Euthanasia and Suicide

Themes

EUTHANASIA
By Brent M. Pergram, Masters of Arts in Sociology
The specific sociological problem that is the topic of this research paper is euthanasia. The purpose of this research is to identify the variables associated with euthanasia. It also discusses the variables associated with various types of euthanasia and suicide. I believe that elderly suicide is an example of active euthanasia, and therefore it is important to discuss the issue to have a better understanding of the social problem of euthanasia and suicide.

I will also discuss variables that influence whether a person supports euthanasia or not, such as religious belief, gender, age, region, educational level, and marital status that influences how a person views the issue.

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I will also discuss the definitions of death. I will discuss the ethical and moral aspects of the problem of euthanasia.

I will try to use Emile Durkheims social integration theory to explain the causes of active euthanasia, and suicide in general. I will also use Charles Tittles defiance category of deviance, which represents escape or withdrawal from active participation to social relationships or normative obligations to society. I want to integrate both Durkheims egoistic type of suicide, which applies to those that are inadequately integrated into society, and Tittles defiance category
of deviance. I believe that both show a lack of social integration can increase the likelihood of suicide, and active euthanasia by those that lack coping skills, suffer from depression, have mental problems, and no longer value life. The lack of attachment to society and withdrawal from active participation in social relationships or social positions, which can increase the likelihood of active euthanasia or suicide, includes the following: 1) problems with the family, such as divorce, or the lose of a loved one; 2) interpersonal problems; 3) lack of problem solving; 4) depression; 5) drug and alcohol use; 6) health problems. These problems can influence the thought processes and coping behaviors that can lead to an increased likelihood of suicidal behavior.

Euthanasia is the practice of painlessly ending the lives of people who have incurable, painful, or distressing diseases or handicaps. It may occur when incurably ill people ask their physician–or a friend or relative–to put them to death or to allow them to die. It may also occur when ill people ask others to help them commit suicide. Euthanasia is sometimes called mercy killing.

Euthanasia is a very controversial issue. Some people believe patients should have an unqualified right to die. Others consider all forms of euthanasia to be murder or suicide and thus immoral. Still others approve of some forms of euthanasia and disapprove of others.

Medical ethics is the field of study concerned with moral problems created by the practice of modern medicine. Medical ethics is divided into three branches: (1) public policy medical ethics, (2) biomedical ethics, and (3) clinical ethics.
Public policy medical ethics deals with issues related to the regulation of medical practice by governments and by the governing boards of such institutions as hospitals and nursing homes. For example, state and federal governments establish spending limits for public health care. These limits raise ethical questions about the type and extent of medical services available to people who depend on public funds to pay medical bills. Other problems involving public policy include the control of medical research, the question of whether all citizens have a right to health care, and the availability of drugs for severe illnesses, such as AIDS.

Biomedical ethics addresses moral questions that arise from the use of medical technology to begin or maintain a life. Many ethical questions focus on medical procedures that affect human reproduction. These include in vitro fertilization (starting human life in a test tube), the cloning (duplication) of human embryos, and abortion. Another important issue is euthanasia, the practice of painlessly putting to death people who are hopelessly injured or terminally ill.
Clinical ethics evaluates the morality of decisions about medical care made by or with patients and their families. Problems of clinical ethics include deciding whether or not to remove life-sustaining treatment, making medical decisions for a severely retarded newborn or an unconscious person, and dealing with requests for euthanasia from patients or their families.
All three branches