In America, we perform abortions, execute murderers and draft men so they may die for their own country. But if we mention the subject of euthanasia, people start to have their own opinion as to whether it is legal or illegal? Should the patient have the right to decide on his/her illness? There is a document that an individual can fill out in which decisions can be made in advance regarding his/her health care.

There are many people that would debate both sides of this issue. Dr. Christian Barnard was the first person to perform a heart transplant. He stated, "I believe that legalizing euthanasia with controls, would do more to improve the overall quality of American medical care than any other single act." However, there are many doctors who would disagree with Dr. Barnard. Doctors and nurses are totally responsible for saving lives. If a life is lost to them, is is almost a personal failure to their knowledge and skills of being a doctor.

It has become quit difficult for an ill person to control his or her own medical treatment. If a patient is unable to communicate what his/her medical preferences and treatments are and there is no family to intervene, then it is up to the doctor to decide how to medically treat the patient, even if the patient is terminally ill. The medical profession now has a two-edged sword: the extension of human life by artificial means and the painless termination of life by drugs.

There are two types of euthanasia. Active euthanasia means taking deliberate steps to end the life of someone already close to death or intense physical or psychic pain. An example of active euthanasia is a case about the Zygmaniak brothers. George Zygmaniak, 26 was paralyzed from the neck down in a motorcycle accident. Three days after the accident occurred, he begged his younger brother to shoot him and end his life. Lester, George's brother, complied and later was tried for murder.

Additionally, there was a case about a woman named Charlotte Hough. Charlotte had promised an older woman friend that she would stay with her until she was dead. When the older woman took medication in an attempt to end her life because of the pain she was suffering from a terminal illness, she was unsuccessful. Charlotte then place a plastic bag around the woman's head as she was instructed by her elderly friend. Charlotte was found guilty of attempted murder.

These cases about active euthanasia are nightmares to some people, particularly to the families of the above.

The second type of euthanasia is passive euthanasia. It invloves a decision not to begin or continue treatment that would prolong the life of a terminally ill person or interfere with the natural dying process. A way of ensuring that an individual will have his rights carried out is a living will. This type of will is an advance (normally written) directive about the treatment to be received or not to be received later in life.

For example, if a person suffers a stroke and can only be kept alive by machines, aliving will can direct the doctor not to use "extraordinary measures" to keep the patient alive. By necessity, American hospitals often allow passive euthanasia when the expense of keeping a patient alive becomes prohibitive and the patient's suffering seems to great.

This type of advance preparation is a form of euthanasia and one that doctors as well as lawyers have agreed to. In fact, "by 1988, 38 states allowed people to sign living wills." In most states the patient must be terminally ill, although in a growing number of states, the procedure may also be followed for patients who are irreversibly comatose.

The living will, by itself, might not solve all the problems that can arise or be anticipated with an advanced directive. For example, the President's Commision for the Study of Ethical Problems in Medicine and Biomedical and Behavioral Research, in a 1983 report, discusses the limitations of current natural death statutes and makes recommendations for legislation and public policy.

A major problem that the commission acknowledges is that natural death statutes may result in the opposite of their intention. The commission, after doing a survey in California, reported that 6.5% of the doctors who took the survey