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When Ethics and Euthanasia Conflict? Research Paper


The term Euthanasia originates from a Greek word, which means ‘painless death’ or ‘good death’ (McDougall and Gorman 66). The process aims to reduce the suffering and lifetime of a patient through medical monitoring. It is a very controversial subject that involves moral and ethical principles. Besides, it is unacceptable to some people, regions, and cultures. The practice is only allowed in a few countries. The main aim is to reduce the lifetime of a patient who is terminally ill.

It is synonymous with aiding someone end his/her life. Some cultures abhor euthanasia and consider it as a homicide. In some places, it is already allowed legally. Advocates of this practice believe that every human being has the right to choose whether to live or not and in serious cases such as terminal illness, some patients prefer to end their lives in a painless way.

Generally, people who are against euthanasia are perceived to be religious, and as such, they adhere to the principle that only God can take away the life of a person. They believe that physicians should not interfere with God’s will (Varelius, 230).

When Brittany Maynard was diagnosed with an aggressive brain tumor that had no cure, doctors said she would have just six months to live. One of his first decisions was to change her home in San Francisco to Oregon. The change happened because the latter state had pioneered the adoption of a law allowing assisted suicide for terminally ill patients. Brittany later committed suicide.

Since 1997, doctors in Oregon State have been prescribing lethal drugs to patients with a lucid maximum prognosis of six months. According to records cited by the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC), 1,173 people have already applied for these drugs through the “Death with Dignity Act” (Act for Death with Dignity), but only 752 patients have used them to die (Ethics Guide par. 4).

The average age of the patients, however, is far above the 29-year old Maynard who opted for euthanasia. Most of those who applied for euthanasia did it at an average age of 71 years.

Pioneering Oregon in the subject of euthanasia portrays a sad state of affairs when doctors can transform their noble role of treating patients to actually killing them. At the age of 83, a merciless Oregon Doctor had helped at least 130 terminally ill patients to die in several places within the United States. However, his first patient (a teacher of pre-school) lived and died just in Oregon. Janet Adkins suffered from Alzheimer’s and ended her life on 4th June 1990 with the help of Kevorkian, who came to be held responsible soon after the death.

It is apparent that the action was wrong. Outside the United States, a few other countries have specific laws support f euthanasia. These include the Netherlands, Belgium, Switzerland, and Germany. There are isolated reported cases registered in Uruguay and Colombia. It is against this backdrop that this essay argues that euthanasia should not be legalized because it contravenes the moral principles, human dignity, and basic sanctity of life.

The only way that the current laws cannot prefer punishment against an individual is when a patient absolutely resolves to kill himself/herself. However, subjecting another person to death on the basis of ‘mercy killing’ is controversial and in some cases, punishable by law (Jones 401). As much as the subject of euthanasia seems to be gaining ground, only a few countries have legalized it. This is a clear indication that it is a wrong practice that proponents are trying as much as possible to fix into the moral standards of society.

At a global level, there is a huge resistance to the adoption of a law to authorize euthanasia. Why should it then be compelled in the face of humanity when a negligible percentage of the world is supporting it? There is a deep mistrust of the motivations that fuel euthanasia. Most of the debates to legalize the practice is driven by selfish interest of introducing unpopular legislations.

Proponents of euthanasia should deeply reflect the issue and question the criteria of inevitable and imminent death, the criterion of the irreversibility of the patient’s condition as well as the criterion for an incurable disease. As a matter of fact, what is incurable today may have some cure tomorrow. Whatever is irreversible today can be reversed the next day.

It is possible to prolong or postpone the timing of the death of an individual by avoiding euthanasia. There are indefinite health factors that doctors and general humanity cannot determine within a short span. Hence, taking away someone’s life in the pretext of alleviating their pain is a premature decision that can end life when someone still has several months ahead to live and possibly recover fully.

