The term euthanasia generally refers to the act of terminating a very sick person’s life to relieve them of their suffering. In most instances, euthanasia can be done to people who are terminally ill. However, there are other instances where people want their lives ended. Voluntary active euthanasia is a type of euthanasia where medications to cause the death of a patient are administered at the patient’s request and with full, informed consent (Michael Manning, 1998). Other types of euthanasia are non-voluntary euthanasia where the patient is not able to give their informed consent. This is commonly done for children as in cases of child euthanasia. The other type is involuntary euthanasia which is performed on a patient against their will. Unlike the different two types, voluntary active euthanasia has been met with less controversy and outcry and has even been legalized in several countries. The case of morality in the act of euthanasia has however been the focus of considerable debate worldwide with different people expressing their views either against, of supporting it.
In the case of those who support the act of euthanasia, their argument is mostly based on the in the right to die. According to this argument, the decision concerning life and death is supposed to be up to the concerned person (Thompson, 2014). This is probably the reason why suicide has been legalized in many countries, where it is even morally accepted. Another argument is that patients have the right to refuse treatment even if it eventually leads to their death. Another strong pro-euthanasia argument is that patients with terminal diseases deserve to be given a dignified death, by reducing their pain and suffering which, as they argue, will eventually be fatal. They further point out that the agony faced by both the patients and their loved ones during their final vegetative states can be avoided if the patients are given a painless death. This is seen as an act of mercy, and not the cruel act of killing as others may look at it.
As much as these arguments may seem persuasive and acceptable, it is equally important to look at the consequences, especially the moral implications that come with this act. Most people will always consider any act of taking life as killing, or murder, which is a vice and considered evil. No matter how hard the euthanasia supporters may try to justify the act, the question about the morality of euthanasia is inevitable.
The first and perhaps the most popular argument against euthanasia is the religious law against the act of taking a person’s life. The Bible, in the Ten Commandments, states that “Thou shall not kill.” This alone is a statement that creates the notion that no matter what the condition is, killing another human being is morally abject and should only be left to God. Another argument against euthanasia can be seen in the Hippocratic Oath, which is explicitly against abortion and euthanasia. This is a strong argument since the act of euthanasia now includes aborting babies who are considered to have very slim chances of making it alive. Doctors are sworn to protect life, not to take it, and it is therefore not acceptable that they break this oath in the case of euthanasia (Tallis, R. C. 2005).
In another argument, which is probably less apodictic, there is an argument that best describes the possible moral consequence of euthanasia. This argument is popularly referred to as the slippery slope. It points out that if euthanasia would be allowed, a morally downhill movement is set in motion. This generally states that if voluntary euthanasia were to be permitted, it would be impossible to control it and eventually it would be considered right to end the lives of undesirable people, without their consent. This is probably the best argument that shows the possible moral consequences of assisted suicide. If it is right to end a person’s life due to pain, then what will stop doctors from ending life as a way of saving money? At the end of this slope, physicians might feel forced to assist people who ask for termination of life on whatever grounds. On the other hand, it might lead to a situation in which it becomes normal to kill people who we feel are no longer useful in the society. This is a horrifying possibility which in my opinion overshadows any other argument given by the proponents.
In conclusion, I admit it would be unjustifiable to ignore the arguments of those that support euthanasia completely. For instance, most people believe that the main reason people seek euthanasia is unbearable pain. This has however been disputed by recent surveys which showed that only less than a third of such cases were because of illness. It is also important to note that there are people who believe that suffering has value. They think it gives people an opportunity to grow in character, wisdom, and compassion, and therefore it is better to endure than taking a life to avoid it. Euthanasia should also not be legalized without a reliable and working plan on how it is to be controlled, or else we will be trading our morals for the right to kill other people. It is better to show our respect for the sanctity of life by taking care of terminally ill patients and being there for them, as opposed to ending their lives.
Fletcher, J. F. (2015). Morals and medicine: The moral problems of the patient’s right to know the truth, contraception, artificial insemination, sterilization, euthanasia. Princeton University
Press.Thompson, T. (2014). The right to die. Detroit: Greenhaven Press, a part of Gale, Cengage Learning.
Tallis, R. C. (2005). Hippocratic oaths: medicine and its discontents. Clinical Medicine, 5(2), 186-186.