To Death & The Value of Life:

To what extent should euthanasia or physician-assisted suicide be considered ethical right within the United States?On November 1, 2014, in Portland Oregon, a young woman named  Britney Maynard a 29-year-old woman with terminal brain cancer decided that she would end her own life during her last moments of life she surrounded by her loved ones. Britney Maynard ended her life ended by swallowing a lethal dose of legally prescribed pills. In April 2003, after finding out that their fetus had a severe spina bifida and would be born paralyzed with other disabilities both Gretchen Voss and her husband decided to terminate their pregnancy in its second trimester. (“Assisted Death & The Value of Life: Crash Course Philosophy #45”).All of these actions would be considered Physician-Assisted Suicide. Euthanasia or assisted suicide is a very delicate and questionable topic in today’s society. Webster’s Dictionary defines Euthanasia as “the act or practice of killing or permitting the death of hopelessly sick or injured individuals (such as persons or domestic animals) in a reasonably painless way for reasons of compassion”. Euthanasia or assisted suicide is undertaken by a physician that will end the life of a person at his or her request. The physician oversees the lethal substance or the person may self-administer a lethal substance prescribed by a physician.However, there are many religious, moral, and ethical debates against this method which is currently illegal. The concerns that are surrounded by euthanasia are not just about death they are about one’s privilege, their claim to privacy, and control over one’s own body. Regardless the controversy surrounding euthanasia/ assisted suicide, it has been authorized in a small number of countries and states. Under each jurisdiction, laws were put in place to prevent exploitation and abuse of these practices.Prevention measures have included, that there must be clear consent by the person requesting euthanasia, it is mandatory to report all cases, the act must be performed only by physicians and with the consultation by a second physician.Ironically, it was the actions of two American euthanasia doctors Dr. Jack Kevorkian a pathologist and Derek Humphry the founder of the Hemlock Society the USA and past president of the World Federation of Right to Die Society that led to the opening of the intense debates in America regarding Physician-assisted death. These disputes began in 1990 and continue to this day. They involve ethical, moral, lawful arguments, and severe policy battles waged in states all over the US.From 1990 throughout 1997, Kevorkian drove to his clients in a Volkswagen bus.He gained his clients through those who had responded to ads placed in Michigan newspapers by Kevorkian himself where he would use the “Thanatron” known as the death machine which he himself invented.The “Thanatron” ended the lives of 130 ill persons many of which were not terminal while some clinically depressed. Dr. Jack Kevorkian was sentenced four times in Michigan courts for assisting in suicide in previous court hearings he avoided conviction the first three times. However, he was convicted in 1997 of euthanizing a client whose illness Lou Gehrig’s disease(ALS) prevented him from taking his life not only did he take the patients life he also videotaped the event and it was telecast on a 60 Minutes segment which would later be used to convict him in the Michigan court.Derek Humphry’s wife Ann Humphry died of breast cancer in severe pain at the end. Humphry believed that such suffering was cruel and unnecessary and soon began to advocate euthanasia to end the lives of dying patients. Towards the end, he founded the Hemlock Society which would provide a person with information to take a “final exit” from the pain of incurable illnesses such as cancer, ALS, Alzheimer’s diseases and much more.Nevertheless, physician-assisted suicide is legal in five US states. It is a choice given to individuals by state law in Oregon, Vermont, Washington, and California. It is an option given to individuals in Montana via court decision. Individuals must have a terminal illness as well as a prognosis of six months or less to live. Physicians cannot be prosecuted for prescribing medications to advance death.


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