Legalizing euthanasia had been a subject of religious, moral and constitutional debates for decades. The National Right to Life defines euthanasia as the “the intentional killing by act or omission of a dependent human being for his or her alleged benefit. ” Recently the widespread of bills asking for the legalization euthanasia calls for more in depth and lucid analysis of the issue. Ending someone else’s life is a crime in our present constitution. We call it murder. There is a reason why our forefathers, the people responsible for the freedom we enjoy today, included it there.
The present moves to change this belief need our attention. Legalizing euthanasia calls for massive adjustment in the moral and legal foundations of our society. Has the world changed that much to warrant changes as big as this? Is there really a pressing need to legalize euthanasia? We will evaluate the reasons of the euthanasia advocates in pushing for the bill. There are distinctions made regarding voluntary and involuntary euthanasia but for this paper, we will use the word on its general term.
Robert Young in his Voluntary Euthanasia article mentioned that a person is a candidate for euthanasia if they fall in the fallowing conditions: (a) suffering from a terminal illness; (b) unlikely to benefit from the discovery of a cure for that illness during what remains of their life expectancy; (c) suffering intolerable pain or a life that is unacceptably burdensome due to the illness; (d) has an enduring, voluntary and competent wish to die; and (e) is unable without assistance to commit suicide.
Euthanasia supporters argue that a patient falling into these situations have the right to die. They said people should have the right to decide when to give up. It is natural for a person diagnosed with terminal illness to feel depressed and lose hope. Sickness could also make them feel useless. The burden of losing control and independence can lead to bad decisions like suicide. Just because a person want to die does not make it right to kill him/her. In Forced Exit, Smith (1997) asked why the argument should apply to dying patients alone.
If there really is such thing as right to die, the argument should apply to those who are not ill, but have lost the desire to live as well. By restricting the argument to the sick, are we not sending the message that they have become dispensable? According to the National Right to Life, suicide is most of the time a “cry for help. ” People who commit suicide are suffering from mental problems. They are in need to guidance and acceptance, not assistance in dying. Another argument is that people experiencing unbearable pain should be helped to end their suffering.
They further argue that it is not right for us to prolong their misery. While medicine can not eliminate all the suffering of patients, killing someone will not solve the problem. Before the advancement of medicine, people had endured more pain than anyone suffers today. We can just imagine how people survived before painkillers and anesthesia. Yet, they did not go around killing the sick. Murder in any form is not an act of compassion. Allowing patients suffering from terminal illness to undergo voluntary euthanasia will not solve the problem. The goal of medicine is to heal people.
Research takes time and money. In a society where healthcare companies had become profit-oriented organizations, euthanasia can be a cheaper and less demanding solution (Smith, 1997). Another argument is that by legalizing euthanasia, the government can impose strict guidelines to make sure that patients demanding the process are not coerced into doing it. Coercion however is not necessarily direct. A depressed patient can be indirectly coerced if we give them that option. By legalizing euthanasia, we are giving them a suggestion they might feel compelled to take.
They might feel guilty not choosing the easier way. Going back to the guidelines, they proposed counseling to guarantee that the patient is “competent” (Young, 2008) to make a decision. This might involve consultations with the patient and the patient’s families. A sick person should not spend what is left of his life talking about death. Instead, they should be encouraged to focus their energy on making the most out of their remaining days. Why don’t we focus on treating their depression and encouraging them to enjoy instead of planning their murder?
Another argument is that doctors had been practicing euthanasia by withdrawing life-sustaining or life-prolonging measures. Smith (1997) maintains that there is distinction between killing and letting die. Some believe that life-sustaining instruments only support certain body organs to function. By withdrawing thse instruments, doctors are not killing the patient; they are just letting nature take its course. The most popular argument is about religious freedom. Euthanasia advocates say that euthanasia is a religious issue and it is not right for other people to force their religious beliefs to others.
It is a religious issue if you believe in religion, but it transcends from a mere religious argument to an issue of humanity that affects not only the religious, but the rest of us. Regardless of all the rationalizations euthanasia supporters could come up with, euthanasia remains a treacherous issue our legislators need to address with caution. There is enough violence in this world. If we start allowing people to decide the fate of depressed, powerless and dying patients, what’s stopping us from killing each other?
“Protecting Against the Legalizing of Direct Killing. ” National right to life. 4 July 2009 <http://www. nrlc. org/euthanasia/index. html#DEFINITIONS> Smith, Wesley J. Forced Exit: The Slippery Slope from Assisted Suicide to Legalized Murder. New York: Times Books, 1997. Young, Robert, “Voluntary Euthanasia”, The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Fall 2008 Edition), Edward N. Zalta (ed. ), 4 July 2009 <http://plato. stanford. edu/archives/fall2008/entries/euthanasia-voluntary/>.