Last Updated 05 Jan 2023

Three Unalienable Rights of Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness in the Declaration of Independence

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One of the most well-known phrases in the United States could arguably be found in

the Declaration of Independence, describing the three unalienable rights given to

mankind. These privileges are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, which have become a basis for governing and enforcing laws and the like. These words can roughly be translated into the modern terms "life," "freedom," and "dreams," which encompasses almost everything about how a person may choose to live their life. But oftentimes people overlook the fact that death is a very real part of life, and this brings up the issue of morality. If a person is free to choose how to live, shouldn't they be free to choose how they die as well? There are many cases where people are left to suffer horribly until they die, just because "assisted suicide" or euthanasia is taboo. To some extent, people should be able to pick a painless death over poor quality of life, without the government interfering.

The definition of euthanasia, as found in the dictionary, is "the act or practice of killing someone who is very sick or injured in order to prevent any more suffering" (Merriam-Webster). If people understood what it is like to die of cancer or AIDS perhaps they would not be so adamant in their beliefs that life is always the better option. Cancer.net gives a rundown of what happens to a cancer patient's body during the last days and weeks before death, and it is none too pleasant. The person begins to lose strength and is fatigued, often needing much more sleep. They have a decreased desire to eat or drink, and it is difficult to do so. They then begin losing control of their muscles, especially in their bladder and bowels. Mental capacity is also compromised and they may experience hallucinations, delusions, and confusion about people and events. The pain is constant and may only be slightly eased with medication, which is trying for the victim and their loved ones alike. It is not the quiet, painless death many people think of, it is long, strenuous, and excruciating. Brittany Maynard, a 29 year old with cancer, recently became a public icon promoting doctor assisted suicide.

In the Spring of 2014 she was diagnosed with stage four

glioblastoma, and told that she had six months to live. However, in the states of Oregon, Washington, and Vermont, a patient whose disease is terminal may request a prescription to end suffering. The Death with Dignity Act passed in Oregon in 1997, allowing six-month terminal patients to choose the time of their death and prevent unnecessarily cruel

deaths. Maynard stated, "My glioblastoma is going to kill me and that's out of my control...... So being able to choose to go with dignity is less terrifying." Maynard chose to end her life in November after taking time to travel the world with her family, and to her it made all the difference in how she lived those last few months. Those who oppose the Death with Dignity Act state that it is unnatural and inhumane to choose the time of death, but prolonging the trauma that comes with these illnesses is far worse. Cancer and AIDS are not "humane" or

"natural," and they shouldn't be treated like regular diseases that have regular treatment. This is not broken bone or infection, these people are going to die and they are fully aware of that. But giving them a little bit of control over the "when" of their death can help ease the fear and allow them a chance to live in comfort.

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One of the main issues faced with the legality of euthanasia is religion. 30% of doctors in Michigan who opposed physician-assisted suicide did so because their religion conflicted with the idea (Bioethics). Many Christians believe that prescribing deadly medication is, in a sense, “playing God," and that death is not something people have a right to change or influence, which is why murder and suicide are believed to be some of the worst sins. They see euthanasia as a glorified form of suicide, which it is not. Brittany Maynard stated, "They try to mix it up with suicide and that's really unfair, because there's not a single part of me that wants to die. But I am dying." Others who oppose it hold to the idea that God may perform a miracle and save the life of the person who is ill, despite the futility of treatment. However, neither of these ideals had nor will ever have scientific backing, which is a serious problem in the way of defense. Those who are in favor of banning euthanasia say

alternatives to such medications.

The cause for assisted suicide is also not what many people believe it to be. Pain was originally thought to be the leading factor, when in reality it isn't even a factor at all. Terminally ill people are most uncomfortable with the physical and mental decline they will experience, and the loss of ability to make decisions for themselves. Humans are naturally independent, and knowing they will have to rely on others as they degenerate is painful for a lot of people. Many patients experience such guilt and perceived loss of self that they fear the future more than death itself. To allow such patients the choice to end their life would give them much needed stability and power in their life, which they can opt out of any time. The decision to take the medication is not enforced after it is given.

One of the upsides to legal euthanasia is the fact that it is low cost. Lethal injection, in comparison to regulating treatments of AIDS and cancer, is very cost effective (Bioethics). Terminally ill patients with AIDS, HIV, or forms of cancer usually undergo treatments such as chemotherapy, radiation, or immune system medications to slow the disease down and lengthen life expectancy. But these treatments require time, money, hospital rooms, and staff, and while they may be a good option for certain patients, they are not for everyone. Many people who are terminal do not wish to undergo therapy because of painful and difficult side effects, or other personal reasons. These patients could choose to live while they are able to maintain a certain quality of life, and then receive lethal medication when they feel they are ready. The stresses of failing health and painful side effects are lifted, and they can focus on being with friends and family instead of doctors' visits. Brittney Maynard is a wonderful example of this. She traveled the world with her husband and family and got to experience the wonder and beauty of the Earth, and then decided for herself when she was ready to die. She was given the ability to surround herself with positivity and people who loved her, and everyone should be given that chance.

Euthanasia still faces much opposition from most legislature of the United States. But

if life is an unalienable right granted to every U.S. citizen, then denying the right to a painless death to those who would take advantage of it is unconstitutional. It would not affect the lives of those who disagree with it, yet it could help so many people who desire it. Euthanasia isn't the "slippery slope" to frequent and unnecessary suicide many people believe it to be; it is a simple solution to a large problem. People try to add religion, fear, and negative emotion into their arguments where they are lacking in logic, and still it does not outweigh the undeniable good it could potentially do. Death is a part of life and it is time to come to terms with it.

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Three Unalienable Rights of Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness in the Declaration of Independence. (2023, Jan 05). Retrieved from https://phdessay.com/three-unalienable-rights-of-life-liberty-and-the-pursuit-of-happiness-in-the-declaration-of-independence/

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