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Lesson 6

                            Is Euthanasia Humane?


          A Doctor of Good Repntation Hastened His Patient's Death

    The most famous mercy killing case in America's history involves Dr. Herman N. Sanders, a country doctor from New Hampshire. In the early 1950s Dr. Sanders had been treating a sixty-year-old woman in Hillsboro County Hospital who was dying of cancer. The woman had wasted away from 140 pounds to 80 pounds. There was no chance for recovery and she suffered extreme pain. Often she screamed out in anguish from her bed. She begged everyone who'came near her to help her die.

    Toward the end there was little Dr. Sanders could do medically to ease his patient's suffering. He knew that her last,days would be torturously painful. So he decided to put an end to her misery.
    Dr. Sanders gave his patient four lethal injections of air, which caused her to die painlessly in under ten minutes. He recorded his action on the hospital's record and said no more of the matter.

    However, hospital administrators came across Dr. Sanders' entry when reviewing the records at a staff meeting and reported it to the state. A warrant for the doctor's arrest was issued and served by the sheriff. The warrant charged that Dr. Sanders "feloniously and willfully and of his own malice and aforethought did inject...air into the veins of Abbie Borroto and with said injection, feloniously and willfully and of his said malice aforethought killed and murdered his patient". The doctor pleaded not guilty and was released on $ 25, 000 bail .

    Dr. Sanders had been a known and respected member of his community for many years. He was born in New Hampshire, where his father had been an official of the Public Service Corporation of New Haxripshire. In college, Dr. Sanders had been captain of the Dartmouth ski team as well as a member of the college symphony orchestra. He had recently returned from Europe where he had continued his study of medicine. Until the time of the mercy killing, his reputation was excellent. Dr. Sanders had been considered a trusted and honored physician.

    In response to the charges hurled against him, Dr.. Sanders claimed that he had done no wrong. The woman had been within hours of her death. Moved by pity, he had merely hastened an extremely brutal end.
    The Sunday after his arrest; Dr. Sanders and his family attended services at their church as usual. His minister and other clergymembers across the state openly expressed their support.

    One minister in a nearby town preached a stirring sermon in Dr. Sanders' defense. He said that if the doctor was guilty, he was guilty too. For he had often prayed that some suffering parishioner might be "eased into the experience of death" . I.ater that day 605 of the 650 registered voters in his town presented Dr. Sanders with a written testimonial to his integrity and goodwill. They told him to use it wherever it might help him to prove his innocence.

    However, their efforts did little good. The attorney-general
of New Hampshire firmly stated that "the case will be presented forcefully and in complete detail, regardless of the personalities involved, to the end that justice may be met". In response, hundreds of Dr. Sanders' fellow townspeople offered
to testify on his behalf. They signed petitions urging the courts to dismiss the case. Nevertheless, a grand jury indicted him for first-degree murder. "All I can say," stated Sanders, "is that I am not guilty of any legal or moral wrong and ultimately my position will be vindicated.

    Not long afterward, Dr. Sanders was acquitted. But even after he was declared innocent, some were intent on punishing the doctor. His license to practise medicine was suspended. And while some clergymembers had supported Dr. Sanders, others loudly condemned him from their pulpits. Among them was the Reverend Billy Graham, who stated in Boston that "Dr. Sanders should be punished as an example" and that "anyone who voluntarily, knowingly or premeditatedly takes the life of another, even one minute prior to death, is a killer.

    While Dr. Sanders was not permitted to practise medicine, he supported himself and his family by working as a farm hand. Finally the Medical Board of the State of New Hampshire reinstated his license. And Dr. Sanders has continued as a doctor in his hometown ever since.

