Jaime's Policy Speech

Jaime Parkinson
Paper #2 Draft #1


Karen Ann Quinlan fell into an irreversible coma after consuming alcohol and tranquilizers at a party in April, 1975. She had severe brain damage and was in a vegetative state. After much thought of what Karen would have wanted, her family made the decision to take her off life support, but then realized they had to battle the New Jersey Supreme Court to be able to end Karen’s life. After a long case, the Supreme Court unanimously ruled Karen’s father, Joe, her legal guardian, giving him permission to take his daughter off life support. Karen lived ten years after she was taken off life support before she finally passed away. Quinlan, 2008
Karen’s case was the first of many cases brought to the Supreme Court battling the right to die issue. Many families of terminally ill patients want their loved ones to be taken off life support, but because of existing laws, they are not allowed to do so. Oregon is the only state in the United States that allows patients the right to die. It can be very taxing on the family of a terminally ill patient, both emotionally and financially. Euthanasia should be made legal in all fifty United States for terminally ill patients who want to end their life.
Euthanasia is the act of killing the hopelessly sick or injured in a painless way. Merriam-Webster Dictionary, 2009 This can either mean killing by a lethal pill or administering a lethal drug into the blood stream. Euthanasia comes from the words “eu” meaning “good” and “thanatos” meaning “death,” so euthanasia literally means “good death.” Definition of Active Euthanasia, 2001 Euthanasia occurs when a patient administers the lethal drug to himself without the assistance of a physician.
According to the 2007 British Attitudes Survey, four out of five people, or eighty percent of the population, supports physician-assisted suicide for terminally ill patients. British Attitudes Survey, 2007 If a person is terminally ill and wants to end his life, he should be allowed to do so. Also, if a person states she does not want to be kept alive while in a coma, the family should have the right to end life support.
It would be very hard for a terminally ill patient’s family to decide to take the patient off life support; however, it is also very hard for the patient’s family to watch the patient suffer through his pain. Not only is it difficult for the family to watch a loved one suffer, it is also very time consuming and expensive. Families with loved ones in the hospital or nursing home spend hours sitting with their unresponsive loved ones. It is very emotionally taxing on a person to sit and watch his loved one lie in pain. It is also very hard for families to sit day after day waiting for their loved ones to come out of a coma or be healthy again. The average cost of a private nursing home room in the United States in 2008 was about two hundred dollars per day. MetLife, 2008 This equals $73,000 per year, which is a high price to pay to watch a loved one suffer a horrible disease or lie in a coma. If euthanasia was allowed for the terminally ill or people in a vegetative state, families could save thousands of dollars.
About half of the population has had a conversation about being terminally ill with a loved one. Sixty nine percent, or seven in ten adults, have discussed end of life medical care with their spouse. Pew Research Center for the People and the Press, 2006 About three quarters of the population say a family member should make the decision to take the terminally ill person off life support. Pew Research Center for the People and the Press, 2006
The only time a person should be allowed to end her life is if he is terminally ill and has no chance of surviving the disease. If a person is in a coma and alive only because of life support, the patient’s family should be allowed to take the person off life support. Very strict rules should be applied before a person is allowed to take a lethal dose of medication to end her life. A person in generally good health should not be allowed to take lethal medication. If a person is depressed about life because of a death in the family, a bad job, or a breakup with a significant other, that person should seek professional help, not turn to lethal drugs to end his life. A terminally ill person who seeks to end her life should be able to make the decision to end her life by herself. It should require soul searching by the patient. After the doctor prescribes the lethal medicine, the patient should wait a specified amount of time before being allowed to take the lethal medication.
When a person who is in an irreversible vegetative state and cannot make the decision to end her life by herself, her family should be allowed to decide. The family should make the decision based on what the patient would want done. If the patient did not want to be kept alive on life support, the family should be able to stop treatment. On the other hand, if the patient wanted to be kept alive on life support, the family should respect that decision.
In Australia, everyone has the right to refuse medical treatment. If a doctor ignores a request to refuse medical treatment, the doctor is breaking the law. If a person is not able to make a refusal of medication decision, a loved one may make the decision for the sick person. Australians believe everyone should have the right to “die with dignity” and not be forced to lie in a hospital bed for years fighting a terminal illness. Queensland Right to Life, 2008
Oregon is the only state in the United States that currently allows terminally ill patients to legally end their own lives. There are very strict rules that must be followed for patients to end their lives. The patient must be a resident of Oregon, must be eighteen years old, must be able to make health decisions on her own, and must be diagnosed with a terminal illness that will result in death within six months. Euthanasia-Oregon's Euthanasia Law, 2009 A doctor must prescribe the patient the lethal drug; after a fifteen day waiting period, the patient may take the lethal drug. [*Euthanasia-Oregon's Euthanasia Law, 2009 Euthanasia-Oregon's Euthanasia Law, 2009] Between the years of 1998 and 2007, four hundred fifty-five people have requested a lethal prescription, but only two hundred ninety-two people have actually died after taking the lethal drug. Enouen, 2007
Funding for this policy would come from a slight increase in taxes. As soon as this bill is passed, it will take effect immediately. A doctor will determine if a patient is a worthy candidate of euthanasia. After a doctor gives the okay, the patient, or the patient’s family if the patient is in a coma, can make the decision to have a lethal drug prescribed to him. The patient or the patient’s family must put much thought into the decision. Once the lethal drug is taken, there is no turning back.
If euthanasia was permitted in the United States, families of people like Karen Ann Quinlan could carry out their loved one’s wishes of a dignified death, instead of being kept alive by a machine. Families could rest easier knowing that their loved one is out of pain, instead of sitting in a hospital for hours on end hoping that their loved one will be cured of a horrible disease or wake up from an irreversible coma. Euthanasia should be allowed, but only with very strict restrictions and very careful thought by the patient or the patient’s family. If euthanasia were allowed in all fifty states, it would help both the patient and the patient’s family move beyond the pain and despair. Each person is responsible for his own life, so every terminally ill person should be able to choose when to end his own life.

