Euthanasia has become an issue of increasing attention because of Dr. Jack Kevorkian 's assisted suicide s. As of October 21 Kevorkian has assisted in nineteen suicides. Because of the increasing number of suicides in Michigan, Gov. Engler signed an anti- suicide law in late February that made doctor-assisted suicides a felony. During the 21-month trial period of the new law anyone assisting in a suicide can be sentenced to up to four years in prison and fined more than $2,000 ( Reuters , 1993).
With the passing of this law I thought that most people would be against the right-to-die, not so. In a poll cited in a 1991 issue of USA Today eighty percent of Americans think sometimes there are circumstances when a patient should be allowed to die, compared to only fifteen percent think doctors and nurses should always do everything possible to save a person's life. It also showed that eight in ten adults approve of state laws that allow medical care for the terminally ill to be removed or withheld, if that is what the patient "wishes", whereas only thirteen percent disapproved of the laws. Also seventy percent think the family should be allowed to make the decision about treatment on behalf of the patient, while another five percent think this is suitable only in some cases (Colasnto, 1991, p. 62).
The results on mercy killing surprised me even more. Seventy percent think it is justified at least sometimes for a person to kill his or her spouse, if he or she is suffering terrible pain caused by a terminal illness . Even suicide is starting to be accepted. About half the public thinks a " moral right " to suicide exists if a person has an incurable disease or is suffering great pain with no hope of recovering (Colasnto, 1991, p. 63).
About half of those with living parents think their mothers and fathers would want medical treatment stopped if they were suffering a great deal of pain in a terminal disease, or if they became totally dependant on a family member. Forty percent of their parents would want medical treatment stopped if daily activities became a burden (Colasnto, 1991, p. 63).
With the continuous coverage of Dr. Kevorkian the views of people will continue to change. Euthanasia will continue to become more of an issue. As with any issue, each viewpoint is supported by many reasons. Those who oppose euthanasia argue that the medical profession must always be on the side of "preserving life" (Schofield, 1988, p. 24). Another reason is euthanasia will lead to the "devaluation of life" (Low, 1989, p. 37). Also they think it will force doctors and family members to "judge the value of a patient's life". Critics also say that acceptance will spread from the terminally ill to the less serious ill, the handicapped, or the mentally retarded. (Russ, 1989, p. 117)
One reason that just about everyone who favors euthanasia agrees with is that a person has the right to a death with dignity. Another reason is a person should be allowed a "natural death" instead of a prolonged death with medical equipment (Battin, 1985, p. 19). Still another reason is that doctors are supposed to ease the pain of people not prolong it (Battin, 1989, p. 19).
Death is one of the few things that all people have in common. This means that there is a chance for anyone to face the decision of letting someone go. Euthanasia should be legalized so people will only have to think about the difficult decision of the present and not about the consequences of the future.
One of the base reasons people for euthanasia give is, a person has the right to die with dignity. People should be allowed to control their own deaths. Why should a patient be forced to live if they think their present standard of life has "degenerated to the point of meaningless", when doctors can no longer help, and perhaps the pain has become unbearable? At this point, if the person is of sound mind, they should have the choice to continue on or to peacefully die, even if they need assistance in doing so (Larue, 1988, p. 153).
If the person is not able to make this decision