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The Ethics Of Euthanasia Essay

1417 words - 6 pages

Bioethics is the study of moral issues in the fields of medical treatment and research. The idea of bioethics is based upon several different codes of ethics, some of these being the ancient Greek Hippocratic oath, which stated above all to "do no harm," and the professional code of ethics written in the 18th century by Thomas Percival, a British doctor. The code written by Percival was the basis for the first official code of ethics that was written in 1846 by the founders of the American Medical Association. Another code was developed after World War II. This code was called the Nuremberg code, and it was established in response to the abuses in human experimentation by Nazi Germany. In the 1950s, new medical technologies developed that could keep someone alive longer, even if their heart did not work or if their brain did not function. This complicated the ethical issues of medical practice and research. Some of the major issues concerned with bioethics are: abortion, stem cell research, fertility drugs, defining death, and genetic engineering. The defining of death and the different topics that it involves, such as euthanasia, will be discussed in detail in the following essay.Before the development of advanced life support technologies, death was defined as the moment when one's heart stopped. Today, however, hospitals can keep a patient's heart beating artificially. This makes defining death very difficult. In 1930, if someone's heart stopped while they were in a coma, they would die. In the modern day, that person's life could be sustained for a long time, without the patient ever being conscious (see picture). Since these technologies can sustain life longer than previously thought possible, medical professionals are struggling to define death in a new way, one that takes into account the ability to sustain life artificially. The old, clear definition of death, which was when the patient was not breathing and had no pulse, has become more blurred now. Ethicists struggled to redefine death so that extremely ill patients would have the right to live, sustained by technology, and so that the technically dead would not continue to suffer on life support. The definition of death that the United States has adopted is brain death, which is loss of all brain functions. Most other nations define death as the irreversible loss of all brain functions or the loss of independent lung and heart functions.If someone needs to be on life support to live at all, many physicians think that this patient should be taken off of the life support so they can die. This is known as euthanasia, or mercifully ending someone's life. The term euthanasia comes from the Greek word that means, "good death." There are two kinds of euthanasia. The first type, which is much more controversial than the second, is active euthanasia, which is painlessly killing a patient. This can be done with an overdose of medication. The needle in the picture to the right is an example of...

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