It’s Only Humane Euthanasia (from Greek: ?????????; “good death”: ??, eu; “well” or “good” – ???????, thanatos; “death”) is the practice of intentionally ending a life to relieve pain and suffering. The act of euthanasia, also called “assisted suicide”, has always been a topic of controversy. It can be categorized in three different ways: voluntary, non-voluntary, and involuntary. Voluntary euthanasia is legal under certain circumstances in quite a few countries. However, involuntary assisted suicide is illegal in all countries and is, for the most part, considered murder. Non-voluntary euthanasia is where the controversy begins. It involves moral, ethical, and legal issues. The argument in support for assisted suicide goes as: allowing patients to die with dignity is kinder than making them live through the suffering, everyone has a right to decide when they die, and if it were to be legalized, under certain circumstances, it could be safely be regulated by the government. In opposition to those views are anti-euthanasia arguments. People who are against it believe that there are alternate treatments, like palliative care and hospices, available, there is no “right” to be killed, we could never 100% control it, and assuming there is a right to die would impose on a doctor’s oath to never harm, much less kill. “The current prohibitions require a person with great physical and/or mental suffering to continue to endure the suffering against their wishes, which cannot be right,” (Chand). Most people would agree that forcing someone you love to live through pain and suffering would be immoral. Dr. Jack Kevorkian is greatly known for his work in euthanasia. He was said to have Butler 2been involved in over one hundred assisted suicides with patients who voluntarily wanted to end their lives. Dr. Kevorkian has gone to court many times even though every assisted suicide had the patient under control. In the United States, euthanasia is only legal in Oregon, Montana, Washington, and Vermont. In these states, euthanasia is done by a physician giving the patient anti-nausea medication, which would then be emptied into a liquid substance and they would drink that on an empty stomach. The time it takes to die after this can take anywhere from nine minutes to twenty-eight hours. This method of euthanasia leads to a fast and painless death, compared to the long-term pain a patient would have to go through. In the case of voluntary euthanasia, the right to be in charge of their life is the most we can do for these people. Sick, bedridden patients are already bereft of all dignity; they feel like a burden to their relatives and/or caretakers. They want, at least, to go peacefully and to leave their families with good memories. If said person’s will is denied, they may try to commit suicide. Thus we force them to commit a great crime. Another argument is that in the United States, millions of people live without healthcare. They cannot afford painkillers, and many doctors withhold the appropriate amount of painkillers due to widespread addiction in America. Medical funding is only becoming more restricted, so if the money spent on elongating the life of someone with a terminal illness against their will would instead be put towards infant care, for example, it could save lives. In cases where there are no caretakers or family, who might put pressure on this very personal choice, the right of the individual should be put on a pedestal. As long as said patient is completely conscious, and their choice is clear beyond questioning, there should be no further thought.Butler 3It can also be argued that since death is a very personal subject, if no harm is done to other people, there is no reason to reject someone’s to go peacefully and painlessly. Supporters believe that if assisted suicide promotes the best interests of all the parties involved, then it’s okay for voluntary euthanasia to occur. If death is not always the absolute worst situation, then most objections are no longer valid. There are also some cases in which the patient may wish to die, but it can have an extremely poor effect on the family. Even those who argue this believe that death could be a more positive option rather than keeping them alive. In Germany and Switzerland, active assisted suicide – ie a doctor prescribing and handing over a lethal drug – is illegal. But German and Swiss law does allow assisted suicide within certain circumstances. In Germany, assisted suicide is legal as long as the lethal drug is taken without any help, like helping said patient’s hand while injesting the medication. In Switzerland, the law is a bit more vague: it allows inactive euthanasia as long as no self-seeking motives or hidden intentions are involved. Oregon was the first state to allow assisted suicide, and the law went into effect in 1998. A decade later, the number of euthanasia patients was 341. That’s only about 0.2% of all patient deaths—so miniscule it’s hardly worth mentioning. There have been several studies that analyzed the cases of every patient who had asked for euthanasia and found poor, elderly, or minority groups were represented as often as every other group. Simply put, the vulnerable were just as likely to receive euthanasia than anyone else, except for young caucasian males—who were the main patients for this service. Butler 4One final misconception about euthanasia is that the legalization of assisted dying will lead to a slippery slope downhill to a world where life is worth less. Back to the Netherlands for a moment: Annually, over 3,000 Dutch citizens seek euthanization. Surprisingly, it only accounts for 1.7% of all deaths in the Netherlands. About 66% of people who apply for assisted suicide are denied. The proverb “do no harm” is a perfect summary of the Hippocratic Oath—a code made to create guidelines for doctors in their duties. Most people take this as “do nothing to harm the patient’s livelihood.” If taken literally, it could just mean “don’t artificially keep someone alive when death is preferable.” Doctors’ jobs shouldn’t be jeapordized by the strictly controlled legalization of inactive assisted suicide. So as long as they are doing everything in their power to help a patient be comfortable and feel as little pain as possible, they are fulfilling their duties as a doctor. One final question: why? Why do we feel the need to prolong the suffering of our loved ones? It’s understandable that it’s hard to let go of the ones you want to hold on to, but passing when the time is right is humane and kind. Besides all of the statistics and studies, the personal side of this topic is paramount in settling this controversy. In the end, numbers and math are just concepts not to be remembered. Life and death, however, is all that’s really remembered. Life should be led with dignity and good memories. As long as we have the power to prevent it, we should do nothing to harm that. Humans are barely in control of anything, and holding on to the tiniest bit of control we have has always kept us somewhat sane. Aging as it is, is degenerating and considered to be degrading due to the association with pain and becoming bedridden.Butler 5It all comes down to what we believe constitutes “harm.” When a patient is in intense pain or suffering severe mental anguish, our society could be doing more harm by keeping them alive than allowing them to die. In extreme cases, such as those of Tony Nicklinson and Paul Lamb above, it could be argued that any physician who didn’t alleviate their suffering when asked was violating the principles of their oath—and allowing both great harm and a great injustice to occur on their watch. At the end of the day, it’s up for us to decide whether we can sit back and watch people suffer, or choose to do something about it. Until we make up our minds, that suffering will continue.