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Euthanasia: The Right to Die

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Euthanasia has become an issue of increasing attention because of Dr.

Jack Kevorkian's assisted suicides. As of October 21 Kevorkian has assisted in

nineteen suicides. Because of the increasing number of suicides in Michigan,

Gov. Engler signed an anti-suicide law in late February that made doctor-

assisted suicides a felony. During the 21-month trial period of the new law

anyone assisting in a suicide can be sentenced to up to four years in prison and

fined more than $2,000 (Reuters, 1993).

With the passing of this law I thought that most people would be against

the right-to-die, not so. In a poll cited in a 1991 issue of USA Today eighty

percent of Americans think sometimes there are circumstances when a patient

should be allowed to die, compared to only fifteen percent think doctors and

nurses should always do everything possible to save a person's life. It also

showed that eight in ten adults approve of state laws that allow medical care

for the terminally ill to be removed or withheld, if that is what the patient

"wishes", whereas only thirteen percent disapproved of the laws. Also seventy

percent think the family should be allowed to make the decision about treatment

on behalf of the patient, while another five percent think this is suitable only

in some cases (Colasnto, 1991, p. 62).

The results on mercy killing surprised me even more. Seventy percent

think it is justified at least sometimes for a person to kill his or her spouse,

if he or she is suffering terrible pain caused by a terminal illness. Even

suicide is starting to be accepted. About half the public think a "moral right"

to suicide exists if a person has an incurable disease or is suffering great

pain with no hope of recovering(Colasnto, 1991, p. 63).

About half of those with living parents think their mothers and fathers

would want medical treatment stopped if they were suffering a great deal of pain

in a terminal disease or if they became totally dependent

on a family member,

and forty percent of their parents would want medical treatment stopped if daily

activities became a burden(Colasnto,1991, p. 63).

With the continuous coverage of Dr. Kevorkian the views of people will

continue to change. Euthanasia will continue to become more of an issue.

As with any issue, each viewpoint is supported by many reasons. Those

who oppose euthanasia argue that the medical profession must always be on the

side of "preserving life" (Schofield, 1988, p. 24). Another reason is

euthanasia will lead to the "devaluation of life" (Low, 1989, p. 37). Also they

think it will force doctors and family members to "judge the value of a

patient's life". Critics also say that acceptance will spread from the

terminally ill to the less serious ill, the handicapped, or the mentally

retarded. (Russ, 1989, p.

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