Hook – anecdote

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Sarah Warren

The Choice of Death

Skiadas, English Language 4

27 March 2013

(HOOK – ANECDOTE) Somewhere, a patient is lying in a hospital bed. Harsh white lighting illuminates the room in a sickly pallor, a dull appearance to match the pallor of the patient’s own skin. An overly-clean stench permeates the air, aiming (and failing) to mask the reality that this patient is slowly, torturously losing life to a sickness. He or she is aware that this affliction is terminal, aware that his or her life is wasting away in a bed that is not his or her own. The hospital bill grows exponentially each day, as does the pain inflicted upon friends and family. If this particular patient finally becomes tired of the hopeless stress and strain, the worry and hurt caused to loved ones – if the patient asks for a way out, to be euthanized, would he or she be blamed? (BACKGROUND) Euthanasia is, by definition, self-assisted suicide and used only in extreme circumstances to end the lives of those people who ask for it that are suffering with no chance of survival or recovery, and even then it is only legal in a small number of areas. (THESIS) Euthanasia should be a choice for patients in extreme and terminal medical situations because it gives a patient control over his or her own right-to-die, enables the patient to maintain independence in personal finances and economic endeavors, and allows for little room for abuse of the privilege in any way. A patient at the end of life has few personal (UNIVERSAL IDEA) choices afforded to him or her, and euthanasia should be one of said few choices.

(MOST IMPORTANT – TOPIC SENTENCE) As stated, patients at the end of their life have few completely autonomous choices afforded to them, but they should be able to govern themselves in the way they (UNIVERSAL IDEA) choose to die. (EVIDENCE) Currently, it is only legal to choose euthanasia in four places: The Netherlands, Luxembourg, Belgium, and the U.S. state of Oregon (“International”). Only these few places allow a patient a wish of ending their life prematurely, before more pain and sorrow can be added to what he or she has already experienced. On top of this, these places have legalized euthanasia in the relatively recent past, with Luxembourg legalizing as late as February 20, 2008 (“International”). (COMMENTARY) The choice to end one’s life and save one’s dignity without being overpowered by pain and suffering is not widely distributed, as it should be. Often, though, the discussion of such a controversial topic will raise tempers, and even sometimes the discussion of it will be taken to court. (EVIDENCE) In the ACLU’s Americus Brief in Vacco vs. Quill, they state, “A state’s categorical ban on physician assistance to suicide…substantially interferes with this protected liberty interest and cannot be sustained” (“ACLU”). (COMMENTARY) The ACLU, or American Civil Liberties Union, is the forerunner on protecting the rights of individuals, and the ACLU states explicitly here that restricting the right to choose death for terminally ill patients is a violation of personal rights, and therefore cannot be legislated against.

The right to choose death is not the only personal right being violated with the ban on euthanasia. (TOPIC SENTENCE) A patient must have the power to control his or her financial and economic (UNIVERSAL IDEA) choices, but that too is being lifted. (EVIDENCE) Terminal care and end-of-life supervision are extremely costly to a family, costing on average ten and a half times more in the last two weeks of life due to higher treatments on a more frequent basis (Scitovsky). (COMMENTARY) Personal expense is exponential as a terminal illness progresses, and the patient living with it knows that after death the debt will be left to family members to pay off and deal with. Also, personal finance tracks like this reflect larger economic courses, such as those on a national scale. (EVIDENCE) In 2009 alone, end of life treatments and accommodations accounted for approximately ten to twelve percent of the entire healthcare spending in the nation (Ahrens). (COMMENTARY) To spend an amount of money this large on one sector of the health system alone is unnerving, and the amount spent could easily be reduced if a patient were to choose when their own life would be lost, thus saving his or herself and the government a large sum of money.

