Euthanasia can be defined as a painless or mercy killing of a patient who is suffering from painful, incurable disease or in a permanent coma. It is a term derived from two Greek expressions, “eu” meaning well or good and Thanatos referring to death. In a literal perspective, euthanasia would mean that death is good. But if death is good, then living is not as good as death. Painful, incurable diseases and permanent coma are ways through which dying can be good than living, cases in which life can be said to be worthless living.
Certainly, euthanasia comes in different forms, namely; involuntary, non-voluntary, voluntary, passive, and active euthanasia. Involuntary euthanasia is a painless killing done when the suffering patient is against dying or does not want dying. Non-voluntary euthanasia is painless killing done in the absence of suffering patient’s choice. That is, the patient has not given their choice, for instance if the patient is extremely young or cannot express their choice due to mental impairment via senile dementia and they had not given their choice before. Voluntary euthanasia on the other hand, is painless killing done when the suffering patient chooses to die and expresses this desire in advance.
The above three expressed types can be passive or active. Passive euthanasia is deliberate and intentional painless killing done to end human life either by withholding ordinary, viable and necessary treatment and allowing patient to eventually die. It entails letting the patient pass rather than inducing death. Active euthanasia is ending of patient’s life by introducing lethal substances or performing procedures that cause death directly. It is almost painless due to high painkiller doses (Trigilio & Brighenti 203).
Arguments supporting the hypothesis that Euthanasia is immoral
Euthanasia is a controversial issue particularly in medical ethics, which under no set of circumstance should be legalized or permitted. This standpoint has been arrived at under the following arguments.
- Possibility of abuse. Suffering patients may feel strained into accepting euthanasia by family members who do not want to take care or look after them, or by healthcare providers who want to utilize resources in the hospital for other less suffering patients. Alternatively, depressed patients who are severely suffering may prefer euthanasia, when with assistance they would be less depressed.
- It reflects hopelessness. Homelessness refers to lack of any change prospect in a positive course or dire lack of hope. This essentially means that if euthanasia is morally upright, then there is substantially no value in life, no hope in life, and no remediation for the troubled.
- Nature. From a natural perspective, every humankind has a natural preference for continued living. This is clearly demonstrated in our daily lives when we take all possible precautions to protect ourselves. Euthanasia fights this natural inclination of survival. It plainly acts against nature since all processes of nature tend to lean towards the ending of physical survival. It beats these delicate mechanisms in a manner that diseases or injuries cannot in particular cases. In addition, it fights human dignity which comes from looking for their ends. One of human goal is survival. Therefore, any action taken to eliminate this goal makes natural dignity of human beings to suffer. Contrary to animals, human beings are conscious via reason of their nature and ends, proving that euthanasia acts as if nature does not exist. By reason only, it becomes evident that euthanasia sets human beings against their own nature because it denies them their basic human trait, requiring them to regard themselves and others as things less than complete human (Gay-Williams 232).
- Self-interest. Judging euthanasia by principles other than rationales, it becomes evident that euthanasia contains the possibility of working against self-interests since death is irreversible and final. For instance, current medications have standards of superiority and confirmed records of attainment but they lack comprehensive and perfect knowledge. There is a possibility of erroneous diagnosis and prognosis. As a result, patient may believe they are dying of diseases when in actual sense is not. They may lack recovery hope when their chances of recovery are fairly good. In such cases, if euthanasia is performed, then the patient dies needlessly. In addition, there is the possibility of procedures or untried experimental technique that pull human beings through. This option should always remain open, but euthanasia shuts it off. Further, unprompted remissions occur where for no obvious reason, patients recover when everybody expected them to die. Euthanasia will just guarantee such expectations, leaving no room for such recoveries.
- Utilitarianism. From utilitarian perspective, euthanasia is immorally upright because the consequences are unfavoring than favoring. The crucial question to ask here is whether euthanasia brings less suffering or prevents suffering. If a patient does not want to die and euthanasia is performed, then such patient is made unhappy either by death prospects which will bring more suffering as a result of depression, or actual death. In addition, if a patient opts to die whose happiness is maximized, patients or administer? The happiness maximized here is that of administers but not patient who was literally suffering. Therefore, there is no greater happiness realized, meaning euthanasia is immoral.
- Practical effects. Healthcare providers are totally dedicated to saving lives. A lost life to them is a personal failure and an insult to knowledge and skills they posses. As a practice, euthanasia will alter this by introducing a corrupt influence such that healthcare providers reluctantly work hard to save life. It will further extend this attitude in other dealings, making them to handle patients less seriously. Eventually, overall quality in medical services will decline.
Arguments opposing hypothesis
There are however, a few arguments that strongly favor euthanasia, calling for its legality and permissibility. They include:
- Rationality and dignity. From deontological perspective, it is universally agreed that rationality bestows human dignity. Therefore, it is argued that patients who lose their rationality and dignity via incurable painful illness should request euthanasia legitimately. By helping them die in situations of their personal choosing, their dignity is respected. This strongly favors voluntary euthanasia indicating that it holds the possibility of ending life in dignity.
- Justice and right. It is further argued that in cases of voluntary euthanasia, failing to kill such patient is denying them their right and violating their personal choices. They also argue that if a person has a right to life, they should also have right to death. It is for this reason it is argued that it is doctor’s duty to do their best to relieve pain. One way is doing everything practically possible to ensure that death is painless, thus permitting euthanasia.
- It is a matter of mercy. It is argued strongly that it is not merciful to sustain a suffering patient’s life beyond the point at which life is endurable. This is because it will extend suffering when that life in essence is misery and the patient has expressly asked for its termination.
When the there counter-arguments are evaluated carefully, euthanasia remains immoral. Firstly, based on rationality and dignity, euthanasia does not show respect for rationality. Even in cases where a patient requests euthanasia due to loss of rational faculties, it is wrong from deontological view. Deontologists argue that someone’s right should be respected but not in cases when such rights are morally wrong. Therefore, euthanasia is still wrong if desiring to die is immorally upright.
Secondly, according to virtues and duties of justice, killing is wrong. Justice requires that choices and rights of people be respected. Not allowing someone to die relates to charity as a virtue and as a duty. Doctors should on the other hand, do their best to save life but not inducing its end.
Lastly, euthanasia cannot be supported under mercy allegations. It is true that during the older days, medicines were incapable of sustaining life beyond endurance and resources to facilitate such behavior were absent. However, currently there are medical and financial advances with capacity to do so and therefore, such resources should be utilized to perform their work (Buse 7).
It is clear that counter arguments lack a profound base because patients are never obliged to bear procedures that have no success hope and painful than current situation. In addition, dying patients should receive pain relief medication at right dosage but should not cause death directly. Lastly, it is only Creator who can take life away but not patient, caretakers or doctors. Dying with dignity is letting patient die naturally, painlessly, comfortably, and nourished as ordinary death procedure takes its course.