Sometimes history needs to be rewritten so as to comport with modern sensibilities. Today, we live in an era where the average life span has been increases as a result of modern technology; however, sometimes our lives our being prolonged (e.g. given more quantity) at the expense of quality of life. The founding fathers of our nation did not have such technological and ideological issues to debate. In fact, we did not even have penicillin until relatively recently in our history. In short, given that we have been able to live longer, we must understand that there may be times when the quantity of life should not be chosen over the quality of life. Both are equally important, but if there is no quality in one's life, what good is the quantity anyway?
A similar argument may be made against those whom believe that physician-assisted suicide is anti-thetical to Christian values. In fact, when the Bible was written, there was no penicillin to stop an infection and there was no such thing as a respirator or a feeding tube. In the modern era, we have extended the quantity of lives. Was this intended? Even assuming that the addition to life complies with biblical notions, how can we say that a physician's treatment of a terminal illness that ends the additional life is contrary to the life intended by God. Perhaps, God did not intend for us to have medical treatment which artificially sustains life and by artificially sustaining life, that is where the actual contradiction to the Bible occurs. Likewise, the ending of life would also contradict the normal life without medical intervention. Which one is more appropriate or less appropriate is up to the individual's sense of morality and definition of life and death.
Others contend that giving a patient a treatment which is lethal will deter and diminish the palliative care of the patient upon discharge and may lead to the physician just giving up on the patient ("Physicians for Compassionate Care" Pro-Con.org). Thus, the patient may spend his or her days prior to death without receipt of adequate medical care. Indeed, this is an issue to be treated just like any other issue of medical malpractice. The giving of a lethal prescription does not cease a physician's duty of care toward the patient; in fact, some scholars might say it enhances. However, we cannot base the medical care that we provide to patients based upon the fear of potential malpractice. To do so, would mean that doctors in other disciplines would also stop providing medical care for risk of the one or two doctors whom do not live up to his or her duty under the law.
As a result of the disparity between the medical community's opinion and the legal opinions of most courts across the globe which do not support the right to allow patients to partake in euthanasia and the general public's opinion that such a right should be recognized, this is a debate that is not going away. Indeed, as recently as a few months ago, a prominent British journalist was imprisoned for admitting his involvement with a friend's assisted suicide, and modern American audiences are looking forward to Al Pacino's portrayal of "Dr. Death" or Dr. Kevorkian in an upcoming film. It seems that perhaps with added media attention coupled with education of the general public regarding the facts behind euthanasia that the laws may evolve so as to reflect the wishes of the terminally ill. If we believe that humanity involves the quality of compassion or consideration for others and we believe that physicians should treat patients with humanity, then it seems logical that we must allow physicians to respect the wishes of the terminally ill to choose the course of their treatment. To do otherwise amounts to adding insult to these patients' already existing injury and to add suffering to their last days. Medicine should support the needs and the wants of the ill; and, above all, it should promote humanity as well as treat every patient with dignity and respect.
Baird, Robert M., and Stuart E. Rosenbaum, eds. The Moral Issues. Buffalo,
"For Al Pacino, Playing Dr. Kevorkian Was a Role to Kill for." NBC Universal, Inc. 15 Apr. 2010. MyAccess. Web.
Humphrey, Derek. "Definitions of Euthanasia." ERGO (Euthenasia Research and Guidance Association). 6 Jan. 2006. Web.
"INFORMATION for RESEARCH on EUTHANASIA, PHYSICIAN-ASSISTED SUICIDE,." Euthenasia.com. Group in Memory of Terry Shiavo, 2010 last updated. Web. .
Mahr, Krista. "Legal Euthanasia: No Spur to Suicide." Time 2 Oct. 2007. Time.com. Web.
Mayer, Catherine. "A TV Confession Reignites Britain's Euthanasia Debate." Time 17 Feb. 2010. Time.com. Web.
"NOVA | Doctors' Diaries | the Hippocratic Oath: Modern Version." PBS. Web. 22 Apr. 2010. .
"Physician-Assisted Suicide: Public Opinion." World Values Survey Online. 2005. Web. .
"Top 10 Pros and Cons - Euthanasia - ProCon.org." Euthanasia ProCon.org -- Should Euthanasia Be Legal? Web. 23 Apr. 2010. .
Washington v. Glucksberg. U.S. Supreme Court. 1997. Print.
World Medical Association Policy: "The World Medical Association Resolution on Euthanasia." Adopted by the World Medical Association General Assembly,
In an effort to take an objective and credible approach to research and analysis, the sources used for this paper shall include a balance of materials. Some materials have been written by groups dedicated to opposing euthanasia while other materials have been written by groups dedicated to supporting the rights of patients to choose physician-assisted suicide as an alternative course of action. Within the Works Cited, the organization publishing the research and/or data will be provided to further serve the end of providing an objective look at this issue and supporting the argument herein stated. Moreover, medical journals which seek to provide an objective analysis of the issue will also be used for the purpose of understanding the arguments as well as supporting the argument herein that patients and doctors should not be restricted from using euthanasia as a means of treatment for the terminally ill.