Euthanasia is an act or a medical decision of authorizing the death of hopelessly ill or injured individuals in a relatively painless way for causes of mercy. Word euthanasia derives from Greek words eu which means good and thanatos which means death, together meaning easy death. Euthanasia is usually given as a form of lethal injection, however if a doctor stops giving necessary treatment to an individual in order for one to survive, it is also considered as an act of euthanasia. Situations which require euthanasia are mostly connected to incurable or fatal health conditions of an individual.
If a person’s health condition has no known cure and if that person cannot be helped medically, they can require to be euthanized from their doctors or medical staff. Nevertheless, if an individual is too ill and cannot require euthanasia by themselves, close family or relatives, doctors and medical staff could make the decision for the patient. If a patient refuses the medical treatment that they are given in order to get better, and later dies because of the refusal, that action does not categorizes as euthanasia.
Furthermore, euthanasia is not a drug that is given to reduce the pain, even if that drug will end one’s life sooner. In other words, if a doctor gives a pain reliever to a patient, and that patient dies sooner as a result, that action would be considered and categorized as the Doctrine of Double Effect. This implies that the doctor’s intention was to save one’s life, but the other effect of that action caused a sudden death, which was not the intention of the doctor. The Doctrine of Double Effect was introduced by Thomas Aquinas (an Italian priest, philosopher and Doctor of the Church) in his Summa Theologica in the 13th century. There are several forms of euthanasia that are present. Active, passive, voluntary, non-voluntary and involuntary euthanasia. Active euthanasia is when one directly gives lethal injections or drugs to terminally ill patient in order to relieve them from the pain, which leads to death of the patient. Passive euthanasia is when a doctor stops with giving a necessary treatment to a hopelessly ill patient, and the patient dies naturally.
This form of euthanasia is considered the most ethical by many people, because the natural death occurs. Moreover, voluntary euthanasia is when a patient requires to be euthanized by a doctor or a medical staff. It is sometimes referred to as assisted suicide, because one is helping a patient to end their life.
Non-voluntary euthanasia occurs when a patient is in a coma, adolescent (minor) child, mentally ill or otherwise unable to request to be euthanized, thus the family of the patient is asked to make the decision on their behalf. Involuntary euthanasia is when a person chooses to live, but is euthanized without their consent anyway. Euthanasia is considered as one of the complex and controversial topics around the world. Proponents of euthanasia argue that terminally ill patients should have a right to choose whether they want to end their pain and suffering or continue with the treatment. They claim that the patients that are hopelessly injured or ill and cannot be cured should have a right to a death with dignity, since the state of being in constant pain could be a worse experience than compassionate death. Turning to the human rights, if one has a right to live and a right to personal freedom, one should also have a right to end their life if in great suffering. Euthanasia patrons say that it is immoral to make people to continue living in pain and suffering, because that violates their personal freedom and their human rights.
People should be allowed to do whatever they want with their own bodies, and it is wrong to take that away from anyone. If one’s dying process is fatal and painful constantly, one should have a right to stop the pain and unpleasantness of one’s state by ending one’s life if there is no alternatives. Voluntary euthanasia has the best interests of the patient who is suffering from certain disease that is incurable, because it gives hope of ending that suffering with a peaceful death.
Depression and anxiety are some of the factors that could occur to a person that is terminally ill and has been for a long period of time. In some cases, depression and anxiety occur at the beginning of the illness, whereas they can occur as a consequence of long dying period that is painful and causes suffering but is not close to ending. By only having a right to choose whether one wants to be euthanized can decrease the level of depression and anxiety that one goes through.
The longer period of time a person is suffering from a terminal illness, the quality of life of that person decreases, usually to a point where they are unable to take care of themselves and when they depend on a medical staff, family and friends. When one has come to a point when they depend on someone else but themselves, it can be mentally degrading and lower their motivation for fighting the illness. Usually when a person stops fighting for their life and loses interest in trying their best, the results are not as satisfactory as they could be. Thus, euthanasia could be the answer for terminally ill patients who gave up hope, giving them a chance to ease their pain and stop their suffering by a dignified and merciful death. Opponents of euthanasia argue that the doctors are morally responsible to take care of their patients on the highest level and to keep them alive as long as possible, especially because all the doctors need to take and respect the Hippocratic Oath. Furthermore, following the classical version of Hippocratic Oath that says:”I will neither give a deadly drug to anybody who asked for it, nor will I make a suggestion to this effect.” Hence, the conclusion that can be drawn is that it is immoral for a doctor to perform euthanasia, because it would mean breaking and disrespecting a medical oath that they said would fulfill. The opposing side claims that there might be a thin line between euthanasia and murder.