We also need to investigate the sanctity of human life before opting for euthanasia. Even at the point of death, human life is still useful, productive, valuable, sacred, and sanctified (Jotterand 108). The fact that we may not have time or patience to care and treat our patients does not imply that people under pain should be exposed to death. It is pertinent to note that the foundation of euthanasia is to take away the pain being experienced by a patient.

However, this notion is completely paradoxical since even people who are healthy enough often undergo various forms of pain on a daily basis. You may be physically well and healthy but emotionally drained and in full pain. Why should we eliminate people who are in emotional or psychological pain?

Have we lost our conscience and detached the value embedded in the sanctity of human life? These are terse questions that should perhaps provide major pointers against euthanasia. Life is a natural and precious gift that should be preserved and safeguarded at all costs.

Countries that have legalized euthanasia risk breeding high-tech criminals who traffic human organs. Any sick maybe a ready target for euthanasia. Once they have been killed, their organs are trafficked. In fact, trafficking human organs is a grim reality in both the developed and developing world. Where would be the dignity of human life when body organs are turned into quick cash?

Besides, euthanasia is rarely conducted upon the request of a patient. In most known cases, a patient is silently killed as the last option of the ‘treatment process.’ It is indeed morally wrong to go against the wish of a patient even if the person is on the verge of death. If patients can be consulted before ‘mercy killing,’ then euthanasia would have a completely different impression in society (Rollo 36).

Every individual has the right to life as enshrined in our constitutions. Even law offenders are hardcore criminals are still protected by the same legislations unless they prove to be a major threat to the lives of other people. Since when did a person under gross pain become a dangerous offender to be killed without his or her knowledge? Aggressive therapy for patients who are extremely ill can still improve health and extend the life of an individual.

On the other hand, it is prudent to acknowledge other bodies of evidence that support euthanasia. Individuals and pressure groups that agitate for the legalization of marijuana argue that quite often, the pain which most patients go through may be impossible to alleviate (Kingsbury par. 3). Medical doctors may have tried the best they can without any success. Hence, they are only left with the option of euthanasia. Second, the end of life is usually marked by suffering. Therefore, a human being is free to decide his/her own dignity.

This implies that the decision to live or die rests in the hands of a suffering patient. Proponents also reiterate that euthanasia is widespread since it was hardly done in public glare. They equate euthanasia to abortion. The latter is practiced frequently in jurisdictions that abhor it. Hence, euthanasia should be legalized to prevent the current hypocrisy and also allow patients to die with dignity. Finally, the legalization of euthanasia cannot breach the freedom of individuals if a written request is obtained from a patient.

Conclusion

To recap it all, euthanasia stands out as a major violation of human dignity and the sanctity of life advanced by nature. From the above analysis, it is evident that patients are rarely consulted before euthanasia is carried out. Even in a case whereby a patient requests for euthanasia, we still have the moral, spiritual, and physical responsibility to safeguard the endangered life. Aggressive therapy, guidance, and counseling are among the broad alternatives that can prolong the life of a hopeless patient.

Works Cited

2014. Web.

Jones, David Albert. “Is there a Logical Slippery Slope from Voluntary to Nonvoluntary Euthanasia?” Kennedy Institute of Ethics journal 21.4 (2011): 379-404. Print.

Jotterand, Fabrice. “Review of John Griffiths, Heleen Weyers and Maurice Adams, Euthanasia and Law in Europe. Oxford: Hart Publishing, 2008.” HEC Forum 21.1 (2009): 107-11. Print.

Kingsbury, Kathleen. . 2008. Web.

McDougall, Jennifer Fecio and Martha Gorman. Euthanasia: A Reference Handbook. Santa Barbara, CA: ABC-CLIO, Inc., 2008. Print.

Rollo, Andrew. “Gone Too Soon? When Ethics and Euthanasia Conflict.” Veterinary Economics 55.7 (2014): 36. Print.

Varelius, Jukka. “Voluntary Euthanasia, Physician-Assisted Suicide, and the Right to do wrong.” HEC Forum 25.3 (2013): 229-243. Print.

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IvyPanda. (2020) 'When Ethics and Euthanasia Conflict'. 1 May.

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