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Euthanasia The basic definition of euthanasia is the taking of another life to relive pain and suffering. In the case of this paper we are going to expand that definition to include assisted suicide since that is the case before the courts in the United States and the rest of the world. In the United States active involuntary euthanasia of humans is illegal. Passive euthanasia is legal with many restrictions and much debate. Assisted suicide or voluntary euthanasia is only legal in one state. Active euthanasia is taking of a life to end suffering and pain. Passive euthanasia is the with holding of food, water or medication that are needed to keep a person alive until they die. Assisted suicide is the taking of a person's life with their permission, or helping them to end their own life. There is Voluntary euthanasia, involuntary euthanasia the meaning of each is apparent. To most people euthanasia and assisted suicide is the same thing, So to make things simpler we will treat voluntary euthanasia and assisted suicide as the same thing. Even passive euthanasia is debated among many groups and the states it is still pretty much accepted when used with an advance directive or living will. Even more contested is the wishes of the next of kin when no advance directive exists. Both are sometimes long battles in court, much like the Teri Schiavo case. The whole issue of euthanasia is a very tricky subject that covers many different forms. Here we will focus only on active euthanasia. Currently legal in only one state and in three other countries, The Netherlands, Belgium, and Columbia. It is being debated in some countries such as the United Kingdom and Australia. In Oregon they passed the death with dignity act. Making Oregon the only state with legalized active euthanasia. The death with dignity act was passed in 1994 and reaffirmed in 1997. It is a very highly restrictive act, but all the restriction are put into place to make sure it is done properly. To be eligible for the Oregon death with dignity act the person requesting it has to be an adult, mentally competent who is terminally ill. This disqualifies anyone who is in a coma, vegetative state, or anyone that is heavily medicated, or not of sound mind. The patient's condition must cause extreme pain and suffering. Only the patient can request it. That means the patient must understand their condition, prognosis and all alternatives. Finally a second independent doctor must examine the patient, review all records, and check with the primary doctor, and confirm eligibility. In addition to that the request can not be from lack of adequate comfort care, or because of lack of money or health insurance. To request death, the request must come from the patient. It has to be confidential. Any hint of uncertainty cancels the request. The request can not be through a living will or advanced directive. The patient must be examined by a health care professional to rule out emotional distress and to make sure the understands what is happening, while taking full responsibility for their choice. Finally the family must give its approval. Spiritual and emotional counseling is recommended. There are additional safeguards in place to make sure this is what the patient really wants. The patient must give three written requests. There has to be at least 48 hours between the second and third request. A member of Compassion in Dying must met with both the patient and the family. Any sign of indecision by the patient or the family stops the request. Review teams will meet and confirm continued eligibility. The way the person dies will be picked by the primary physician and will be based on the patient's condition. With even all these conditions and safeguards the death with dignity act has been challenged by the United States Department of Justice The Ninth Circuit Court rejected the challenge by a split vote. Even with that the Federal government is withholding funding for medical assistance to the state of Oregon. Similar acts have failed in California, Hawaii, Maine, Michigan and New Hampshire. It is still a highly debated law and most likely will be continued to be challenged. I have to admit that I am surprised that it hasn't been challenged more. There was only the one serious challenge by the Attorney General. I do find this very curious since cases for passive euthanasia were taken to court over and over again, court battles lasting years and years. There are several possible reasons for this. One can only guess what would motivate some people or lawyers to make these challenges. From my research I can make some observations and make some logical observations. The Oregon death with dignity act is very restrictive, filled with checks and balances. It only is available if the patient is able to make their own choices, Making all those in coma's and vegetative states illegible. Making it a non-option for those like Karen Quinlan, Nancy Cruzan, and Terri Schiavo. It may be that if the Federal Attorney General couldn't overturn the law, some figure what is the point. Maybe all those cases of passive euthanasia paved the way for active euthanasia not to be challenged. It a court case could be won to grant death to someone that could not speak for themselves, what point would it be to fight one when the patient was speaking for themselves. The key being what are the wishes of those that are unable to speak for themselves. We can be sure that it isn't over, while there are no active court cases to the best of my knowledge challenging the Oregon law, it could come up at any time. Roe vs Wade was decided a long time ago, yet is still challenged resistivity. With all the different opinions and emotions dealing with the subject, be they personal, emotional, or religious, people will continue to find ways to challenge the laws in court. We live in a changing world. With newer and better technology, we have redefined death. We have the ability to keep people alive when just a few years prior they would have died rather quickly. With these changes the laws will have to be changed to apply to our currently levels of knowledge and abilities. Who knows some day we may be able to tap into the minds of those in vegetative states, and they could make their wishes known and the Oregon law will have to change. For now that is just science fiction. Still the legal battles are not over. You can go online and google euthanasia. You will find hundreds if not thousands of websites dealing with euthanasia. Some being pro, some con, and many trying to show a balance. Most dealing with the moral, ethical or religious aspects, and a few dealing with the legal points. No matter what way the courts go, It will be continued to be fought, there are just too many opinions on the subject. It will have to be handled on a case by case basis. When Oregon passed their death with dignity act. They wrote it very well making sure it stayed within the rights to privacy laws. It will be very hard to challenge the way it was written. No doubt that someday it will be challenged again in court. Kastenbaum, R. (2007). Death, Society, and Human Experience, Pearson Education, 9th ed. Chap 9 pg 296-298. ORS 127.800-897. Implemented: 27 October l997 (Mar 2008) The Euthanasia Research & Guidance Organization http://www.finalexit.org/laws.html Reporter of Decisions 1997. Syllabus WASHINGTON et al. v. GLUCKSBERG et al. (Mar 2008) Legal Information Institute http://supct.law.cornell.edu/supct/html/96-110.ZS.html (Author not named) USA TODAY world news 11/22/2005, Even where it's legal, laws vary widely (Mar2008) http://www.usatoday.com/news/world/2005-11-22-euthanasia-laws_x.htm Michelle Calderon. “n.d.” Euthanasia Laws: Should it be banned or enacted? (Mar 2008) http://www.anairhoads.org/calderon/euth.shtml Merriam-Webster online dictionary. http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/euthanasia Lunge, R. Royle, M. Slater, M. 2004. Oregon’s Death with Dignity law and Euthanasia in the Netherlands: Factual Disputes (Mar 2008) http://www.leg.state.vt.us/reports/05Death/Death_With_Dignity_Report.htm Cruzan by Cruzan v. Director, Missouri Department of Health 06/25/1990. Supreme Court Collection (April 2008) http://www.law.cornell.edu/supct/html/historics/USSC_CR_0497_0261_ZS.html Diana Lynne. 03/24/2005 WorldNetDaily (April 2008) http://www.worldnetdaily.com/news/article.asp?ARTICLE_ID=43463 Kirsti A. Dyer MD, MS, FT. 12/19/2006 About.com: Palliative care (April 2008) http://dying.about.com/od/palliativeendoflifecare/p/karen_quinlan.htm
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