Death has its terrors and is seen in different perspectives. Kubler Ross has outlined the various phases through which most pass when death stares them in the face. What comes after death is really the most worrisome and pertinent factor exemplified in Hamlet’s deliberations:
“To die – to sleep – To sleep! Perchance to dream; Ay there’s the rub; For in that sleep of death what dreams may come, when we have shuffled off this mortal coil. Must give us pause – there’s the respect that makes calamity of so long life.”
The answers to questions on euthanasia are often shaped by beliefs inculcated from childhood by culture and religious persuasion. In the euthanasia debate, terms are often used that confuse issues, generating more heat than light. Polls are conducted and results cited to indicate a majority claim. Yet, the actual questionnaires show that very often, the real tilting factor is a lack of clarity in the fundamentals, or ambiguity in the terms used.
Definition of Euthanasia
The term ‘euthanasia’ itself, clouds the issue. Looked at from its Greek derivative, meaning ‘good death’.
Who can deny that it is indeed an object worthy of any sane person’s desire?
In the early part of this century it has been used by some as an omnibus term to signify a good or painless death. In fact it is a deliberate euphemism, replacing ‘mercy killing’. With the latter term, one is made aware of the fact of a direct killing. The motivating factor of mercy only makes the plea for compassion to reduce the culpability of the action.
If we are to make it clear, ‘euthanasia’, in common usage means an act of omission or commission which directly causes the death in a painless manner. It implies the procuring of an individual’s death, so as to avoid or end pain and suffering, especially of individuals who have some chronic and incurable disease. It thus eliminates or even preempts those factors or conditions that are held to militate against the ‘good’ of the person. This ‘good’ is an extremely subjective factor. Those favoring euthanasia, elaborate on the various parameters and safeguards that can be put up to avoid misuse. Hence, of course, there is the justification for the dangers of the ‘slippery slope’ between its definition and its usage.
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