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?

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