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.
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Euthanasia is one of the subjects that have faced intense debate over time, the legalization of euthanasia have been debated for many years with different views presented in terms of ethical and legal consideration for both patients and health care providers. Healthcare providers are faced with ethical dilemmas when caring for terminally ill patients. They are forced to make tough decisions by using their moral reasoning to overcome some of the ethical dilemmas related to euthanasia.
Euthanasia is viewed as murder, however, ethically; physician has the moral obligation to comply with patients’ decisions. Making such decision to either withhold or withdraw treatment for any patient is not an easy decision to make based on the cultural, religious and legal factors. Death resulting to euthanasia is different between countries. Patients who experience extreme pain due to the nature of their illness are permitted to die with dignity in several countries while other countries totally condemn the use of euthanasia. Therefore, such individuals are among the few cases that continue to convince stakeholders to legalize euthanasia.
From a religious perspective; religious leaders see euthanasia to be unnecessary because for them, pain and suffering are not only a medical problem it is more than physical pain. Pain and suffering are as a result of several factors; these include psychosocial, cultural and spiritual. Such views have changed the perspective of the debate about euthanasia. The other aspect of euthanasia that has been ignored. It is a fact that the doctor has an obligation to fulfill patient’s request.
By not legalizing euthanasia is viewed as violating patient rights as the doctor refuses to help patients die. Even though many people are against euthanasia because it is viewed as murder, those who advocate for its usage view euthanasia from a different perspective. For them, the issue of cost and violation of human rights are the two most important arguments presented during euthanasia debates. Even though those who support Euthanasia argue that it helps patients die with and help in containing the overall cost of treatment, others view Euthanasia as an immoral act. Other people view euthanasia as patient’s choice, not a physician; therefore, killing patients even when physicians have signed the code of ethics, is in line with the healthcare standards because the patient has the final say. The physician does not violate human rights.
I believe that there are valid reasons for patients to consider euthanasia because it saves both the patient and their family members from many financial burdens associated with terminal diseases. Euthanasia is the choice, and an alternative for patients who suffer immensely and their decision should be respected to help them alleviate suffering. In many countries where euthanasia is permitted health care cost have been significantly contained. Patients with chronic illnesses do not have much choice but to die peacefully and with dignity. Terminally ill patients are permitted to request from euthanasia to stop suffering.
Euthanasia remains one of the hot topics among many interest groups; some people believe that it is the only humane way to end suffering. Christians believe that humans have to undergo suffering because it’s part of God’s plan. In this debate considering the political, religious, legal and personal views all these people want to justify their reasons as to why euthanasia should be legalized or not. Euthanasia remains a debatable subject because of the varied views that might be valid to a certain point.