Euthanasia means in Greek “a good death”, but nowadays this term represents the act of helping someone to die who is terminally ill to prevent his further suffering. Euthanasia can come in both ways: voluntary and involuntary. The case when a patient asks for help to die is considered as voluntary way of this act. The case when doctor or relatives decide to disconnect a patient who in a coma or state of vegetation from life support system is considered involuntary way of “helping to die”. There are a lot of strong arguments for and against on both sides of the euthanasia debates. Supporters of euthanasia argue that there is no use in suffering for the terminally ill patients, and, moreover, it is inhuman to force them suffer. Hence, terminally ill patients are entitled to have a good and decent death, and providing this right is the tribute of respect to those with unbearable pain, which society is obliged to give. Opponents of euthanasia are sure that helping somebody to die before his time is against the natural order and the law of God. In other words, the analyzed notion is the murder, no matter how one calls it, so it cannot be acceptable in civilized society. The opponents of euthanasia assert that the medical specialists, as nobody else, have to protect the human life and understand its sacred value, because they gave the Hippocrates Oath where they swear: “I will neither give a deadly drug to anybody if asked for it, nor will I make a suggestion to this effect” (Hippocratic Oath, 5th B.C.). The opponents are also concerned that legalized euthanasia would lead to illegal and unjustified deaths of patients who were not wish to die, and killers would get the opportunity to avoid the rightful punishment. It is more than possible that unambiguous answer to the euthanasia’s question due to its sensitivity, delicacy and complexity will never be found. Therefore, this paper do not pretend to find the only correct answer but is going to investigate the all possible reasons for and against the viewed concept.
Arguments for Euthanasia
Freedom of Choice
John Mill (1806 – 1873), an influential contributor to social democratic theory, considered that until a person does not harm others members of civilized democratic community but benefits from it, he has right to do whatever he wants. Nevertheless, in the democratic society murder and robbery are prohibited, but sex outside marriage or voluntary euthanasia cannot be punished by law because it is a personal matter of individual. Though, terminally ill patients who wish to die and do not want to harm anyone else should have the right to die. In 1994, Sue Rodriguez who was dying from the terminal disease wrote to Canadian Supreme Court that if she has no right to die on her own terms then whose life is it. She asked for what for she should live and suffer: all she has it is her miserable life and her unbearable pain and there is no way to get rid of any of them. Bob Dent, the one of the first four people who died owing to the act III about terminally ill legalized under Northern Territory’s Rights, could not understand why the beliefs of others have to influence his own decision. He claimed that freedom of self-expression stipulates for everyone to live according own beliefs, religion and view of life; therefore, nobody could dictate what right thing for him to do until he has his own beliefs and understanding (“Reasons for Euthanasia”, n.d.).
Not all terminally ill patients have the opportunity to end their lives if they wish for it, so those who suffer unbearably but have no right to stop the torturing are in unlawful position. The voluntary euthanasia for these people is a humanistic act, which prevents losing the dignity and feeling miserable (Bonin, 2012).
There is a paradox in democratic view on freedom of self-expression: people can participate in sporting activities that mortally dangerous and make vital decisions about their bodies, but they do not make the decision about should they continue suffering or they should not. Thus, they have a complete right to make stupid and thoughtless decisions by risking their lives, but they have no right to make a reasonable decision to end their suffering before they inevitably die (Dowboggin, 2003).
The noisiest vocal opponents of voluntary euthanasia are clergy members. However, their protest and non-acceptance of the indicated medical act is their choice. They are absolutely welcomed to express their religious feelings and try to change the mind of terminally ill patients to stop their suffering through premature death, but they are not welcomed to decide for the unbearably suffering people what best for them. It is undemocratic and inhuman. Jesus Christ entrusted that: “Do unto others as you would have them do to you”. Voluntary euthanasia is morally justified exactly because it is the act of salvation for those who suffer. Every person has his own pain threshold, so what bearable for one is unbearable for another, and what acceptable for one is not acceptable for another one. Therefore, these Jesus Christ’s words can be explained that nobody would like to be deprived of their right to decide their fate (“Reasons for Euthanasia”, n.d.).
