Suicide and Euthanasia Soc 410

Suicide and Euthanasia Soc 410 - Chapter 7 Suicide and...

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Chapter 7 Suicide and Euthanasia There is little question that suicide and euthanasia, along with the related topic of assisted suicide, are extremely important to any human-rights discussion of deviance and social control. Taken together, these three topics form the pillars of the ongoing debate over suicide and euthanasia in American society. This debate encompasses aspects of the right-to-life debate and melds them with the discussion over whether privacy and autonomy can be used to justify complete individual control over ones life, including the right to end it. In some instances, the latter discussion is referred to as the “right-to-die” debate to distinguish it from the “right-to-life” debate. The discussion in this chapter will outline selected aspects of suicide and discuss several important issues and controversies that are encompassed by the debate over assisted suicide and euthanasia. In order to facilitate this discussion, it is necessary to outline several important distinctions involved in the debate. Suicide is the intentional taking of one’s own life. Neither suicide nor attempted suicide is illegal in the United States, although both carry a heavy stigma. Most of the suicides committed every year do not involve people who are terminally ill or suffering from debilitating diseases. They also usually do not involve requests for assistance and are sometimes referred to as “ordinary” suicides to distinguish them fro the debate over euthanasia and assisted suicide. Assisted Suicide occurs when someone other than the victim provides crucial help in the suicide but does not take part in the actual suicide. For example, Jack Kevorkian would hook people up to his “suicide machine”, but insist that they push the button themselves to start the flow of chemicals that would kill them. Assisting a suicide is currently illegal in all states except Oregon. Euthanasia involves a person other than the victim overtly committing an act or omission that hastens death. This could include a range of activities from withholding treatment through to actively killing another person. The former is sometimes referred to as passive euthanasia and some people do not consider it a true form of euthanasia. The latter is sometimes referred to as mercy killing” and is considered a homicide in all states. Right to Refuse Treatment involves a patient’s refusal to allow medical staff to administer life extending treatment. This is legal in all states and medical staff is legally required to respect a patient’s wishes or face legal action. 1
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Suicide Approximately 30,000 Americans commit suicide each year, a rate that is significantly higher than the homicide rate (NIHS, 2002). These suicides almost always leave behind friends and loved ones who must attempt to understand why the person took their own life. In many instances, the surviving family and friends must not only deal with their own sense of grief and loss, but must also cope with feelings of guilt brought
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This note was uploaded on 02/02/2012 for the course SOC 410 taught by Professor Nicklarsen during the Fall '11 term at Chapman University .

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Suicide and Euthanasia Soc 410 - Chapter 7 Suicide and...

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