In contemporary world many questions that were social taboos for centuries are now raised and many of them are even trying to be solved. One of the most suitable examples will probably be “the Right to Die”. Should it be considered the real right and what does it deal with.
“The Right to Die” is strongly connected with euthanasia and without any doubts this two meanings are going hand by hand. The question is very serious and before the Second World War the attitude to it was rather positive than negative as right now. It was mainly used by seriously ill people as famous scientist Freud who committed a suicide with the help of his friend doctor Schur. The idea of euthanasia was very popular at that time especially among the people with incurable illnesses. Seriously ill people understood that their recovery is almost impossible and they did not want to be burden and problem for their relatives and decided to depart with the help of medicine without torturing themselves and dear people.
At the time of Second World War the term of euthanasia was perverted by Nazi ideology and was strongly associated with concentration camps where thousands of people died under such method but without any reason despite national or political. That is why for many years people used to think about euthanasia as something like violent death.
And the Second World War experience is not the single reason. The attitude of Christianity World to suicide and euthanasia is also negative. According to the Bible those who committed a suicide will never get a chance to reach Paradise as well as those who assisted this sin will never do as well, because none could take away the life of a man given him by God. Self-murderers even were buried outside the Christian graveyard.
The researches of this subject in theory subdivide the term on euthanasia on two types: passive euthanasia (intentional cessation of suspensory therapy by physicians) and active euthanasia (inputting the dying person some medicine or other actions which entail quick and painless death). Very often suicide with the help of physician (giving the ill person inj his request medicine that shorten life) is referred to as an active type of euthanasia.
Besides that there should be distinguished Voluntary and Involuntary euthanasia. Voluntary euthanasia is usually provided under the will of ill person or preliminary agreeing of a person (for example in the United States of America there exist such a practice in the case of irreversible coma the person express the will for euthanasia in juridical authorized form beforehand). Involuntary euthanasia is held out without any kind of agreement of an ill person and as usual the person is in unconscious state.
This practice to ease the pain of dying people has been existing for centuries and despite the laws in the 20th century before the appearing of different foundation, which protected the right of mortally ill people for “Right of Death”, it is existed. Manu doctors lost their job and appeared in the prison if it turned out that they assisted in euthanasia. Nowadays, there exist several processes in Europe, where seriously ill people, without chance to stay alive struggle for their right for death.
The idea of Euthanasia and the Right of Death in the end of the 20th and the beginning of the 21st century has become more and more popular, the sane time with the wide usage of such an important meaning as quality of life. Hippocratic Oath in its traditional form contradicts to the idea of euthanasia realization.
Nowadays there are three countries in Europe, where Euthanasia exists. The pioneer in this field has become the Netherlands. The Right for Death was legalized there in 1984, when the Supreme Court of the country officially declared voluntary euthanasia acceptable.
In 2002 it has been legalized in Belgium and now exists for more two European countries – Switzerland and Luxembourg.
In the year 2002 euthanasia helped to leave this world 200 mortally ill people and in the year 2004 – 360.
From the April 2005 in Belgian drugstores there could be found special set for euthanasia, which could ease the procedure of voluntary right for death. The set costs nearly 60 euro and it includes disposal syringe with poison and other means, which are necessary for injection.
The set for euthanasia could be ordered only by general practitioner, who should indicate precise dosage of poisoning substance. The order could be formed after the turning into one of 250 Belgian drugstores, which have proper license.
In the two states of the US Oregon and Washington euthanasia also exists.
School of Medicine Washington University has studied this question according the medical ethics for the past years. They have provided many researches and provided a number of reason for physician assisted suicide (one of the ways euthanasia could be called): “Those who argue that PAS is ethically justifiable offer the following sorts of arguments:
Respect for autonomy: Decisions about time and circumstances death are very personal. Competent person should have right to choose death.
Justice: Justice requires that we “treat like cases alike.” Competent, terminally ill patients are allowed to hasten death by treatment refusal. For some patients, treatment refusal will not suffice to hasten death; only option is suicide. Justice requires that we should allow assisted death for these patients.
Compassion: Suffering means more than pain; there are other physical and psychological burdens. It is not always possible to relieve suffering. Thus PAS may be a compassionate response to unbearable suffering.
Individual liberty vs. state interest: Though society has strong interest in preserving life, that interest lessens when person is terminally ill and has strong desire to end life. A complete prohibition on assisted death excessively limits personal liberty. Therefore PAS should be allowed in certain cases.
Openness of discussion: Some would argue that assisted death already occurs, albeit in secret. For example, morphine drips ostensibly used for pain relief may be a covert form of assisted death or euthanasia. That PAS is illegal prevents open discussion, in which patients and physicians could engage. Legalization of PAS would promote open discussion” (Clarence H. Braddock III, 2008).
Many foundations all over the world are promoting the idea to help seriously ill people who have no chance recover and the first steps are already done. There exist a lot of information on line and some call centers where patients and their families could receive irrefragable answers.
Raphael Cohen-Almagor. The right to die with dignity: an argument in ethics, medicine, and law. New Brunswick, N.J: Rutgers University Press. 2001
Fletcher, Joseph F. Morals and medicine; the moral problems of: the patient’s right to know the truth, contraception, artificial insemination, sterilization, euthanasia. Princeton, N.J.K.: Princeton University Press. 1954.
University of Washington School of Medicine web site. April 2008. Ethics in Medicine. Physician assisted suicide. 6th of November 2009.
Death with Dignity National Center official web site.2009. History and Facts. The Oregon Death with Dignity Law. 6th of November 2009.
The World Federation of Right to Die Societies web site.2009. Ensuring Choices for a Dignified Death. 6th of November 2009.