Saturday, January 8, 2011

Euthanasia: Terminology and Right to Death

The terms about euthanasia are often so twisted that we don’t understand whether it is really killing someone to perform the various methods of euthanasia or whether the doctors are right in their recommendations. There are two ways euthanasia can be determined, and two ways it can be accomplished. The first is voluntary euthanasia, where the patient requests to die. It could be accomplished through a living will, or could simply mean that the person is able to communicate but is in such excruciating pain or terrible circumstances that they wish to die. This request should be equated with suicide. A second form of euthanasia is involuntary euthanasia. This is a case where someone else decides that the patient needs to be euthanized. After being informed that there is little or no hope of recovery for the person, the family member or guardian may feel that it is best to euthanize the person in order that they won’t be a drain financially and to help them die sooner instead of dragging the death out. Active euthanasia and passive euthanasia are opposing ways to see to it that the person in question dies. Active euthanasia involves a direct action to end life, while passive euthanasia withholds some sort of treatment or basic life care such as food or water so as to let the person die “naturally”. Sadly, patients like Terri Schavio can be starved under the semblance that they are dying naturally, when in reality they are dying of starvation.

Today many people believe they have a right to death. Some base their understanding off of our constitution’s proposition that we are given inalienable rights such as “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness”, stating that if we feel life is not worthwhile living in a coma on a hospital bed, we should have the right to end our life. Initially this basis sounds logical. They claim that it is an individual’s right (or a guardian’s if he cannot respond at the time) to determine whether he should live or die. If someone doesn’t want to be a financial burden to his family and live unresponsive for years and years, they should have the opportunity to be taken off the ventilators or the feeding tube and allowed to die. This has spurred on living wills, where a person has the ability while they are still alert and functional to determine if under a vegetative or brain dead state they would prefer to die. However, should believers ever honor a request for death? If a friend wanted you to shoot him because he was dying of cancer, would you do it? Despite the supposedly good intentions of living wills, most often there is not a circumstance when it would be biblically ethical to use and uphold a living will.

(image from getty images)


1 comment:

Deborah Lee said...

Stumbled across this reading Sarah's "Homeward Bound." I am eager to read more about this. I am a nurse. I have seen and experienced many circumstances of euthanasia via DNR, Living Wills, etc. Asking patients about their "status" ie., presence or possession of such and supplying them with such is a JCAHCO mandate and is part of merit evaluations (% compliance as a professional—they look!). It's a tough situation to be in and add to that the organ donation questions, it makes me wonder why I'm a nurse. What has my profession evolved into? Sometimes it seems more concerned about death than the living. "Wasted or limited resources" "rationing healthcare" quality of life vs quantity of life, withholding certain interventions due to health habits like smoking, obesity, non-compliance, substance abuse, etc. Curiously, not for promiscuity, homosexualality. Punish some "sinner's burdensome practices" by withholding/denying but not others. Who makes those judgements and why??? It's become a grievous, detestable "business." I need to "hear" others (Christians) speak about this dilemma.