Euthanasia is physician-aided death. It is different from murder, since the physician usually receives consent from the patient him/herself or, in the event of a situation where the patient cannot give consent, from his or her kin. A physician may facilitate the death of a patient under a number of circumstances. Most commonly, the doctor is usually called upon to terminate the life of the patient if they are terminally ill and are experiencing excruciating pain that cannot be relieved by painkillers. Euthanasia is also common when the patient is in a coma, and there is hardly any hope for recovery.
Difference Between the Types of Euthanasia
There are two main types of euthanasia. The first is active euthanasia, where the death of the patient is caused by a deliberate action on the physician’s part. The physician causes death, for example, by administering an overdose of a drug. The other type is passive euthanasia, where the death of the patient is brought about by an act of omission on the doctor’s part. This can, for instance, be brought about by withdrawing or withholding treatment. As such, the physician allows the initial condition from which the patient was suffering to claim their lives. It is not distinctly clear which of the two types of euthanasia is more morally acceptable, and as in any other ethical debate, this is a hotly controversial issue.
My Personal Beliefs Concerning Euthanasia and why it Should be Allowed
In my personal opinion, I think euthanasia is justified in certain circumstances. I also feel that even though it may be legal in some jurisdictions, there are situations where, despite the consent of the patient, it should not be carried out.
Euthanasia is justified in selected cases. First, if the patient is terminally ill and is experiencing severe chronic pain, then euthanasia is justified. It would border on the inhumane to let a patient experience chronic and severe pain, which cannot even be alleviated by painkillers. Such pain or suffering would drastically reduce not only the patient’s quality of life, but also that of his or her kin and close friends (Van Delden, 2007). Secondly, euthanasia should be allowed to patients who, after severe brain injury, enter a persistent vegetative state in which they can only be partly aroused and only their vegetative functions are normal. Such patients usually require life-supporting machines, because left on their own they would die. Usually, such patients have no hope of recovery to the normal state, and maintaining them in the vegetative state is extremely costly to their families. In such cases, euthanasia would be a logical solution to the financial and psychological agony.
The special populations discussed in the Pro/Con website are people with disabilities, the elderly, the poor, minorities and women (euthanasia.procon.org, 2013). In particular, people with disabilities are a special group who form an important part of the controversy. People with disabilities form a central part of the argument because the legalization of euthanasia might be misused to their disadvantage. Indeed, this population might be affected by euthanasia. For instance, “Not Dead Yet”, in 2006, argued that this would give health professionals the unduly ‘privilege’ of deciding who is eligible for the service, and it would lead to misuse of the service.
Some people argue that euthanasia would endanger disabled people, but for slightly different reasons. They argue that inherent in the request for euthanasia is the understanding that the quality of one’s life that remains is sufficiently impaired to warrant such a drastic approach to treatment. However, according to this argument, people without disabilities are often inclined towards judging the quality of the lives of people with disabilities more harshly. This would, in turn, lead to misjudgments about the need for euthanasia for people with disabilities, making them more prone to misuse of the practice.
My Beliefs Regarding Euthanasia and Special Populations
Euthanasia, from my personal standpoint, may not be a tasteful practice, but is necessary in some circumstances. I believe that a patient should not be left to suffer intolerable pain if euthanasia is the only option for alleviating their suffering. There are conditions that have been known to mankind to be so painful that prior to the discovery of their treatment, patients used to commit suicide to escape the endless suffering. Such conditions still exist today, and treatment has been elusive for some of them.
Moreover, I think that euthanasia would also be reasonable when a patient enters the persistent vegetative state and the cost of keeping him or her alive is too high for his or her family. The likelihood of the patient ever waking from such a state is close to nil, so euthanasia would undoubtedly be reasonable.
People with disabilities are not exempt from some of these conditions. They too may endure severe incessant pain, or may end up in a persistent vegetative state. They should not fear the legalization of euthanasia. However, euthanasia needs to be strictly controlled, and expert medical and legal consent should be heard before it is executed.
The Law Concerning Physician Assisted Suicide in North Carolina
In North Carolina, the law that deals with physician assisted suicide is the Code Section90-320 (b); §32A-24. This section of North Carolina law does not expressly state that an act or omission that leads to the end of a patient's life is criminal. Furthermore, it stipulates that withholding life support cannot be considered suicide, whether for criminal or civil purposes.
A Comparison of Euthanasia Laws in North Carolina and Oregon
The Law in North Carolina regarding euthanasia, as has already been mentioned, is the Code, section 90. On the other hand, Oregon has several laws regarding physician-assisted death. One of the more common ones is the Death with Dignity of 1997 (oregon.gov, 2013). In brief, both laws address physician assisted death. Another similar thing about both is that they do not expressly criminalize the act of euthanasia. Moreover, they fail to state any punitive measures to be taken against people who participate in euthanasia.
However, there are distinct differences between the two. First, the Laws in Carolina are vague about their stance on euthanasia, but the Oregonian laws are categorical that they allow physician assisted death. In fact, the Oregonian law provides for the “voluntary self-administration” of medications that are expressly prescribed for this purpose. Secondly, the North Carolina laws do not allow for the recording of such occurrences whereas the Oregonian law does. Therefore, the Oregonian law sets clear-cut standards of euthanasia compared to the North Carolina laws.