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Essay: Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness: What About Death?

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  • Published: 3 February 2022*
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  • Tags: Euthanasia essays

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As the practice of intentionally ending one’s life in order to relieve pain and suffering, euthanasia should be an option that is available for all terminally ill patients to utilize. This medical practice refers to the situation where a doctor induces death with a lethal injection requested by a patient who is suffering boundlessly. Though the Netherlands, Belgium, and Colombia are the only countries in the world where euthanasia is accepted, it would benefit patients and families globally through the minimization of waste in medical resources and cost, control in medical directive for critical patients, and a sense of honour and respect for the patient’s death.

Hospital inpatient services are filled with a dying population. Primarily with the increase of death related treatments – not just the aging population of baby boomers. This poses problems and puts a strain on both financial budgets and medical resources. On average, a patient generates $14,000 in health-care costs during the last 30 days of his or her life, often receiving high-impact hospital treatment that may only make their passing more difficult. (Blackwell, 2015) While Mercury News reports that keeping a patient on life support in an intensive care unit bed costs at a minimum, $2,000-$4,000 per day and can run much higher depending on the patient’s condition, into hundreds of thousands a year. (Mercury News, 2013) Other obstacles arise with the incline in senior hospital admission as terminally ill patients require the time of medical professionals and the need for sophisticated equipment which causes a shortage of beds. Actively dying patients with prolonged hospital stays require vital medical resources that could be made available to recovering patients. By alternative methods like euthanasia, patients can avoid costly treatments and excessive medical care towards death. Professor Fassbender’s research shows it costs the health-care system about $39,947 to treat a patient with organ failure near the end of life; $36,652 for a terminal illness; and $31,881 for frailty. Sudden death is the least costly at $10,223. (Priest, 2011) These results show that almost 70% of people die in the hospital, including the patients in high-care intensive beds, which cost around $1 million to operate. Many patients fail to complete advance care directives or communicate preferences to their families, meaning they could be subject to costly invasive treatments they did not actually want. (Priest, 2011)

Many of the admissions mentioned above could be avoided by providing patients with end of life care (ELC) options, as well as advanced care directives (ACD). ELC options include home care and palliative care. A patient’s do not resuscitate form and their choice to utilize medically assisted suicide/euthanasia are inclusive to ACD options. To receive medical assistance in dying in Ontario, a patient must: be eligible for publicly funded health care services in Canada, be 18 years of age or older, be capable of making health care decisions, have a grievous and irremediable medical condition (Government Ontario, 2016). Terminally ill patients should be allowed to have control in their own mortality. Study shows that one in four nurses are confronted with a euthanasia request from at least one terminally ill patient. (Bilsen, 2008)

Euthanasia allows patients to choose their passing environment, and by requesting advance directive, it can help ensure that these patients receive treatments they want at the end of their life with respect to one’s desired wishes. The fear of death is inevitable. It can be extremely stressful for individuals to contemplate their end-of-life options, let alone try to navigate an often confusing health care system. With the legalization of medical assistance in dying in June 2016, Canadians were granted another option at end of life (Dying with Dignity, 2018). Painful incurable diseases cause much distress on patients and keeping them alive only results in extended physical pain for the patient, as well as morality: “Death, it seems, is still a taboo subject. A terminally ill patient, dying while wracked with chronic, never-ending pain, should not have to adhere to someone else’s beliefs. In these cases, the morality of when to end your life is very personal, and should not be legislated by the government. (Archer, 2014)

In Canadian health care, end of life wishes and costs of care associated remains a prohibited topic, though most patients are primarily voicing that they don’t want to live their lives in a long-term setting and have a long life of disability. Ending your life with dignity is the ability to pass away in a respectable, as well as a peaceful manner. This allows for a much easier grieving process for terminally ill patients and their families. Though a separate right to die is not necessary, basic human rights imply that people have an explicit right to die. The end of one’s life is a private matter, and should be legally accepted if there is no harm to others or the state through the practice of euthanasia. Euthanasia satisfies the criterion that moral rules must be universalized and possible to regulate. Most of us fear death, but a primary role in that fear comes from the worriness of suffering from agonizing pain. If terminally ill patients knew that death could be painless and exactly when it was going to happen, we would be allowing that patient to improve his or her quality of life by spending the remaining life to the fullest, free from pain and anxiety. Euthanasia is also a fair practice that can easily be requested by any patient. Most medical services and care aim highly towards those who can afford them, rather than those who need them. In 2010, and 2012 a patient by the name of Tony Nicklinson was rejected by the British High Court for his bid to die. As a sufferer of “locked in” syndrome, Tony was incapable of moving a single muscle in his body – a condition he described as a living nightmare (Morris, 2013) Without the ability to request euthanasia, Tony took matters into his own hands and starved himself to death. Instances like these are proof that patients deserve the right to pass away peacefully. As people have the right to live with dignity, that also have the right to die with dignity. Forcing patients to remain in painful medical care removes that dignity and only prolongs life and pointless suffering. A fundamental factor to a democratic society is the right to one’s own voice, opinion, and wishes whether that be an argument towards assisted suicide for an 85-year-old patient with cancer, or a 58-year-old terminally ill patient suffering from locked-in syndrome. Take the case of a competent person who is terminally ill, who will die within the next six months and has no prospect of relief or cure. This person suffers intolerably and/or intractable, often because of irreversible dependence on life-support. (Niekerk, 2016) This patient repeatedly requests that his/her life to be terminated. To perform physician assisted suicide or voluntary active euthanasia in this situation is not only the humane and respectful, but the morally justified way to go. (Niekerk, 2016) The primary task of the medical profession is not to prolong life or to promote health, but to relieve suffering. We have a right to die with dignity, and the medical profession has a duty to assist in that regard. (Niekerk, 2016)

Many of the arguments above provide primary advantages to the medical practice of euthanasia to end one’s life in order to relieve pain and suffering. Through an all-inclusive right to participate in euthanasia, we allow terminally ill patients to depreciate global health care costs, minimize waste in medical resources, provide control in medical directive, and a sense of honour and respect for the patient’s death. It’s unethical to sustains one’s life that has been suffering boundlessly. Wilson states in Death by Decision that: in order to be humane and relevant to the problems that arise in terminal medical care, the law should prescribe conditions that would justify active measures to terminate life and would provide the maximum safety for each patient. Because of the tragic consequences of radical birth defects, advanced degenerative diseases, and hopeless suffering in terminal illness at any age, the right to die should not be denied. (Wilson, 1939, Pp.193) Euthanasia is an alternative to the poor quality of life that terminally ill patients experience during the remaining time of their lives and should be practiced worldwide.

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