The power to control the destiny of another person's life is an opiate which no person should have the ability to ingest when the control is over the persons life, or death. While medical technology has been creating new conditions by which individuals can live longer, and medical science has entered a new era regarding treatment of conditions which only a few years ago would haven the lives of those thus afflicted, there is one area over which medical science, and public policy, should not be allowed to reign. The subject of euthanasia contains within it a moral boundary over which we dare not cross.
There are two sides to the debate over euthanasia. Those in favor of the procedure claim that individuals should have a right over the destiny of their own life's course. The person who is suffering should be able to take up the right to end his or her own life. The emotional debate continues as those who support the practice cite how medical advancements have created a world which man never had conceived. The abilities of medical practitioners to prolong life have extended way beyond the desires of many patients, or so we are told.
Those who are oppose to the practice fall back to a position which is hard to defend in the face of technology, and America's penchant for personal freedoms. The individual does have a right to determine his or her own life's course but not to determine how or where he will die. Whether of not the argument passed this boundary into the area of religion, the argument continues to discuss how each individual has a right to life, and a guarantee of individual protection of that right. When the question of death crosses into a decision which individuals will make for themselves, than the problem of who can make the decision, under what circumstances, and how to protect the rights of individuals who do not want to die, even through they are equally sick become issues which appear on the surface of the issue like green fuzzy penicillin on the top of cheese which is left in the refrigerator too long. The question is not if the euthanasia debate will have to deal with these questions, the question is how long it will take before they become a part of the right to die equation.
In practice, euthanasia is a procedure used all around the world. The largest opponents of euthanasia are often the Christian organizations. Their belief is that the choice of a person's death is God's decision only. Many people say that the regardless of the method, euthanasia is unjust, unethical, and not a decision to be made by that of a human. Others agree that euthanasia is proper, ethical and ultimately a decision which is in the best interest of the patient who is in pain and suffering.
There are two types of euthanasia. Passive euthanasia is a simple yes or no question asked by doctors of whether to pull the plug or not in the case of the onset of a medical or physical condition from which there is not recovery. Active euthanasia is considered blatant killing, or a more deliberate action to end the life of a dying patient. A recent example would be the case of Robert Latimer on which the supreme ruled. His twelve-year-old daughter weighed only thirty-eight pounds and suffered from cerebral palsy. To end her pain and suffering he killed via carbon monoxide poisoning. Afterward, he called the authorities after it was over willing to take consequences of those actions. The supreme court upheld his conviction of manslaughter two, and reduced his sentence from a life sentence and no chance of parole prior to ten years served.
This case brings up the heart of the problem which cannot be legislated, and cannot be controlled if the practice was legalized. Mr. Latimer had taken care of his daughter for 12 years. His daughter had no possibility of recovery, and the process was taxing on Mr. Latimer. However, the problems of care did not take away from the daughter her rights to life. Therefore, Mr. Latimer's actions which were undertaken under the guise of mercifully ending his daughter's life could also be understood as taking her life because he was too worn out from taking care of her. The problem of euthanasia is that once we open the door to consider the quality of a person's life, and how that quality should reflect on the person's right to continue living, what is going to protect the vulnerable individuals in our society from being treated in the same way, and having that decision made for them. Once we begin killing individuals on the basis of subjective quality of life issues, thee remain no protection against treating all vulnerable individuals with the same contempt for their life.
This slippery slope can be seen in the writings and speeches of noted Bio-ethicist Peter Singer. In a speech deliver to a Germany-based Symposium on "Bioengineering, Ethics, and Mental Disability." Singer had also agreed to deliver a separate lecture on the topic "Do severely disabled newborn infants have a right to life?" (Wright, 2000)
Singer's position on such questions was clear in his previous publications, including Practical Ethics, which had appeared in a German translation in 1984, in which he had argued that infants lack self-consciousness, rationality, and autonomy and therefore have a less strong claim to life than do others who possess these characteristics. Moreover, Singer had argued that we should permit active euthanasia of severely disabled newborns at the parents' request. In Practical Ethics he concluded,"... killing a defective infant is not morally equivalent to killing a person. Very often it is not wrong at all." (Singer, 1979)
According to Wright, the conflict which currently encompasses the debate on a global scale was present during Singer's presentation. One handicapped representative for a group of protesters which convened on the conference, "We cannot tolerate that people should speak about whether we may live or not." (Singer, 1990) Self-described "antibioethicist" Oliver Tolmein characterized Singer's views as "deny[ing] the right to life of the disabled" Singer, by supporting this perspective, Singer was duplicating the former Nazi Germany belief of the existence of a superior race, based on cognitive ability. Tolmein said that debating these issues, was "as senseless as to debate a theory arguing for the superiority of the Aryan race. In both cases it is the cognitive will at the theory's foundation that must be attacked." (Schone-Seifert, K-P. Rippe, 1991)
This research proposal involves investigating public opinion on the subject of euthanasia. This research will be undertaken through qualitative methods, and seek to identify the current temperature of public opinion towards the practice. This research will be unique in that the survey questions will be formatted in two different constructs. A survey of 12 questions will be composed to ask individuals questions regarding euthanasia as it applies to others. The questions will be based on a Likert scale, and on a scale of 1-5 the respondents will be asked to answer questions regarding the practice of euthanasia as it would apply to someone else. The questions will be directed to ward a friend, family member, or other acquaintance for how the condition of their life has degenerated into a condition from which there is no recovery. The questions will ask whether or not the individual would advocate euthanasia for the ill person.
A second set of questions, covering the same medical and physical conditions, will be written and presented in a survey. These questions will also be based on a Likert scale of 1-5. The second set of questions will ask the respondent about his or her feelings about euthanasia if he or she was the person…