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Euthanasia, “Physician-assisted Death” Essay

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Updated: Aug 6th, 2019

Can you shoot a bullet at one of your family member because she/he is suffering from a pain? Have you ever seen one of your beloved dying?

And thought that it would be easier to him/her to die instead of suffering from the pain but you do not have the strength to do it or even say it? This paper seeks to show that although a lot of people might prefer dying than suffering from sickness, some stories and facts show that euthanasia is not the best solution.

According to The American Heritage Medical Dictionary, “Euthanasia is the act or practice of ending the life of an individual suffering from a terminal illness or an incurable condition, by lethal injection or by suspension of extraordinary medical treatment”. Euthanasia or what they call “Physician-assisted death” has had a huge controversy in the social sector.

People’s opinion has been divided between supporters and opponents, some of opponents have totally rejected it even if the patient is suffering and dying. On the other hand, others support such a decision because they think it is the best solution to stop the patient from suffering.

Historically, euthanasia was a common practice in ancient Greece and Rome. These civilizations believed that it was not necessary to safeguard someone’s life if death was imminent. The Hippocrates once opposed the practice according to the Hippocratic Oath dating approximately 400 BC that stated “I will not administer poison to anyone when asked to do so, nor suggest such a course” (Erdemir and Elcioglu 4).

With reference to 1300s, the English jurisdiction deemed assisted suicide as a crime. Mercy killing was also opposed by the twelfth and fifth century Christians (Erdemir and Elcioglu 5).

In 1828, the initial anti-euthanasia law was approved in New York where a heated debate regarding euthanasia and related issues like abortions had been conducted. By this time, euthanasia was either voluntary or involuntary and was being criticized by several medics and religious leaders.

In 1870, the American Medical Association prohibited the administration of analgesic in euthanasia. In the beginning of twentieth century, mercy killing and assisted suicide had raised the public’s eyebrows. Therefore, in 1905, a bill that aimed to legalize euthanasia was opposed in Ohio (Emanuel1).

In 1940s, German physicians applied non-voluntary euthanasia to get rid of the ill and handicapped Germans in bunged gas chambers with the aim of minimizing the psychiatrically ill and handicapped individuals.

This was prohibited in 1945 following the killing of close to three hundred thousand Germans. The gas chambers were also utilized by the NAZIs to exterminate their enemies, which constituted a form of criminal euthanasia (Emanuel10).

In twentieth century, various agencies erupted to address the practice of euthanasia such as Voluntary Euthanasia Legislation Society (VELS) in 1935, which was advocating for its legalization in London and the National Society for the Legalization of Euthanasia (NSLE) in 1938.

The World Federation of Right to Die Societies, to advocate for voluntary mercy killing together with the U.S, Hemlock Society were established in 1980. Currently, various court cases have erupted as a result of euthanasia particularly the physician-assisted suicide but the debate still stands.

Although a lot of people might prefer dying than suffering from sickness, some stories and facts show that euthanasia is not the best solution to these people.

The decision to terminate one’s life should be left entirely on the patient. Patients suffering from terminal illness should be able to prepare their will for or against euthanasia when they are still energetic. In cases where there are no such documents and the patients cannot respond, they should be left to die naturally.

Most critics of euthanasia in the field of medicine have noted that the justification for euthanasia is empirically false. According to experts, advocates for euthanasia have exaggerated death and the intensity of its approach. Experts argue that death in most mortal illness is not usually painful (Emanuel 6).

In the past, arguments against mercy killing concluded five harmful consequences that would come as a result of legalizing euthanasia. The same consequences have been documented by many studies including the present research. The first consequence has been identified as abuse by health practitioners.

Euthanasia will be employed by unscrupulous people to get rid of their “unwanted relatives.” This will also bring a lot of corruption in the health sector and unethical running of public institutions (Emanuel 7).

The second consequence that has been identified is the death of patients who would have survived. This is based on the fact that “medicine is not an exact science”. Some cases of terminal illness have gone against the predictions of qualified physicians to result in unexpected results.

Euthanasia will put an end to lives of people who would otherwise continue to live. The third consequence of legalizing euthanasia will be mental torture to the patients. Some patients will be under undue pressure to request euthanasia in order to relieve the burdens from their relatives (Emanuel 8).

Legalizing euthanasia is likely to cripple the medical profession. This is because it will destroy the trust of the patient and the entire community will lose their confidence in the medical profession. The fifth and the final consequence is that legalizing euthanasia will be the beginning of more problems in medicine.

If at the beginning only the terminally ill patients are entitled to euthanasia, then the aged will follow. The result will be a disaster because involuntary euthanasia for mentally disabled, incurable demented people and convicted murderers will be tolerated and probably justified (Emanuel 8).

