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The Right To Die Euthanasia Essay Conclusion

Euthanasia

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Last Updated: 19 July 2015
Published: 26 August 2014
Written by David Swanton

Euthanasia Conclusion

The right to die with dignity is justifiable

1. I have provided substantial arguments in favour of voluntary euthanasia and the rights of an individual to choose how they should die and rebutted the major objections to voluntary euthanasia. Australia’s current legislative regime for euthanasia is violates an individual’s fundamental rights, is inappropriate in a multicultural society, runs contrary to popular opinion, is economically unsound, causes unnecessary pain and suffering, and is inhumane. It denies individuals the rights to their own lives.

2. If the status quo were to remain in Australia, it would have a deleterious effect upon those patients who would like to have the option of voluntary euthanasia. The right to die might be a right that is only ever exercised by a small minority of the population: terminally ill patients for whom palliative care is inappropriate, or perhaps people who might choose the option of rational suicide. However, those opposed to voluntary euthanasia should not, including by legislative fiat, deny individuals the right to die with dignity.

3. The arguments I have presented stand on their own if they are considered with an open mind, devoid as far as possible of any cultural, religious or other bias. They lead to the conclusion that the Medical Services (Dying with Dignity) Bill ought be enacted, possibly with amendments. If all individuals are to be respected, then Australia must observe the right to die with dignity. Despite the claims of those who oppose voluntary euthanasia, they do not know what is better for terminally ill patients more than the patients themselves. The rights of an individual must prevail.

 

David Swanton

Potassium chloride is a fatal poison. The dose was prescribed by a doctor and administered by a nurse acting on the doctor's orders. Prior to the fatal dose, the patient suffered from fever, trembling, incontinence, nausea, pain and an intestinal blockage causing vomiting of fecal matter.

The nurse was indicted for assassination and the doctor for assisting. The charges were later changed to poisoning. The two accused risked maximum prison sentences of 30 years.

After four days of trial the nurse was acquitted and the doctor was given a one-year suspended sentence. The court also ordered that the conviction not be registered in national government files, which will enable the doctor to continue to practice. It is not clear who initiated the prosecution. Neither the husband nor the son of the deceased woman pressed charges. In fact, they supported and thanked both doctor and nurse. The prosecution argued that the principle of not killing must be upheld, but the jury did not agree.

The decision shows once again that laws are a lagging indicator of social change.

France revised its law in 2005 and now permits what it terms passive euthanasia, which may mean withholding treatment or giving painkillers in such a massive dose that the patient can slide into an eternal sleep. But it forbids active euthanasia such as the use of potassium chloride.

A generation ago, in 1980, a number of people in France formed an Association for the Right to Die with Dignity (ADMD), which now has over 40,000 members. As medical care improves and people live longer, one can expect to see more such associations around the world, and eventually a change in perspective.

At present, the law focuses on the act of the physician or nurse, and not on the rights of the patient. As that focus shifts so that the right of the patient to die with dignity becomes paramount, one can expect to see the law proclaim a fundamental right.

The fear of abuse by doctors, nurses, or family members wishing to do away with an unruly patient or parent will recede.

Every time we step into an automobile we run the risk of being killed or seriously injured. Yet despite the thousands of auto fatalities every year in every country, the risk is accepted because of the benefits of automobile travel.

The legal philosopher Hans Kelsen defined justice as social happiness. But social happiness is an evolving concept and one that varies from one culture to another.

One need only look at how practices in the workplace — holidays, wages, hours per week, maternity leave for mothers and fathers — vary widely from country to country, and yet are regarded as vested rights in each.

Neither the French nor the American Constitution, nor the UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights, nor the European Convention on Human Rights, includes the right to die with dignity. But then many of the human rights we take for granted today — including non-discrimination and free speech — are far more recent than one might imagine.

One can predict with some confidence that as life expectancy is extended, social mores will evolve and the law will follow.

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