Today there are thousands of terminally ill patients in long term care facilities across America. In care facilities there are a countless number of elderly people and terminally ill patients that have repeatedly expressed a desire to die. Should these people be allowed to die, or should they be forced to keep on living? This question has plagued ethicists and physicians for decades. Euthanasia is the act of killing or permitting the death of hopelessly sick or injured individuals in a painless way for reasons of mercy. Another term used for euthanasia is assisted suicide. Euthanasia, or physician assisted suicide, is one of the most controversial issues we face today. Like many other touchy topics, euthanasia cannot simply be looked upon as either ?right? or ?wrong.? Supporters of euthanasia feel that ending a person?s life can be justifiable if the person is in severe pain and sincerely wants to die. Opponents, on the other hand, contend that killing and suicide are always wrong and can never be justified even if it was for reasons of mercy.
Under current U.S. law, there are two types of euthanasia labeled as either "active" or "passive", and as either "voluntary" or "involuntary.? Passive euthanasia is much more openly accepted and practiced. ?The traditional distinction between active and passive euthanasia requires critical analysis. The conventional doctrine is that there is such an important moral difference between the two that, although the latter is sometimes permissible, the former is always forbidden? (Rachels). Passive euthanasia can be defined as withholding heroic measurements, such as life-support systems, to a patient who is not yet certifiably brain dead, but maintaining basically no quality of life. On the other hand, active euthanasia could be defined as literally pulling the plug on someone?s life when they are terminally ill and suffering, such as lethal injection. Euthanasia and assisted suicide are legal only in four places that openly, authorize active assistance in dying for patients in the Netherlands, Belgium, Switzerland, and Oregon. Assisted suicide is legal in the United States, but only in the state of Oregon. The only difference between assisted suicide and euthanasia depends on who performs the act that causes death. With euthanasia, a doctor would administer the lethal injection, taking the final step to end the patient?s life. On the other hand, with assisted suicide, the patient would cause their own death, perhaps meaning that he or she would flick a switch to begin a fatal injection after the doctor had hooked them up to an IV medical supply. In America history, there are many controversial court decisions for the right to die.
In the history of the right to die controversy in the United States, Karen Ann Quinlan was an important person. In 1975, a 21-year old woman named Karen Ann Quinlan suffered a respiratory arrest that resulted in severe and irreversible brain damage and left her in a coma. Doctors told her parents that the recovery of Karen?s life was impossible and Quinlan?s parents requested to remove their daughter life support, however, they were refused by the hospital. After a year in deliberations in a New Jersey Supreme Court, they decided the parents of Karen Ann Quinlan won the right to remove their daughter from the ventilator because she was in a persistent, vegetative state. The New Jersey Supreme Court justices unanimously ruled that this act was necessary to respect Karen Ann Quinlan's right to privacy. However, some medical ethicists warned that this ruling could lead to decisions to end a person's life. Quinlan's case continues to raise important questions in moral theology, bioethics, euthanasia, legal guardianship, and civil rights. Her case has affected the practice of medicine and law around the world.
In 1990, the Supreme Court case, Cruzan v. Missouri, recognized the principle that a person has a constitutionally protected right to refuse unwanted medical treatment. The topic of the case started in 1983 when Nancy Beth Cruzan went into a coma from a car accident. Before the accident had occurred, she had said several times that if she were faced with life as a "vegetable," she wouldn?t want to continue living. Her parents went to court in 1987 to force the hospital to remove the tube by which she was being given nutrition and water. The Missouri Supreme Court refused to allow the life support to be withdrawn, saying that there was no ?clear and convincing