Euthanasia

There has been much discussion about the pros and cons of euthanasia. The best work on this was done by Professor James Rachels. I shall but reiterate some of his work.

The crux of the matter of euthanasia is when the patient or person should die and who should make the decision. If the patient is of a right mind –you know what I mean--, then the choice is up to the patient. With respect to when the choice should be made, the answer is that when it is apparent that death is in the best interest of the patient, then the value of an end to life is greater than the value of an extended life.

Rachels has a good story to make his point about who should make the decision and when it should be made. Suppose an all powerful being comes to you and says that you will die in one of three ways, and that it is up to you to choose which way you will die. In the first case, you will live until sixty, but develop terminal throat cancer. On the day after your birthday, a physician and whomever you may wish to invite will visit you and give you a tonic that will put you peacefully to sleep and then you will die unconscious. In the second case, at sixty, you will again develop throat cancer, but spend the next six weeks in terrible agony dying in such pain that you have to be restrained. In the third case, everything is the same as the second, save that the physician brings you pain medicine so that you can spend as much time with friends and family. The pain killer works but not always and more and more is needed to do the job. In the end, however, you will be so full of the pain killer that you will die unconscious or you may ask to be given the lethal dose of the painkiller which will result in your death.

Ok. Which alternative would you choose? Well, I would probably choose the third. Why? It gives me as much time as possible with friends and family while controlling the pain as best possible. In the end, I would ask for the final dose, rather than lying in a vegetative state for maybe a day or two, thus costing my family, the hospital and insurance company more money for no good.

The moral of the story is that it is obvious that at a certain point, death is in the best interest of the patient. Now, suppose that society only lets you “choose” option two. You are condemned to a terrible death, trapped inside your ravaged body while others merely shake their head in commiseration. (This may be the case of Mrs. Schiavo. Though we may think that her expressions are of pleasantness, they could be of pain; the expressions that we have seen on tape are not clear enough. If it is the case that she is condemned to pain through our "good intentions," it is a fate worse than death, for there is no way out for her. That’s tantamount to torture, even though society means well.) This is the state of our laws today.

Suppose you found me running an animal center. You find a room in the back where there are many suffering diseased and injured animals. You ask me, what in the world is this room all about. I reply that I do not believe in putting animals out of their misery, but I give them everything I can to prolong their lives and make them as comfortable as possible. I have no doubt that you would have the sheriff shut me down as soon as possible. Strange that animals are protected by the law better than humans.

So, again, if death is in the best interest of the patient, is chosen by the patient for good reasons (mainly to end the pain of a terminal illness), then it makes no sense to merely let the patient die. A lethal dose of painkiller should be administered.

Of course, the sticky question is, who is to do the administration. There are good reasons not to have physicians and nurses do the action. More about that later