An Argument for Euthanasia
Euthanasia is defined as, “The act or practice of putting to death painlessly a person suffering from an incurable disease.” Euthanasia can be traced back as far back as the ancient Greek and Roman civilizations. It was sometimes allowed in these civilizations to help others die. Voluntary euthanasia was approved in these ancient societies. Today, the practice of euthanasia causes great controversy. Both pro-life groups and right-to-die groups present arguments for their different sides. Pro-life groups make arguments and present fears against euthanasia. I contend that the case for the right to die is the stronger argument.
I will begin my by listing the arguments against euthanasia and my criticism of each argument.
1. Euthanasia is a violation of medical ethics. The American Medical Association has consistently condemned euthanasia as an unethical practice. Today, attitudes may be changing. Recent surveys indicate that a majority of doctors in some areas, (60% in Oregon, 56% in Michigan, and 54% in Great Britain.) favor euthanasia in extreme cases.
2. Euthanasia weakens the trust relationship between the doctor and the patient. We expect doctors to heal and save lives, not to kill. I feel that I should be able to trust my doctor to do what is best for me as an individual in any situation, including ending unbearable suffering, even if it is my choice to die in order to end my suffering. Doctors may lose the trust of their patients by not helping them to end their suffering.
3. Choosing the time and place of a person’s death is God’s decision. This argument suggests that we should never intervene in any life-threatening situation. If a person is having a heart attack, should we just stand by and watch them die? If we were to seek medical attention in order to save his life, we would be interfering with God’s will for that person to die. This argument contains nothing that can be rationally argued against because it does not tell us when it is okay to interfere with God’s decisions.
4. The issue of euthanasia is a slippery slope. Pro-life groups contend that if we allow any type of euthanasia, sooner or later, we would begin killing off not only the terminally ill, but also the handicapped, the poor, the elderly and anyone else who becomes troublesome. The view that we should not make a decision because it could lead to other less prudent decisions later is not a reasonable foundation for setting policies, unless later decisions are definite, and are absolutely wrong. I would hope that the virtue of society would lead us to know where to draw the line between going far enough and going too far. At the present time, it is not clear if where the line is drawn now is where it should be drawn.
5. Euthanasia is killing. Most people believe that there are circumstances when killing is allowed, such as self-defense. The only question is whether or not the killing is justified under the circumstances. In the case of self-defense, killing is justified. The same is true of euthanasia.
6. People who request euthanasia may be requesting it because they are depressed and they may change their minds. I believe that psychological evaluation will detect the mental condition of a patient, and depression, if it exists, can be treated. Patients can be given counseling to determine if their decision is what they truly want. We must determine whether or not patients should be able to be in control of their own lives.
7. Euthanasia violates the difference between passive and active and practices. This argument contends that there is a moral difference between letting nature take its course by terminating treatment when death is inevitable, and actively taking steps to make death come quicker. The question that should be asked of this is "What is the best thing to do in a worst case scenario?" The answer may be to terminate pointless treatment, or to act in order to bring about a merciful, painless death, that brings to an end terrible, needless suffering. The patient may ask for either one and we may morally grant their request. In either case, death occurs and the patient’s choice is involved in both.
8. Euthanasia is wrong because there may have been a misdiagnosis or there may be
the development of a miracle cure. This argument is wishful thinking. Although these instances are not entirely impossible, they only require that we be extremely cautious, not that euthanasia should ever be performed.
9. Euthanasia to relieve suffering is against the role that suffering plays in God’s plan. The view that all suffering is sent from God is extreme in the sense that it suggests that we should never do anything to relieve any kind of suffering. The majority of people today believe that we should do everything possible to relieve the suffering of others. To do otherwise is considered immoral. Since this is true, we can logically argue that in some cases, when pain and suffering of a patient become intolerable, relieving that suffering should take priority over extending life, if that is the patient’s choice.
10. A person’s independence is not absolute. Today, society does not allow individuals to do anything that they want to do. There are laws that prevent certain acts that harm people, even if the harm comes only to them. For example, we don’t allow people to sell themselves into slavery. So the argument is that we don’t have a right to ask someone to kill us or help us to kill ourselves. Deciding what choices should be regulated by law is difficult for any society. When a patient’s pain and suffering becomes so intolerable that they choose to end their life in order to end their suffering, society and or government should not interfere with their decision. The choice to end their own suffering should be entirely theirs, because no one can know their agony but themselves.
