Euthanasia and physician-assisted suicide are actions that hit at the core of what it means to be human - the moral and ethical actions that make us who we are, or who we ought to be. Euthanasia, a subject that is so well known in the twenty-first century, is subject to many discussions about ethical permissibility which date back to as far as ancient Greece and Rome , where euthanasia was practiced rather frequently. It was not until the Hippocratic School removed it from medical practice. Euthanasia in itself raises many ethical dilemmas – such as, is it ethical for a doctor to assist a terminally ill patient in ending his life? Under what circumstances, if any, is euthanasia considered ethically appropriate? More so, euthanasia raises the argument of the different ideas that people have about the value of the human experience, in extension, the ethical question of should doctors (or society) have the right to decide on life and death situations.
Ezekial Emanuel asserts that the 19th and 20th century, in the United States, is reminiscent of those today, both in terms of content and ferocity. Emanuel adds that interest in euthanasia arises historically and predictably from (1) economic recession or in movements of Social Darwinism; (2) doctors are engaged in a struggle with society over their medical-authority and profession; and (3) terminating life-sustaining practices become part of standard medical practice, and there is a desire then to extend this to active euthanasia.
Arguably, all three situations met by the end of the 20th century. The rise of managed care, the increase of health care costs, and the growing number of uninsured patients places economic and political pressure on individuals (and governments) to find a cost-containment resolution. Additionally, since the late 1970s, the medical profession has faced dominating principle of patient independence as a challenge – first to medical paternalism and then extending even to the principle of beneficence. More so, the usage of the Internet and other global media has expanded the ability of patients to have access to an enormous amount of information about diseased previously thought “too technical” requiring government policy that sought to limit the control and influence of physicians.
In 1994, Oregon voters passed the Oregon Death with Dignity Act, which exempted, “from civil or criminal liability physicians who, in compliance with specific safeguards, dispense or prescribe (but not administer) a lethal dose of drugs upon the request of the terminally ill patient.” Oregon, to this day, remains the only state within the Union to allow physician-assisted suicide. In 1997, the United States Supreme Court ruled in a landmark case that, although there was no constitutionally protected right to physician-assisted suicide, states have permitted to pass laws allowing it. Thus, the issue of euthanasia remains widely open to philosophical, political, legal, and ethical...