Euthanasia is the deliberate act taken towards ending a life so as to release someone from persistent misery (Huxtable, 2007). It is a controversial topic, especially when considering the religious, practical and ethical aspects. Euthanasia is illegal in most countries and comes with a jail term, at the very least, when violated. Euthanasia is usually carried out by injecting the patient with a legal substance. Euthanasia is legal in the Netherlands, Belgium, and Luxembourg.
Euthanasia originates from the Greek word euthanatos which implies easy death. It is usually carried out on people suffering from an incurable condition or at a person’s request. In cases where a person is too ill, then the decision to carry out euthanasia may be made by medic, relatives or in many rare cases, by the courts. Euthanasia differs from assisted suicide in that euthanasia is where a doctor is legally permitted towards ending an individual’s life via painless ways provided the patient as well as their family approves while assisted suicide is when a practitioner helps a patient to commit suicide whenever they request it.
Types of euthanasia
Euthanasia may be classified as passive and active euthanasia or voluntary and involuntary euthanasia (Nordqvist, 2017). Passive and active euthanasia are classifications based on procedure. Voluntary euthanasia is the direct and intentional act of administering medication that can result in the death of the patient that is carried out at the request of the patient with their full and informed consent. It can also be described as assisted suicide. This can occur via the patient’s refusal to eat, refusing to take medical treatments or asking that a life support machine be switched off.
Involuntary euthanasia, on the other hand, is conducted without the consent of the patient as the patient may be unable to make the decision or may be unable to make their wishes known. The decision is made by another party since the patient may be too young, in a coma, senile, severely mentally retarded or has severe brain damage.
Active euthanasia refers to the deliberate action of intervening in order to end someone’s life by say injecting the person with an excess dose of painkillers or lethal substances. It is very controversial, besides, is prone towards bringing about religious, ethical as well as moral fights. A famous example of this is when Dr. Jack Kevorkian aped himself administering lethal medication to a patient suffering from amyotrophic lateral sclerosis resulting in the death of the patient.
Passive euthanasia refers to causing someone’s death by withdrawing or withholding treatment that is vital in maintaining life. Passive euthanasia can be described as letting die which means allowing the internal organs to break down naturally without providing support or substitution for the important functions, for instance, the removal or omission of a ventilator for a patient with breathing difficulties. The most common illustration of passive euthanasia is DNR (“do not resuscitate”) (Huxtable, 2007).
Arguments for euthanasia
Euthanasia is a controversial topic that most people would rather not talk about. However, there are those who support euthanasia and with good reason based on evidence, experience and statistics. The first argument for supporting euthanasia is that people need it. Those who support euthanasia believe that it is more compassionate to let someone die with dignity than it is to compel them to continue living while in pain. Another reason is that everyone has freedom of choice and are entitled to choose when to end their life. In addition, it can be controlled by government regulations.
Supporters of euthanasia argue that euthanasia does not shorten life, contrary to popular belief. A Dutch report carried out in 1991 revealed that among eighty percent of cases, euthanasia reduced life by only a few hours and a week, at most (Huxtable, 2007). Euthanasia is usually the last resort in most of the cases carried out by terminally ill patients. In addition, one would argue that the patients who are terminally ill have little to no chance of recovery hence the argument that their lives would be shortened by euthanasia does not hold water.
Euthanasia can help save money hence makes sense economically. End-of-life medical care is usually very expensive resulting in enormous amounts of debt for the families of patients in critical conditions. While the debt would be worth if the patient actually made a recovery, this is usually not the case in a majority of the situations. Additionally, the treatments administered to patients to prolong their lives reduce their quality of life and subjects them to unnecessary pain just so as to extend their lives by a few weeks or months thus questioning the point of the expenses in the first place.
Euthanasia improves the quality of life. Most people live in fear of death as they are not sure when or how it will happen. While most people would choose to die surrounded by the people they love after living a successful and fulfilling life, this is rarely the case and most deaths occur suddenly and painfully, say due to a car wreck or fire. Giving the terminally ill a choice on how and when to end their life may actually give them a chance to live out their very best lives and die in a dignified manner (Morris, 2013).
Finally, legalizing or supporting euthanasia will not open the floodgates of murder. Statistically speaking, not all applications for euthanasia are usually approved. Even in the Netherlands where euthanasia has been legalized, the process itself is quite complex and jurisdictional hence easier said than done. As a matter of fact, it is illegal unless carried out by a qualified doctor and with legal and ethical consent.
Arguments Against Euthanasia
In most countries in the world, killing somebody is considered murder regardless of the intentions. The right to die is also not supported especially by religious beliefs as life is sacred and only the Creator of life can take it away, freewill notwithstanding. Additionally, the right of someone else to die results in a duty to kill for another person, in this case, a doctor.
Legalizing euthanasia could lead to possibilities of doctors carrying out involuntary euthanasia. Giving doctors the power to decide when to end a patient’s life could be a slippery slope. Doctors who carry out euthanasia may be adversely affected as it is not an easy task to carry out. In Belgium, doctors are advised to go to psychotherapy after they euthanize a patient (McDougall, 2008).
Euthanasia may weaken patients, increase the rates of suicide, make hospitals unsafe places and reduce the quality of care administered to terminally ill patients. It could also be viewed as a cheaper version of a treatment for terminal illnesses. One could also argue that euthanasia goes against the value and dignity of life which must be respected.
- Huxtable, R. (2007). Euthanasia, Ethics, and the Law; From Conflict to Compromise. Routledge
- M., Morris. (2013). 10 Arguments for Legalizing Euthanasia.
- Retrieved from: https://listverse.com/2013/09/12/10-arguments-for-legalising-euthanasia/
- McDougall, J.F. (2008). Euthanasia: A Reference Handbook (2nd Ed.). ABC-Clio.
- Nordqvist, C. (2017). Euthanasia and Assisted Suicide – Medical News Today. Retrieved from: https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/182951.php