Should Assistance Be Allowed?

ENG 1301

3 December 2002

The origin of the word euthanasia is from the Greek eu meaning “good” and thanos meaning “death”. Euthanasia has been traced as far back as ancient Greek and Roman civilizations. These ancient societies approved of voluntary euthanasia. Religion increased as time passed and life was viewed to be sacred. This caused euthanasia to be seen as wrong in all forms. Euthanasia is the action of inducing the painless death of a person for reasons assumed to be merciful. This usually means killing in the name of passion. Euthanasia and assisted suicide are subject to debate over whether it should be legal and whether it is ethical and moral to allow it to be done.

There are many forms of euthanasia. They are passive euthanasia, active euthanasia, and involuntary euthanasia. The patients are not required to have to extend their lives for as long as possible (Battin 336). Allowing a person to die a natural death by withdrawing some form of support is passive euthanasia. Some examples are removing life support, stopping medical procedures and medications, not delivering cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) and depriving a patient of food and water. It is widely accepted for a mentally competent patient to refuse treatment. Technically, passive euthanasia is legal because the patient is dying of a natural disease (Cundiff 2-3). Causing the death of a patient through direct action is active euthanasia. The most common active euthanasia performed is an overdose of medication (Cundiff 3). Active euthanasia is considered murder, therefore is against the law (1). Involuntary euthanasia is


usually considered mercy killing, which is when someone kills a suffering individual who is unable to request or perform the act themselves (Thomasma 20). Some patients request something else besides euthanasia. They sometimes request assisted suicide. Assisted suicide involves a non-suicidal person knowingly and intentionally providing a suicidal person the means or acts in some way to help that person kill him or herself. The most common occurring assisted suicide is physician-assisted suicide (Battin 28). Physician-assisted suicide is when a patient can easily terminate their own life through information and/or the means of committing suicide supplied by a physician. It is illegal for a patient to be assisted when asking for help in committing suicide.

Most people agree that a patient may choose to avoid suffering and pain, but they do not agree on the means used to do so (Battin 63). There are three main positions that people take on the issue of physician-assisted suicide. The first position is that physician-assisted suicide should be legally available to all competent adults. Another position people take is that physician-assisted suicide should be legally available only to the terminally ill, or possible just to the terminally ill and to the severely and permanently disabled. The last position that people take is that physician-assisted suicide should be legally available to no one (149).

People feel that when a terminally ill person attempts to commit suicide or asks for assistance in committing suicide, they are suffering from depression, which is treatable. People feel that once the depression is treated, there is no reason for suicide or euthanasia. Asking for assisted suicide and euthanasia from clinically depressed patients has caused people who are against euthanasia and assisted suicide to want it to be strictly controlled because there could be more assisted suicides than necessary if it was legalized.


Elderly people and AIDS patients are some of the people who most commonly attempt or commit suicide (Hendin 152). Patients with AIDS, terminal cancer, Alzheimer’s disease, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease, and persistent vegetative state are the most common people to ask for assisted suicide and euthanasia (Horan 105). They ask for assisted suicide or euthanasia because they live with intractable pain, loss of dignity, and/or loss of capacity. They also ask for it because they want to commit suicide, a legal act, but can not because they have a mental limitation, physical limitation, or both. These limitations do not allow them to follow out their wish, therefore they ask for assistance. People who desire assisted suicide or euthanasia are seeking relief from their suffering, not death as an end to life itself.

Most common of ways euthanasia and