A Sociological Approach to Euthanasia
There is no doubt that the medical field has gone through numerous changes due to the advancement in technology. In reference to Spekowius and Thomas (p.8), technological development has been the primary driving force towards the improvement in medical care that has seen numerous lives saved. Nonetheless, despite the advancements, chronic diseases such as cancer remain without a cure. Palliative care remains the only process that can keep individuals alive and comfortable for as long as it is medically possible. However, there has been debate over the effectiveness of palliative care in reference to care offered to chronic disease patients. Euthanasia has been an option in such discussions. The view of assisted suicide as a medical solution for individuals who suffer the agony of chronic illnesses is logical. Nevertheless, its acceptability to the society is an issue of contention. This ensuing question of what is the society’s legal, ethical, religious as well as economic view of euthanasia forms the thesis of this study. By using the ‘Conflict Theory’, this paper endeavors to give an in-depth comprehension on the sociological approach to euthanasia.
Since the turn of the century, issues regarding euthanasia have been discussed significantly in different areas ranging from courts to medical forums. The reason for this increased discussion is the fact that there is a change of view over the issue of assisted suicide. Nonetheless not much has been discussed over the factor below is a comprehensive study of the current perception over active as well as passive euthanasia with the use of the conflict theory.
After the end of the Second World War three perceptions on sociological theories were fashioned namely the functionalism, conflict theory, as well as symbolic interactionism concepts. According to Dahrendorf, (p. 37), these concepts replicated the prevailing cultural as well as political trends. From the notion presented by Stolley (p.25), the structural functionalism concept highlighted that the society shares values and social cohesion. On the other hand, the functionalist theory and conflict theorist refute the notion of relative consistency in the society considering different people think dissimilarly. In reference to this paper, conflict theory presented the best possible approach to understanding the sociological attitude to euthanasia. The conflict theory is based on a number of issues namely economic, ethnic, legal, as well as religious aspects. Below is how these factors are viewed today in reference to euthanasia.
Ethics Approach to Euthanasia
Ethically the question that separates the society on the issue of euthanasia is the aspect of who owns one’s life and who may take one’s life. The society for centuries has viewed suicide as an inhuman; consequently, it is to be avoided (Dahrendorf, p.32). On the other hand, in Japanese history prominent leaders were never allowed to suffer from life-threatening diseases or injuries; subsequently, they were aided in committing suicide allowing them have dignified deaths (Long, p.62). From this example provided above it is clear that some societies have lived without considering suicide as a vice. In today’s perspective, individuals who suffer from chronic illnesses are the individuals who request for assisted suicide. These individuals go through considerable physical and mental torture and request for the right to die. Dave Bosomsworth in an interview with the Vancouver Sun presented a question…”Imagine yourself in your own private holocaust, facing certain death, Your captor offers you a choice; a slow death by physical and psychological torture or a quick death medically supervised via painless overdose…”( Vancouver Sun, P. np) . When you consider the term, “private holocaust” being a reference to the physical pain and anguish an individual goes through, it is clear to see why part of the society would see euthanasia as a solution not just to a medical problem but to the person’s family as well. From this point the question of who owns one’s life and who takes one’s life is answered. The society does not accept euthanasia and this is a prevailing factor. However, currently, part of the society –especially the individuals affected by chronic illnesses and their families –see things differently.
Legal Approach to Euthanasia
In several nations globally, including the United States, suicide of any form –assisted or not –is considered a murder. This, consequently, makes the act a felony act in court. Nevertheless, state courts, as well as the Supreme Court, have asserted that a patient under his own wish may refuse lifesaving treatment. From their assertions, citizens do not have the right to assisted suicide. According to Otlowski (P.23), Courts loath the word ‘euthanasia’ when referring to issues relating to the right to die, opting for use the right to hasten one’s death instead. Their courts dislike for euthanasia is well evident in the Wons vs Public Health Trust case where the courts went against the first amendment when they forced Wons to receive a blood transfusion against her religious beliefs (Steiner and Robert, p.23). When Wons made the decision not to have any transfusion she was in a conscious and sane state of mind; nonetheless, the courts decided to go against her wish (p.24). From this point, it is evident that the legal social order is against euthanasia. Nonetheless, unlike the case of Wons whose life could be saved by a medical procedure, there are a number of cases where the individual is bound to die and no medical procedure can save their life. Cancer patients, for instance, go through agonizing pain in their daily life and their conditions cannot be helped as at the current medical aid state. Passive or active euthanasia is the only way of putting them out of their misery. From this point, the courts violate the right to the right to die as Keown (p.56) states. This view is shared by a number of legal minds and has been presented in discussions a number of times, nonetheless, euthanasia remains illegal.
Economic Approach to Euthanasia
It is a fact that the majority if not all of the individuals who turn to a request for active euthanasia suffer from chronic illness. Another prevailing fact is that treatment or even palliative care for these individuals is significantly costly. In explaining healthcare economics Matzo and Deborah (p.34) indicated that end of life care is significantly costly considering the frequency of hospitalization, the high cost of medicine required to reduce discomfort, as well as the increasing requirement for specialist attention. This would consequently mean that though the individual is bound to die from terminal illness the costs he or she as well as the immediate family will incur does not match the social as well as the economic contribution the individual makes. From this view, euthanasia is the best economic decision that can be made.
Religious Approach to Euthanasia
The society is divided into various religious divided perceptions and various issues are either accepted or shunned according to the social order. In reference to, euthanasia the prevailing religious rejection is almost absolute with most if not all primary religions being against any form of suicide (Paterson, P.67). Though religion is all about compassion, the philosophies are not for death to relief suffering (Gorsuch, P.46).
Issues of Euthanasia have been increasing in discussion in a variety of fields ranging from courts to medical forums. For centuries, any form of suicide has been shunned by the society and considered as a vice. However, currently, the perception is no longer unanimous –considering the increase in terminal medical issues that have led to the increasing acceptance of euthanasia as the best possible option. From a legal perspective, the courts have retained their view on passive or active euthanasia as a felony offense. Despite, the existence of the right to hasten one’s death, courts are yet to comprehensively accept any rational reasoning towards allowing an individual’s right to have a dignified death. Economically, euthanasia is significantly acceptable. This is because terminal illness care is significantly costly and at the final stages of such illnesses, there is no logical reason to keep paying for medical care. Religiously, euthanasia is unacceptable sin since only God has the power to take away life. In summary, euthanasia has shifted from being a taboo topic to a controversial one but it is yet to be fully accepted in the current society.
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