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What is meant by euthanasia?

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Euthanasia is the painless killing of a patient suffering from an incurable and painful disease. Euthanasia may be carried out in the form of assisted suicide, voluntary active euthanasia or involuntary euthanasia. Euthanasia is usually carried out when it is better for a patient to die than to stay alive. Euthanasia is a matter that has caused great controversy in a number of South African court cases in the past and has usually been justified by doing what is in the best interests of the patient as we see in the case Clarke v Hurst1 In Discussion paper 71 the first critical question identified was whether, and if so, under what circumstances, the medical practitioner would be entitled to disconnect the life sustaining system of a person who was being kept 'alive' by a heart lung-machine or ventilator. In order to answer this question it was necessary to determine precisely when death sets in, and this is relatively the same medical question faced in Clarke v Hurst for the court to make a judgement. People especially moralists and persons with strong religious beliefs, often speculate in metaphysical ways about the concepts of life and death. ...read more.


remained to the patient.The patient's brain had permanently lost the capacity to induce a physical and mental existence at a level which qualified as human life and that in these circumstances, judged by society's legal convictions, the feeding of the patient did not serve the purpose of supporting human life as it is commonly known. The court held that the applicant appointed as curatix would act reasonably and would be justified in authorizing the discontinuing of the artificial feeding of the patient and would therefore not be acting wrongfully if she were to do so and would be doing it in the best interests of the patient. Although the court approached the interests of the patient with a strong predilection in favour of the preservation of life, it however did not extend as far as requiring that life should be maintained at all costs irrespective of its quality. Under the present law, voluntary euthanasia would except in certain narrow circumstances, be regarded as suicide in the patient who consents and murder in the doctor who administers, even on a linient view most lawyers would say that it could not be less than manslaughter in the doctor, the punishment for which, according to the jurisdiction and the degree of manslaughter, can be anything up to imprisonment for life. ...read more.


The fact that the patient was a member of SA Voluntary Euthanasia Society and had a 'Living Will' then has an amount of influence to the courts decision considering his quality of life but I think as the court highlighted in its judgement that normally this would not have been of any influence as the court would have been aiding the ends of suicide which most find morally wrong and at on behalf of the person actually carrying out the 'euthanasia' would be in reality an act of murder and this is why it is essential to establish when a person is actually dead. Considering all the facts of the argument above as well as the precedent set by the courts in the above cases euthanasia can be used as legal defence in South African criminal law but must be accordingly justified by determination of death so as to be distinguished from murder. It can be done also if it is in best interests of a patient and should be treated with a strict appriciation of life as it is clearly depicted in the judgement of the court in Clarke v Hurst. Name : Ndabezulu .T. ...read more.

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