Last Updated on March 9, 2021 by Filip Poutintsev
Everybody has a threshold for pain. There is a certain limit for everybody to which you can bear the physical pain. Beyond that limit, death is dearer. Euthanasia brings that pain and suffering to an end but the catch here is life itself.
Euthanasia often referred to as ‘Mercy Killing’ is the practice of intentionally ending the life of a person to relieve pain and suffering. It involves administering a legal dosage of certain medication, or removing all life support means, and letting a terminally ill person pass away.
While it is legal and normalized in some countries, it remains a topic of total taboo in others. Many believe that it is morally right to allow someone in excruciating, persistent, insufferable pain to pass away at their own will, but those opposed to the practice on moral, religious, and ethical grounds argue that nature must be allowed to take its course on its own.
History of Euthanasia
Debates about the ethics of euthanasia dates back to ancient Greece and Rome with some morally permissible opinions traceable to Socrates, Plato, and the Stoics.
However, organized movements supporting euthanasia appeared for the first time in England and America in the early twentieth century. During the Second World War, the Nazis in Germany let people die who weren’t worthy or healthy enough to survive.
Today, countries like the Netherlands, Belgium, Luxemburg, Colombia, and US states such as Oregon have legalized Euthanasia.
In a recent case, a 29-year-old Brittany Maynard from California chose to move to Oregon to take advantage of Oregon’s “Death with Dignity Law” when she found out she had the worst form of brain cancer.
She ended her life in November 2019 with drugs prescribed by her physician. She was an activist who created the Brittany Maynard Fund which seeks to legalize assisted death in places where it is now illegal.
Advantages and Disadvantages of Euthanasia
Especially since euthanasia is such an emotive and sometimes controversial topic, there are several advantages and disadvantages to consider with it.
Advantages of Euthanasia
Euthanasia or assisted suicide is often deemed beneficial to the one suffering. Its advocates believe that ending a person’s unstoppable pain is a great act of mercy. To be further clear, let’s take a look at some of the advantages of euthanasia.
1. Pain Relief
Euthanasia can reduce or prevent human suffering by relieving people who are in extreme pain. Advocates argue that forcing people to suffer against their will is wrong and allowing them to end their suffering is morally justified.
2. More Control over Final Decisions in Life
Euthanasia provides more control over the final decisions of life which reduces the emotional and physical toll for everyone involved. It is kind of a relief for the person in pain as well as the rest of the loved ones. Issues like debts and estates can be taken care of beforehand so that the burden towards the family after death is lessened.
3. Less Caregiver Guilt
People suffering from terminal illness feel like they are a burden to their loved ones, which can create reactions that cause relationship challenges. Patients tend to push people away because of the emotions of guilt and shame that they have concerning their caregivers. Euthanasia may help people in pain find the peace they need.
4. Frees up Medical Funds
Euthanasia could free up medical funds. With the improvement in technology, people today spend a lot in high tech healthcare, even in hopeless cases. If euthanasia is considered as a choice, money would not be spent on these kinds of dead-end cases and the machines could be used by other patients who are in dire needs.
5. Death is Inevitable
One way or another, death is bound to happen. Even if people with terminal diseases don’t choose to take advantage of euthanasia, there is a big chance that they will pass away shortly. So when death is inevitable it is not important how a person chooses to die.
6. Last Resort
Euthanasia is different than a suicide because the former uses assistance and the latter does not. The goal with this help is to end the suffering of a lengthy disease when other options are off the table. It is a common practice to take ailing pets to the vet to end their suffering, and when an individual wants to take the same action, they should be allowed to.
Disadvantages of Euthanasia
Euthanasia raises numerous ethical as well as practical arguments. People believe in the sanctity of life and choosing to end it ourselves is viewed as playing against the flow of nature. Below are some points against euthanasia.
1. Devaluation of Human Life
There is a belief that every life on earth is precious. But when we choose to end our own life, it might seem like its value is undermined, although euthanasia is different from suicide.
2. Prediction of Terminal Diagnosis is Not Always Accurate
Euthanasia is only for terminal cases, but the prediction of a terminal diagnosis is not always accurate. This might lead to the wrong choice. It might not be realistic to expect a medical miracle every time but we should take an open approach to terminal diagnosis statistics.
3. Issues with Consent
The doctors should be willing to provide the option for euthanasia to happen. There are times when doctors are unwilling to take part in this process. And some doctors who believe that quality of death and quality of life are both equally important.
However, no one should ever go through a situation where they feel like their doctor is trying to talk them into the euthanasia process.
4. Deviation from Promised Results
There have been cases where people who took legal prescription as part of the euthanasia process regained their consciousness. When the process doesn’t work as intended, a huge problem arises. Should the doctor continue the treatment or attempt to help the patient end their life once again?
5. Avoids the Benefits of Palliative Care
Giving up on life because of some challenging situation is not the right message for doctors to convey their patients. However, instead of trying to improve the life of a terminal patient, euthanasia seeks to take what remains of a person’s life away from them.
Many believe that legalizing euthanasia could prompt doctors to abuse their position as it would put too much power in their hands. This may lead to unfair situations that cannot be undone.
7. Slippery Slope
If voluntary euthanasia is legal, there is a danger of it developing into a slippery slope situation where say, sick elderly people, end up having their lives terminated because self-centered relatives don’t want to look after them.
The right to die debate is a contentious one. The idea that people should have a way to control their suffering is one that makes everybody think, even though the result likely ends in death.
While it may be better to find physical peace than to have a few more months on this planet, life is precious and its value could be undermined by choices like euthanasia.
Before jumping into a conclusion, it is better to put ourselves in the shoes of the patient, patient’s family, and the other people involved with the decision.
If someone is mentally sound and wishes to proceed in this manner instead of hoping for a miracle, then this option can help them to make it a reality, and it is not our place to dictate an outside sense of morality or ethics on them.