11. The consequences of euthanasia would be bad. This argument implies that guidelines designed for euthanasia would at some point be violated, and mistakes would be made. Anti-euthanasia activists argue that patients may choose death because they feel guilty for staying alive and causing financial burdens on their families. Families may give up too soon and encourage the death to end the suffering of their loved one. Doctors may not try as hard to extend the life of a patient who is considered terminal. Society might put less value on giving medical assistance for the disabled, the poor, and minorities because death would be cheaper. Society may also become less sensitive to the needs of the suffering and more insensitive about death.
These are dangers and measures must be taken to prevent them if euthanasia were to become legal. Nothing is free form abuse. The allowed practice of withdrawing life-support, already puts pressure on patients and family members. Doctors are currently permitted to give heavy doses of pain medication that often makes death come quicker. The system as it is today allows for secret acts of euthanasia, because doctors are able to also “doctor” death certificates. Abuses of euthanasia may become less frequent if the practice was regulated. The option of euthanasia could result in more effort towards making life more bearable for patients, so that they would not want to die. The biggest abuse today is the fact that we make people exist in lives that are terminally miserable and intolerable, by not allowing them the choice of ending their suffering.
Killing someone in self-defense, killing the enemy during war, capital punishment for horrid crimes, or killing a kidnapper who is murdering hostages are all examples of when society views murder as morally legitimate. This tells us that ending a life is not always considered wrong, depending on the circumstances. So, euthanasia, in certain circumstances should be allowed.
My arguments for the regulation and legalization of euthanasia is as follows:
1. The patient’s choice takes priority over other considerations in some situations. Although we would want to provide counseling for individuals, so that every option could be explored, the final decision to die should rest with the patient, whose incurable illness or disability has made their life so full of agony and torment that they want to end their suffering.
2. The doctor’s role is to do what is best for each individual patient, and in some instances, this may include ending life upon the request of a person who is suffering unnecessarily. Many doctors insist that they are to save lives, not to end them intentionally. The role of a doctor is to heal, to prolong life, to reduce suffering, to restore health and physical well being. So, in extreme cases when it is no longer possible to heal, restore health or physical well-being, or it is impossible to prolong a life free from suffering, the best and most moral thing that a doctor can do is to relieve the intolerable and unnecessary suffering of a patient by hastening their death.
3. Sometimes ending suffering takes priority over extending life. Euthanasia causes an anguishing conflict between values. Life is a gift, but circumstances may turn it into a deep hopelessness, filled with suffering and pain. We want to live happy joyful lives, but sometimes death may be preferable to the continuation of a life of suffering and agony. Morality does not allow us to kill, but it does require us to be compassionate and merciful. Although we must make every effort to deter abuse of euthanasia, we must also, at the patient’s request, allow them to make the choice to end their suffering, rather than to require them to endure a joyless, agonizing life.
4. When a person decides that they prefer death rather than life, everyone would benefit if it were legal to show mercy. Charity and compassion demand that we legalize euthanasia for the sake of the suffering patient and their families who have witnessed their relatives forced to live in extreme agony. When doctors have done all they can do and death has not yet brought an end to the patient’s suffering, family members are helpless and have to stand by and watch in horror and despair as their loved one is forced to lay needlessly suffering, awaiting death. They find themselves hoping for their loved ones death, so that the suffering will end. It would benefit all involved if death in these circumstances were allowed under regulations that prevented abuse.
Families are sometimes forced to make agonizing decisions on whether to take actions that are illegal in order to end the life of someone dear to them, who begs for death. Some people out of desperation, use a gun or a pillow and do what they dread to do but are forced to do to end the suffering of a child, parent, or spouse. These people face legal prosecution. This kind of dreadful situation would not exist if euthanasia were legal.
Doctors are less apt to be accused of performing an illegal act because they are the ones who fill out the death certificate. Some doctors admit that they have given heavy doses of morphine to relieve the extreme pain of terminally ill patients, knowing that such high doses will cause a quicker death. Because their primary aim is to relieve pain, these acts are considered moral. It would not be morally right to give the same high doses of morphine if their primary aim was to cause death. This is in my opinion wrong. In either case, the ultimate end is death.