II . Read
    Read the following passages. Underline the important viewpoints while reading.

                     l. Euthanasia: Life or Death Matter

    Euthanasia, or mercy killing, is quietly being practised in some urban areas of China despite a lack of legal protection for the death option.
    Helping to hasten the death of terminally ill patients is humane, said Cai Wenmei, an associate professor at the Institute of Population at Beijing

    Death should not be viewed.as a failure, but as a normal and natural stage of life, according to Cai. People have the right to die.
    Death, Cai said, is as natural as birth and, like birth, is sometimes a hard process requiring assistance. It is unnecessary to artificially maintain
life beyond the point when people can never regain consciousness.
    Statistics indicate that medical treatment for a comatose patient costs 26, 000 yuan a year, a heavy burden for the hospital and the patient,s family.

    "Extending an incurably ill patient's life means the same as aggravating
his pain," Cai said.
    Birth and death are both natural events, but the emotional impact and the personal meanings of these events are vastly different. Birth is usually anticipated with excitement and joy, while the reality of death is often avoided as best one can.
Views on death are changing in China, where a traditional saying is that debt is better than death, and doctors and nurses do everything they can to save dying patients, including the use of medication and life-support systems.

    A survey of 200 old people shows that 92 per cent do not fear death. They do not want a long waiting period. They want to die with dignity and peace, instead of agony and degradation. Euthanasia is a progressive way to die, said a report in Beijing Daily.
    Mercy killing can hasten the death of hopelessly ill individuals by withholding life-sustaining procedures so that death will occur naturally and quickly.

    According to Cai, euthanasia can end the pain of terminally ill patients and can also be a great relief to their family members, both mentally and physically.
However, the general adoption of the practice of euthanasia would require changes in ethics and this should happen only after the issue is carefully considered by society.

    Cai suggests working out laws on euthanasia to protect the practice. Mercy killing, generally induced by an injection of sedatives, should be performed only at the patient's request, with the consent of his relatives and the signature of a lawyer.
    Hospitals and family members should respect the dying person's iights in regard to choices about lifestyle, including death.

    However, it would not be right for medical personnel or family members to casually assume that a patient is beyond hope until a thorough
examination is made of his physical condition and of the effect of further medical treatment.
    Hospitals avoid legal problems by requiring the patient' s family members to request the induced death in writing and by having joint approval of all medical personnei attending the case, including nurses and anesthesiologists.
    Deng Yingchao, widow of former Premier Zhou Enlai, said that she is very much in favour of mercy killing as a practical concept.

    Nevertheless, there is still a long way to go for euthanasia to be widely accepted because many people still consider it inhumane to perform mercy killing for a patient, no matter how painlessly.
    According to the report in Beijing Daily, time is not yet ripe for drawing up laws for euthanasia because the concept will require complicated changes. Instead, the report advocates,education on death.


                             2. Mercy or Murder?

    On June 20, 1973, 23 year old Lester M . Zygnamiak walked into his older brother George,s hospital room at Jersey Shore Medical Centre in Neptune, New Jersey, and shot his brother dead.
    George had been paralyzed from the neck down in an automobile accident several days earlier. The doctor had told his family that the 26 old boy would probably be paralyzed for life and would never walk again.

    The Zygnamiaks were an extremely close family. Lester idolized his older brother and would have done anything for him, but now he felt torn. After three intensely emotional days, he decided to obey his brother's wishes. When Lester visited his brother's hospital room, he said, "Iam here today to end your pain. Is that all right with you?" His brother nodded and said yes. Then a shot rang out. Hospital staff rushed to the room, and Lester was soon hauled off to jail.

    Lester stood trial for his brother' s murder, but was acquitted on November 5, 1973, on the grounds of temporary insanity. The court had determined that he was no longer insane, and Lester was released.

            3. Mrs. Ross Killed Her Daughier Because She Loved Her

    Mercy killing, or euthanasia (from the Greek, eu-meaning good and thanos-meaning death: thus, "a good death") is against the law. It isb considered a criminal offense. Yet. individuals brought to trial for actual mercy killings are rarely convicted. I.ike I.ester Zygnamiak, they are usually released.

