School Essay Euthanasia Should Be Allowed

School Essay Euthanasia Should Be Allowed-87
Public discussion has centered on the desire for control over the timing and manner of death, amidst warnings about the potential abuse or harm of overriding society's long-standing prohibitions against assisting suicide or directly causing another person's death.Concurrent with this public debate, but in many ways separate from it, has been the discussion of assisted suicide and euthanasia in the medical and ethical literature.

Public discussion has centered on the desire for control over the timing and manner of death, amidst warnings about the potential abuse or harm of overriding society's long-standing prohibitions against assisting suicide or directly causing another person's death.Concurrent with this public debate, but in many ways separate from it, has been the discussion of assisted suicide and euthanasia in the medical and ethical literature.

The word "euthanasia" derives from Greek, although as used in ancient Greece, the term meant simply "good death," not the practice of killing a person for benevolent motives.(4) In ancient Greece, euthanasia was not practiced, and suicide itself was generally disfavored.(5) Some Greek philosophers, however, argued that suicide would be acceptable under exceptional circumstances.

Plato, for example, believed that suicide was generally cowardly and unjust but that it could be an ethically acceptable act if an individual had an immoral and incorrigible character, had committed a disgraceful action, or had lost control over his or her actions due to grief or suffering.(6) ---------------------------------------------------------------------- (2) It is notable that the current debate about assisted suicide, even among academic commentators, has drawn so little from this rich history. Brody (Dordrecht: Kluwer Academic Publishers, 1989), 1. CHAPTER 5 - THE ETHICAL DEBATE page 79 Unlike contemporary proponents of assisted suicide and euthanasia, who regard individual self-determination as central, Plato considered the individual's desire to live or die largely irrelevant to determining whether suicide might be an appropriate act.

CHAPTER 5 - THE ETHICAL DEBATE page 81 be morally permissible if the good it afforded the individual outweighed the loss to society.

Moreover, suicide would be laudatory if the person's death would benefit the group and the individual.

In an essay presenting arguments on both sides of the issue, he concluded that suicide was an acceptable moral choice in some circumstances, noting that "pain and the fear of a worse death seem to me the most excusable incitements."(12) Other writers employed more theological arguments to challenge the religious prohibition on suicide. Ferngren, "The Ethics of Suicide in the Renaissance and Reformation," in Suicide and Euthanasia, ed. As Ferngren notes, suicide and euthanasia were discussed a generation earlier in satirical works by Erasmus and Thomas More, but it is unclear whether the authors intended to advocate these practices. (13) Donne articulated these views in an essay entitled Biathanalos, which was published only after his death.

In the early seventeenth century, for example, John Donne asserted that while suicide is morally wrong in many cases, it can be acceptable if performed with the intention of glorifying God, not serving self-interest. He did not want it published during his lifetime, perhaps reflecting his discomfort with views that challenged the prevailing Christian ethics of his time.

As with suicide, the individual's subjective feelings about the merits of continued life had no bearing on the appropriatness of continued medical treatment. (9) Some Roman Stoics such as Seneca, however, argued that the individual should have broad discretion to end his or her own life.

Interestingly, Plato did not apply this analysis to the severly ill and disabled elderly, who, he argued, should be permitted to live regardless of their ability to contribute to the community. He criticized those who "maintain that one should not offer violence to one's own life, and hold it accursed for a man to be the means of his own destruction; we should wait, say they, for the end decreed by nature.

Kant believed that the proper end of rational beings requires self-preservation, and that suicide would therefore be inconsistent with the fundamental value of human life.(16) Like some contemporary opponents of assisted suicide and euthanasia, Kant argued that taking one's own life was inconsistent with the notion of autonomy, properly understood. Beauchamp and Perlin, 111-21; Beauchamp, "Age of Reason," 199-205. In the United States, similar proposals were introduced in state legislatures during the first half of the twentieth century, including New York State in 1947.

Autonomy, in Kant's view, does not mean the freedom to do whatever one wants, but instead depends on the knowing subjugation of one's desires and inclinations to one's rational understanding of universally valid moral rules.(17) Essays advocating active euthanasia in the context of modern medicine first appeared in the United States and England in the 1870s. The Euthanasia Society of America, an organization advocating such proposals, was founded in 1938.(20) Following World War II, however, the term "euthanasia" became disfavored due to sensitivity about Nazi practices.

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