Recently, a retired doctor was charged with setting up what has been termed "a suicide machine," to be used by a terminally ill patient. The device would trigger a lethal injection when activated by a control held by the patient. The doctor said that he simply gave the patient the final choice of when to die. Prosecutors said he was an accessory to the crime of suicide.

Do you believe voluntary euthanasia (medically assisted suicide) for the terminally ill should be legal? Should doctors be the ones to perform it? How does euthanasia relate to the Hippocratic oath? Is there any difference between the currently accepted "living wills," which limit the amount of care a patient wishes to receive, and euthanasia?

Taking life is morally wrong, whether it is someone else's or your own. However, when confronted with a painful and protracted, doctor-diagnosed terminal illness, an individual should be permitted to die with dignity.

Modern technology is able to sustain life indefinitely on machines, but it has yet to come up with all the cures. Under these circumstances, living wills should be honored. Similarly, the terminally ill patient should have the option to die while he is physically capable of carrying out his wish.

The man who built the "suicide machine" is no more an accessory to the crime of suicide than are the companies which make sleeping pills, alcohol or cigarettes, as long as the terminally ill patient is not forced, but is acting of his free will.


St. John's

Voluntary euthanasia for the terminally ill should remain illegal because taking one's own life, or another person's life, is not within the realm of human rights. By the same token, living wills. which give the dying patient and his family the right to a natural death, confirm a human right and should be upheld.

While it may seem a short jump from refusing treatment to actively participating in an event that causes or accelerates death, that jump crosses an important ethical and legal line. Doctors and medical professionals believe that the critical distinction is that euthanasia requires an action that results in death. It violates the Hippocratic oath which states that doctors, above all, must "do no harm." I would say that this is the difference between letting nature take its course and interfering with nature. Euthanasia interferes with nature, while living wills ensure the individual that others will not interfere with a natural process.

Death is a necessary part of life, and dying is a natural event; its timing should remain natural as well.


Georgetown Visitation

I think that voluntary euthanasia for the terminally ill should be legal because, if a terminally ill person can't be helped, why waste thousands and thousands of dollars a day trying to keep that person alive? From a loved one's point of view, it is hard to say goodbye to a person you love. But from a realistic standpoint, the patient who can't eat, drink, talk or walk is no more than a vegetable.

Why keep spending money on someone who cannot be saved? People should be able to have the doctor or someone of that profession pull the switch or inject whatever drug is required to take the patient out of misery.



I understand the pain and suffering associated with an illness, but this is not a license to murder or commit suicide. Euthanasia is a pretty word for murder. Life, even at conception, is precious. Life is valued not for the quality of it, but for the possessing of it. The Hippocratic oath states that doctors will "maintain the utmost respect for human life from the time of conception."

Euthanasia is another fancy word used to bypass moral, biblical and ethical action. More than likely, euthanasia, just as abortion, will be legalized. Somehow, people will find a way to justify their actions and to call murder "euthanasia" or better yet, "mercy killing." This is just the excuse some people are looking for to carry out immoral and unethical acts.


H.D. Woodson

Everyone has the right to life. No one has the right to take the life of another. But we also cannot force anyone to want to live. Voluntary euthanasia for the terminally ill should be legalized.

After the consent of the doctor, medically assisted suicide should be the decision of the patient and his family, made after counseling and great consideration. The procedure should be performed under the supervision of a doctor and witnessed by a relative. Since this process is voluntary, the doctors shouldn't be held responsible nor should they be prosecuted.



I do not think that voluntary euthanasia for the terminally ill should be legal. I think that, if it is meant for a person to die, then it will happen. We don't need machines and other devices to help kill a patient. It often seems as though mankind is trying to put itself in the role of God -- and it always fails. People should stop putting themselves in the place of God and just let nature take care of itself.

I also think doctor-assisted euthanasia contradicts the Hippocratic oath in which a doctor vows to help better the sick. Doctors can only do so much in trying to help a terminally ill patient. They shouldn't have the right to kill a patient. When a doctor assists a patient in determining whether he or she lives, that doctor is no better than a murderer and should be prosecuted.



One of the most controversial medical issues today is euthanasia. I believe that euthanasia is the best thing for all involved: the patient, the doctor and the family.

Why should a patient and his family go through excruciating pain when there is a way to stop it? People are granted three inalienable rights: life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Life is what distinguishes a vital person from death. In many cases of terminal illness, not much distinguishes life from death -- sometimes the patient is merely a vegetable being kept alive by machines. At other times, the patient may be in great pain. Yes, these patients do have life, but they do not have the ability to pursue happiness. If they want to die, they do not have the liberty to choose this alternative.

In the case of terminally ill patients, if the patient has the right to life, why doesn't he have the right to death?



Should medically assisted suicide be legal? No! Although the terminally ill sometimes suffer terribly, I do not feel that suicide, by whatever means, is the answer. All life is precious. Given the condition of our society today and the escalating loss of life here in D.C., anyone whom God has blessed with life ought to cherish it.

Doctors should not be allowed to assist in this fatal act because they are morally bound by the Hippocratic oath. There is no right for a person who is in a position to help in helping anyone to die.

There really is not that much difference between living wills and euthanasia. Who is wise enough to judge the value of a life that he may deem life worthless and expendable? Only God can do that. No human, with our propensity for error, would or could be qualified to make such an awful judgment.


Woodrow Wilson

If the doctor recently charged with setting up a "suicide machine" had forced the patient into committing suicide, he should have been prosecuted, but that was not the case. The patient made her own decision to end her obviously unsatisfying life. The doctor did not pull the trigger; he gave an alternative to the pain and suffering.

I support the notion of voluntary euthanasia for the terminally ill. Regardless of the circumstances, the patient should be the one to decide when to end his agony. The patient's decision would also serve to remove any pressure or guilt from the doctor. If I were very ill, I would like to have the legal choice of dealing with the pain or not.



I believe that euthanasia should be made legal. When someone who is in pain and is suffering wants to die, shouldn't we follow his wishes? He may have made this request so that his death will be less painful to himself and others.

Some people may argue that God is the only one who can take life. I believe this too. However, cannot the argument be made that when we artificially prolong life with a machine, we are playing God as well? Ultimately, God will make the final decision in both instances.

Certainly, it is obvious that when death is impending for someone who is terminally ill, we should try to make his last days as painless as possible, if that is what he wishes.



Students Speak Out:

Topic for November 22

Which is more important in choosing a career: salary or personal fulfillment? What do you hope to achieve through your career choice?

Written responses should be no more than 150 words in length and typed or written legibly. We are also interested in receiving political-style cartoons on the topic. Cartoons should be drawn on posterboard.

Students should submit their responses by Nov. 12 with name, age, grade and school included on the work to:

High School Honors

The Washington Post

1150 15th St. NW

Washington, D.C. 20071

We will publish selected responses in the Nov. 22 editions of the District Weekly.