Since the last decades of the twentieth century to the twenty-first decade, the discussion on morality and legality of euthanasia has remained a significant phenomenon. Euthanasia is a word derived from the Greek term “Euthanatos,” meaning “good death,” referring to the practice of a lifetime of a person to discharge pain and misery. Euthanasia is classified into three categories based on whether the individual gives a consent; voluntary, involuntary, and non-voluntary, which are further divided into passive and active variants (Fletcher 44). There is an increased population of the senior citizens because of the advancement in medical technology, with modern medicine helping to extend life. However, old age comes with its challenges such as illnesses that result in pain and suffering.
In most cases, with the consent of the victim, euthanasia is administered to end their suffering. Euthanasia is lawful in some nations such as the Netherlands, Luxembourg, and Belgium and illegal in many others. Euthanasia remains a controversial ethical issue across the world with different parties giving diverse presentations of the same. To make it even more disturbing, Belgium passed a bill that legalized child euthanasia making it the first country to legalize euthanasia across all age brackets (Keown 64). This is an explanatory research paper that seeks to demystify the legal and ethical arguments of euthanasia across the world.
Arguments for Euthanasia
It is argued that euthanasia would be useful to numerous people once it is legalized. However, others respond citing their insecurities; they argue that the disabled, terminally ill, and the elderly would feel threatened by the law. Euthanasia and other physician assisted many cultures and religions do not embrace death methods (Kim 364). The debate on euthanasia affects everyone across the board, thus attracting the numerous participants, including the general public, experts in ethics, health law, and physicians.
The Dutch Parliament legalized euthanasia in 2001 with the Euthanasia Act coming into effect to regulate the administration of a drug to end life. Terminally ill patients who are suffering are advised about this method, and some of them consider it by writing or giving informed consent to the medics and the family. Proponents argue that euthanasia acts like an insurance policy that no one will die in pain or agony (Radbruch 105). Legalizing euthanasia means that everyone will have the right to die a peaceful death with dignity than long-suffering that would later lead to death. The proponents argue that euthanasia should be legalized for three reasons mainly, including mitigating needless suffering and pain, realizing the autonomy of the patient and providing psychological reassurance to the patient.
The early examples of euthanasia include a case study of Jean, the first wife to Dereck Humphry. Mrs. Jean was suffering from incurable breast and bone cancer and in extreme pain. She asked her husband to administer euthanasia. Mr. Humphry mixed her coffee with a deadly remedy gotten from a consultant, and it took effect in less than an hour. Mr. Humphry understood that it was a crime to help her wife to die, but he argued that he could not deny her since he loved her. After publishing a book entitled “Jean’s Way” in which he described how he administered the drug. Many called him a murderer, but he defended himself, saying that he would befit the title if he did it without the wife’s consent.
From the above case, everyone has the authority to govern his or her life as they please without restrictions. If one chooses to quicken their death by requesting for a lethal drug, then their rights should not be infringed by stopping them (Paterson 56). Autonomy remains one of the essential western cultural values which requires protection. If a person asks for euthanasia, proponents argue that the individual expresses his or her choice or realizes their autonomy. Hence, a euthanasia request should be treated as part of a human’s freedom to design and determine how their lives should end (Keown 71). Asking for euthanasia means ending one’s life, in a prearranged manner without losing control. From this point of view, euthanasia can be legalized since it protects and promotes autonomy.
Supporters of euthanasia deem it right to acknowledge patients’ rights, and to accord respect to the decisions they make of selecting euthanasia. It is an illustration of respect to the rights of self-determination and freedom of privacy. Refuting euthanasia is a way of forcing people to suffer for what they could otherwise avoid, which is cruel and against the dignity and human rights (Radbruch et al. 107). The primary objectives of health care providers when they are out of medical alternatives should be relieving the patient from suffering other than preserving their lives in suffering.
Argument Against Euthanasia
All the arguments in favor of legalizing euthanasia are compelling and weighty with numerous examples, but to most of the legislators, the issue of life and death is always tied to ethics and social values. The controversy over euthanasia remains intense with opponents treating it as a euphemism for murder. Opponents have maintained that euthanasia is not the right to die but the right to kill, which is against the laws of the land. The only professional obligations of healthcare providers are to promote health and prevents deaths caused by illnesses. Their code of conduct and ethics insists that health providers should not go against their role of nursing, healing, and caregiving, thus disregarding euthanasia (Kim 368). The society has no right to kill since medical science has advanced significantly, thus making alive the argument that those ill today have the chance of healing tomorrow.
Further opponents argue that no patient wants to die; that is why they seek medical help in the first place. Though the consent of the patient could be availed, opponents find it possible to coerce the patient emotionally and psychologically and have their permission; hence, medics should not rely on it. The family members too have the right over the patient; therefore, they should advise further. Euthanasia should not be presented as a right decision as receiving healthcare because most of the elderly patients would feel guilty for not choosing death (Paterson 73). Some patients would prefer euthanasia against their will because of the financial considerations where they feel burdensome among others. If the choice is not readily available, the individual would not consider it an option as seeking medical assistance.
