Euthanasia, also known as mercy killing or physician-assisted killing, refers to deliberately ending the life of a terminally ill person to relieve him/her of pain and suffering. Etymologically the term Euthanasia comes from two Greek words, “eu” meaning goodly or well, and “thanatos,” meaning death (Medicine Net.com). Translated. Therefore, the term Euthanasia means the right end. Euthanasia is a debatable ethical issue because it seems to violate an individual’s right to life, on the one hand. On the other hand, a denial of Euthanasia appears to violate the individual’s right to self-determination. This paper analyses, critically, the arguments for and against Euthanasia. In conclusion, I have given a personal opinion on my view of Euthanasia. The main pros and cons of euthanasia are the following;
One of the main arguments put forward in support of euthanasia is the argument that euthanasia is morally right because human beings have a right to self-determination. For that reason, they should be allowed to choose their fate (ProCon.org, n.d.). Euthanasia’s advocates claim that because human beings have a right of self-determination, they oppose Euthanasia of terminally ill patients. The latter need and request for it are immoral and a violation of their right to self-determination. In law, the issue of self-determination regarding Euthanasia is controversial, especially in the United States. Various courts in the United States have interpreted this issue differently. The following case demonstrates how the issue of self-determination in the United States constitution is controversial;
The year 1975, the 21-year-old Karen Ann Quinlan was admitted to a hospital in a comma. Later, the doctors at the hospital found Quinlan to be in a chronic vegetative condition. After spending five months in the ventilator, Quinlan ‘s parents requested that the ventilator be removed and Quinlan be allowed to die peacefully. However, the doctors at the hospital objected to Quinlan’s parents’ requests, which made the parents bring the matter to a New Jersey Superior Court. In the ruling, to the disappointment of Quinlan’s parents, the New Jersey Superior Court denied Quinlan’s parents’ request. However, when Quinlan’s parents took the matter to the New Jersey Supreme court, the Supreme Court reversed the Superior Court ruling. It ruled that Quinlan’s constitutional right to privacy included her right to be removed from the ventilator. This case shows that the issue of self-determination regarding Euthanasia is not only a moral dilemma but also a legal dilemma.
The second main argument advanced by the proponents of Euthanasia is that assisting a terminally ill patient to die is a better and a more humane choice than not helping them (Wreen, 1988). The proponents of this view argue that, in most instances, the people who undergo Euthanasia are the people who are seriously sick, and the people who are unable to do even the basics of life like to move, to breathe, or even to think- these kinds of people have virtually nothing to enjoy in life. Some of them have also lost the ability to self-determine.
Therefore, for the proponents of this view, assisting these kinds of terminally ill patients in dying is an act of mercy; the proponents of this view conclude that choosing to help such patients die is indeed a better and a more rational choice than choosing not to assist them. For that reason, therefore, for the proponents of Euthanasia, Euthanasia is a morally right action because it is an act of mercy meant to relieve the people who are experiencing extreme pain due to sickness.
The third argument advanced by the proponents of Euthanasia is the argument that Euthanasia is a morally right action because it does not open the floodgates of the murder of innocent people under the guise of Euthanasia, as the people opposed to Euthanasia argue. The proponents of this view contend that there is no proof that the legalization of Euthanasia can open the floodgates of the murder of innocent people.
The proponents of Euthanasia also contend that Euthanasia is morally right and should be legalized because it makes economic sense. For the proponents of this view, giving medical care to the terminally sick patients usually is very expensive for both the government and the families of the terminally ill patients (Angel, 2012). The proponents of this view go on to argue that, every year, the US government spends billions of dollars on the terminally sick patients; in many instances, the proponents of Euthanasia contend, some families of the terminally ill patients become bankrupt because of paying medical bills for their ill family members. For the proponents of Euthanasia, therefore, the legalization of Euthanasia would significantly reduce these medical expenses.
The proponents of Euthanasia also contend that Euthanasia is morally right and should be practiced because it is not contrary to the Hippocratic Oath as the opponents of Euthanasia fight. The Hippocratic Oath demands that doctors always endeavor to save human life; the Hippocratic Oath demands that doctors not harm. The proponents of Euthanasia contend that by administering Euthanasia, physicians do not cause harm, but they bring about relief to their patients. The proponents of Euthanasia argue that, although Euthanasia ultimately leads to the death of the patient, the physician’s main intention is not to kill the patient, but to relieve him/her of the intense pains that they are going through. Therefore, the proponents of Euthanasia contend that Euthanasia is not in any way opposed to the Hippocratic Oath.