Supporters of voluntary euthanasia advocate not necessity or rightness of euthanasia but the possibility of having a choice. They stress if people have the complete right to decide when and how they would like to live, they must have the complete right to decide when and how they would like to die or, at least, when and how they would not like to live. No one wishes to spend 24/7/365 depending on drugs and nurses without possibility to enjoy the life and hope to be cured or at least that terrible pain will end. Therefore, denying the right for such people to make their own choice is a degradation of democracy (“Reasons for Euthanasia,” n.d.).
Economic Arguments for Euthanasia
Life support systems, drugs and medical care are expensive and not every patient could afford them and not always insurance covers the complete course of treatment. Therefore, when the patients face the problem of continuing expensive, painful and useless life support they can choose to die. There is one more paradox: if the euthanasia is considered morally and ethically equal to murder, there should be special life supporting programs to offer those who terminally ill with the decent way of living. However, it is very often “people in trouble are left to themselves” because the government funding of healthcare systems is also limited. Supporters of euthanasia have one more economic argument: they do not understand why taxpayers’ money has to be spent on terminally ill patients who have no hope and, thus, no wish to recover but not on people who can be cured with proper medical care and want to be saved and live. The supporters of euthanasia consider that taxpayers’ money can be more successfully spend on infant care or emergency services where these financial resources will bring happiness to people but not misery (Dowboggin, 2003).
Life of Endless Suffering
Euthanasia for terminally ill patients is often an act of mercy so denying them this right is to doom them to a painful and miserable existence. That existence consists of endless drugs, pain, suffering and despair. The life in which a person has only one wish is to die. In criminal law, there is a distinction between manslaughter and aggravated murder. From the moral point of view, it is hard to say what difference between aggravated murder and someone who watches the slowly dying person, who suffers from unbearable pain and begs for mercy, but does nothing about it. According to statistics 80% of terminally ill patients consider voluntary euthanasia a morally justified act (Bonin, 2012).
Arguments against Euthanasia
Ambiguity of Term “Terminally Ill”
Opponents of euthanasia noted that term “terminal” is too ambiguous. For instance, in 1992, Jack Kevorkian called “terminal” the disease that could shorten a life at least for a day. There are also laws that define “terminal” as a condition that results in death in a “relatively short period of time” or within six month or less. Opponents also argue that it is impossible to predict exact life expectancy for a particular individual; moreover, some terminally ill patients live for years after being diagnosed (Euthanasia Prevention Coalition, 2006).
Euthanasia and Cost Containment Policy
Medical insurance is not available to millions of unprivileged population in the U.S. Studies prove that unprivileged population, generally, has no access to painkillers. Therefore, many medical specialists are at financial risk because they provide a pain control to unprivileged patients. Opponents of the researched act concerned that legalized euthanasia will allow medics benefiting from those seriously ill or disabled patients who decide to die instead receiving a long-term care. They see in legalized euthanasia a dangerous situation that will encourage doctors to murder their patients (Euthanasia Prevention Coalition, 2006).
Voluntary Euthanasia – Involuntary Death
Opponents of euthanasia concerned that psychological and emotional state of terminally ill patients is too fragile to give them euthanasia as option. One reason of concern is that everyone has good and bad days, so there is always a danger that depressed and drugs dependent person make a decision to die in one of their bad days. The second reason of concern is that the terminally ill patients may feel guilty for spending family and state financial resources, and may choose death just not to be a burden. Financial considerations added to an unstable emotion state of ill people could be a very bad advisor on matter life and death (“Arguments against Euthanasia,” n.d.).
People who are against euthanasia accused supporters in simplifying such complicated matter as life and death; they assert that there will be too many complicated and unlawful situations that will lead to involuntary death. They concerned about the elderly people in nursing houses because many of them hardly understand a menu. Therefore, opponents ask who protects these people from being involuntary killed if they sign a consent form without knowing what they sign for. There are a lot of people who in some moments of their life cannot answer for their actions. Opponents cite an example of people who suffer from depression and could decide to end their life. Opponents remind the supporters that there are too many people who are ready to use the ill people and euthanasia to their benefit (Euthanasia Prevention Coalition, 2006).