(LEAST IMPORTANT – TOPIC SENTENCE - CONCESSION) Some people disagree that euthanasia should be legalized based on the claim that it would be easily abused, used to kill more patients than intended through their (UNIVERSAL IDEA) will alone. (EVIDENCE - COUNTERARGUMENT) Over a thirteen year period, Oregon alone only had 596 patients die from euthanasia (“Assisting”). (COMMENTARY) This small number is based over many years, and it shows that the treatment is not easily accessed and therefore not easily open to abuse. Euthanasia has many restrictions on it, many guidelines to follow, and only the most deserving cases are allowed to receive it. (EVIDENCE - COUNTERARGUMENT) Only four places in the world allow the treatment of euthanasia, and it’s been the subject of controversy even there, but an extremely small percentage of the dying population even ask for the treatment at some point in their decline, the number never reaching above three percent in any nation (Thomasson). (COMMENTARY) Even where euthanasia techniques are more common, such as in the Netherlands, the number of those dying through it is surprisingly low. The fact that so few take advantage of the opportunity legally and within their right attests to the fact that it’s nigh impossible to take advantage of with malicious and selfish intent.

Euthanasia is a controversial topic and will never come without opposition. (CONCESSION) A strong argument against the practice of euthanasia is a supposed violation against the Hippocratic Oath, an oath taken by medical professionals to always do what is right and best for the patient (Ruggles). (COUNTERARGUMENT) However, the Oath is flexible, able to fit snugly to each patient and their situation. What is best for one patient may be euthanasia, though it may not be the best option for another patient. If it is the best way to deal with a patient who has no other options afforded to him or her then it should be a viable treatment. (CONCESSION) Another strong reason for not supporting the idea of physician-assisted suicide is that religious or political views do not always align with the idea of it (“Euthanasia” and “United”). (COUNTERARGUMENT) While religious and political alignments are important personally, these topics should not legislate the option of physician assisted suicide for others. A person who believes that their religion or political views are against the idea of euthanasia should consider it his or her choice not to use the treatment just as someone who believes in it has the choice to accept it. (TOPIC SENTENCE) Euthanasia is an entirely personal (UNIVERSAL IDEA) choice, and no other person can make it for the one undergoing it.

Euthanasia is truly a controversial topic. However, it shouldn’t be quite so dividing because watching someone close, a family member or a friend, lose his or her life slowly and agonizingly, day by day, is painful enough to watch. The patient, lying in the hospital bed under the sickly lights from before, knows that the longer his or her life is prolonged the more pain and damage is caused to any loved ones, and if the option of euthanasia is asked for this patient should be able to attain it. Patients should have the (UNIVERSAL IDEA) choice of how to spend their last moments, and euthanasia allows them to do so. (STRATEGY – RETURN TO ANECDOTE FROM BEGINNING)
Works Cited
“ACLU Americus Brief in Vacco vs. Quill.” Euthanasia. ProCon.org. 12 Oct 1996. Web. 18 Mar 2013.

Ahrens, Joann, Nicole Fowler, and Carol Raphael. “Financing end-of-life care in the USA.” J R Soc

Med. 2001; 94:458–461. Sep 2001. Web. 18 Mar 2013.

“Assisting Dying in Liberalized Jurisdictions and the Role of Psychiatry: A Clinician’s View.” Sage

Journals. 16 Jan 2012. Web. 18 Mar 2013.

"Euthanasia Statistics." Statistic Brain RSS. Gallup Poll, Nightingale Alliance. 23 July 2012. Web. 18 Mar


“International Perspectives – Euthanasia.” Euthanasia. ProCon.org. 28 Sept 2010. Web. 18 Mar 2013.

Ruggles, Tim. "Hippocratic Oath (Modern Version)." The Sheridan Libraries. John Hopkins University. 31

Jan 2013. Web. 18 Mar 2013.

Scitovsky, Anne A. "The High Cost of Dying: What Do the Data Show?" The Milbank Quarterly 72.4

(1994): 561-91. Milbank Memorial Fund. N.p., 1994. Web. 18 Mar 2013.

“United States Conference of Catholic Bishops.” Euthanasia. ProCon.org. 23 Aug 2013. Web. 11 Mar


Thomasson, Emma. “Right-to-Die Movement Sees Gains as World Ages.” Reuters Media. 12 Jun 2012:

n.p. SIRS Issues Researcher. Web. 20 Mar 2013.

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