Differing Scholarly Views on the Euthanasia Situation People in Canada are diagnosed with terminal illness’ every day. They know when they are going to die and often suffer until then. Why can’t patients diagnosed with a terminal illness be given the option to be euthanized? It would allow such patients to die painlessly and peacefully instead of having to suffer. While currently illegal in all but five areas of the world, assisted suicide and euthanasia are quickly becoming a more prevalent topic globally with more and more countries looking at making the move to legalize the acts.
It has been legalized nationally in countries such as the Netherlands, Luxembourg and Belgium while also being legalized in the states of Oregon and Washington in the United States of America. The article from the New England Journal of Medicine, Redefining Physicians` Role in Assisted Dying by Lisa Lehmann, uses the state of Oregon as a basis for much of her research and probing into both sides of the argument behind euthanasia.
Margaret Somerville, a world renown ethicist and academic known for some of her controversial views, also gives her own insight into the topic in the article Legalized Euthanasia Only a Breath Away, published by the Globe and Mail. Somerville bases much of her argument around personal opinions and strong beliefs. I will examine the merits and proposals brought forth by each author and compare them to each other. The contrast between these two papers is quite evident in ways of structure and delivery of information.
In Somerville`s article, she establishes early on that, morally speaking, assisted death is a blatant disregard for the sanctity and respect for human life. She even goes as far as to call it “unconstitutional”. When describing the people who stand on either side of this argument of legalizing euthanasia, she says, “…it comes down to a direct conflict between the value of respect for human life, on the one hand, and individual rights to autonomy and self-determination – the value of `choice`- on the other. She establishes the two positions one has to choose from in the argument over this topic and leaves little room for change on either side. This entire argument being based solely on her opinion and giving no facts to back either of the positions makes it very biased in favour of keeping euthanasia illegal. In Somerville’s article, she shows the availability of the process in Oregon and how it is very helpful to those who seek it out. Somerville believes that no one should have control over whether another human lives or dies.
That is why she believes euthanasia should be an available option to terminal patients. One of the driving points that Somerville delivers is that, “research shows that the most likely reasons people want assisted suicide/euthanasia are fear of being abandoned – dying alone and unloved. ” Without any source cited for the research, it brings the validity of the argument into question. It seems more of a popular opinion twisted into a fact for the purpose of supporting an argument, especially after comparing Lehmann’s article is read.
She quotes from the thirteenth annual report from Oregon`s Death with Dignity Act that, “Most (patients) say that they are motivated by a loss of autonomy and an inability to engage in activities that give their meaning” as the primary reason for considering euthanasia in Oregon. It also cites lack of ability to control pain being one of the least common reasons for euthanizing as well, due in regards to the leaps and bounds modern medicine has made in palliative care in contrast to the 60’s. Having an element of control over the time one dies and how it happens is something that is understandable for many terminal patients to desire.
Knowing when they are supposed to die makes it very hard for terminal patients to fully enjoy any life experiences because they constantly remind themselves of how little time they have until their death. This statement brings doubt to the “research” that Somerville uses to fortify her stance against assisted death, especially with a lack of a credible source into said research. Within Lehman’s article, she states some main objections to euthanasia commonly used by critics. One is that having an option to end one’s life will reduce the quality of palliative care.
But that is not the case in Oregon. Lehman’s research has shown that overall spending and patient ratings on palliative care have consistently risen in the thirteen year period that euthanasia has been legal. Another popular objection is that practitioners of euthanasia are working on a “slippery slope” and that the process for selecting euthanasia candidates will someday be expanded to accept patients with nonterminal illnesses or even non-voluntary euthanasia. But within Oregon, Lehman describes how a patient must go a long process before actually being euthanized.
A panel of medical professionals considers many different factors of the patient such as diagnosis, pain tolerance, depression, state of mind, and many others. This process takes at least 2-4 weeks. After taking all the factors into consideration, the patient will be given the panel’s decision on whether they are a candidate for euthanasia. Strict tangencies such as the review panel that are in place within Oregon will prevent any change to euthanasia laws. The guidelines are very “black and white” so there are no misinterpretations and the laws are set in stone.
Lehman’s opinions are well thought out and well supported by the research into the process in Oregon, one of the few places on Earth with a legal euthanasia practice. Research into the selection process directly contradicts many popular objection made by critics against legalization of euthanasia. Opinions are very powerful tools that can greatly influence the outcome and views of others in open and controversial topics. Opinions should be based around factual information and solid research, not personal beliefs and motives. This is the clear case between Somerville’s and Lehmann’s articles.
Both being very qualified and knowledgeable in different areas of study, Lehman simply uses her research and time resources fully and reaps the rewards of having a very strong opinion based around factual information based on the foundations of research. Lehman’s opinion will carry much more weight that Somerville’s which is based off unproven claims and research with no citations. When it comes to controversial topics such as euthanasia, it is important to collect as much information as possible before making an informed decision on whether to have it as an option to terminal patients or not.
The decision made will impact people’s lives one way or another. It’s just a matter of which decision will have a greater benefit for the human population. Author. “Title of Article. ” Name of Magazine. Name of Publisher, Day Mon. Year: Pages. Medium. Date you accessed it. Somerville, M. “Legalized Euthanasia Only A Breath Away. ” Globe and Mail, 16 June. 2012. Retrieved October 14, 2012 Lehmann, L. “Redefining Physician’s Role in Assisted Dying. ” New England Journal of Medicine, 12 July. 2012: 97-99. 367. Retrieved October 14, 2012 Word Count: 1195
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