Euthanasia. Euthanasia, also known as “assisted suicide” is what happens when somebody takes their own life, or assists someone in taking theirs when the person is seriously ill or in extreme pain. It is loosely known as “mercy killing” as the patient is no longer suffering, hence it is sometimes allegedly compassionate. But the question is, should Euthanasia be made legal in the United Kingdom?
There are two main types of Euthanasia - Voluntary and Non-voluntary. Voluntary euthanasia is carried out with consent from the patient whereas non-voluntary euthanasia is carried out without consent. The decision is made by somebody else because the patient is incapable of doing so.
The two medical classifications of Euthanasia are Passive and Active. Passive Euthanasia occurs when a doctor or medical expert is given the option not to prescribe treatments for a hopelessly ill patient. If a Doctor prescribes strong painkillers to a patient which may cause long-term effects, some people might argue that Passive Euthanasia is taking place. However, many disagree with this as there is no intention of death. Active Euthanasia is when the intention is to end the patient’s life in one move with perhaps a shot or another substance. Active Euthanasia can be concluded by the patient or somebody else.
Euthanasia is illegal worldwide with the exception of Belgium, Luxembourg, the Netherlands and Montana, Oregon and Washington in the United States of America. In the UK, a 14year prison sentence is given to those involved with Euthanasia, under the 1961 Suicide Act. The Disability and Health Journal published in 2010 that at least 3,147 deaths had been caused worldwide by Euthanasia.
There are plenty of arguments for the legalisation of Euthanasia and there are plenty of arguments against it. One argument which is pro-Euthanasia is the “Ethical” argument. This argument states that people have a right to freedom of choice and that it should be up to them to decide to end their own life or not and that there should not be a law against this as it is in some ways preventing the freedom of speech and opinion. Many claim that as long as there is no harm done to innocent people that Euthanasia is morally acceptable and should not be illegal.
However, the “Medical ethics” argument disagrees with this and believes that asking medical professionals to basically go against their occupation which is the preservation of life is unethical and immoral as it could damage the standard patient-doctor relationship and a lack of trust may develop, which could lead to problems with the health service in the future. Also, the Religious argument argues that life is sacred as we are all created by God and it is not our right to take our own lives.
Nevertheless, the Pragmatic argument says that “End of life care” is technically Euthanasia in a passive form, and that people just simply do not call it Euthanasia. For example, the “do not attempt cardiopulmonary resuscitation” order which consists of a person asking not to be treated or resuscitated if their heart stops beating. Those in favour of Euthanasia often claim that this is a form of passive Euthanasia as it is denying the patient of potentially life-saving treatment. The main idea of the Pragmatic argument is that if these things are being carried out in everyday society, they might as well be legalised as Euthanasia and be properly controlled.
The “Slippery Slope” argument argues that letting people die is by extension killing and is a line that should never be crossed. The legalisation of Euthanasia would definitely have a big impact on society but the worry is that if voluntary euthanasia is legalised, non-voluntary euthanasia will then be legalised and following that may even be involuntary euthanasia.
Also, there is the concern that legalising euthanasia might decrease the amount of research done into treatments which could prevent findings of terminal illnesses and such, as well as added pressure which may overcome people who are in need of care in the long-term into ending their lives as not to burden family or friends with their illness. On top of that, there is the dreaded miss-diagnosis which could cause a patient to end their life after being wrongly told that they are terminally ill.
The “Alternative” argument states that the advances in the medical field and mental health treatment mean that there is no reason why people should feel as if they are suffering mentally or physically and that if a person has the right to care and a good environment then there is no reason why they should be denied a dignified, natural, painless death.
In conclusion, the Euthanasia debate is a very difficult topic. Many of the arguments are based on values and beliefs which makes things all the more difficult to resolve. Will the United Kingdom legalise Euthanasia? Who knows? For the moment, it remains unclear.