Brief Look at Euthanasia


Euthanasia is one of the most acute and uncomfortable 
contemporary problems in medical ethics. Is Euthanasia Ethical? The
case for euthanasia rests on one main fundamental moral principle: 

 It is not a new issue; euthanasia has been discussed-and 
practised-in both Eastern and Western cultures from the earliest
historical times to the present. But because of medicine's new 
technological capacities to extend life, the problem is much more.
Euthanasia is a way of granting mercy-both by direct killing and by 
letting the person die. This principle of mercy establishes two 
component duties:

1. the duty not to cause further pain or suffering; and
2. the duty to act to end pain or suffering already occurring.

 Under the first of these, for a physician or other caregiver 
to extend mercy to a suffering patient may mean to refrain from
procedures that cause further suffering-provided, of course, that the 
treatment offers the patient no overriding benefits. The ph s
performed even though a patient's survival is highly unlikely; 
although patients in arrest are unconscious at the time of
resuscitation, it can be a brutal procedure, and if the patient 
regains consciousness, its aftermath can involve considerable pain.
In many such cases, the patient will die whether or not the treatments 
are performed. In some cases, however, the principle of mercy may also 
demand withholding treatment that could extend the patient's life if 
the treatment is itself painful or discomf The principle of mercy may 
also demand letting die in a still stronger sense. Under its second 
component, the principle asserts a duty to act to end suffering that 
is already occurring. Medicine already honours this duty through its 
various techniques Ending the pain, though with it the life, may be 
accomplished through what is usually called "passive euthanasia", 
withholding or withdrawing treatment that could prolong life. In the 
most indirect of these cases, the patient is simply not given 

 The second component of the mercy principle may also demand 
the easing of pain by means more direct than mere allowing to die;
it may require killing. This usually is called "active euthanasia. In 
passive euthanasia, treatment is withheld that could sucesses and 
waits for eventual death to ensue; rather. it is one that brings the 
pain- and the patient's life- to an end now. If there are also grounds 
on which it is merciful not to prolong life, then there are grounds on 
which it is merciful to terminat Pain is a thing of the medical past, 
and euthanasia is no longer necessary, though it may have been, to 
relieve pain. Given modern medical technology and recent remarkable 
advances in pain management, the sufferings of the morally wounded and 
dying can It is flatly incorrect to say that all pain, including pain 
in terminal illness, is or can be controlled. Some people still die in 
unspeakable agony. With superlative care, many kinds of pain can 
indeed be reduced in many patients, and adequate control ncy may mean 
an agonizing final few hours. Even a patient receiving the most 
advanced and sympathetic medical attention may still experience 
episodes of pain, perhaps altering with consciousness, as his or her 
condition deteriorates and the physician att In all of these cases, of
course, the patient can be sedated into unconsciousness; this does 
indeed end the pain. But in respect of the patient's experience, this 
is tantamount to causing death: the patient has no further conscious 
experience and thus cannot feel pain.


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