Today, euthanasia is one of the major problems that disturb the modern society and that is not regulated by existing legal norms. To put it more precisely, in spite of the official ban of euthanasia, this issue evokes public discussions and, what is more, legal collisions, which reveal the gap between the total ban of euthanasia and human rights. In fact, euthanasia may be viewed as one of the issues which are very controversial since, on the one hand, it is supposed to provide incurable patients with an opportunity to end their sufferings, while, on the other hand, it raises a number of ethical and legal issues, to the extent that it may be viewed as a crime. In such a situation, the necessity of the regulation of euthanasia and clear definition of its status are obvious. It proves beyond a doubt that such problems as euthanasia should be thoroughly controlled by the law and law enforcement agencies, while health care professionals involved in this issue should be highly qualified and well-prepared to carry on their duties. In such a way, euthanasia becomes a subject of legal disputes whether it should be legalized or not and whether people have the right to end their life through euthanasia or not. In this respect, it is possible o refer to the article “Assisted Suicide, Euthanasia and the Law”¯ by M. Cathleen Kaveny, where the author discusses court decisions and legislative norms regulating issues related to euthanasia and assisted suicide.
Traditionally, euthanasia is defined as an action targeting relieving sufferings of a patient and implies ending of the life of the patient who is terminally ill in a painless or minimally painful way. In such a way, euthanasia implies the end of the life of a patient to limit his sufferings and this act is carried out by a physician.
At the same time, Kaveny (1997) argues that court rules and legal norms are highly controversial in regard to the regulation of euthanasia.
For instance, she underlines that in Compassion in Dying v. State of Washington, an eleven-member en banc panel of the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals held individuals have a constitutionally protected “liberty interest”¯ in “choosing the time and manner of one’s death”¯ (Kaveny, 1997, p.125). At this point, it is necessary to remember about patients, their needs and rights. It should be said that, in this respect, the view on euthanasia may also vary considerably from the rejection to the agreement with the necessity of its implementation. In such a way, euthanasia and its legalization provoke numerous discussions which basically refer to ethical sphere but they need to be legally regulated that implies that the legislation concerning euthanasia should be introduced to eliminate existing contradiction in regard to this problem. In this respect, the position of health care specialists and the public opinion are of a paramount importance since any changes in legislation concerning the problem of euthanasia should be primarily based on their acceptance by specialists and gain the public support.
In this respect, it is worth of noting that even health care professionals stand against the legalization of euthanasia. The opponents of euthanasia view it as the unethical termination of life support for doctors should maintain and save human life but not end it as euthanasia implies. Also, euthanasia is perceived as highly abusive since it violates the basic human right, the right of life. Kaveny attempts to develop a legal arguments against euthanasia, because the aforementioned “liberty interest”¯, which admits euthanasia, is quite controversial term, especially when it is applied to terminally ill patients (Kaveny, 1997, p.129). The author argues that it is unclear by what rationale may this liberty interest be limited to the terminally ill and, what is more, why this liberty interest should be limited to patients who are actually able to ingest the deadly medication themselves (Kaveny, 1997, p. 130). In other words, the author attempts to show that this liberty is not actually limited by existing legal norms and, therefore, there is probably no need in additional legal regulations of this controversial issue.
In response it is possible to argue that euthanasia does not necessarily intend the death of a patient. In actuality, the death is rather hasted.
Secondly, euthanasia is not necessarily unethical termination of a patient’s life because it may be viewed as the practical realization of a patient’s life to remove life support. Furthermore, euthanasia is not abusive since, instead of sufferings of a patient, it brings relief. Finally, the legal ban of euthanasia cannot fully prevent patients from committing a suicidal act. In such a context, it seems to be quite logical that the Second Circuit held that a New York law prohibiting aiding and abetting suicide is not legally grounded because it does not treat similarly circumstanced persons alike: those in the final stages of terminal illness who are on life support systems are allowed to hasten their deaths by directing the removal of such systems; but those who are similarly situated except for the previous attachment ofĀ life sustaining equipment are not allowed to hasten death (Kaveny, 1997, p.135).
In such a context, the controversy of legal norms concerning euthanasia becomes obvious. In fact, this problem is still unregulated. Instead, the discussions between supporters and opponents of the legalization of euthanasia are going on. This is why it is very important to continue researches of this problem, which apparently needs to be regulated legally.
Thus, euthanasia is still a concept which is not very clear for the large audience that evokes both support and opposition to euthanasia. On the one hand, euthanasia is viewed as unethical, intending patient’s death and extremely abusive act but, on the other hand, supporters of euthanasia argue that it is the realization of the right of patients to remove life support, death is hasted and it actually ends sufferings of patients. Therefore, in order to prevent possible complications and negative effects of patients’ and physicians’ efforts to fulfill the will of a patient and end his sufferings, it is necessary to clearly define the legal status of euthanasia, but above all, it is necessary to understand its essence and arguments pro and contra. This is exactly where the major problem arises. Kaveny’s article shows that, from the legal point of view, euthanasia can be a very controversial issue and, in order to regulate it, it is necessary to take into consideration constitutional rights and liberties as well as ethical concern, which inevitably affect decisions made by policy makers as well as courts in regard to the problem of euthanasia.