Gonzalo Herranz, Euthanasia: An Uncontrollable Power Over Death.

Gonzalo Herranz, Euthanasia: An Uncontrollable Power Over Death, 6 NAT'L CATH. BIOETHICS Q. 263 (2006).

The physician who grants "compassionate" death for the first time to one of his patients has two options. Either he recognizes that he has done wrong and he is profoundly sorry, or he rationalizes his action as a good deed. In the latter case, because of moral consistency, there is nothing to prevent him from repeating his action. Dutch and Belgian physicians who do not object to euthanasia are not psychopathic killers. Paradoxically, their mistaken compassion has led them down the path of euthanasia. In countries where euthanasia is allowed by law, the process follows a four-stage course.

The first phase may be measured in years. The physician resists applying the legal rule, but in very extreme cases he will use it with stringent criteria. In this the established legal regulations and only after all palliative measures have been exhausted. In other words, euthanasia in this first phase is a desperate measure which is supposed to happen only once or twice in the course of one's whole professional life.

The second phase corresponds to a period when the use of euthanasia becomes an acceptable and common measure, a situation triggered by extraordinary cases highly publicized in the media, by repeated "not guilty" verdicts in ambiguous cases brought before the courts, and by increasing social assent. Moreover, ethical repugnance is weakened by the perception that more than a few patients are put to death by respected and influential colleagues in accredited and prestigious hospitals. This environment can make euthanasia seem universally acceptable and not restricted to "hard cases." The physician finds himself on a proverbial slippery slope.

The old frame of mind changes, and euthanasia becomes a familiar procedure. Now the physician thinks that there are honorable and acceptable indications for euthanasia, making it preferable to other forms of treatment, especially if the patient asks for it. If he applies pragmatic criteria, euthanasia even seems to be superior to palliative measures. Why? Because in comparison with palliative care, it is more efficient, less painful, more aesthetic, more graceful, and economically less expensive. In addition, some patients consider themselves entitled by right to a painless death; for the patient's relatives, euthanasia may be a practical solution to end the spiritual suffering faced by both the beloved...

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