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Fierce deliberations concerning the sanctity of life have been in the public domain for a long time. Many nations around the globe have been engulfed in tussles with the church and civil rights organizations on many ethical and moral aspects of the legislation they enact. Among such issues is euthanasia, which although it is legally accepted in some countries, it still faces acute criticism from the religious realm. Many people hold the view that life’s importance is above any circumstance and thus it should be treated as such without interference. However, this view has not been the case as a growing number of nations have become rather accommodating insofar as legalizing euthanasia is concerned. Therefore, this essay seeks to examine the concept of euthanasia comprehensively with the view of illuminating its shortcomings to the conclusion that it is a concept not worth the attention it receives.
An overview of Euthanasia
In order to grasp the gist of the deliberations in this essay, it is important to first apprehend what the term euthanasia means and bring this meaning in the context of this essay. The word euthanasia originates from two Greek words “eu and thanos which when put together and translated to English mean good death” (Best 2). The English version of the word was thus coined from the two Greek words. The word has since received heavy attention from different people and as such, numerous definitions of the word exist. The definitions may vary based on the players in the chain of actions that eventually culminate in the death of the suffering patient.
Euthanasia has become a multifaceted concept that needs a complex definition to accommodate all its aspects. However, for purposes of this essay, such a definition shall not be sought; instead, the different facets of the term shall be considered systematically in order to gain a holistic understanding of the term prior to discussing it. Euthanasia comes in several forms all of which have definitions.
First, there is passive euthanasia, which is the “hastening of death by altering some form of support and letting nature take its toll” (Goel 225). Second, there is active euthanasia, which involves the causing of someone’s death via a direct action (Goel 225). Active euthanasia is further divided into physician-assisted suicide (PAS) and involuntary euthanasia of which in the former physician supplies information and/or a means to aid a suicide while in the latter, there is the killing of a person who has requested for termination of his or her life (Goel 225). For purposes of this essay, all these forms of euthanasia shall be applied such that at the mention of the term euthanasia, any or all the terms could be in reference.
Ethical Implications of Euthanasia
Existing literature indicates that there is a growing public interest in euthanasia. This observation shows that the masses are becoming increasingly aware of the idea that they can voluntarily seek termination of life in circumstances under which they feel they are suffering for no good cause. According to Terry, a physician at Johns Hopkins Asthma and Allergy Center, a patient with a moderately advanced idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis requested him to deliver a lethal injection at the cost of $10,000 (1259).
He does not indicate whether he delivered the injection or not, but the point to note from this incident is that first, the author wrote the article about two decades ago and even then, the request had been made five years earlier. Secondly, the patient took the initiative to make such a request and was ready to compensate quite reasonably for the service. Studies that were conducted around the same time in Colorado and San Francisco revealed that 59 percent of physicians in Colorado would deliver a lethal injection to a patient in certain conditions, while 70 percent of physicians would do the same in San Francisco (Terry 1259).
It can only be imagined what is currently taking place behind the scenes in the medical field with the many pressures of life that are pressing the current generation. Most probably, the situation can only get worse.
By using this incident as a reference point, it can be deduced that currently, the medical field is awash with cases of people paying chunks of money to facilitate the termination of their lives. With the increasingly antagonistic nature of human relationships when it becomes clear that one can kill by simply making use of a physician, it means that so many people are dying prematurely in the name of euthanasia (Hurst and Marion 109). This assertion may not directly reflect the concept of euthanasia, but it ensues because, through euthanasia, people became aware of the availability of medication that could shorten life at one’s will. This aspect jeopardizes the sanctity of life greatly because life should be left to its author to determine its course.
Implications of Euthanasia to the Medical Field
The medical field is one that should be governed by strict ethical codes that all its practitioners and trainees should be fully conscious of at all times for as long as they operate within this field. This assertion holds because the field plays a pivotal role in preserving life, thus ensuring that people live for as long as practically possible. It is indeed a noble field; however, the advent of the euthanasia debate has interfered with the fundamental beliefs and belief systems that have governed this field for a long time. This observation is true for both the practitioner in the field and the trainee who is preparing for the field. Notably, in both cases, the implications are not good for the medical field.
The training received by doctors or medical students is entrenched in the Hippocratic Injunction, viz. “first do no harm, which is a major pillar in the field of medicine” (Grewal et al. 8). Doctors’ core responsibility is to preserve life to its natural end and all the training received in medical training centers espouses this position. If euthanasia is legalized (for countries in which it is still illegal), then the essence of medical training would be in vain for the doctor will be expected to administer the lethal treatment.
The burdens currently shouldered by the doctors are more than enough for them so that if any addition is done, what may ensue could surprise many. The excessive pressure could drive doctors to do it on themselves to end their misery instead of carrying out euthanasia on other people. Clearly, expecting a doctor to champion the preservation of life and at the same time terminate some lives is a contradiction of roles and the medical field would be a mess (Grewal et al. 8).
It is a common practice across the world to take a patient to a doctor’s care when an illness persists beyond the preliminary care given at home. The reason for this occurrence is that there exists a certain level of trust in the relationship between the patient or their family and the doctor (Grewal et al. 9). This element is the trust that the health condition of the patient could improve by seeking such care. This relationship would change if the doctor were also the legally acclaimed terminator of life, which in essence would be a breach of the trust that is supposed to exist between doctors and patients. Under such circumstances, no one will entrust the lives of their loved ones to doctors, and that move could lead to a chaotic situation, which is not desirable by any means.
