Euthanasia and Medical Ethics

A look at the debate about why euthanasia should be made illegal.

This paper looks at euthanasia, the act of putting to death painlessly or allowing death by withholding extreme medical measures for a person or animal suffering from an incurable, often painful, disease or condition. In particular, it examines how the term ‘positive euthanasia’ has come to refer to actions that actively cause death, such as administering a lethal drug, and how the growing acceptance of positive euthanasia represents a disturbing trend in medical and social ethics. It discusses how much debate has arisen in the United States among physicians, religious leaders, lawyers, and the general public over euthanasia and how, although positive euthanasia is, for the most part, illegal in the United States, physicians may lawfully refuse to prolong life when there is extreme suffering.
“Some argue that the euthanasia required as a last resort, when the individual can no longer manage the pain of their illness. However, pain should never justify euthanasia considering the advanced medical techniques currently available to manage pain in almost every circumstance. The real problem is that there are fundamental physician-related barriers to appropriate, humane, and compassionate care for the dying. According to research by Foley (1997), physicians are inadequately trained to assess and manage the multi-factorial symptoms commonly associated with patients’ requests for physician-assisted suicide. Only five out of 126 medical schools in the United States require a separate course in the care of the dying. ”

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