Proponents of euthanasia believe that it is the compassionate choice. They feel that terminally ill people should have the right to end their pain and suffering with a quick, dignified death. Opponents of euthanasia worry about a “slippery slope” from euthanasia to murder. They value life at all stages and fear that legalizing euthanasia will unfairly target the poor and disabled. Doctors, lawyers, philosophers, and religious leaders have been debating the euthanasia issue for over two millennia.
“Euthanasia is the deliberate killing of a person for the benefit of that person. In most cases euthanasia is carried out because the person who dies asks for it, but there are cases called euthanasia where a person can’t make such a request. A person who undergoes euthanasia is usually terminally ill, but there are other situations in which some people want euthanasia. Euthanasia has many definitions.
The Pro-Life Alliance defines it as: ‘Any action or omission intended to end the life of a patient on the grounds that his or her life is not worth living.’ The Voluntary Euthanasia Society looks to the word’s Greek origins – ‘eu’ and ‘thanatos’, which together mean ‘a good death’ – and say a modern definition is: ‘A good death brought about by a doctor providing drugs or an injection to bring a peaceful end to the dying process.’
Religions tell us that life is sacred, and furthermore that it is a sin to take a life. Life is defined as “the quality or state which distinguishes living animals and plants from dead ones” or “the length of time a thing exists or is able to function”. The key words in this definition are “quality or state” and “able to function”. If a terminally ill person has lost these two criteria, would it be reasonable to assume that they have moved beyond the definition of “Life”?
We make no judgment, but could argue that ending the suffering of a person whose condition has removed any quality or state of life to a point where they are no longer able to function would not be wrong. Many of us have had a pet animal, a dog or cat that has grown old or ill, and have commented that it would be kinder to put it to sleep, to end its suffering, and in effect give it a dignified and painless way out, yet we seem unable to extend this kindness to our own species.
The medical profession constrained by the Hippocratic Oath is obliged to preserve life at all costs, even if this means prolonging the suffering of the terminally ill. These people who are going to physically deteriorate, with no hope of getting better, are condemned to endure the pain and indignity that we wouldn’t inflict on an animal. Some believe that it is the choice of the individual affected by terminal illness to decide if they have had enough.
It is a fundamental human right. Many members of the medical profession feel that there is a need for a change in the law and believe that the necessary safeguards can be implemented, despite the skepticism from many quarters. Yes, a flawed system is open to abuse, but it would be up to everyone involved, from doctors to psychologists to the legal profession, to make sure that legalized euthanasia was beyond misuse.
In reality euthanasia is carried out on a daily basis in our hospitals by the withholding of drugs or life-support equipment, but it is never officially admitted. Many doctors, finding themselves in the impossible situation of dealing with a patient who begs to be allowed to die, have assisted them, with the threat of prosecution and professional ruin hanging over their heads, and that can’t be right.
This is a subject that can’t be swept under the carpet. It needs to be openly and honestly debated. We can no longer shy away from the fact that patients have to travel to foreign countries in order that their final wishes can be fulfilled. It is wrong that some of them are dragged through our court system in order that they can get permission to ensure a dignified death, and are refused.
Pro Euthanasia Arguments
Legalizing euthanasia would help alleviate suffering of terminally ill patients. It would be inhuman and unfair to make them endure the unbearable pain.
In case of individuals suffering from incurable diseases or in conditionswhere effective treatment wouldn’t affect their quality of life; they should be given the liberty to choose induced death.
Also, the motive of euthanasia is to “aid-in-dying” painlessly and thus should be considered and accepted by law. Although killing in an attempt to defend oneself is far different from mercy killing, law does find it worth approving.
In an attempt to provide medical and emotional care to the patient, a doctor does and should prescribe medicines that will relieve his suffering even if the medications cause gross side effects. This means that dealing with agony and distress should be the priority even if it affects the life expectancy. Euthanasia follows the same theory of dealing with torment in a way to help one die peacefully out of the compromising situation.
Euthanasia should be a natural extension of patient’s rights allowing him to decide the value of life and death for him. Maintaining life support systems against the patient’s wish is considered unethical by law as well as medical philosophy.
Family heirs who would misuse the euthanasia rights for wealth inheritance does not hold true. The reason being even in the absence of legalized mercy killing, the relatives can withdraw the life support systems that could lead to the early death of the said individual. This can be considered as passive involuntary euthanasia. Here they aren’t actively causing the death, but passively waiting for it without the patient’s consent.
It can be inferred that though euthanasia is banned worldwide, passive euthanasia has always been out there which can also be called as passive killing and moreover law doesn’t prohibit it. Disrespect and overuse of (passive) euthanasia has always existed and will be practiced by surrogates with false motives. These are the ones who don’t need a law to decide for one’s life. Present legal restrictions leave both the incurable patients as well as pro euthanasia activists helpless who approve euthanasia as good will gesture for patient’s dignity.
Health care cost is and will always be a concern for the family irrespective of euthanasia being legalized.
Cons of Euthanasia
Mercy killing is morally incorrect and should be forbidden by law. It’s a homicide and murdering another human cannot be rationalized under any circumstances.
Human life deserves exceptional security and protection. Advanced medical technology has made it possible to enhance human life span and quality of life. Palliative care and rehabilitation centers are better alternatives to help disabled or patients approaching death live a pain-free and better life.
Family members influencing the patient’s decision into euthanasia for personal gains like wealth inheritance is another issue. There is no way you can be really sure if the decision towards assisted suicide is voluntary or forced by others.
Even doctors cannot predict firmly about period of death and whether there is a possibility of remission or recovery with other advanced treatments. So, implementing euthanasia would mean many unlawful deaths that could have well survived later. Legalizing euthanasia would be like empowering law abusers and increasing distrust of patients towards doctors.
Mercy killing would cause decline in medical care and cause victimization of the most vulnerable society. Would mercy killing transform itself from the “right to die” to “right to kill”?
Apart from the above reasons, there are some aspects where there is a greater possibility of euthanasia being mishandled.
Euthanasia is about choice and dignity. Choice could be open to a dignified end to suffering or open to abuse.