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Euthanasia: We All Have the Right to Die

Physician-Assisted Suicide, or Euthanasia, is a serious issue, and it affects people throughout all walks of life. From teenagers with angst, to older adults feeling hopeless in their life, to the elderly suffering from terminal illnesses, suicide pervades throughout their thought processes as an alternative to their emotionally and physically pervasive situations. Euthanasia, or physician-assisted suicide, has a history dating back to the seventeenth century. Only recently has it become as controversial an issue as it has. Why is euthanasia such a touchy, beat around the bush kind of term? Like abortion, euthanasia’s arguments center on right vs. wrong in the social spectrum. In “Euthanasia Reconsidered — The Choice of Death as an Aspect of the Right of Privacy,” Richard Delgado states that the similarities between euthanasia and abortion “extend beyond constitutional doctrine to the social ramifications of present mercy-killing law. Like the prohibition of abortion, current law barring euthanasia subordinates tangible social needs to… moral convictions” (479). Issues such as the rising rate of population, pollution and poverty are all related to euthanasia as an acceptable legislation. Shouldn’t these larger world issues be more alarming than the loss of a life? Arthur Imhof, a leading German representative of historical demography, argues that, “Along with the increase of our earthly life expectancy there has been a totally different, countervailing development… because of the loss of faith in the Beyond [our lives have] become infinitely shorter” (Spiro et al. 115). From the religious side of the argument, he says that the doubling of our earthly years means little in comparison to the loss of faith in an eternity. Our g… … middle of paper … …31.2 (1994): 119-23. Google Scholar. Web. 2 Nov. 2011. Sclar, David. “U.S. Supreme Court Ruling in Gonzales v. Oregon Upholds the Oregon Death with Dignity Act.” The Journal of Law, Medicine

Assisted Suicide as a Cure for Disabilities

Supporters of physician-assisted suicide often claim to favor it only for cases of terminal illness. Yet some disability rights advocates, including the group “Not Dead Yet,” have warned that this agenda threatens the lives of people with mental or physical disabilities. This debate has intensified in recent months, in part due to a December 1997 statement by Faye Girsh, executive director of Hemlock Society USA. In the context of a murder trial in Louisiana involving a man who had killed his father with Alzheimer’s disease, Girsh issued a statement on euthanasia and assisted suicide for people with disabilities generally:

“Some provision should be made for a situation in which life is not being sustained by artificial means but, in the belief of the patient or his agent, is too burdensome to continue… A judicial determination should be made when it is necessary to hasten the death of an individual whether it be a demented parent, a suffering, severely disabled spouse or a child” [PR Newswire, 12/3/97].

Not Dead Yet vigorously objected to the statement and launched a protest at Hemlock’s Denver headquarters, prompting a “clarification” in the latest issue of Hemlock’s newsletter TimeLines. Hemlock says that the statement was “Girsh’s own opinion” as an individual, and that “press reports” had omitted references making it clear that she was only citing a model proposed by a Canadian expert as one approach among others. In fact the original Hemlock press release, issued through PR Newswire and listing Hemlock’s national public relations director as the contact for media inquiries, does not substantiate either point.

Clearly Hemlock sees this as a sensitive point, and has posted “An Answer to the Disabled” on its Web site. This “Answer” may itself raise new questions. It says that Hemlock “takes issue” with groups like Not Dead Yet regarding “the right of dying patients to seek help from their doctor in hastening their death.” But it proceeds to blur this line — “Indeed, having a chronic, terminal illness generally renders a person disabled” — and declares that “it is up to each individual to determine for themselves when their quality of life is unendurable.” The bottom line: “Disabled persons have every right to protect their interests — but not at the expense of the rest of us” [].

Jack Kevorkian’s recent assistance in the suicides of two men who were not terminally ill but rendered quadriplegic by accidents — Roosevelt Dawson, 21, in February and Matt Johnson, 26, in May — has sharpened the debate further.

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