In an article in American Spectator, Allott (1) gives an account of a sixty four year old woman who is very devastated by the Oregon Health Plan. The woman was informed that the plan would not take care of her lung cancer treatment but was willing to pay fifty dollars for her euthanasia. The woman described this plan as cruel and messed up for advocating for death instead of life.

Ten years ago, a man was jailed on a second-degree murder after assisting a patient to commit suicide. In US, euthanasia remains a second-tier political subject but this has started to change. In Washington, Montana and Oregon, physician assisted suicides have been legalized, and legalization bills have been introduced in New Hampshire and Hawaii (Allott 1).

In July this year, Wilkes (1) presented the unknown fate of a desperately sick woman whose family had applied for withdraw of her life support in a Landmark court. The fifty three year old had a brain-stem wasting illness and was still fighting but her relatives argued that she was better off dead to stop the pain.

This case elicited a lot of controversy because it involved physician assisted death to a patient who was not in a “persistent vegetative state”. At an introduction hearing the presiding judge described the case as “a unique case that raised very significant issues of principle”.

Jews regard preservation of human life as one of their highest moral values. The Jewish tradition forbids euthanasia or anything that could shorten human life. However, Jewish tradition does not require the physician to prolong life more than necessary.

For Jews, life is sacred and relieve from pain is not a reason enough for taking a life. In matters of passive euthanasia, Jewish law allows a doctor to remove anything that is stopping an occurrence of natural death (Faye Girsh 1).

Christianity is against euthanasia since life is given by God and only God can take it. Life and death are natural and should be respected and therefore Christianity forbids taking the life of innocent people even if they ask for it. Euthanasia regards life as worthless and therefore killing a person for quality of life is irrelevant.

Death is a spiritual process and nobody should interfere with it. Some omissions have been made regarding respecting the final wishes of a dying person if they ask for euthanasia (Bishops 1).

Christians believe that death is an important passage of moving from one life to another. The worth of all human life is the same and cannot be measured or be compared with anything. It is therefore wrong to take human life regardless of any reason that might arise.

Even for very sick, old, or disabled people, it is wrong to use any method to terminate their lives because they remain worth just like the lives of any other living people (Bishops 1).

In Islamic culture, euthanasia is prohibited under all circumstances Muslims believe that life is given by Allah and he decides when to terminate a human life. Muslims are against euthanasia because it brings to an end what Allah had intended when He created mankind.

Allah is the bringer of life and should therefore be the one to take it. Mercy killing involves passing judgment to other people a task that Muslims believes is for Allah only. Even an individual is not allowed to pass judgment over his/her life because life was giving to him/her. Everyone is worth before Allah and should respect the life that Allah provided.

Synthesizing the three views, it is clear that Judaism, Christianity and Muslim are all against euthanasia. However, Jews allow a doctor to remove anything, natural or artificial that stops the occurrence of natural death.

In some teachings of Christianity, patients should be taken care, relieved from pain, and prepared for death. Muslims allow death only in matters of justice but do not support any kind of mercy killing. The family and the entire community should give hope and support to the patient to raise their optimism.

In conclusion, although a lot of people might prefer dying than suffering from sickness, some stories and facts show that euthanasia is not the best solution. All religions are against euthanasia or any form of mercy killing, whether the patient is willing or not. Judaism, Christianity and Islam believe in the Supreme Being that created man and gave him life.

In addition, humans have been given the power and capability to differentiate between good and bad; the issue of euthanasia is not an exception.

Although some laws have been passed in some countries in support of euthanasia, it still remains illegal in many cultures. These laws might be misused maliciously by some physicians to commit murder in future (ACLU 1). The issue of euthanasia will continue to remain controversial all over the world.

Works Cited

ACLU. The American Civil Liberties Union(ACLU), ACLU Amicus Brief in Vacco v. Quill. 10 December 1996. Web.

Allott, Daniel. “The Doctor Will Kill You Know.” The American Spectator 1 April 2009: 1-2.

Bishops, National Conference of Catholic. Euthanasia and Assisted Dying. 3 August 2009. Web.

Emanuel, Ezekiel. “History of Medicine: The History of Euthanasia Debates in the United States and Britain.” American College of Physicians, Annals of Internal Medicine (2011). 793-802.

Erdemir, Aysegil and Omur Elcioglu. “A short history of Euthanasia Laws, and their Place in Turkish Law.” Eubios Journal of Asian and International Bioethics (2001): 47-49.

Faye Girsh, EdD. How Shall We Die?” Free Inquiry. 23 April 2002. Web.

Wilkes, David. Family fight to end life of brain desease patient: Landmark case affecting thousands with locked-in syndrome, Mail Online. 18 July 2011. Web.

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