A man, well into his forties, lies helplessly in the cold room of the hospital. He eagerly waits for the results of his tests that are to be hand delivered by the warm-hearted doctor. He lies there, his skin is pasty white, his body is slowly deteriorating both inside and out, and his hair is gradually falling out. Yet somehow the man manages to fight for his life, striving to be able to go home to his wife, play football with his son, and take his dog Nasia, for a walk. In the faint distance the man can hear the footsteps of the doctor, the sound intensifying as the doctor get closer. As the physician approaches the door the man’s heart thumps louder, and faster, in sync with the sound of the footsteps. Nervously the doctor opens the door, walks inside, and gives the ill man an artificial smile, the kind people give when they pose for pictures. A sound comes out, and the man hears the doctor say, “you have lung cancer, and it is terminal.” His once beating heart sinks to the floor, and all hope flies out of the window into the realm of death. The man, pondering the long road of agony ahead, says to the doctor, “I do not wish to suffer the effects of the cancer, I want to die.” He continues by asking the question every doctor fears to answer, “Can you give me something to end my life?”
This process is known as euthanasia. The word stems from Greek origin meaning “good death.” In general, euthanasia is the process of a physician killing a human being who suffers from a painfully terminal disease to bring them peace. The topic has become quite controversial throughout the United States as well as the rest of the world. Advocates feel that each and every person has the right to be able to choose how they live, and how they die. They claim that everyone should have the privilege of controlling their own destiny. Opponents of mercy killing argue that the act is immoral and would have a negative effect on the social and moral standings of society. They believe that life and death should only be in the hands of God.
There are two types of euthanasia, passive and active. Passive euthanasia is taking away or withholding treatment even if the person is going to die. Active euthanasia is assisting the patient who suffers from the terminal illness to die by giving them drugs or injections. While many argue that only the passive type of euthanasia is acceptable, others argue that morally, there is not a difference between the two, and that neither of them should be conducted.
Activists of euthanasia claim that it would be killing in the name of compassion. They argue that any passionate and humane character would not want to see their loved one suffer especially when there is no hope for recovery. Supporters of this technique believe that they are actually helping the sickly individual by easing their discomforts and releasing them of their pains and letting them go on to a “better place,” free of harm, and illnesses. Adversaries of euthanasia state that it is merely degrading the human life. They support God’s sovereignty of human life, contesting that it is too sacred and too valuable to be taken away by anyone other than God.
Enemies of euthanasia have many questions that are left unanswered. For instance, if euthanasia was to become legalized, where do we stop or start? How advanced must the illness be? Are the doctors 100 percent right about the diagnosis? Which illnesses are “treatable” by euthanasia? Are handicaps to be included? Where do we draw the line and who is to make the final decision? Are those in pain even getting the right medicine, the right dosage? Has every treatment option been explored, should they be? These questions cannot be fully answered for every situation that occurs, which leaves many people unsure about the idea of euthanasia and its morality. Supporters on the other hand would state that these questions do not have to be answered by any professional, but by the patients themselves. If they are uncomfortable, depressed, and can no longer bear the cruelties of their illness, then it should be up to them if they want to end their life.
Opponents of euthanasia continue their argument by stating that when symptoms of terminally ill patients are diagnosed and treated properly, euthanasia is not a necessary “treatment.” They claim under these conditions, the patient’s fears are dealt with, help is provided, they feel safe, and rarely ask for death a second time. Many patients receive excellent palliative care, which makes the ill patients more comfortable. However, people for euthanasia ask the question, “who’s to say they are not in pain?” All too often the patients are mute, unconscious, or in a state of coma. There is not one doctor or human being that can accurately predict the amount of pain the patient is undergoing. Different individuals may experience various symptoms with each kind of disease and that makes it tough to estimate the patient’s level of pain. Also, who’s to say that the doctor diagnosed the patient correctly? They are, after all, human, and all beings make mistakes. Therefore, there is a justifiable reason to say that the patients should be able to make their own decision rather than have the law make it for them.