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Moral Differences Are Numerous
“The big sleep, kick the bucket, off to a better place”, we as a society try to dissociate ourselves and even disillusion ourselves from the fact that we are all eventually going to die. Death is not something that we must fear but embrace. There is no magic potion which is going to make us live forever. For this reason we must talk openly about our deaths, when this topic is often brought up it is pushed to the wayside for a later day. When should we want to talk about it, when were on our death bed waiting to die? The answer to this difficult question is NOW! We must talk about it now since it leads to our needing to talk about our rights as human beings. We should have the right to decide if we believe euthanasia or assisted suicide is an option that one could take. The idea of euthanasia or assisted suicide is a touchy subject for most people because they have reservations as to who, when, where and under what conditions. We must now decide if euthanasia and assisted suicide is morally sound and if we accept these ideas. Some prominent arguments set forward about euthanasia and assisted suicide is that they are killing and letting the person die. We must then ask ourselves is there a moral difference between killing and letting die and the answer in no. There is no moral difference between euthanasia and assisted suicide. We not only need to talk about the moral aspects affecting these topics but also to consider the complexity of the topic. There are many other considerations to make each of which has a substantial affect that ultimately effect our decision making such as mental aspects, physical aspects and our human rights. The relevance of the morals surrounding euthanasia and assisted suicide debate play important roles in making policies affecting euthanasia and assisted suicide.
Morals are the foundation in which we live our lives from obeying the law to walking down the street to the way in which we interact with one another. When looking at the moral differences between killing and letting die we must realize that this is a very complicated and highly debated subject.
To understand which approach of killing and letting die are morally just we must embrace the old saying stating that there are exceptions to every rule. To fully appreciate why this saying holds true let us look at the example provided by Rachels in which two cases are put forward one in which “Smith stands to gain a large inheritance if anything should happen to his six year-old cousin.” Smith drowns his cousin, and then disguises it as an accident. The article continues on to show that Smith was found to have murdered his “six year-old cousin.” The second case involves the same scenario, except, when Jones goes in to kill his cousin the child has fallen and is face down in the tub. Jones does not save the child, he merely lets him die. In summary Smith did the actual act of killing whereas Jones simply let the child die. Such examples are used to endless means to try to justify that killing and letting die are morally equal, if under highly extreme conditions could they ever have the same weight?
Since everyone has different standards and morals, we have to look at more then ones morals in deciding what is the most morally superior answer, especially given the examples put forward. If one was to pick Jones over Smith or Smith over Jones which decision would be ethically unsound do to the extreme conditions knowing what we know about morals and values.
The Jones and Smith examples are not the only cases in which killing and assisted suicides are justifiable in terms of ethics. For instance, in a circumstance like the one where you’re out hiking and your loved one’s safety line breaks and he/she falls off the face of the mountain that you were escalading. This person now in intense amounts of pain asks you to help them put an end to the pain and suffering and you are put in the position of ending the love ones life to help them escape a long and painful end. There are many things that need to be considered before terminating the life. There are at hand other ways to look at this debate as to say that killing and letting die may have the same end result death, but if the end result is the same then how can there be a difference. It is the actions that dignify the difference.
When looking at the subject of ethics and the impact it has on killing and letting die there are other impacts or differences that need to be addressed such the mental stresses that have implications on effect not only on the patient but the family and the ever popular doctor. Killing and letting die are important issue that should be addressed in cases such as ill patients. In the case of dealing with terminally ill patients the idea of ending ones suffering may play a large part of the mental stability that the patient has. As we pass through our lives we hear of people dieing everyday either it be a loved one, a friend or acquaintance if we hear that the person died in there sleep then we say that they died a good death and even to the point were we include ourselves saying “I hope to have a peaceful death like that one”. The reason no-one says that same line when someone is suffering through a degenerative disease such as cancer or aids is to facilitate the ease of their conscious, because it is understood that it wasn’t an easy death. Letting someone die is seen as a more humane and better way in letting someone come to life’s end. What if letting someone die is worse off than the individual having their life terminated for their own good. If the final end is death the only difference between killing and letting die is that we let nature take its course. If we let everything take nature’s course we would be back in the Stone Age as apposed to the living arrangements we currently enjoy. We as humans have the tendency of disrupting the natural way so in that regard why is it that terminating a fellow humans life who is under there own judgement and that there is no way that they would recover so difficult.
