Magazine, website & books written by teens since 1989

Should Euthanasia Be Legalized?

Custom User Avatar
More by this author
It’s been six months since your grandfather, once an active and joyful man, has been diagnosed with Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS), or Louis Gehrig’s disease. The effects of the disease are beginning to take their toll on him and now with his limited motor skills, he has recently been confined to a wheelchair. The doctors tell your family that he has less than two years to live and that the disease will get progressively worse as time passes. Your grandfather, who is a dignified man, has been asking for assisted suicide, euthanasia, but it isn’t allowed where you live. It’s cases like these where you begin to wonder why euthanasia has yet to be legalized in the majority of the world. Shouldn’t everyone have the right to a dignified death or should terminally ill patients be left to suffer? And yet, assisted suicide remains legal in only three of the fifty states: Oregon, Washington, and Montana; and four countries: Belgium, Netherlands, Luxembourg, and Albania. Is this right, is this ethical, or are we depriving others of a personal right of choice? In order to end the physical suffering of terminally ill patients, leave families of terminally ill patients in better financial situations, and above all else provide emotional and psychological relief to a dying person with a low quality of a life, euthanasia should be legalized.

The word euthanasia is derived from the Greek; “eu” meaning good and “thanatos” meaning death. So when put together it means “good death”, however, according to Merriam-Webster’s dictionary the definition of euthanasia is, “the act or practice of killing or permitting the death of a hopelessly sick or injured individual in a relatively painless way for reasons of mercy”. This definition, although supposed to be denotative, gives a negative connotation of euthanasia. Euthanasia simply gives a terminally ill individual a way to die peacefully on their own without having to endure endless pain and suffering. To clarify, I am not in any way supporting the general idea of suicide, the argument only deals with terminally ill patients. In most cases euthanasia is carried out by the patient’s doctor after they have given consent. The actual euthanasia process is painless and can be done in two ways: actively or passively. Passive euthanasia involves gradually taking someone off of a medication that keeps them alive or disconnecting a person from a life support machine. This kind of euthanasia is the more accepted of the two. Active euthanasia which is much more controversial involves taking direct steps to cause a patient’s death like a lethal injection. However, the patient is always given the option by their doctor before proceeding.
Now when you think about the physical pain someone with Hepatitis B, pancreatic cancer, or another terminal disease experiences on a daily basis it just seems inhumane not giving them a choice of death over a life of suffering. It’s simple when someone is endlessly suffering, unable to move, feed themselves, and even breathe on their own that they should be entitled to euthanasia. After all, why should someone who’s terminally ill, who has been living permanently in a hospital also have to watch their loved ones suffering along beside them? For the ill patient watching family and friends suffering along with them only makes the ordeal even harder to bear. Yet the aspect of both physical and mental suffering is not enough to legalize euthanasia.
Although at first the financial well-being of the family of a terminally ill patient may not seem like a legitimate reason to legalize euthanasia, it is in fact another pro. Believe it or not, the average cost per day of keeping someone in the Intensive Care Unit (ICU) alive is $10,000. For families of a dying loved one this can lead to great amounts of debt. Just think about it, keeping someone on life support for a month will cost roughly $300,000; that’s $300,000 that could have been used for something else. Despite the initial reaction that money should not be taken into consideration for a human life, the truth of the matter is that in our world today this has become a reality. Life support extends the lives of those who without machines would have died naturally so isn’t it better to perhaps donate that money to a foundation that aids in finding a cure for a disease rather than keeping a terminally ill patient alive on a machine? The patient would never want all of this money spent on them if there truly was no hope, no cure. It is simply prolonging the inevitable from happening.
Lastly, shouldn’t the right to a dignified death be given to everyone; why not, when it’s someone’s freedom of choice? Just like we have the freedom to express ourselves and practice, if any, religion that we choose, the same should go for death. As the saying goes, “When it’s your time to go, it’s your time to go.” Do you see what we’ve already done as a society, going against nature, keeping people alive who technically shouldn’t be? The least you can give someone who has already experienced so much pain and suffering is a dignified exit from this world and euthanasia can give them exactly that. It’s the patient’s choice, just like we respect others’ decisions in life, when it comes to death the same applies. In a country like the United States, where people immigrate from all walks of life, in most cases seeking the freedoms we have here. But one freedom is missing: the freedom to a dignified death.
Now, there are many people who do not support euthanasia whether it is because of religious reasons or simply someone’s personal beliefs. However, one of the more common rationales for why euthanasia should not be legalized has to do with the idea that a terminally ill individual might not be in their right state of mind to make a life or death decision. In other words, those who do not support euthanasia usually feel that a terminally ill individual is perhaps mentally incompetent because they have already endured so much pain that they would do anything to feel better. But this is not the case in most situations. Usually when someone is ill and spending most of their days at a hospital, with the possibility of slipping into unconsciousness, they will designate someone to makes decisions on their behalf. This is known as a healthcare proxy and typically this person is a family member. The sick individual gives instructions to the proxy that in the event that if they do slip into a coma, their wishes will be carried out. So, if the challengers of euthanasia are referring to an event in which the patient is unconscious that issue is already solved with the help of a healthcare proxy. Some people argue that even a conscious person may not be competent when it comes to making a decision that could end their life and in response to that I say, “Who are you to be the judge of their sanity and mental-well being?” The terminally ill patient surely has made other decisions in their life; like buying a new home, finding a job, having children, etcetera, so why is it that now we are questioning their ability to make a decision? The decision will affect their life, not yours so who are you to be an arbiter? If the ill patient’s other life impacting decisions have not been challenged or questioned up until this point, then now is not the time to do so. At the end of the day, it isn’t about how you feel or what you think, it’s about what the sick individual wants to improve their quality of life and people have to take this into account.
I feel confident that the advantages that I have addressed will persuade many people to see the positives in euthanasia as opposed to the downsides. Euthanasia can help to end the pain and suffering of those who are terminally ill. The legalization of euthanasia can put the terminally ill individual’s family in a more stable financial and emotional situation. And most importantly, the choice of euthanasia is a personal one: No one should impose their views on the terminally ill patient’s decision. We all seem to forget that this is not our life that we’re talking about, but a life of someone who is unquestionably sick. Put yourself in a terminally ill individual’s shoes, just for a minute, and think, would you like a choice to end the pain? If you think yes, even if for only a split second, then support the idea of euthanasia being legalized.



Join the Discussion

This article has 1 comment. Post your own now!

madrack said...
Jul. 23, 2011 at 12:40 pm
you are right, this is a very controversial topic. but i think this article was written well since you can see a glimpse of both sides. great job hermi1rox, and ps, i love reading your work!
 
Site Feedback