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Voluntary Euthanasia

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Essay title: Voluntary Euthanasia


Imagine that your wife is in a terrible accident and is comatose and “brain dead.” But the law says she is still “alive.” Her will says she wants to be allowed to die in situations like this. Her parents disagree with her will. It is up to you to decide what the right thing is to do.

Euthanasia is the “practice of mercifully ending a person’s life in order to release the person from an incurable disease, intolerable suffering, or undignified death.” Euthanasia is one of the most talked about and controversial topics in the medical world today. To some, euthanasia is the perfect solution for a terminally ill cancer patient. For others it is taking away a patient’s chance of survival, even if the possibility is a million to one. Originally, some types of euthanasia were widely accepted in many countries until the 1970s. Then the aspect of religious beliefs caused much uproar about euthanasia. The debate still lives on today.

Euthanasia can be done by a doctor painlessly injecting a lethal dose of drugs into his patient. This is known as active euthanasia. Passive euthanasia involves not taking steps to prevent death, such as taking a patient off of life support.

Voluntary euthanasia is when the patient asks to die; non-voluntary occurs when the patient is comatose or unable to ask to die. Euthanasia was first introduced by ancient Greece and Rome. It was used on newborns with severe birth defects and the elderly whom voluntarily wanted this death. Later, Christianity became more powerful and euthanasia was viewed as a violation of God’s gift. Though today, most forms of Christianity, Judaism, and Islam accept passive euthanasia, but do not allow active euthanasia. Most Western laws have followed religion and deemed assisting someone in dying as an act of punishable homicide. In the United States active euthanasia is prohibited, but laws allow doctors to be unpunished if they withhold or withdraw a life sustaining treatment if it is asked for by the patient. With modern technology, keeping a patient alive has become easier and easier. This however creates more situations where a terminally ill or pained patient is alive through artificial life support. This ultimately creates more cases in which the issue is whether or not to keep a patient alive. Also, patient’s rights to refuse treatment are increasingly accepted. Every state has adopted laws that allow a person to have a living will that states a course of action if they become terminally ill for example. Only one U.S. state, Oregon, has passed a law allowing doctors to end a patient’s life. With the rise of modern medical technology, lawmakers are making new legal definitions of death. For example most have accepted a law of “brain death” where necessary parts of the brain stop functioning, at which point it is legal to turn off a patient’s life support system. These laws do not stop difficult ethical issues from coming up.

On a late February night in 1990, Michael Schiavo found his 26-year-old wife lying motionless on the floor, a victim of heart failure. Terri suffered massive brain damage from the lack of oxygen to her brain. She went into a vegetative state where she was unaware and unable to interact with her surroundings. Fourteen years later her condition hasn’t improved. She lives on life support in a hospital near Tampa, Florida. She could breathe on her own but hasn’t obtained full consciousness; doctors said she would never regain consciousness. The only thing between life and death for her

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