The most powerful example set forward in the mental battle is dignity, the dignity that the person wants to uphold in there mind. To be killed or to slowly let die in a haze of painkillers where the patient is unaware of the surroundings and is simply there in body but not in mind. The notion of letting die as opposed to killing “reflects not just a fear of experiencing substantial suffering when dying, but a desire to retain dignity and control during this last period of life.” (Brock) Death is the here and end all of our existence. It is better to go off with dignity than have no dignity at all.
Morals are what our society is based on; the laws in which we follow are all based on morals from the laws against stealing to the laws against forgery. Laws are not the only ways in which ethics play a part in our lives religions base there fundamentals on morals for example in Christianity there are the Ten Commandments, the Islamic people follow the Koran and Jews follow The Old Testament. Since morals play such a powerful role in our everyday lives it is just to talk about the relevancy of morals in relation to policies on euthanasia and physician assisted suicide. Euthanasia can be simplified into the termination of life by painless means for the purpose of ending severe physical suffering. Euthanasia can be broken down into three categories the first of these is ppassive euthanasia. Passive euthanasia is the action of withdrawing or withholding the means of maintaining or prolonging life; for example, removing a respirator from a patient who cannot breathe without assistance. Another type of euthanasia is called voluntary active euthanasia. Voluntary active euthanasia is mercy killing administered to the patient who has requested it of their own free will and understands the implications of the consequences. The final kind of euthanasia is involuntary active euthanasia. Involuntary active euthanasia is mercy killing administered to the patient without their informed consent; for example, babies and incapable adults. In the debate over the righteousness of euthanasia assisted suicide must be addressed. Assisted suicide is someone, usually a doctor, and a member of the family or close friend, will provide the patient with the knowledge and means to take his or her own life. The life-ending procedure is then carried out under that persons guidance. Also there is something called physician assisted suicide which is when a doctor acts directly to cause the death of a terminally ill patient, most commonly by lethal injection or asphyxiation. In euthanasia morals are used to ease the pain of the patient as with assisted suicide. The relevance of the moral status used for euthanasia and assisted suicide is deep rooted into our societies from coast to coast euthanasia and assisted suicide are looked at differently due to the cultural differences for example in the United States it is unlawful to commit euthanasia but “allowing to die is the only legally protected alternative to maximal treatment.” (Battin) Conversely in the Netherlands laws against are less constrictive it is not to say that the morals of one country are better than the other one it is simply that the relationship between doctor and patient are different. In the United States as well as Canada the patient doctor relationship is not as extent as in the Netherlands. Morals are not different murdering someone out of hate is still an immoral thing as opposed to ending a dying persons life out of compassion and duty to uphold ones dignity and last wishes.
The issues surrounding the question of whether killing and letting die are two different entities or are merely one has been fought over for countless discussions and will be until a decision is made at the bureaucratic level. We as society push forward into the next millennium and expand our minds, the notion of selective killing and letting die issues will arise as one due to the acute possibilities that surround this issue. An informed decision cannot truly be made with only knowing one of the issues of a problem that contains many more complex angles. That is why one cannot make a decision clearly with only considering the moral implications of the killing and letting die scenario. The mental aspects of the patient need to be addressed; the patient’s loved ones and respectively the physician on hand treating the patient. The patient has the right to uphold their own dignity in times were dignity is all that one may posses and want to hold on to. The moral dilemmas that engulf the euthanasia and assisted suicide are plundered with barb wired fences and to go through them would be disastrous. Yet for progress to be made, we must forge through the barb wired fence and claim freedom to the oppressed individuals who deserve the right to choose.
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