Further, opponents consider euthanasia as suicide, which is not allowed by the law. Studies have indicated that the thought of dying or desire for committing suicide would evaporate if pain and depression are treated adequately. This illustrates that all patients have the right to proper health and management of their pain and struggle, which will kill the thought of euthanasia. Legislation that relates to euthanasia carries vague and ambiguous terms which allow the provision to look natural, but in the real sense, it is not. Opponents call for a proper explanation of the needs to administer lethal drugs or conduct euthanasia (Emanuel et al. 80). For instance, when the proponents speak about a terminally ill patient; both the legal and medical fraternity have a dispute about determining patients who are terminally ill.
The cultural and political forces behind the euthanasia debate have complicated it further by introducing new arguments. The Catholics, for instance, have fought for the rights of the unborn, dying and the poor. The Catholics have, for a long time, fought the growing acceptance of euthanasia in their quest to defend good morals. The foundational beliefs of people shift the attitudes towards euthanasia and death in general. Arguing against suicide, euthanasia, or death would generally mean supporting the deepest foundations of civilization and culture. The Catholics have sought to distinguish between means, ends, and motivations of conducting euthanasia and then adding the moral standing separately. First, it is essential to appreciate death as part of the human cycle which everyone eventually will get to (Fletcher 48). However, how death is achieved should be made as healthy as possible since it marks the end of life. A dying person in a hospital will die eventually whether the life support machines are withdrawn or not, but the processes involved are different. Each procedure carries its repercussions and diverse social side effects. When one burdensome withdrawal treatment it means that the patient will no longer receive medical treatment that could prolong his or her life (Paterson 69). However, in such a case, medical experts are expected to administer pain-relieving measures, comfort, and care until the patient dies.
The Catholics believe that, socially, morally, and spiritually, the use of medical technology, whether by withdrawal or administration means deliberately ending one’s life. Actively killing an individual should be charged in the courts of law and treated as other murder cases (Emanuel et al. 82). Catholics believe that the only acceptable means of a getting to a goal should be neutral. Instrumental reasoning and technological thinking obscure the differences in the methods and ends. When considering the moral outlook and standing of euthanasia, Catholics and many other beliefs argue that it is a selfish move, one that is conducted out of desperation (Kim 373). Euthanasia and suicide are considered to be motivated by real distress, but on the flip side, they are driven by selfish agendas such as money, hate, revenge, or desire to end the burden of taking care of the patient. All agents who participate in completing the lives of others through euthanasia have ascertained that during the deliberation, there are fluctuations of ever-changing moods, thoughts, and emotions (de Beaufort 1464). The despair that leads to the conscious thought of euthanasia reverses if the patient changes their mind; according to Catholics, means that the patient does not willingly call for euthanasia.
The Slippery Slope
Different parties have argued that if voluntary euthanasia is legalized, chances of conducting involuntary euthanasia will skyrocket. A slippery slope is a general form of argument which claims that if the society allows something relatively harmless today, the chances of having incredible results become acceptable are high (Emanuel et al. 85). The proponents of euthanasia argue that they advocate for euthanasia but with proper regulation and control mechanisms. They continue to say that a considerable difference exists between killing people who ask for it under certain circumstances and killing people in hospitals without permission. They point this out as a moral distinction which no medical practitioner would go against.
Opponents, on the other hand, claim that doctors can kill other patients to save on the healthcare cost. The practice is likely to be abused such that most patients will be forced to agree to euthanasia. The medical practitioners, too, can directly step into the shoes of the family or the patient by quickly administering lethal drugs then claim that the patient succumbed to their illness. The line between voluntary and involuntary will become more narrow if one is legalized. Opponents of euthanasia state that the moral grounds of people vary such that the moral standing of one could be irrelevant to the other (de Beaufort 1465). Doctors who continue to conduct euthanasia today with the knowledge that it is illegal, it means that if it were legalized, more patients would die in their hands.
Some societies and cultures reason that patients with disabilities look at things from a selfish perspective, thus viewing their disability as a disaster that is filling their lives with frustration and suffering. With that regard, they are likely to make decisions that only favor their selfish needs. The right to decide whether to have euthanasia administered to them should be vested upon them (Chambaere 1180). At the same time, no one has the right to determine whether an individual should die, thus leaving only one option of stopping euthanasia.
Despite this much input, euthanasia has remained illegal in most of the countries since suicide is against the law. Most people claim its illegality based on reasons such as euthanasia is murder; thus, it will result in more killing and destroying of a life. Euthanasia is a direct violation of the original oath of medicine, the Hippocratic oath, which states that medicine is meant to heal. It is thought to be unnecessary since technology and other medical advances in the medical profession, modern drugs and hospices have significantly increased. At the same time, arguments by various scholars such as John Hardwig, a philosopher, claimed that euthanasia could act as the only option if the burden of caring for the sick seriously compromises the lives of their loved ones. If a lot of focus is turned to the dying patient, the family may be converted to a place of grief, thus affecting the livelihood of the entire family. There is no law or ethical standards that call for a family or people to keep their dying member alive. It is considered a way of upholding the right to life by honoring the right to die. It is highly recommendable for the nation to legalize euthanasia and put stringent measures to it to ensure that it is conducted by qualified personnel under adequate circumstances. The healthcare personnel should undergo proper training of administering euthanasia to learn about ways of providing favorable conditions.
Future studies need to look into the pros and cons of legalizing euthanasia as a way of contributing further into the discussion. The pros and cons should be in respect to the nature of suffering, the sanctity of life, and both the religious and non-religious perspectives.
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