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Right to Die Research Papers

Right to die research papers look at the issue of the right to die for the terminally ill. Research writers can write on euthanasia, suicide or any aspect of the ethical and legally challenging issue of the right to die.

One of the largest “hot button” ethical issues today is that of a person’s right to die. Supporters of this issue argue that people, especially the terminally ill, have the right to commit suicide or undergo voluntary euthanasia. Proponents argue that each person has the right to make decisions regarding their body and their life. Opponents of the issue frequently argue in favor of the sanctity of human life and raise questions as to who is empowered to make such decisions.

Right to Die

Much of the debate in right to die arguments come over assisted suicide, as opposed to simply not taking extreme, life-saving measures at the end of life. There are two types of right to die directives:

  • Living will and Do Not Resuscitate (DNR) directives are legal documents that protect the wishes of the patient in the latter case.
  • Physician-assisted suicide is when a doctor knowingly helps a person end their life, either through medication or by providing knowledge as to how to commit suicide. (Physician-assisted suicide is not the same as euthanasia, which is mercy killing.)

In the United States, physician-assisted suicide is legal in Oregon, Washington, Vermont, and New Mexico. The Netherlands, on the other hand, legalized voluntary euthanasia in 2001, followed by Belgium, Luxembourg and Switzerland, whereas euthanasia remains illegal across the United States. Some ethicists argue that the right to die is the ultimate level of freedom in society.

In the international media, one story dominates recent memory in the right to die debate. As Terri Schiavo, a forty-one year old woman, lies dying in a hospice in Florida, protestors and supporters proclaim their cases--sometimes calmly and rationally, and at other times with intense displays of violence and anger. The judicial decree to remove her feeding tube causes those who interpret this as murder, mercy killing, or euthanasia, to take to the streets, churches, and even on to the private property of Schiavo’s husband. Schiavo’s case raises issues about both the right to live and the right to die.

Between those two rights lies a continuum of questions, theories and conclusions. In support of her right to die, the law takes its stand in her favor. Schiavo’s husband legally speaks for his wife in her present circumstances, and logic and mercy would appear to be on the side of Schiavo’s right to die.  Therefore, it appears that the most solid arguments can be made in favor of Schiavo’s right to die. Clouding this claim, however, is the inability of Schiavo to speak for herself, having been in a persistent vegetative state for the past fifteen years. The solution in this case is to let this woman’s body complete its journey on earth.

Many eyes are focused on the mental image of Schiavo slowly dehydrating and starving to death while her family stands by helplessly. As emotional as this case is, the law stands behind Schiavo’s right to die. In an article about medical ethics, Warren Richey, staff writer for The Christian Science Monitor, notes that the Florida state constitution legalizes the present state of Schiavo: “On one hand, the constitution recognizes a strong government interest in preserving life. On the other hand, the same document guarantees that Floridians may make private healthcare decisions—including the refusal of medical treatment—without facing government interference.” This may appear to some to be paradoxical, and subject to interpretation. Yet, in Schiavo’s case, the constitution is clear that patients may refuse medical treatment. Thus, citizens who disagree may work proactively to change the laws of the land.

Points of contention about this stem from the opposition’s inability to trust Mr. Schiavo, the husband that claims to know his wife’s wishes. Schiavo’s parents believe that Terry is conscious and responsive to them, though this is not supported by medical evidence. Mr. Schiavo has not divorced his wife, and therefore, in the eyes of the law, his word bears more weight than that of her grieving parents. Marc Kahn of Tulane University School of Medicine supports Mr. Schiavo’s statement about his wife’s wishes. He writes, “Assuming the patient communicated her wishes to her husband either verbally or in writing, her wishes should be granted." Though logical and supported by the law, that opinion does not assuage the vehement feelings of the Right to Lifers and other opposition groups. These groups form their opinions based on religious, ideological and moral grounds—none of which provides direct evidence in support of their claims. Thus, though this case invites these kinds of arguments, ideology does not win out over the law.

Related Research Paper Topics

Comprehensive Textbook of Suicidology - Comprehensive Textbook of Suicidology by Ronald W. Maris, Alan L. Berman and Morton M. Silverman, is an excellent resource for any sociology or psychology student.

Ethics in Health Care - Assisted Suicide - Assisted Suicide research papers explore euthanasia and a person's right to die.

Johann Christian Reil - Johann Christian Reil (1759-1813) was the German physician who coined the term “psychiatry” in 1808.

Morals and Markets - Euthanasia and Morals research papers analyze the issues concerning mercy killing.

Palliative Care - Many doctors encounter hostility and resistance from family members, and are often accused of performing euthanasia.

Jack Kevorkian - Jack Kevorkian Research Papers look at his medical career, and his help with assisted suicides.