Euthanasia and Physician-Assisted Suicide: The Debate Continues

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Euthanasia and Physician-Assisted Suicide: The Debate Continues

"This could never be a crime in any society which deems itself enlightened." So said Jack Kevorkian on CBS's "60 Minutes" on November 22, on a segment showing the first nationally televised death by euthanasia in the U.S.

Kevorkian offered the footage to CBS to dramatize his campaign for euthanasia for terminally and chronically ill patients. The film shows him giving a lethal injection in September to 52-year-old Thomas Youk, who had amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (Lou Gehrig's disease). Kevorkian is shown ending Mr. Youk's life by injecting Seconal to put him to sleep, followed by a powerful muscle relaxant to stop his breathing and potassium chloride
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Professors Campbell and Collinson argue in "Passive and Active Euthanasia Are Not Equally Acceptable," that the two are essentially different because the first lets the patient die, whereas the second kills the patient(48). This view is opposed by Professor Rachels in "Passive and Active Euthanasia Are Equally Acceptable," which asserts that the active type is more merciful than the passive type because the patient can die more quickly(42). Opinion is also opposed on the issues of whether food and water must always be provided, whether doctors should support euthanasia decisions, whether euthanasia/assisted suicide should be legalized, whether it should be based on age or economic factors or quality of life, whether the decision should be made by the patient or the doctor or the family or the community, and finally, whether infant euthanasia is acceptable, especially with handicapped infants. Such an involved question!

The incidence of euthanasia/assisted suicide in the US is difficult to determine. Sunni Bloyd in his book Euthanasia says that the voluntary, passive type occurs "every day in hospitals and nursing homes across the country"(101). Robert Wennberg, in Terminal Choices: Euthanasia, Suicide, and the Right to Die, maintains likewise that this form of euthanasia is widely practiced in America today and is acceptable since it lets the

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