Euthanasia has become an issue of increasing attention because of Dr. Jack Kevorkian’s assisted suicides. As of October 21 Kevorkian has assisted in nineteen suicides. Because of the increasing number of suicides in Michigan, Gov. Engler signed an anti-suicide law in late February that made doctor-assisted suicides a felony. During the 21-month trial period of the new law anyone assisting in a suicide can be sentenced to up to four years in prison and fined more than $2,000 (Reuters, 1993).
With the passing of this law I thought that most people would be against the right-to-die, not so. In a poll cited in a 1991 issue of USA Today eighty percent of Americans think sometimes there are circumstances when a patient should be allowed to die, compared to only fifteen percent think doctors and nurses should always do everything possible to save a person’s life. It also showed that eight in ten adults approve of state laws that allow medical care for the terminally ill to be removed or withheld, if that is what the patient “wishes”, whereas only thirteen percent disapproved of the laws. Also seventy percent think the family should be allowed to make the decision about treatment on behalf of the patient, while another five percent think this is suitable only in some cases (Colasnto, 1991, p. 62).
The results on mercy killing surprised me even more. Seventy percent think it is justified at least sometimes for a person to kill his or her spouse, if he or she is suffering terrible pain caused by a terminal illness. Even suicide is starting to be accepted. About half the public thinks a “moral right” to suicide exists if a person has an incurable disease or is suffering great pain with no hope of recovering (Colasnto, 1991, p. 63).
…the Jews significantly changed this basic idea. It was killing they were opposed to. Also in 1958 Pope Pius XII emphasized that we may ‘allow the patient who is virtually already dead to pass away in peace’ (Rachels, 1986, p. 43). How can anybody say mercy is against God? To me it would seem that God would want people to die in peace and without pain. If anything is against God it is trying to live longer than God had intended you to.
The United States was founded because people wanted to be free. Americans have fought for freedom ever since. If euthanasia is made illegal it will take away one of the founding freedoms, the freedom of choice, the freedom for a person to choose a death with dignity and free of pain and suffering for themselves and their families. As Seneca quoted in Bolander writes, “A punishment to some, to some a gift, and to many a favor”(1984).