Euthanasia is a subject that continues to elicit mixed reactions from all quarters in the public domain. Most prominent among these reactions are heated debates between the proponents and opponents of the subject as to whether it should be embraced as an acceptable option under some circumstances.
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A few nations across the globe have legalized euthanasia but even so, the debate over its ethical and moral acceptability has not subsided within such countries. Any time attention is drawn to this subject, it evokes deep emotions, which can be attributed to the fact that it involves matters of life and death. However, this aspect cannot stop discussions over the issue especially when more of the world’s nations seem to be contemplating legalizing euthanasia.
An Overview of Euthanasia
The meaning of euthanasia has changed over the years from how it was originally construed to what it means to the contemporary world. This element is partly attributable to the advancements in medical technology and the sophistication of people’s concept of life. Today, euthanasia is defined as the killing of a patient with the doctor’s full knowledge of doing so under instruction by the patient (Pereira 38-45). The definition extends to include the act of a physician knowingly prescribing lethal drugs to a patient at the patient’s request.
However, this definition still fails to capture a situation where life sustaining medication or machine is withdrawn to allow a patient to die with the patient’s consent or not, yet this practice too has become part of the term euthanasia (Stevens 187-200). The two different approaches to euthanasia both fall under active versus inactive and voluntary versus involuntary. However, the motive and the outcome remain the same because the result is a premature death for the patient as intended when the exercise is undertaken.
Prelude to the Argument
The proponents of euthanasia have advanced several reasons, which make them vouch for its legalization or rather its moral acceptance. Some of these reasons seem reasonable enough, but they are completely discredited by the fact that conscious termination of life is involved.
For as long as euthanasia is generally unaccepted worldwide, debates will continue to rage on with proponents of euthanasia trying to persuade their opponents to a golden mean over the issue. However, there is no way of coating the issue to make it attractive due to the ills it promises to deliver to a populace that embraces it. The focus of this research paper is to illuminate the ills of euthanasia with an aim of portraying it as a horrendous undertaking that should not even be contemplated by man.
The ills of euthanasia
Euthanasia is an undesirable undertaking and even though some advocate it, they seem to be doing so from an amoral perspective as this aspect underscores the only reason that it could appeal to them as rational human beings. Perhaps examining the ills of euthanasia carefully may give an insight into the reasons for the proponents’ position. The following are thus some of the ills of euthanasia.
Detrimental to Effect the Medical Profession
The medical profession finds the essence of its existence in the preservation of life. The oath taken by medical practitioners at the end of training or right before practice serves to add to the fact that medical practitioners have a duty of preserving and propagating life to humanity. It is worrying when for example a doctor, who is a proponent of euthanasia, is quoted to say that conducting euthanasia gives him a feeling of the ‘executioner’ (Goel 224-231).
In addition, some doctors who illegally engaged in the activity did not show any remorse over the issue and they instead add that they would do the same given the same circumstances. This same undertaking was reported to cause emotional burdens to the extent of altering the practice patterns of some doctors. If this kind of scenario is left unchecked, it can only be imagined what the state of the medical field would look like.
To society, doctors symbolize the preservation and continuity of life. If charged with the task of administering the lethal medication or prescribing it, how society perceives doctors will change. In addition, their training will have to include life termination aspects, which undermine the essence of the profession. These elements make euthanasia a dangerous undertaking for the medical field.
It is claimed within the pro-euthanasia circles that it is only an option of last resort pursued when all other avenues have been exhausted. This assertion may seem appealing in some circumstances, but it should not blindfold those who do not welcome the idea for it has been reported elsewhere that euthanasia, in some cases, is employed before all palliative care options are explored.
Studies indicate that in the Netherlands and the United States, many patients who received euthanasia did so before all the palliative care options were utilized (Pereira 38-45). In the Netherlands, up to 9% nursing home patients suffered this fate while in the United States up to 39% of patients with psychological disorder suffered the same fate (Rietjens et al. 271-283). Chances are high that these patients never gave their consents before the exercise.
What makes the matter worse is that research indicates that 65-75% of physicians falsify the cause of death as being natural after performing euthanasia in the Netherlands (Rietjens et al. 271-283). Under such circumstances, one wonders how many people really die naturally because if the people entrusted with the preservation of life terminate it and falsify the outcome of the autopsy, then it becomes difficult to trust them anymore. These examples again point to the fact that euthanasia is not good for humankind.
Undermining the Sanctity of Life
The sanctity of life has always elicited emotional arguments whenever an issue is raised over it fro many people approach such arguments from a religious perspective. This perspective, though refuted by atheists and pagans mostly, seems to be the only perspective from which one can make sense of life.
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The sad thing is that when an innocent life is taken, whether with or without the patient’s consent, proponents claim that the patient has exercised autonomy on the choice of whether to live or die. This assertion greatly undermines the value that is attached to life and by so doing; it refutes the teachings of Judeo-Christian traditions.
Refuting such teachings is tantamount to refuting the existence of God who is the author of life and the only one who has authority over it. No individual has authority over his or her own live let alone that of another and any idea that seeks to change this position is misguided. Accepting such a position would lead to all sorts of life ending activities in the name of acting in the best interest of a patient, which is not acceptable especially when the topic of discussion is life.
Critique of Purported Benefits of Euthanasia
Proponents of euthanasia have attempted to pitch the practice as an idea that is worth considering as society increasingly becomes liberal through the advancement of arguments, which are presented using appealing language to make them palatable to society. One of such argument is claims of people having autonomy over their own lives and the decision to terminate it. It is irrational to claim to have authority over something whose existence is mystery and as such, man can never have authority over life.
The consequence of allowing euthanasia could be similar to what is experienced in the Netherlands where about 1000 people are euthanized without their express consent (Rietjens et al. 271-283). Another example of purported benefits of euthanasia is the idea of relieving pain and suffering, which seems to be the main argument by the proponents of euthanasia. Pain and suffering are not desirable elements by any means, but should not give room for the termination of life.
What would be the implications for medical research and development if this practice were permitted? This undertaking has the ability to stagnate research for palliative care drugs and drugs for illnesses that are considered terminal today yet that should not be the case. There are many other arguments for euthanasia, but they cannot stand critical evaluation, which only serves to add to the fact that it is not good for the well-being of humankind.
It has emerged vividly that the concept of euthanasia does not do any good to humanity, but rather serves to derail the advancements in the medical field. Therefore, it should be inhibited by every available resource because in addition to adversely affecting the medical profession, it has the potential of leading to numerous unnecessary deaths and worst still, undermine the sanctity of life. Those who vouch for euthanasia seem not to appreciate the consequences it could bring; hence, it should be discouraged completely.
Goel, Vaibhav. “Euthanasia – A dignified end of life!” International NGO Journal 3.12 (2008): 224-231. Print.
Pereira, Jose. “Legalizing euthanasia or assisted suicide: the illusion of safeguards and controls.” Current Oncology 18.2 (2011): 38-45. Print.
Rietjens, Judith, Paul van der Mass, Bregje Onwuteaka-Philipsen, Johannes van
Delden, and Agnes van der Heide. “Two Decades of Research on Euthanasia from the Netherlands. What Have We Learnt and What Questions Remain?” Journal of Bioethical Inquiry 6.3 (2009): 271-283. Print.
Stevens, Kenneth. “Emotional and psychological effects of physician-assisted suicide and euthanasia on participating physicians.” Issues in Law and Medicine 21.3 (2006): 187-200. Print.