The Euthanasia Argument
Marijke Durning | NursingLink
All it took was an injection to cause relaxation of the muscles, followed by another to stop the heart, and his suffering was over. No more pain, no more suffering. The tearful couple in the room caressed his well-loved face before saying good-bye and leaving the room. He was no longer in pain.
The “he” in this case was Rox, a seven-year-old golden retriever who lived life to his fullest until a stomach full of cancerous tumors made it impossible for him to live a pain-free life. His “parents” made the decision to let him go, to stop the suffering, despite the grief his death would cause. While they still second-guess themselves at times, wondering if they did the right thing, for the most part they are at peace with their decision.
After all, a living being shouldn’t suffer when there is no hope, right?
In Rox’s case, as with most animals, if the suffering is too great, the option for euthanasia is there. It’s a difficult decision to make, but it’s the last gift a loving pet owner can give. However, if the being is a human, that option isn’t there.
There is an ongoing debate among the medical community and the general population about the ethics of euthanasia. According to this article, “The History of Euthanasia Debates in the United States and Britain”, published in the Annals of Internal Medicine in 2004, the arguments now are not all that different from the 19th century. Their conclusions were:
“Public interest in euthanasia:
• Isn’t linked with advances in biomedical technology;
• Flourishes in times of economic recession, in which individualism and social Darwinism are invoked to justify public policy;
• Arises when physician authority over medical decision making is challenged; and
• Occurs when terminating life-sustaining medical interventions become standard medical practice and interest develops in extending such practices to include euthanasia.”
How do nurses feel about euthanasia? Should euthanasia be accepted as common practice, or is it a slippery slope?
First, it’s important to understand the difference between euthanasia and assisted suicide. In assisted suicide, the person who is the center of the act has chosen, for whatever reason, to commit the act of suicide. However, the person is no longer able to perform the act without the help of someone else.