Embracing Societal Realities: Euthanasia and or physician- assisted suicide

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This is a topic that has drawn great controversy and debate over the years particularly through conflicting ideologies in the different arenas of the law, religious perspectives, cultural beliefs and tradition, political field and the medical ethics. The above mentioned fields have different opinions as to whether or not euthanasia and or physician-assisted suicide should be condoned in this day and age. The sad thing is that most people making arguments against euthanasia tend not to have their facts right. There is so much to be unveiled regarding euthanasia: before persons come out making statements on the matter they should essentially have looked at the issue in the medical perspective, dug into the traditional concerns on the matter, pulled out facts from the religious scope and known what the status as to law is on the issue in the different countries and regions in the world. There is need for us to establish how much the layman knows about euthanasia and whether we are justified to rule out the possibility of legalizing it before thoroughly looking into it?

As at the moment could we possibly say there is a universally accepted definition of the term euthanasia and if so what is the proper and acceptable definition of the euthanasia? Does the layman know what he or she talks of when they refer to euthanasia or is the layman and the technocrats at different levels of understanding of the term?

Is there a conflict between the doctor’s Hippocratic Oath to protect life at all possible costs and the doctors’ obligation to offer utmost respect to a patient’s code status where there is a clause of “Do Not Resuscitate” commonly known as DNR[1]? What is the position of the law and doctor’s with regards to the patient’s autonomy and right to self-determination which basically gives the patient the right to request for certain services which could as well include euthanasia and a refusal to medical treatment?

There is a need to look into this issue and try to resolve it. In this new age there are plenty of degenerative diseases that bring about a health status normally referred to as “end-of-life” which invoke the question of end of life care methods with euthanasia well within consideration taking into account the kind of pain and suffering such patients undergo. Most of these degenerative diseases reduce the life expectancy of the patients significantly and as they are associated with old age most of the old folk do not stand a chance of survival even with proper medication as their body immune system is usually worn off.

What is the stand where a terminally ill patient requests for suicide assistance well before his condition worsens so as to evade the pain and suffering that comes with the illness? Should the wishes of such patients be respected and upheld as all pro-euthanasia proponents would prefer or should the sanctity of life prevail over the wishes of the patient as anti-euthanasia proponents would prefer? In the recent past Netherlands approved of euthanasia for a patient suffering from Alzheimer’s disease (AD) who had requested for assisted suicide in order to circumvent the suffering and pain that comes at the later stages of the disease. How can the law inculcate euthanasia and how will it affect public policy? We should keep in mind that the law should not and is not meant to be dogmatic but instead be flexible enough as to embrace new societal ideologies and conduct.


[1] Jeff Gordon “A Death Prolonged”, pg. 18.

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