- Briana Rodriguez
“At the moment when I find myself unable to fight, give me a right to die.”- Friedrich Engels. When dealing with terminally ill patients, the right to die is ones choice, and shouldn’t be determined by legal actions of the government. Many citizens of the United States argue about the right to die, and how to ethically and legally deal with this request, wanted by many terminally ill patients all around. The right to die is an ethical or legal entitlement for an individual to undergo voluntary euthanasia and commit suicide. Many patients with terminally illness often deal with the conclusion that their life will be coming to an end, due to lack of medical support. Many of these illnesses, from cancer to Lou Gehrig’s disease, are untreatable and the patient has to come to grips that they will die soon. The families slowly watch them die and the patient not only has to physically deal with the pains of their body slowly shutting down, but also has to subconsciously deal with the pain they are causing around them as well. That is why the right to die should be permitted legally, for the patient’s physical and mental care and also for the families surrounding them. The list below is key concepts to supporting the idea that the right to die is ones choice and should be legally permitted by the government.
- Nancy Cruzan and Brittany Maynard
- Laws and Supreme Court Cases supporting the right to die
- Professional opinions and statistical facts
The idea to legally be permitted the right to die has been around for decades. The most current involvement being Brittany Maynard. Who was told in April 2014, that she had a brain tumor and that in sixth months would die from it. She refused to allow it to kill her and refused to let her family watch her die. So instead, she achieved her bucket list, moved to Oregon and surrounded by all her loved ones in her home, died in November of that year. She quoted “when exactly is the right time to die?” http://listverse.com/2014/11/15/10-heartbreaking-right-to-die-cases/ Maynard’s death was as peaceful as falling asleep and there was no pain. There is no more proof needed to show that the right to die helps the patients more than physically but mentally, and not just themselves but their loved ones as well. No one wants to die, but given the circumstances, this is the best most peaceful way to go. It is unethical for the government to not allow this and inhumane to allow the patients to suffer when it could be so much more peaceful.
There are cases all around the US, in which day to day people, deal with the reality that they are in fact dying. And some cases, the fact that the patients aren’t even dying, is where the right to die is needed. January 1983, Nancy Cruzan was hurt in a severe car accident. The paramedics saved her heart beat, and although she was alive, she suffered from many injuries. She was entirely oblivious to her surroundings, she was a spastic quadriplegic, her brain had degenerated, had irreversible tendon and muscle damage, and had no reflexive ability to either chew or swallow anything and would never gain the ability to do so. All this being sited on, www.euthanasia.com. She was in severe pain and could not, or wouldn’t ever be, able to do any type of day to day things needed to survive on her own. She was in an intense vegetative state, and would be till the day she died. This was the first time the US Supreme Court was given the right to die case. This particular case helps to support the other side, of the right to die act. It is in fact not just for patients who are coming to the ends of their life, but also for those who are suddenly put into an accident and will never again gain their ability to survive without machines. Some debate against the right to die, because they believe that the patient could possibly be saved and that there are certain “what ifs” and there could always be a chance things will change. But there are patients who were never sick and, due to life changing accidents, are now stuck in a vegetative state and will never again get to “live”. There are no “what ifs” for these people, and therefore they should have the absolute right to end their lives, due to the suffering of day to day living being too much.
There are actually some cases in which the people have taken the cases further up into the Supreme Court; one US Supreme Court case being Washington v. Glucksberg. Washington criminally charges anyone who “knowingly causes or aids another person to commit suicide.” http://www.oyez.org. Glucksberg argued that denying a terminally ill person the right to die actually violates the Fourteenth amendment and denies a person the liberty to choose death over life if they wanted to. It was taken to court and decided that the right to assist suicide is not a liberty interest and is actually offensive to the traditions of our nation. Another case being Vacco v. Quill was also taken to the Supreme Court. “New York’s ban, while permitting patients to refuse lifesaving treatment on their own, has historically made it a crime for doctors to help patients commit or attempt suicide.” Sited from http://www.oyez.org/cases/1990-1999/1996_95_1858. Although these court cases were not ruled in favor, there are some legal actions that have been in favor and support the right to die. The Death with Dignity Act went into effect in 1994, legally allowing any “mentally competent, terminally-ill adult state residents to voluntarily request and receive a prescription medication to hasten their death”. http://deathwithdignity.org. That meaning it allows mentally sane and conscious citizens to be allowed to voluntary take euthanasia to end their suffering with their terminal illness. Many citizens all around the states, including the example of Maynard before, move to Oregon to peacefully receive the medication and be given the right to die.
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The public is very much associated with the voting on the right to die, although it is in much debate. On http://thehastingscenter.org/Publications/BriefingBook/Detail.aspx?id=2202 it states that when the public was asked whether or not physician-assisted death should be permitted approximately “two-thirds” of the entire population of the US is in fact, actually approve but only as an option for terminally ill patients who are in suffering and cannot be cured or help any longer. Statiscally proving that the population even believes in the right to die is ones choice. It should not be illegal and it should be permitted especially when the patient is in a great deal of suffering. It’s obvious that if a person’s in deep suffering, then a peaceful death should be the way to go, it is the only humane thing to do in order to help a person. Other statistics were found when asked by a field of people who specifically work with these types of patients; hospice nurses. When asked to complete the survey, taken from http://www.nejm.org/doi/full/10.1056/NEJMsaa020562, “Forty-five percent had cared for a patient who requested .assistance with suicide.” And had “Eigty-two patients were had received perscriptions for lethal medication.” And “Seventy-seven percent of the request had been presented at a hospice interdisciplinary conference on patient care” Statiscally proving that terminally ill patients, who hospice nurses deal with every day, have asked and it is a question among the nurses. More and more people are hearing about the right to die and there are interest groups all around fighting for terminally ill patients, groups from National Hospice and Pallative Care Organization (NHPCO) and others more widely known like the Death with Dignity National Center(DDNC). More groups being sited on http://diglib.libary.vanderbilt.edu There are so many people who are dying and are suffering greatly but instead of being allowed to be put out their misery, they are instead prolonged their death and have to wait until every part of their body slowly shuts down one at a time. They then lose hearing, seeing, feeding and more until finally their heart finally stops. The patients are unable to do anything. Not only watch them deteriorate literally piece by piece, but also watch their loved ones grow depressed at watching them suffer.
Dealing with death, is not an easy topic to discuss especially politically. But, the right to die is a person’s choice and the government should definitely not permit a person from doing so if it ends their suffering. Examples from Supreme Court Cases, to every day to day citizen, the right to die should be permitted. The government says a terminally ill patient does not have the legal right to kill themselves nor be assisted then who’s right is it? What must a person do to obtain their right to end their own suffering?
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