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Webster’s dictionary defines the term euthanasia as a painless, happy death. In recent years, a new term – assisted euthanasia has been introduced. This is when a terminally ill patient is assisted in committing suicide by their doctor or even by a friend or relative.

There is a story which I read of an Aids patient. As he approached his time of death, he decided that rather than prolonging the suffering of both himself and his wife, he would take the matter into his own hands and commit suicide. He realized however that he needed some assistance. He contacted a doctor and asked if he’d be willing to help him. The doctor at first refused to say that he was not a barbarian and that his job is to prolong life, not to end it. The patient replied that if he didn’t help him, thus prolonging his suffering, that would make him a barbarian. The doctor eventually gave in and a plan was formulated. It was decided that the patient would begin to take barbiturates on his own. The doctor would later come to make sure they did their job, and if they hadn’t, he would give the patient an injection of morphine which would be sure to do the job. On the planned day, the doctor realized that he would be caught when the autopsy was done and they found morphine in his blood. Which doctor prescribed morphine and why was that doctor in his apartment? He decided not to go and hoped that the barbiturates would do their job. They didn’t and the man was found unconscious, but still living and brought to the hospital. His attempt to commit suicide was unsuccessful, however, it did result in a severe case of pneumonia. When he regained consciousness the doctor visited him and asked if he still wanted to die. He shook his head no. He wanted to live. 12 days later, the man died in the hospital.

Some may say that the doctor was perfectly justified in his decision to help the patient commit suicide. They believed that it is a patient’s right to decide when to die rather than suffer and that it is the doctor’s right to help his patient.

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