A topic that has been controversial for centuries has been the idea of euthanasia, or the practice of intentionally ending a life in order to relieve pain and suffering. Since the time of Ancient Greece and Rome, some form of euthanasia has been debated or practiced within various societies. It can be divided into three different categories: voluntary, involuntary, and non-voluntary. These types, respectively, deal with whether the act was done with the patient’s consent, against the will of the patient, or if the ability for consent is unattainable/unavailable. It can also be either passive (withholding certain treatments to bring about death) or active (administering forces or substances that kill the patient).
Laws regarding this practice vary across the world. For those nations that allow euthanasia, laws tend to support voluntary and passive forms. In the United States, only Washington, Vermont, Oregon, Montana, California, and New Mexico allow physician-assisted suicide. The practice continues to find much opposition either through religious objections or the feeling that a doctor would be violating his oath to protect/heal the patient that is in their care.
Some take issue with the practice, usually within the subject of physician-assisted suicide, due to the fact that it involves someone losing their life under the care of a doctor, which can seem to violate the Hippocratic Oath that doctors are seen as meant to serve. However, I think such a conventional belief robs individuals of control over their own bodies and lives when faced with dire circumstances. If a person consents (and this consent is substantiated either through a will, or other means like psychological support and assessment before granting the wish of the patient in question) to have their life terminated, they should have that right. Having someone indefinitely kept alive in excruciating pain despite their wishes seems problematic in the sense that it feels like a condemnation that overrides the ability of such an individual to have control over their livelihood. Faced with such odds, someone should ultimately be able to make decisions that affect such a circumstance if they consent to such a thing. However, a doctor (or third party) should have the right as well to choose whether they will agree to administer such an activity. If a person is in a vegetative state or is incapable to make the decision herself, then the responsibility should fall to his/her next-of-kin…provided that the patient wanted that to happen or wanted someone else to make the decision instead (will and testament, and/or protections against coercion and exploitation of those in such an impaired state). Whatever way in which the act is to be undertaken should be that which is the most humane for the individual involved. Though it might bring much discomfort to the surface, the state should not get involved within one of the most personal decisions any of us have…our mortality.