Euthanasia Essay

2626 words - 11 pages

Euthanasia

The fear of enduring unceasing pain, of being trapped
by medical machines, of losing bodily integrity and personal
dignity and of being an emotional and financial drain on
one's loved ones- such fear lends strength to the movement
for euthanasia and for physician-assisted suicide (PAS).
Support for euthanasia/PAS has been spurred on by the
Hemlock Society, founded by former journalist Derek Humphry
and based in Eugene, Oregon. The society's political arm
helped draft initiatives aimed at legalizing euthanasia.
Ballot initiatives in the states of Washington (1991) and
California (1992) were both narrowly defeated by a 54 to 46
percent margin. The defeat of these "euthanasia" initiatives
shifted the focus to "assisted suicide," which gives more
control to the dying patient.

In 1994 Oregon passed its Death with Dignity Act by a
51 to 49 percent margin, becoming the first state to
legalize PAS. The statutes of Washington and New York
prohibiting PAS were subjected to constitutional review. In
June 1997 the Supreme Court ruled on Washington v.
Glucksberg and Vacco v. Quill, declaring that PAS is not a
constitutional right. This ruling left each state free to
make its own decision about whether PAS and euthanasia
should be legally permitted within its borders. The Supreme
Court ruling recognized that our nation is already engaged
in an intense debate about the morality, legality and
practicality of PAS, and it encouraged the debate to
continue.

Michael Manning, a physician and a Roman Catholic
priest, reviews the arguments and takes a stand against
euthanasia/PAS. While giving unequivocal support to the
Roman Catholic position, his book is fair in its treatment
of opposing views.(Herbin) Edward Larson and Darrell
Amundsen also oppose euthanasia/PAS. :Larson, professor of
history and law at the University of Georgia, has a special
interest in the theory and law of modern health care.(McCuen
pg. 36) Amundsen, a professor of classics at Western
Washington University, focuses on medical practice and
ethics in ancient and medieval times. By tracing attitudes
toward euthanasia and suicide from antiquity to the present,
the authors offer the historical perspective that has been
missing in the debate. They argue that while both
Greco-Roman and Enlightenment thinkers accepted the idea of
suicide, the Judeo-Christian tradition does not. Charles
McKhann, professor of surgery at Yale Medical School, joins
the increasingly-vocal minority within the medical community
who have begun to question the profession's traditional
opposition to PAS. He argues that PAS is accepted as a last
resort.(McCuen pg. 67)

Richard A. McCormick, dean of Catholic moral
theologians, once said that we can easily soften resistance
to the unacceptable if we confuse it with the acceptable.
The easiest way to skew the euthanasia /PAS debate is to see
it as a "pulling the plug " issue. But forgoing useless or
...

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