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Rebutting Arguments To Legalize Euthanasia Or Assisted Suicide

1763 words - 7 pages

Rebutting Arguments to Legalize Euthanasia or Assisted Suicide

   This essay focuses on several of the most common arguments in favor of the legalization of euthanasia or assisted suicide - and rebuts them. The language is simple, or, as they say, in layman's terms so as to be easily understandable. The sources are from professional journals, internet websites, and news outlets.


The first common argument favoring euthanasia or assisted suicide is this: "Since euthanasia and assisted suicide take place anyway, isn't it better to legalize them so they'll be practiced under careful guidelines and so that doctors will have to report these activities?" That sounds good but it doesn't work. Physicians who do not follow the "guidelines" will not report and, even when a physician does report information, there is no way to know if it is accurate or complete. For example, the Oregon law requires the Oregon Health Division (OHD) to collect information and publish an annual statistical report about assisted suicide deaths.(Oregon) However, the law contains no penalties for health care providers who fail to report information to the OHD. Moreover, the OHD has no regulatory authority or resources to ensure submission of information to its office.(Prager) Thus, all information contained in the OHD's official reports is that which has been provided by the physicians who prescribed the lethal drugs and only that which the physicians choose to provide.


The OHD even admitted that reporting physicians may have fabricated their versions of the circumstances surrounding the prescriptions written for patients. "For that matter, the entire account could have been a cock-and-bull story. We assume, however, that physicians were their usual careful and accurate selves"(Oregon 2) when providing information. Furthermore, even if every physician reported each case and did so accurately, there would be no way to determine whether the deaths were accompanied with problems and complications since the Oregon law does not require that a physician be present when the patient dies. According to the third annual report issued by OHD, physicians were present at only 52% of reported deaths.(Oregon Feb.21)


In the Netherlands, prior to enactment of the 2001 law, physicians were assured that they would not be prosecuted for euthanasia or assisted suicide as long as they followed guidelines and filed a report after the patient's death. However, official surveys of Dutch doctors, in which physicians were granted both immunity and anonymity, revealed that only 41% of euthanasia and assisted suicide deaths were reported.(Van) Cases which failed to meet practice guidelines were most likely to go unreported.(Id. 1710)


Another popular argument in favor of legalizing euthanasia or assisted suicide is this: "Isn't euthanasia or assisted suicide sometimes the only way to relieve excruciating pain?" Quite the contrary. Euthanasia activists exploit...

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