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Ethics of Euthanasia - Term Paper

In June of 1995 a Special Senate Committee on Assisted Suicide and Euthanasia filed its final report called “Of Life and Death”. This report is useful in that it relates much information from witnesses about how Canadians feel about assisted suicide and euthanasia, but it is disappointing in its failure to make any recommendations for changing the law (other than a modest one about introducing “compassionate homicide” into the Criminal Code, as reported in the next section). A minority of members was in favour of various progressive changes, but the majority was not. While it is clear from national polls that a large majority of Canadians is in favour of progressive legislation, this majority was not reflected in the number of witnesses who appeared. By my count 27 witnesses spoke against even a modest change in assisted suicide legislation; 18 are listed as speaking in favour.

“The frail, poor, elderly and others who are vulnerable will be subject to pressure from third parties or even themselves if an earlier death is an option. This pressure could increase as health care resources decrease. At what point does the possibility of choosing death become an obligation?” This argument has a disingenuous ring to it, being made at the Commission by the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops. How can their concern really be about creating problems for the vulnerable amongst us, when they refuse to support, for example, safe sex programs in AIDS-ravaged Africa. They as Catholics are resolutely against any form of induced death and they seize on various pretexts to support their belief. But let us grant that their concern about pressuring people to die is a real one — similar concerns have been expressed by others. The underlying fear is that doing in old people will become a way of saving money. Can we really imagine this happening? Can we suppose that legislation to prescribe eliminating the infirm could actually be passed? This is a shibboleth, trotted out by those with other agendas. The movement for progressive end-of-life legislation has nothing to do with imposing death; it is about enabling a good death for those who want it. It is not about removing personal autonomy but enhancing it. And, for the record, there is no evidence that there has been any sort of this imagined abuse from those jurisdictions that allow assisted suicide and euthanasia.

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As you include the bulleted information in your academic paper, make sure that they are all consistent. Tense, consistent format and length, and consistent punctuation are all important.

The Latimer case, involving non-consensual euthanasia, is a much more difficult one to deal with in legislation. Can ending the life of a person who is unable to give consent ever be justified? Perhaps not. But what about Tracy? What about others who like Tracy were never able to speak, or those who descend into hopeless, morbid, terminal disease and lose the ability to give consent? Are such people to be excluded from the mercy we would show, indeed demand, for any other similarly-afflicted creature?

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But what sort of legislation should it be? Simply adopting the model used in the three American states would be a major advance for Canada. It would not be a big additional step to move from the basic right to physician-assisted prescriptions to physician-administered direct lethal injection, on request from a patient, as is permitted in The Netherlands. This is something that is called voluntary euthanasia, something that is slightly different but, I would argue, morally equivalent to assisted suicide. Permitting either assisted suicide or voluntary euthanasia, or ideally both, would then take care of situations like that faced by Sue Rodriguez who was diagnosed with ALS in 1991. Rodriguez wanted to live only as long as she had some control over her body, but knew that once this happened she would no longer be able, on her own, to commit suicide. She appealed for legal sanction to get assistance, but in 1993 the Supreme Court of Canada denied her appeal by a vote of 5 to 4, even though all the Justices, even those voting against her, recognized that their decision was discriminatory in that suicide is possible for the able-bodied, but not so for the severely disabled. Apparently the five Justices feared that the public danger of allowing assisted suicide outweighed the discrimination.

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It would seem to be better to have a procedure whereby the merits of proposed cases of non-voluntary euthanasia could be considered through some carefully-controlled disinterested process. It is problematic, to be sure, but it is not such a large step from what we already do, which is to allow what is called passive non-voluntary euthanasia. This is the removal or failure to employ life-support systems when they are needed to keep someone alive. I can see no real moral distinction between active and passive euthanasia. And I can see that the legalization of active euthanasia will allow for the merciful ending of some lives that otherwise will continue in a manner that no rational person would want, other than those holding absolute convictions precluding any sort of induced death. Such people should of course be allowed their preferences.

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One other reason for having a process defined for active non-voluntary euthanasia is that it would allow for a legally-sanctioned way for a desperate person like Robert Latimer to explore the situation he faced with Tracy. Had such a possibility been open to him he might have been able to explore this legal route to providing his daughter with what she needed. Then, even if the case failed to meet whatever high standards had been set for such action, and euthanasia was disallowed for Tracy, at least Latimer would have been able to feel he had tried. And, if unsuccessful with his application, he might have been helped to find other options for Tracy. And if Latimer’s application for euthanasia for his daughter was successful then Tracy’s hopeless suffering could have been legally ended. Such a process seems to me vastly more civilized than the blanket prohibition we now have, which forced Robert Latimer into an impossible dilemma. He could let his daughter’s agonizing existence continue to deteriorate, or he could put his own freedom in jeopardy. He had no other choices.

Voluntary euthanasia: When the person who is killed has requested ..

Yes, I truly believe it is a slippery slope:
Laws in all countries have failed consistently to protect their citizens. In Canada you can kill someone and be let out free on a technicality or plea bargain as Homolka and live the the good life.
Our society is based on money and yes with passage of the right for any individual to be allowed to take a life after someone asks to be killed, the ultimate next step is a government to say when a mentally or developmently handicapped person is a burden to society so let’s eliminate them or the elderly in our overcrowded poorly run nursing homes. Balances their books with a clear concience for if the lawyers and judges rule it’s ok and they can sleep at night then it must be great.
We have become a Society that only thinks of ourselves and not the population as a whole as Evelyn Martin is doing. If it is so critical she wants to commit suicide she can do it very effectively and efficiently so the arguments in this day and age that suicide could be bungled is just another bogus factor to add more weight to the pro assisted suicide people.
I do not believe the majority of people believe that allowing a person to deliberately kill another is justified in any circumstance except self defence. Let us tell it like it is assisted suicide / euthanasia is killing — Let us not glorify it or sugar coat it.
If a person wants to commit suicide so be it and with modern science, they are diagnosed way in advance, so they can do it before becoming gravely ill and involving others.

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But I believe that we should have provision for non-voluntary euthanasia as well, albeit a carefully controlled one. The main argument for this is that we ought to have a provision or at least a mechanism for looking at cases of hopeless suffering where informed consent is impossible (cases like that of Tracy Latimer). Otherwise, any law permitting assistance in dying would discriminatory: just as it is discriminatory to have suicide available only for the able-bodied, so would it be to have assistance in dying available only to those who are fully aware. While it is obviously better to have informed consent, it still is the case that at least some people unable to give such consent would prefer to die, were they able to make such a decision, and such people ought not to be denied similar rights to those of competent people. We ought to be able to try to assess what such people might reasonably want for themselves were they able to give informed consent. Ideally this would be in the form of an advance directive, or statements given to friends or relatives before losing the ability to communicate, but these of course are impossible in cases like that of Tracy Latimer. Her case, then, is the hardest of hard cases. But are people like her then just to be left to suffer according to the law? Are they to be denied the possibility of mercy, as least insofar as the law is concerned?

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Bullet points within an academic paper are one of those things that aren’t allowed in every style. The most common style to utilize bullet points regularly is APA, or American Psychological Association style. Most commonly, this style is used for papers and source citations in the social sciences.

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