I believe that it is immoral of society to force caring, compassionate people to lie and go to such morbid lengths to help their patients and loved ones end their suffering. These illegal acts would be entirely unnecessary if euthanasia were regulated and legalized.
Value Premise: Everyone deserves to live a life free from suffering.
Factual Premise: Euthanasia ends suffering.
Conclusion: In order to end suffering euthanasia should be allowed.
Word Count: 2007
Modern world is full of sufferings and pain. Present diseases, very often incurable, make peopleâs life intolerable, steal the sense of life and give a strong inducement to die. Even the contemporary rapid development of medicine does not give the possibility to save peopleâs life or to relieve their pain.
In the light of this situation, the problem of euthanasia is of current importance. For the last twenty years, euthanasia has been a subject of much controversy. Doctors, scientists, politicians and representatives of different confessions discuss the possibility of legitimating euthanasia. Various countries take opposite sides and either allow euthanasia or prohibit it. âEuthanasia, however, occurs secretly in all societies including those in which it is held to be immoral and illegal. The core of the challenge of euthanasia is ethical because human life is in stakeâ (Vaknin, 2). The opponents claim the breach of the Godâs right to command the human life, the devaluation of peopleâs life and state that the legalization of euthanasia is, in fact, the legalization of a murder.
However, I would like to support euthanasia and, with the help of this paper, to argue in favor of it. Euthanasia is âa deliberate intervention undertaken with the express intention of ending a life so as to relieve intractable sufferingâ (House of Lords, 12). It is necessary to note that there are several types of euthanasia. Passive euthanasia is already widespread in hospitals and is nothing but the impossibility to cure a person and attempts to alleviate the sufferings with the help of narcotics or the cessation of therapy because of its futility. While passive euthanasia is legally used in hospitals, the application of non-aggressive euthanasia is constantly debated. It stipulates the withdrawal of life support and it can be done either voluntary, that is with the patientâs consent, or non-voluntary, when the patient is unable to decide.
In the case when the euthanasia may be voluntary, I would like to highlight the human right to be in charge of their life. Sick bedridden people are already bereft of all rights; they feel a burden for their relatives. Humble and disabled, they want at least to leave this world peacefully and to die with dignity. Even criminals have a right for their last wish; frankly speaking, it is our duty to fulfill the last wish of sick patients. Besides, if the personâs will is rejected, he or she might try to commit the suicide. So, thus we incite them to a great sin and crime.
Moreover, very often euthanasia is the only way to relieve patientsâ pain. Is it human indeed to stay inexorable to peopleâs requests to set them free from unbearable sufferings? Personally, I believe no one can experience othersâ pain, therefore it is impossible to measure whether the person can bear it or not. Besides, a man is created for life, and all of us have the instinct of self-preservation, only people driven to despair by their disease, can ask for death and it is their right. It is necessary to realize how horrible it is to live, being conscious of the forthcoming death. Most people cannot overcome this pressure and lose the sense of life, burdening their own life and the life of their relatives as well. âEuthanasia and physician-assisted suicide will shorten the period of pre-mortem suffering and eliminate fear about how and when death will occur. The patient will have a measure of control over the process of dyingâ (Singer, 58).
In cases of inability of patients to express their will, euthanasia is also possible and is justified. Then the decision should be taken by the relatives, who are responsible for that. Often it is obvious that the patient is doomed to death and has no chances to survive. Still, relatives have to provide all necessary medicines and to pay for places in hospital. It exhausts relativesâ state of mind and has fatal consequences for the family budget. Many families spend their last money on the treatment that is vain.
Another possible reason for the justifying of euthanasia is the lack of space in hospitals for those who can be cured and saved. It is bitter to acknowledge it, but this problem exists in many countries. Those who want to live have no chance to get the proper treatment and care while those who want to die cannot give their place to them.
In fact, I suppose the greatest problem of this controversial point is the inability of the government to implement a thoroughly made law that can foresee all the possible problems of the legalization of euthanasia and avoid them.
To make a conclusion, I am sure that euthanasia has the right to exist in our society. It should be considered not as a murder but as an absolute necessity in urgent situations.
1. Chochinov H.M. Wilson K.G. The euthanasia debate: attitudes, practices and psychiatric considerations. Can J Psych.,1995
2. Vaknin Sam. Euthanasia and the Right to Die. 18 June, 2007
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Posted in Essay Examples Tags: Medicine, Social Issues