial life systems, which may be responsible for keeping the patient alive. This can be through the removal of the life support and breathing machines, breathing tubes or withdrawing medication. Such actions give rise to certain ethical issues since they undermine the principals of social morality and humanity as well the right to treatment. In addition, doctors involved in this phenomenon go against the law and the principles of the medical practice, which requires them to provide treatment without discrimination.
Laws Regarding Euthanasia in California
Although euthanasia is illegal in many states in the U.S., a number of states such as California permit the practice. For instance, the Natural Death Act of California permits the withdrawal of life support equipment for terminally ill patients. In addition, the state has the End of Life Option Act, which allows near death patients to request for lethal medication, which they can administer to themselves when they wish to end their own life. However, the law requires that the patient must be expected to die within the next six months through confirmation by a proper medical diagnosis (Thomson Reuters, 2016). Moreover, the patients mental health must also be examined to ascertain that they possess a reasonable capacity to make the decision.
Personal Position on the Issue of Euthanasia
Personally, I perceive euthanasia as an immoral practice that gives little regard to the value of life. I also believe that killing is wrong, whether through active or passive euthanasia, regardless of the circumstances. This is because it violates the right to life of all patients, either through murder by the medical practitioner or via suicide by the patients themselves, which are both punishable by law (Pereira, 2011). In addition, the medical practitioners who may assist a patient in taking his/her own life or those who undertakes active euthanasia violate their medical obligation, which requires them to do no harm to a patient (Winograd, 2012). As such, I deem euthanasia to be immoral, unjust and an evil practice that should receive global condemnation.
In summary, euthanasia is a practice that is increasingly becoming acceptable around the world. In the U.S., several states have established circumstantial statutes that allow the practice only after certain qualifications have been met by the concerned patients. Such laws also give the patients the power to end their own life based their own wishes. There are two forms of euthanasia namely active and passive euthanasia. In California, application of euthanasia is accepted for terminally ill patients. Nevertheless, the practice has been largely criticized in other parts of the world and even considered as murder, especially by the religious communities around the world.
Pereira, J. (2011). Legalizing euthanasia or assisted suicide: the illusion of safeguards and controls. Current Oncology, 18(2), 38-45.
Thomson Reuters. (2016). California Euthanasia Laws - FindLaw. FindLaw. Retrieved 6 July 2016, from http://statelaws.findlaw.com/california-law/california-euthanasia-laws.htm.
Winograd, R. (2012). The balance between providing support, prolonging suffering and promoting death: Ethical issues surrounding psychological treatment of a terminally ill client. Ethics & Behavior, 22(1), 44-59.
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