They argue that voluntary euthanasia can overpower and quickly grow into involuntary euthanasia, resulting into killing people who wish not to die. Allowing euthanasia could lead to demotivation of researching and investigating for most suitable and high functioning cures for terminal illnesses. What is more, euthanasia could cause a decrease in a level of commitment of doctors and medical staff towards terminally ill patients. Euthanasia could trigger too much vulnerability in people causing many negative consequences, such as, one who does not have a family might think that euthanasia is the only solution, since there would be no one to care whether one lives or dies. Not only that euthanasia is against most of the world’s religions, since it is against the word and the will of God, but also it degrades and disrespects the sanctity of one’s life. Therefore, the act of euthanasia should be prohibited, since all human beings are to be valued and respected, no matter the age, sex, race or religion, social status or life achievements. With proper health care as well as leading a healthy lifestyle, some terminal illnesses could even be avoided, but also with proper palliative care that is introduced on time, euthanasia could be circumvented.
A rare situation that can occur is that a person has been misdiagnosed with a terminal illness, and euthanized and killed, which mistakenly takes away a human life. Euthanasia could cause a person to think that their life is worthless, regarding if they could feel better in the future, there is no point because they would feel meritless. Some might agree that euthanasia undermines the trust between a doctor and a patient, which should be based on the healing process rather than on the dying process. It is inevitable that people who experience such duress as painful and terminal illnesses would think of rather dying. However, people should always focus on positive things in every situation, not just to make themselves feel better, but also to give hope for pulling through the disease and making progress. To conclude whether euthanasia (a medical decision to end one’s life) should be legalized on a global level is still highly debatable, sensitive and problematic topic.
However, the presented arguments containing advantages and disadvantages can lead to a reasonable conclusion. Since euthanasia is a serious topic, it depends on one’s opinion and beliefs, but in order for euthanasia to be legalized globally, the majority of the population needs to agree on the same opinion and have similar beliefs. According to the Euthanasia Regulations Around the World, we can gather that in the most of the countries euthanasia is illegal or there is no information. However, in Colombia, the Netherlands, Japan, Switzerland, Canada and six US states including Colorado, Oregon, California, Washington, Vermont and Montana, some stages of euthanasia such as voluntary or assisted suicide are legal. In Denmark, Nevada, Utah, Wyoming, Ohio, West Virginia, Virginia and North Carolina euthanasia is illegal but not criminalized.
In the countries which changed their laws for legalizing euthanasia, the biggest impact had the wishes of population, although the courts had some influence, too. In my opinion, euthanasia should be legalized globally, because no one should suffer an unbearable amount of pain. Some claim that by legalizing euthanasia, doctors could easily cross a thin line between euthanasia and murder. Nevertheless, in order to prevent such major mistakes, there should be laws and rules which need be respected.
For example, minors should not be able to request euthanasia without parents’ consent, and the patient should be terminally ill with no known cure for the illness, where the pain relievers do not help and euthanasia is the only solution to ending the suffering. Doctors should not feel free to euthanize a patient who did not give informed consent with the wish to end their life. Patient’s condition should be thoroughly checked, in order to minimize the need or mistakes for ordering euthanasia. Euthanasia should not be referred to as a pain reliever, but rather as the final step of ending the suffering for good. There should be a fine line between healing and relieving pain regarding the doctors.
When a doctor is no longer able to heal the patient any longer, and the patient is still terminally suffering, the doctor should be able to shift from healing to relieving the pain. Of course, when it comes to euthanasia, it should be the patient’s decision only, for as long as it is possible. The patient should be informed about the consequences of quitting the treatment and euthanasia and the alternatives, in order for one to know for sure what their choices are.
By making and following ethical and moral laws regarding euthanasia, legalization on a global level could be a high possibility, even though the statistics show that we are far from globally legalizing euthanasia, with time everything can be achieved.