Euthanasia also referred to as mercy killing, is a topic that has witnessed protracted debates over time. It is an issue that has been pertinent in the human rights talks. It is also an issue that impacts the legal and ethical status of both the medical practitioners and the patients. This practice of prematurely ending the life of a terminally ill person with the intentions of relieving their pain and suffering can be classified into two, including the passive euthanasia and active euthanasia. Passive euthanasia occurs when the medical practitioners withhold treatment procedures for persons suffering from conditions that could kill them if they do not get the treatment.
On the other hand, active euthanasia occurs when the ill persons or their relatives give the doctors a go ahead to administer lethal injections that could result in the death of the terminally ill person. Some people argue that euthanasia should not be carried out as it is similar to murder. They hold that medical practitioners should never undertake such an activity because they have the mandate to preserve life as reflected by the Hippocratic Oath. Others argue that assisting a terminally ill person to die is right and should be protected by the constitutional rights similar to those that protect procreation. In my own opinion, medic-assisted suicide is right and should be encouraged across the world as it not only relieves pain and suffering, but it also gives the patients a quick, compassionate, and dignified demise.
The Right to Choose
One of the ideas that the opponents of euthanasia hold is that we do not have an overall ‘right to choose.’ They argue that suicide and assisted suicide is decriminalized by the laws that govern our land for the very reason that it is not punishable by law. In other words, they hold that it is not possible for the legal and justice system to punish a dead person. As such, they hold that no one had the right to terminate his or her own life, whether at firsthand, secondhand, or third hand such as in the case of euthanasia.
As a matter of fact, when the law gives us the rights to choose, then it means that we have been denied the right to make choices for other people, which is another reason why opponents deem euthanasia as morally wrong. They hold that if states legalize euthanasia, then critically injured persons and the older adults, as well as the terminally ill, may be forced to take an option that does not stem from their wish (Healey 25). The cost of keeping them in hospitals and the kind of care they require may make deny them freedom of expression, thus hinder them from making informed decisions.
In contrast, I feel that denying people who are terminally ill the right to choose when to die or to be assisted to die is a form of infringing their right about making decisions. Every person is an autonomous biological entity who should be accorded the right to make decisions about themselves, especially if they are adults. If at all they have been allowed to make other decisions such as where to live, career choices, their lifetime partners, and whether to bear children, then there is no harm to let them decide when to end their lives, especially to relieve themselves from suffering and pain (Pappas 63). Worth noting is that most terminally ill patients are crippled by the disease to an extent that they cannot commit suicide by themselves. Denying them the right to be assisted to die insinuates that we are in control of their lives, or better still, we own their lives.
Another reason that opponents of euthanasia give is that ending the life of a terminally ill person is wrong due to the reason that medical practitioners and care giver may opt to give euthanasia as opposed to taking care of the patient. They argue that nearly all pain and suffering attributable to terminal illnesses can be relieved. According to individuals who are of this opinion, there are other means of treatment, including hospices and palliative care, which could be administered as opposed to mercy killing (Pappas 109). They argue that medical practitioners should preserve and protect lives instead of killing a patient to terminate the symptoms.
As a matter of fact, assisting a terminally ill person to die does not in any manner preclude the best palliative care. Hence, medical practitioners will only perform it when there is no hope for survival. In fact, mercy killing integrates care and compassion as well as dignity and respect. Various studies have shown that physicians who administer euthanasia experience heightened levels of emotions and get distressed, which is a factor that indicates that euthanasia is not an easy option that can replace the palliative care (Roubaix 367). Moreover, long term palliative care for a person who is terminally ill and has expressed the will to be helped to die is immense in terms of draining of medical resources.
Over time, the issue of Hippocratic Oath has been presented in euthanasia and human rights discourses. It is an oath that requires physicians to protect lives and never administer any lethal substances in their medical practices. Individuals who are of the view that euthanasia is not ethical and should be prohibited hold that the respectability of this oath should neither be dependent upon the consent of the patient nor the revocation of a person’s choice to live. Therefore, they relate mercy killing to murder, which is against the Hippocratic Oath.
In contrast, euthanasia is not murder and can be detached from murder due to its motive. In the case of murder, the motive is to get financial or emotional gains from the act. In contrast, euthanasia is aimed at alleviating pain from a person suffering from an illness that has no cure and is in the last stage (Seale 6). In my own opinion, prolonging the life of a person in deep pain and suffering, especially who will eventually die does more harm than good.
The debates on whether states should legalize euthanasia have existed for decades. Some people believe that mercy killing is ethically wrong. They hold that doctors have a moral obligation to keep their patients alive no matter the severity of the illness. Others contend that every person should be given a right to decide whether to live or die, especially in the case of terminal illnesses. Euthanasia is morally right and should be legalized in all states as it not only relieves the patient’s pain and suffering but also helps the family and prevents the drainage of resources in an attempt to fund astronomical medical bills, which would be incurred in an attempt to support a terminally ill patient.
Healey, Justin. Voluntary Euthanasia Debate. , 2013. Print.
Pappas, Demetra M. The Euthanasia/assisted-Suicide Debate. Santa Barbara, Calif: Greenwood, 2012. Print.
Roubaix, D. M. Are there limits to respect for autonomy in bioethics? Journal of Medicine and Law, 2008, 27, 365-399.
Seale, C. Legalization of euthanasia or physician-assisted suicide: survey of doctors’ attitudes. Journal of Palliative Medicine, (2009). 00, 1- 8.