"Right to Die" Euthanasia Reflection Paper " One of the most important public policy debates today surrounds the issues of euthanasia and assisted suicide. The outcome of that debate will profoundly affect family relationships, interaction between doctors and patients, and concepts of basic ethical behavior. With so much at stake, more is needed than a duel of one-liners, slogans and sound bites". Q.) What is Euthanasia? A.) Throughout North America, committing suicide or attempting to commit suicide is no longer a criminal offense. However, helping another person commit suicide is a criminal act. One exception is the state of Oregon which allows people who are terminally ill and in intractable pain to get a lethal prescription from their physician. This is called 'Physician Assisted Suicide' or PAS.

The word Euthanasia originated from the Greek language: eu means 'good' and thanatos means 'death'. One meaning given to the word is 'the intentional termination of life by another at the explicit request of the person who dies. ' 2 That is, the term euthanasia normally implies that the act must be initiated by the person who wishes to commit suicide. However, some people define euthanasia to include both voluntary and involuntary termination of life. Like so many moral / ethical /religious terms, 'euthanasia' has many meanings. The result is mass confusion. Q.) Why is this an issue? A.) People have many different reasons for wanting to end their life by committing suicide: Some are severely depressed over a long interval.

To them, suicide may be a 'permanent solution to a temporary problem. ' There is a consensus that a better solution for most clinically depressed people is treatment, using counseling and / or medication. Such treatment can give to the person decades of enjoyable life which would have been lost if they committed suicide. They live in excessive, chronic pain. Some, due to poverty or lack of health-care coverage cannot afford pain killing medication.

Others are denied adequate pain killers because of their physician's lack of knowledge, inadequate training, or specific beliefs. Most physicians feel that suicide in such cases is not a preferred solution either; a better approach is proper management of pain through medication. There appears to be a lack of collective will to make this happen. Many, perhaps most, people die in excessive, though treatable, pain.

They have a terminal illness and do not want to diminish their assets by incurring large medical costs as their death approaches. As an act of generosity, they would rather die sooner, and pass on their assets to their beneficiaries. They have been diagnosed with a degenerative, progressive illness like ALS, Huntington's Disease, Multiple Sclerosis, AIDS, Alzheimer's etc. They fear a gradual loss of the quality of life in the future as the disease or disorder progresses.

A serious disorder or disease has adversely effected their quality of life to the point where they no longer wish to continue living. Some people who decide that they wish to commit suicide are unable to accomplish the act. They need assistance from their physician. Physician assisted suicide helps them die under conditions and at the time that they wish. PAS is currently legal, under severe restrictions, only in the American state of Oregon and in the Netherlands.

In other jurisdictions, they are forced to continue living against their wish, until their body eventually collapses, or until a family member or friend commits a criminal act by helping them commit suicide. Q.) What are some of the recent cases? A.) An analysis of the first full year of the availability of assisted suicide in Oregon showed that relatively few people requested help in dying. Some were probably deterred by the resistance of their physician. Only 23 actually obtained medication to induce their death. At least six of the 23 never used the pills, but died a natural death. Probably, one of the most well known activists in the "right to die" debate is that of "Dr" Jack Kevorkian. I say "Dr" in quotations because his medical license was revoked in 1990.

Kevorkian operates on a simple philosophy: People have a right to avoid a lingering, miserable death by ending their own lives with help from a physician who can ensure that they die peacefully. For almost 10 years, he managed to avoid legal penalties for putting that philosophy into action. But in late 1998, he crossed from passive to active euthanasia when he gave a man a lethal injection, rather than simply providing the man the means to kill himself, and videotaped the act for broadcast on national TV, daring prosecutors to charge him with murder. They took him up on that dare, and in early 1999, Kevorkian was found guilty and sentenced to 10 to 25 years in prison. Supporters of doctor-assisted suicide say he forces society to confront a critical issue. The American Medical Association and other critics charge that he is hopelessly unqualified to assess his patients' medical and psychological needs. Q.) What are the decisions at the Federal and State levels? A.) Q.) Have there been any new policies, and if so, how effective have they been? A.) There haven't been any notable policies created recently. Q.) What is my opinion? A.) Its hard for me to take a stand on this issue.

I don't think when someone is suffering or under great pain that they are able to clearly make the literal life or death choice. All I know is I would cling on to life with all my strength to see my family one more time. However one thing I do believe in is free agency... everyone has the right to make there own choices... however they in turn must be held accountable fo.