Sunday, September 30, 2012

Euthanasia (mercy killing): Under which circumstances?

Euthanasia comes from two Ancient Greek words:  "eu" which means "good" and "thanatos" which means "death."  So, literally, euthanasia means "a good death."  More accurately, euthanasia refers to the process of assisting someone to die who has an incurable illness and who is suffering unbearably.

In the US there are 2 states that allow euthanasia, but only under carefully verified circumstances.  In Switzerland, however, euthanasia is legal throughout the country and one particular organization (Dignitas) has become famous for offering opportunities for easily obtained assisted "suicide" or "euthanasia."

One link below presents a television documentary and a good overview of the issue of euthanasia.  The next link is from a strange article in which Dignitas threatens to sue the Swiss police for trying to help a woman regain her life functions after Dignitas seemed to fail to properly help her die quickly enough.

Documentary (Suicide Tourist)

Questions for discussion:

1)  A "living will" is a document that a person can sign (before he/she has a medical emergency), which forces the doctors at a hospital to allow a person to die if that person has lost certain brain functions and if there is no chance for that person to recover.  Would you sign a "living will," or would you trust your family to make the right decision for you?

2)  Some religious groups oppose euthanasia and state that only God has the right to take a person's life.  Would you agree or disagree with this? Why or why not?

3)  Some argue against euthanasia because they are afraid that hospital costs are so high that some patients will want to die rather than burden their families with huge medical bills.  Let's say that a person is definitely dying and wants to be assisited to immediately die primarily to spare his/her family huge medical expenses.  Should that person be allowed to die immediately?  Why or why not?

4)  Hospitals have the technology to keep a person "alive" even if the person has lost most or all of his/her brain functions.  Should there be a law forcing doctors to stop providing expensive and useless medical "services" to people who are "brain-dead"?  What if a family wants the person to remain alive even though there is no hope the person will recover?

5)  Dignitas is an organization that helps people die.  Based on what you have read about it above, what is your general impression of this organization?  Why do you think it was created?  Do we need an organization like Dignitas or should we keep euthanasia within hospitals and homes?

6)  Under which circumstances do you think euthanasia should be allowed?  (Come up with three circumstances and explain them.)

7)  In the second article, Dignitas threatens a law suit against the Swiss police because the police attempted to revive a woman who had not died quickly enough.  How do you feel about the police action in this matter? How do you feel about Dignitas in this matter?

8)  Dignitas claims it will not help a person to die unless the person is truly terminally ill (dying with no hope of recovery) or experiencing unbearable pain which cannot be cured or treated.  What if a person has just decided that he/she no longer wishes to live.  Do you think that person has a "right" to die?  In many countries suicide is a crime; should this be the case?

9)  In Japan, many people who commit suicide do so by jumping in front of subway trains.  In order to try to stop this trend, the Japanese government now charges clean-up costs to the families of the person who committed suicide.  Is this right?

Affirmative Action: Right or Wrong?

"Affirmative action" is a hot topic in American education.  Typically, "White" and "Asian" students outperform "Black" and "Latino" students academically in American high schools, so some universities in America will give "minority" students extra consideration.  Sometimes this means Black and Latino students are given extra points toward their admission to universities. Therefore, White and Asian students who scored higher scores and have a higher GPA will be displaced by "poorer" students who are Black and Latino for the sake of diversity on campus.

Many students oppose this "affirmative" or "positive" action meant to ensure racial diversity on campuses.  They feel that the system should be as "objective" as possible and that a student should not receive extra consideration due to his/her race. On the other hand, many people in America realize that Black and Latino students often come from areas of violence and poverty and that they need a little extra help to get into good universities.

For this conversation topic, please have your student read these two articles about Stuyvesant High School in New York City.  This is a great public high school that admits students purely based on a test score on one very difficult admissions test.  This method of admissions, however, has led to a skewed demographic at Stuy.  About 70% of students are Asian, about 25% are White and the last 5% are Black and Latino.  So this is a high school that rejects affirmative action and just takes the "best" test scorers.

A civil rights group has filed a formal complaint against New York City claiming that the admissions test used for Stuyvesant (and other "specialized" schools like it) is racist and that the test must be eliminated.

Possible questions for discussion:

1)  Do you think students should be admitted to any school based on just one test?

2)  Given the lack of racial diversity on Stuyvesant's high school campus, what do you think student life is like there?  Would you want to go to this type of school?

3)  Which is more important: ensuring diversity on campus or ensuring that the "best" students are admitted to schools?

4)  If you were told that you were on the borderline and a Black or Latino student was going to be admitted to a university instead of you, even though his scores were lower than yours, how would you feel?  Would you accept this fact due to your belief in the necessity for racial diversity?

5)  What do you think of the NAACP Legal Fund's argument against the specialized school exam?

6)  What do you think of Mayor Bloomberg's attitude that "life is not fair."

7)  What would you do to help ensure that students of all colors can get into good schools?

8)  How important is diversity to you?  Do you try to make friends from different racial groups?  If not, why not?  How easy/difficult is this to do?

Please be aware that these two articles have amazing new idioms and vocabulary.  Please have your student read through the articles first for new vocab, have the student make a vocab list and then for homework have the student write sentences with these new idioms and words.

Homework could also be an essay:  Do you agree with affirmative action, why or why not?


Yes, I'm the guy who caused the "scandal" in Asia two years ago :P

Yes, I'm also the guy who wrote the very funny ESL book: New York City Sucks, But You'll Wanna Live Here Anyway