There are many sides to the dilemma of whether or not euthanasia should be carried out. There is the question of morality, the question of active versus passive euthanasia and the question of when euthanasia should be put into use. None of these questions are totally cut and dry. There seem to be more gray areas within this issue than there are black and white. Yet when you look at the problem on a personal level with the actual individuals involved, some of those gray areas almost disappear. People are put on this earth to live.
When it gets to the point where the quality of a person’s life gets so bad that they can no longer function in the world, there is no reason to force that person to stay alive. Euthanasia is therefore a necessary evil for those whose practical life is in effect over due to a terminal illness or otherwise life devastating condition.
If a person is in unbearable pain and close to death or is in a vegetable state and no longer able to function, their life is by all practical means over. There is no reason to keep them alive. The only way to end their physical life is by euthanasia. The question is whether to do this by way of active euthanasia or passive euthanasia. Many are against active euthanasia because in this case you actually kill the person rather than letting them die. But both methods are used for the same end which is to end someone’s life without further pain for the patient as well as for the family.
The only choice to make after this fact is established is which of these means better carries out the end. James Rachels, a philosophy professor, says that, “if one simply withholds treatment [in the way of passive euthanasia], it may take the patient longer to die, and so he may suffer more than he would if more direct action were taken and a lethal injection given.” (Rachels, p.111) This defeats the purpose of euthanasia which is to end suffering.
Therefore, in cases where euthanasia is going to be carried out, active euthanasia is the better choice. The problem with euthanasia then lies in defining the conditions under which it would be carried out. Cases where depression or painful, though not terminal, diseases are involved should not have the option of euthanasia.
These people can recover from their illnesses and go on to lead very fulfilling lives. Clear cut cases would be those in which the patient has a terminal illness that causes them incredible pain as they get closer to death. Euthanasia would end the needless suffering and quicken the already inevitable death. There are also the cases involving people in a vegetative state. Sometimes their bodies can function on their own and live with the help of intravenous nourishment.
Other times they need countless machines to regulate their breathing as well as their heart. In all of these cases the individual has lost the brain capacity to be conscious and to think. Without our thoughts we would not truly be alive. People in this condition can only cause pain to their loved ones. There is no legitimate reason not to end their lives when their quality of life has already deteriorated to almost nothing.
Cases in which a living will is concerned are legitimate since the person involved has the right to dictate what happens to their bodies but they are less clear cut. Take, for example, the case of a person who has specified in their will not to take any extraordinary means by way of medicine in order to save their life if a medical emergency were to come up. This person then has a heart attack and dies because the doctors are not allowed to do anything to save them. A heart attack is by no means a terminal illness.
Many people who have them survive with the help of today’s medical technology. Yet this person is allowed to die because that is what they asked for. This is a form of passive voluntary euthanasia. It is acceptable simply because it is voluntary and legally bound to a living will.
Everyone has a different view on the acceptability of euthanasia. What might seem legitimate to one person may be outrageous to another. Religion plays a big part in this controversy and along with it, morals. Because everyone has differing religions and morals, it would be near impossible to make up a set of universal rules for the practice of euthanasia that would make everyone happy.
The only way to please everyone is to leave the rules in the hands of the individual in question or, if they are physically unable to make the disision, in the hands of their family. People should have the right to live and the right to choose how they will die, if indeed they are terminally ill or unable to function in life. If a person wants to end the suffering, they should have that choice. After all, they are the ones who would be ultimately affected by euthanasia. They are the only ones who would have to live, or die, with their choice.