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The Right to Die

As medical technology advanced to a point where it could keep an unconscious person alive for years with artificial machinery, the right to die began to emerge as a major issue. It spread beyond the cases of unconsciousness to cases in which terminally ill people facing extreme pain demanded the right to ask others to end their lives, bringing up the question of physician-assisted suicide.

Author Derek Humphrey, in his popular book Final Exit: The Practicalities of Self-Deliverance and Assisted Suicide for the Dying, treats the subject of the right to die and euthanasia (mercy killing) in controversial depth. The book, intended for terminally ill people, is partially a “how-to” on committing suicide. For many years until its dissolution in 2003, Humphrey’s Hemlock Society lobbied nationally for the right to die.

The use of “living wills” has to some extent filled in the gap in the case of people who have no conscious ability to end their own lives or even request that others do so for them. These documents state that if there is no hope of recovering from an illness, they desire to die free of artificial measures, such as respirators, designed to keep them alive. The object is to save personal pain and anguish for the family, not to mention the often extreme financial expense of keeping a person alive in a less than optimal physical state. More and more, families and medical personnel are able to “pull the plug” without fear of legal prosecution.

Next Section:Physician Assisted Suicide

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