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Ecclesiastes 3: 2-3 states, "A time to be born, and a time to die... a time to kill and a time and a time to heal." This statement seems to give some license to the policy where, at times, it would be admissible to end someone's life. That ending of a life is called, "Euthanasia". As an aside, at the commencement of the Death Education course I was doing research on the different topics via reference materials including audio tapes. When I first heard the term, "Euthanasia", it thought the word was, "Youth-in Asia". Needless to say, confusion abounded! In fact, the word is prefixed with, "Eu" which closely means, "good", and the latter part, "thanasia" is from "thanatos" meaning death. So, Euthanasia means a "good death".
Most students were in favor of Euthanasia and few were opposed. That was the case prior to discussion on the topic. One comes to realize that the issue is quite complex. Direct Euthanasia - deliberately taking another's life in the name of "mercy-killing" is still considered murder in America. No matter how horrible the conditions have become for a person, pulling the plug on the respirator, injecting potassium chloride to stop the heart, placing a pillow over a patient's face to suffocate them, and so forth is against the law in the United States unless it is connected with capital punishment. Indirect Euthanasia, allowing or instructing someone on how to take their own life and then letting them do it, is within a gray area that invokes arguments. Telling a patient 4 pills a day are for pain and more might be fatal, and then leaving 200 pills at the bedside is a form of euthanasia. Making a tank of carbon monoxide contaminated air available to a terminally ill patient racked with excruciating pain is another. Should this be condoned or prevented? Some students would condone direct euthanasia. The totally comatose, those in the final stages of AIDS, those mangled from accidents, and those in severe pain are examples.
When a poll was taken among medical doctors, 87% favored the use of euthanasia, 80% had actually performed acts of euthanasia, and 15% had performed direct euthanasia. In 1957, when Pope Pius XII was asked about euthanasia by a medical doctor he explained that in hopeless cases, after all measures have been taken to restore the life, death should be allowed, but it should also be based on the wishes of the patient's family.
One thing is for certain: You should have a "Living Will". This document informs others of your wishes about what heroic measures (i.e., life-support) should be administered should you require it. If you feel strongly about this, your living will should be drawn up today and witnessed by at least one other person. Its existance should be made known to friends and family members. Its location should be known and readily accessible. That will avoid the possibility of being unable to communicate this information after a tragedy has occurred. It may also prevent the loss of substantial funds being used for something you do not wish to happen.
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