Having looked at the main arguments advanced in support of Euthanasia, let us look at the cons or the man arguments developed in opposition to Euthanasia.
One of the main arguments advanced by the opponents of Euthanasia is the evidence that Euthanasia is morally wrong because it is an infringement on the individual right to life; for the proponents of this view, although human beings have the right to self-determination, that right, however, is limited and doesn’t include the right to take away one’s life. The proponents of this view contend that the right to live is an inalienable right, and no one can take it away. Thus, the proponents of this view argue that the physicians who administer Euthanasia gravely violate the individual right to life. The proponents of this view, also, say that Euthanasia is not only immoral, but it is also immoral; the proponents of this position cite various court rulings in the USA that show that Euthanasia is an infringement on the individual right to life. The following case is an example of a court ruling that shows Euthanasia is illegal in the United States.
A fifty-two-year-old Thomas Youk, from Michigan, was suffering from Lou Gehrig’s disease. Youk requested Euthanasia, and in fulfillment of his wish, Doctor Jack Kevorkian administered a lethal drug to Jack, and Jack died instantly. Doctor Kevorkian had filmed Youk’s death, and this videotape was used in court as evidence against Doctor Kevorkian when this case was taken to a Michigan court later. In the ruling, the court convicted Doctor Kevorkian of second-degree murder. When the case was taken to the Michigan court of appeal, the court of appeals affirmed the conviction, despite Doctor Kevorkian’s plea that he had merely committed a “mercy Killing. “This case reveals that in the United States, euthanasia is illegal.
The second main argument in opposition to Euthanasia is religion. According to this argument, God is given life, and God only, therefore, has the right to take back human life. In many world religions, especially Abrahamic religions, life is viewed as being sacred. For that reason, therefore, Euthanasia is considered to be devaluing human life. The proponents of this view also argue that, although a person may be terminally ill, we cannot be sure that the person will die; for the proponents of this view, a person can be healed by God through a miracle. Therefore, the anti-euthanasia argument argues that Euthanasia is not an act of mercy, and, therefore, a morally right action.
The opponents of Euthanasia also contend that the legalization of Euthanasia will lead to unacceptable negative consequences whereby unscrupulous doctors will be used to assist people who are unhappy with their life to commit suicide. Therefore, the proponents of this view argue that Euthanasia is immoral and should not be legalized.
The opponents of Euthanasia also argue that the legalization of Euthanasia on economic grounds is morally unacceptable. For the proponents of this view, human beings are more important than money, and for that reason, human life should never be sacrificed to save some money. The opponents of Euthanasia go on to argue that money is meant to serve human beings, and, for that reason practicing Euthanasia to save cash is morally unjustifiable.
In conclusion, a critical review of the arguments for and against Euthanasia shows that the arguments advanced in opposition to Euthanasia are more persuasive than the arguments advanced in support of Euthanasia. The arguments advanced in support Euthanasia has three main weaknesses. Firstly, the case that the right to self-determination means that individuals who request Euthanasia should be granted is fallacious. This is because, if we give that the right to self-determination demand that individuals should be given their request for Euthanasia, by the same logic, we should argue that suicide is legal and that every person who wishes to die should be killed. But since we hold that suicide is immoral and illegal, we should also keep that Euthanasia is unethical and illegal.
Secondly, the argument that Euthanasia is an act of mercy is flawed. This is because, although Euthanasia seems to be an act of kindness, assisting a person to die violates the individual’s right to life. This is because the individual inalienable right to life demands that one be deprived of his/her life, under any circumstance, unless in the case of capital punishment.
Thirdly, the argument that Euthanasia is a means of health care cost containment is also incorrect. This is because human life is more important than money; money is meant to serve human beings and not vice versa. For that reason, therefore, it is immoral to administer Euthanasia, just to save some money.
For these reasons, therefore, the arguments advanced in support of Euthanasia are flawed and not based on facts. Consequently, I am of the view that Euthanasia is indeed immoral and should never be legalized. This is because I find Euthanasia to be against the individual right to life, and its legalization can open floodgates of the murder of innocent people under the pretext of Euthanasia.
- Angell, M., 2012. “May Doctors Help You to Die? New York Review Book. 11th October.
- Medicine Net.com. “Euthanasia.” Web.
- ProCon. org. “Euthanasia Pros and Cons.” Web.
- Ibid., “Legal Precedents: Landmark Euthanasia and Physician Assisted Suicide Legal Cases.”
- Green, M., 1988. “The definition of Euthanasia.” Philosophy and Phenomenological Research. Vo. 48. No. 4.