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A Right to Death?

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A right to death?

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We all know that someday our time of death will come. Whether death comes too soon or comes too late, we will never know. One thing people may be sure of, is that they hope their death is at the right time and that it is as peaceful as possible. Some individuals are fortunate enough to live long healthy lives and encounter death at what they think is the right time. But there are some individuals who struggle with their health or experience an unfortunate illness and wish to end their misery. Euthanasia is defined as, “assisted suicide, physician-assisted suicide (dying), doctor-assisted dying (suicide), and more loosely termed mercy killing, means to take a deliberate action with the express intention of ending a life to relieve intractable (persistent, unstoppable) suffering” (Nordqvist). The practice of euthanasia is a very controversial issue in our world today because it derives attention from religious, moral, ethical, and sentimental arguments. What constitutes life? Should individuals have the right to choose when they die? Should physicians have the authority to prescribe ‘death’ or in other words, ‘lethal prescriptions’? When is life not worth living? These are a few of many controversial questions that surround the issue of euthanasia. Therefore, the issue regarding the legalization of euthanasia is difficult to decide on. I believe that everyone has an alienable right to life and that right should not be taken away from anyone. But I also believe that people should have a right to determine their time of death only if they are suffering a terminal condition that after consulting with their family members and physicians multiple times, they have reflected that it is the decision they would like to take. Euthanasia should be legalized for patients who suffer a terminal illness, but there should be reasonable restrictions to ensure that it is being properly regulated.

        One of my really close friends was a month away from graduating high school and was hit by a SUV that sped through a red light as he was crossing the green light riding his bicycle. My friend was severely injured and unfortunately fell into a coma state. The doctors advised his family that there was nothing they could do because he had suffered very traumatic injuries to his skull and brain, and he was practically ‘brain dead’. His parents decided to tell the doctors to take him off life support and he was buried five days after the accident. I was in such disbelief to think that doctors would claim a person to be “dead” because a patient’s brain is dead, yet a machine is keeping him alive. Isn’t a person considered living if they are breathing? Don’t some people require aid from machines to help them breathe? Aren’t there incidents where people survive severally brain injuries? We can’t keep him in life support and hope for a miracle? All these questions ran through my mind. I am a strong believer that miracles happen, and was crushed to know that doctors had not given the opportunity for a miracle to happen to him. I was very upset, hurt, and skeptical at the authority doctors had over the meaning of what constitutes a living person versus a person who is not living. But at the same time I began to think of what my friend, David, would have wanted. I realized how bad his injuries were, he had broken ribs, a fractured skull, damaged brain, and other wounds. Point was, he was extremely hurt. Seeing him lying on the hospital bed in the state he was affected all of us so much. I knew that if I had been in his place, as much as it would have hurt to leave my family behind, I would have wanted the doctors to get me off life support. If a miracle did happen and he had woken up, we do not know how badly his injuries would have affected him. Damage to the skull and brain is not easily repairable. Surviving an incident with severe brain damage makes it hard for doctors to determine what the symptoms and difficulties a person may have if they were to miraculously wake up from such an injury. It was a tough decision his family had to make to allow the doctors to remove his life support, but they knew their son would be in a better place, and I came to understand that too.

        After this incident, I have begun to think of where I stand regarding euthanasia. Through my Catholic religious upbringings I have learned that every person has a right to live and that right should not be taken away from you, only God has the authority to determine your death. But then I question whether it is fair to a person who is in constant pain and is months away from dying, or is in a coma state due to severe injuries, to be forced to keep living? I come up with different conclusions. I do not think people should alternate to euthanasia as a first choice. I think that if people look at euthanasia as a way of escaping their faiths it is wrong. But if individuals are close to death and after consulting with their doctors and with family members about their decision, and they remain with the same mentality that they would like to undergo euthanasia, then they should have a right to it. As I’ve researched, I learned that there are individuals with a chronic illness, who fly to different countries or states where euthanasia is legal so that they are euthanized. I find it unfortunate that people have to go through such big trouble to have such a procedure. In the article, “The Death Treatment” by Rachel Aviv, she points out that the legalization of euthanasia is “motivated less by the desires of the elderly than by the concerns of a younger generation, whose members derive comfort from the knowledge that they can control the end of their lives.” I think that individuals who are fighting for the right to have euthanasia legalized, are no different than women who are fighting for their right to control their bodies and be the ones who decide whether to have an abortion or not.

Now, when the individual is in a coma state that they are unable to choose for themselves whether they want to be kept in life support or whether they want the doctors to ‘pull the plug’ and let them die is a big issue as well. This issue can be seen in the following example, “Englaro had been in a vegetative state for 17 years, after suffering what doctors determined to be irreversible brain damage in a 1992 car crash… For years, Englaro's father, Beppino, fought to have her feeding tube removed, saying it would be a dignified end to his daughter's life” (Vinci). Italy’s Parliament, with strong Catholic beliefs, deeply believed Englaro had to continue living; she had a right to live and no one could take that away from her. But her father believed that it was not right to keep her alive when she was in such a state where she was severely injured and 17 years had passed and she didn’t show signs of living (Vinci). This shows that if individuals are forced to be kept alive in situations where their family members believe the best solution is to let them rest in peace, it causes years of distress and infliction to the family and maybe even to the person who cannot choose their own faith. I think this puts into question what is life? If living in a hospital bed, in a coma, with a feeding tube is considered living according to the Catholic religion, I, who consider myself catholic, strongly disagree with that belief. I would think a person who is living is able to enjoy life, interact with life and not be held for years and years in a state where they’re unable to partake in the virtues of life.



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