Works Cited

(2001). Definition of Active Euthanasia. Retrieved February 23, 2009, from
MedicineNet.com Web site:

(2009). Euthanasia - Oregon's Euthanasia Law. Retrieved February 22, 2009, from
Euthanasia - Oregon's Euthanasia Law Web site:

British Social Attitudes Report, (January 24, 2007). New British Social Attitudes
Report Published Today. Retrieved February 21, 2009, from British Social
Attitudes Report Web site:
http://www.natcen.ac.uk/natcen/pages/news_and_media_docs/BSA_%20pr ess_release_jan07.pdf.

Enouen, Susan E. (2007, July). Oregon's Euthanasia Law - It's About Far More Than the
Number of People Dying. Retrieved February 22, 2009, from For Life, For Family
Web site: http://www.christianliferesources.com/?library/view.php&articleid=1278

euthanasia. (2009). In Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary.
Retrieved February 22, 2009, from http://www.merriam-

MetLife, (October 2008). Retrieved February 21, 2009, from The MetLife Market
Survey of Nursing home & assisted Living Costs Web site:
http://www.consumerhealthratings.com/index.php?action=showSubCats&c at_id=208

Oregon Department of Human Services, (2007, September 22). FAQs about Death
with Dignity. Retrieved February 22, 2009, from Oregon.gov Web site:

Pew Research Center for the People and the Press, (January 5, 2006). Strong Public
Support for Right to Die. Retrieved February 21, 2009, from Death With
Dignity National Center Web site:

Queensland Right to Life, (2008). Euthanasia. Retrieved February 23, 2009, from
Queensland Right to Life Web site: http://www.qrtl.org.au/euthanasia.htm

Quinlan, Julia (2008). History of Karen Ann Quinlan and the Memorial Foundation. Retrieved February 21, 2009, from Karen Ann Quinlan Memorial Foundation Web site: http://www.karenannquinlanhospice.org/history.htm

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