Whose responsibility is it to decide when, where, and under what conditions a person is to die? This question inevitably brings up discussion of spirituality, beliefs, and legislation. Euthanasia is an idea that has been around for decades yet as we progress in technology and medical competency the discussion screams to be addressed formally by passing legislature. Euthanasia must be taken out of the hands of lawmakers and put into the hands of the thousands fatally ill patients trapped in their own bodies and/or minds. It is our responsibility as a society of profound thinking individuals to discuss this difficult and troubling issue that has plagued the lives of families all over the entire world. We must debate on an issue that requires discussion of varying religious beliefs and facing uncomfortable truths.
When debating a topic so sensitive and misunderstood as euthanasia it is important to understand not only the terminology included in the discussion but both sides of the debate. First we must start with the definitions of Euthanasia and the other forms of assisted suicide. I call on Professor John Keown of Cambridge University to define euthanasia as such, “the active, intentional termination of a patient’s life by a doctor who thinks that death is a benefit to that patient.” That being said there are several forms of Euthanasia and assisted suicide and once again we look to Keown to settle any discrepancies. He states,
The most important aspect to the euthanasia debate like all debates is making sure the parties involved fully understand the facts and the opposing view points on this issue. First and foremost we must define Euthanasia and all of the possible forms it can take. Voluntary active euthanasia (VAE), generally understood to mean steps taken by another to terminate a patient’s life at the patient’s request; non-voluntary active euthanasia (NVAE), actions “performed on those who do not have the mental ability to request euthanasia (such as babies or adults with advanced dementia) or those who, though competent, are not given the opportunity to consent to it”; and involuntary active euthanasia (IVAE), meaning efforts undertaken against the expressed wishes of a competent patient.
As of right now there are two countries that have legalized euthanasia, The Netherlands and Belgium, along with Australia’s Northern Territory. In the United States there is only one state that has legalized PAS, which is Oregon. PAS is defined as “the prescription or supplying of drugs with the explicit intention of enabling the patient to end his or her life by an overdose” (Willems et al. 2000). The debate has multiple angles of support and opposition. The leading support groups for euthanasia center around the fact that it is their lives to control. As Dorothy Rasinski Gregory states,
Ask the average physician, attorney, or layperson what kind of death
he or she would prefer and a variety of responses might be heard: “in my
sleep; . . ....