Euthanasia is a Rejection of the Value of Human Life
The opponents also often mention the sanctity of life. This notion has special meaning for those with religious beliefs. They claimed that God created mankind in his own image so the life is a sacred and priceless divine gift. They also stressed that euthanasia is against the tenth Bible Commandment that entrusted: “Do not kill”. Christian religion gives a lot of reasons against suicide and euthanasia: Jesus Christ suffered on the cross for the humanity’s sins and he did not wish to shorten his suffering. Euthanasia is an unforgivable sin no matter how one call it: suicide or murder. Suicide is a well-known sin and euthanasia is one of the forms of suicide. Euthanasia is a taken life from another person away – so it is murder. Both self-murderer and assistant do not value the life, which mean they do not respect God and natural order (Euthanasia Prevention Coalition, 2006).
Human Organism is still Enigma
Opponents of euthanasia also claim that there is often a case of misdiagnosis of terminally ill patients and there are many those who recover after being terminally diagnosed, so euthanasia cannot be permitted. They also state that human organism is still enigma. Incurable diseases sometimes vanish without trace. Scientists make new discoveries every day, new procedures and medicines become available. Opponents of euthanasia ensure that the question is not in hope but in faith. Patients that diagnosed with terminal illness have no right to surrender to disease, they have to struggle and win the battle. People, which do not support such “medical helping”, assert that human predestination is the development and discovery, so euthanasia as a choice is not just sin from the religious point of view, but crime against human nature (“Arguments against Euthanasia,” n.d.).
The Palliative Care as an Option
In many cases the palliative care reduces the risk of suicide or voluntary euthanasia. Such care is a really good option for alleviating pain and it improves the quality of patients’ life very much. Although, the palliative care cannot control all symptoms of disease it makes the patients’ lives much more comfortable. Unfortunately, there are still plethoric conditions of terminally ill patients for which loss of dignity and unbearable sufferings are impossible to eliminate: breathlessness or uncontrollable vomiting, being paralyzed or just being absolutely helpless and completely dependent on somebody’s help. Therefore, for such conditions the palliative care is not an option (Euthanasia Prevention Coalition, 2006).
Opponents of euthanasia insist that medical specialists as nobody else should protect the sacristy and value of human life, because doctors gave the Hippocrates Oath where they promise “never give a deadly drug to patient even if they will be asked for it and never suggest the death as an alternative to life” (Euthanasia Prevention Coalition, 2006).
A popular opinion about legalization of euthanasia is that merciful thing to do. If a person suffers from an incredible pain, it would be only human like to stop that suffering. There are split views on euthanasia matter. Supporters of euthanasia blame opponents in playing God, because the last ones claim that only God could decide the time of death. Opponents of such dual action blame supporters of playing God, because supporters claim that an individual could decide himself the time of his death. Both sides have a point and both of them could be wrong. Indeed, any interfering with a natural process is can be considered as a playing God. The patient who was reanimated and then connected to life support system – is interfering with a natural order, but nobody argues that it is a good thing. The Christians believe that suffering of this concrete person is the God’s plan and ending this suffering is interfering with God’s plan. But how about the belief that God is merciful. What good can bring living in pain and misery? For these questions nobody has answers; except the God, of course.
Personally, I think that voluntary euthanasia should be legal. If person suffers from intolerable pain and has three – six month to live, and during these months there is no hope for being cured or, at least, feeling alleviation, I think it would be inhuman to force such individual to live. Of course, to legalize the subject of this debate essay it should be created proper legal procedure to prevent abuse and misunderstanding in the course of practicing the euthanasia. I completely agree with opponents of this concept that legalization of euthanasia opens a window of opportunity for illegal action and may lead to involuntary death. So the legal base and medical procedures should be prepared very carefully and thoroughly.