    Such was the case with Anna Marie Ross. At twenty-five Mrs. Ross gave birth to her first child, a baby girl she and her husband named paula. The Rosses had wanted a child for several years, but during her pregnancy Mrs. Ross had unknowingly taken a damaging drug called Thalidomide, which caused Paula to be born severely disfigured. The infant had no arms or legs and her face was badly deformed. Although Paula was of normal intelligence, she was totally deaf and had very poor vision.

    Paula was expected to live a normal life span. But to survive, she would have to undergo numerous operations. It was expected that she would spend much of her life in hospitals. Anna Ross often stated that she firmly believed her child's normal intelligence would only make her more cruelly aware of her fate. She felt certain the Paula's life would be filled with anguish.

    So one night she put Paula to bed and gave her a bottle containing a strong sedative. The baby died painlessly during the night.
    Anna Ross readily admitted to the killing. She said. "I killed little Paula because I loved her. I brought her into the world, and she was unable to end her constant pain and misery. I felt I had to send her to God. "
    A survey of more than 10,000 people taken by a local newspaper indicated that over 98 percent agreed with Anna Ross's action. Whcn she stood trial, a jury found Mrs. Ross not guilty in under three hours.

                            4. Innocent or Guilty?

    The fact that the majority of persons brought to trial for mercy killing are usually found innocent suggests that the law against it exists only on the books or in theory. But this isn't quite true. Case records indicate that the wheels of justice do not always grind evenly.

    While Lester M. Zygnamiak was acquitted, Harold Mohar oi Pennsylvania, involved in a similar case, was not. Mohar was convicted of voluntary manslaughter for killing his blind,cancer-stricken brother who had pleaded with him to do so. He was sentenced to from three to six years in prison and fined $ 500.

    As a result of such uncertain consequences, many healthy people have become concerned over their right to die. If stricken with a severe mental or physical disability , they want to be assured that their lives will not be prolonged artificially by medical technology.

                    5. Legal System Should Be Established
                           to Deal with Euthanasia

    Many countries have legalized mercy killing. In Uruguay the law states that, "The judges are authorized to forgo punishmen,t of a person whose life has been honorable where he commits a homicide motivated by compassion induced by repeated requests by the victim." Switzerland, Norway, and Germany have adopted similar approaches.

    American law appears in need of revision. However, some feel that legalized euthanasia would invite abuse. Any form of murder might be conveniently dubbed" mercy killing " by unscrupulous persons. In response, some euthanasia proponents have suggested that our legal system establish an evaluation body to judge which requests for a mercy killing are valid before the act is committed.

                         6.Is There a Way to Compromise?

    Medical science is doing all it can to extend human life and is succeeding brilliantly. Living conditions are so much better, so many diseases can either be prevented or cured that life expectation has increased enormously. No one would deny that this is a good thing-provided one enjoys perfect health. But is it a good thing to extend human suffering, to prolong life, not in order to give joy and happiness, but to give pain and sorrow?

Take an extreme example. Take the case of a man who is so senile he has lost all his faculties. He is in hospital in an unconscious state with little chance of coming round, but he is kept alive by artificial means for an indefinite period. Everyone, his friends, relatives and even the doctors agree that death will bring release. Indeed, the patient himself would agree-if he were in a position to give choice to his feelings. Yet everything is done to perpetuate what has become a meaningless existence.

    The question of euthanasia raises serious moral issues, since it implies that active measures will be taken to terminate human life. And this is an exceedingly dangerous principle to allow. But might it not be possible to compromise? With regard to senility, it might be preferable to let nature take its course when death will relieve suffering. After all, this would be doing no more than was done in the past, before medical science made it possible to interfere with the course of nature.

    There are people in Afghanistan and Russia who are reputed to live to a ripe old age. These exceptiona'Ily robust individuals.are just getting into their stride at 70. Cases have been reported of men over 120 getting married and having children. Some of these people are said to be over 150 years old. Under such exceptional conditions, who wouldn't want to go on living dorever? But in our societies, to be ?0 usually means that you are old; to be 90 often means'that you are decrepit. The instinct for selfpreservation is the strongest we possess. We cling dearly to life while we have it and enjoy it. But there always comes a time when we'd be better off dead.