In addition to such implications, euthanasia can have far-reaching consequences in medical research. The reason it is administered, as derived from its definition, is to alleviate the suffering of a terminally ill patient. The medical research field has covered great milestones in the past discovering cures for all sorts of illnesses. For a terminal illness to exist, medical research in the area is going on to discover the cure. However, when it becomes clear that the law provides for the termination of the lives of the terminally ill, the implication is that the researcher may not be motivated to conduct research with vigor. In other words, euthanasia has the potential to undermine the extent of killing research in the area, thus affecting the entire field of medicine.
Moral Implications of Euthanasia
The relationship between the church and the euthanasia debate has been an antagonistic one since antiquity. The church, being the moral authority in society, bears the burden of pointing society towards embracing best moral practices. Such practices should be in tandem with the religious beliefs held by the church. Interestingly, the church has been on a warring front with most of the medical developments of recent times. Euthanasia undermines the sanctity of life, which the church seeks to preserve and promote, hence the antagonistic relationship. Christians believe in the teachings of the Bible, which strictly forbids killing (Best 13).
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This stand automatically disqualifies euthanasia for a Christian no matter the circumstances. The proponents of this concept have always attempted to coat it with many inevitable circumstances to create an impression of there being no alternative except euthanasia itself. The value attached to life should go beyond what is currently given by many. Attaching little value on one’s life leads to the easy and quick seeking of alternatives when life’s puzzles seem too tough to bear.
Christianity teaches its adherents to value their lives because it is a gift from God the creator (Jochemsen 215). Letting go of life in the name of euthanasia would be to depart from the teachings of God, which could have far-reaching and undesirable consequences. In an indirect manner, the proponents of euthanasia seem to say that life is only meaningful without suffering. This perspective to is against Christian teaching, which means that welcoming euthanasia for a Christian is equivalent to detaching oneself from the faith.
The severity of the antagonistic nature of the relationship between religion and euthanasia is compounded by the position of the Muslim faith on the subject. Islam just like Christianity is a monotheistic religion, which beliefs in one Deity, who is the author of life and thus has discretion over it (Muhammad and Fauzi 64). The Muslims too consider living a gift from God. Anyone who propagates ideas of euthanasia is a criminal by the standards of the Muslim faith.
Hinduism, just like Islam and Christianity, opposes euthanasia strongly. To Hindus, ahimsa (sanctity of life) must be upheld and that the best death is a conscious death (Nimbalkar 56). According to Hindu religious beliefs, the sanctity of life is the highest virtue. This cannot be breached and thus euthanasia is not acceptable in the Hindu religion.
The fact that the three religious perspectives all reject euthanasia as breaching their fundamental teachings and beliefs implies that euthanasia is a crime that should not be encouraged at all. By failing the moral test, euthanasia can only be practiced by amoral characters that are not desirable in society.
Psychological Implications of Euthanasia
The concept of euthanasia as touted by its proponents can bring a patient to a state of despondency where the patient easily gives up on life and dies. This state of affairs should not be encouraged. All human beings need to understand that life is very important and should be preserved no matter the prevailing conditions. By closely examining the tenets of euthanasia, it emerges that the propping ideas are founded on misconceptions, which no one has lived to dispel. Purportedly, euthanasia is carried out to alleviate pain and suffering, and thus the question that one should answer before thinking about euthanasia is whether there is really no suffering after death. If it were possible to establish the conditions of the afterlife through research or experience, then proponents of the concept would have grounds to sustain their claim.
The effects that the execution of euthanasia may have on, say, family members or the doctor who executes it may turn out to be dangerous. Bearing the burden of being the cause of death may have negative psychological consequences, which underscores some of the fundamental issues that those pushing for the legalization of euthanasia need to address comprehensively before legalizing it. There are cases in which the patient may be unable to give instruction for euthanasia and the doctor decides to proceed with euthanasia without the permission of a third party. In such a case, the doctor directly bears the burden of killing and psychological consequences that come with it.
The purported benefits of euthanasia
The proponents of euthanasia present its purported benefits to the public domain to create an impression of a harmless medical development that is worth as long as it is given a chance like many others. The benefits come in the form of respect for the patient’s autonomy where it is argued that they have the right to choose whether to continue living or not (Emanuel 630). This kind of reasoning undermines the sanctity of life and thus it is misleading. Euthanasia proponents also claim that it grants a patient the option of choosing between the quality of life over the sanctity of life where choosing quality is opting for death (Sanson et al. 7).
It is not sensible to claim that there is any quality of life when in essence life has been terminated. A third misconception by the proponents of euthanasia is that by executing it, a patient’s dependence on life support machines is reduced or simply ended (Sanson et al. 8). Unfortunately, life support machines are referred to in this case for it makes them sound so undesirable. This way of thinking too is a misleading impression, which is aimed at making people want to stop fighting to stay alive as should be the case. Based on the three pro-euthanasia claims made, it is clear that the purported benefits of the concept of euthanasia are not really benefits, but rather just excuses by those who want the legalization of the concept.
The concept of euthanasia has received great attention in the past and it will continue to do so as long as the human race still exists. Unfortunately, many nations seem to be warming up to the idea of legalizing euthanasia. However, whether legalized or not, it is clear that this concept undermines the essence of human existence and thus physicians should remain steadfast and hold their ground to uphold their good training and its ethos.
If the law permits the act, it should also provide the deliverers of the lethal medication so that the doctors’ role would remain to be the preservation of life. This assertion holds because human life is very important and it needs to be preserved notwithstanding sufferings for pain has remedies, which are far much better than the scourge of euthanasia. Euthanasia should be treated as a crime and its perpetrator should be strictly dealt with in accordance with the law if apprehended.
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