Euthanasia is a controversial topic with many people from all walks of life arguing for and against it. I take a moderate stand and say that it can be allowed if six conditions (based on the law in the Netherlands) are met. Some academicians and associations are of the view that it cannot be allowed under any circumstances. But their argument is based on the fact that it may get out of hand. But with a strict following of the conditions mentioned, I feel that euthanasia will not be a problem and that it should be accepted legally and ethically. Ethical theories too can be viewed from my standpoint.
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Euthanasia is a controversial subject in most countries including the United States. The concept of a physician, whose duty is to save and heal, actively doing things that take away the life of others is not seen to be against law and ethics. But a patient who is undergoing untold pain and suffering and who is sure to die will not agree with this view. The relatives and bystanders of the patient who has seen this suffering firsthand will also agree that there is no point in prolonging the agony. I feel that euthanasia in such instances is to be legally allowed and also that it is not unethical. The factors that need to be considered are that the patient is mentally competent and also that the disease condition is extremely painful and incurable. In other words, the disease will certainly kill the patient and the death will be due to this disease. It need not matter whether the imminent death occurs sooner or later. I know that my taking this stand will bring agreements and objections from many quarters. Two probable objections that will come are given here. The first one is that life is given by God and no one has the right to take it away will be one of the strongest objections that might come up. The second one is that doctors and physicians are healers and not killers. The Hippocratic oath specifically states that no drug may be given that may be damaging to the patient. With regard to euthanasia, I take a moderate stand in the sense that it may be allowed in certain well-defined circumstances. I still take my stand given above and will argue why I did so.
The agony of insufferable pain that can be experienced due to diseases like cancer cannot be explained in words. Some countries like the Netherlands now have passed laws that do not punish physicians in case they practice euthanasia under certain conditions. Many countries and even several states in the US have allowed the patient to refuse treatment and let the disease take its course without intervention. But to my knowledge, no US state has legally allowed active euthanasia. I will provide the instances where euthanasia can be done as per the existing laws in the Netherlands. “In the Netherlands, for example, since 1984 euthanasia by physicians is not prosecuted when a case falls within certain established criteria.” (Decisions Near the End of Life, 7).
Euthanasia is legal only if the conditions specified in the statute are met. Euthanasia cannot be allowed unless that patient repeatedly requests it over a period of time and the physician is sure that the patient is sincere in his or her requests. There are no medical, psychological, or other means of relief from the insufferable pain. The request of the patient was done with total free consent and not coerced or forced in any way. The patient should also be aware of the facts regarding the disease. All forms of treatment possible have been done and have not resulted in bettering life or curing the patient. The final condition is that the physician who primarily treats the patient should consult a colleague (or any other competent physician) regarding this before making a decision.
If all these conditions exist, I strongly feel that euthanasia can be done. Early views on euthanasia were that it was a way of easy death. But I feel that physicians and health care providers should do everything within their power to try and cure a patient and provide him or her with relief from pain. Even if treatment is ineffective, palliative care should be provided to make life bearable. But if the five conditions mentioned above materialize then the view should change. Active supporters of euthanasia also feel the same thing and their views changed gradually. “However, that changed gradually in the nineteenth century when euthanasia acquired its modern connotation. For the first time in history, people began defining it as actual mercy killing.” (Dowbiggin, 1). Acts of mercy are actively supported by practically every religion in the world. My argument is that why they cannot view euthanasia as an act of mercy.
There are many who oppose euthanasia under any circumstance. The American Medical Association does not support euthanasia as of date. They are of the opinion that “Euthanasia is fundamentally incompatible with the physician’s role as healer, would be difficult or impossible to control, and would pose serious societal risks.” (Code of Medical Ethics). The book ‘Ethics – Theory and Contemporary Issues’ mentions the views of professor of philosophy Gay Williams who is against euthanasia. According to him, euthanasia is wrong due to three primary reasons. He says that human beings are naturally inclined to live and not dying. The second contention is that death is irreversible. A mistake with regard to prognosis will result in the wrongful killing. This will ultimately be against the interest of the individuals in society.
The third factor is that regular practice of euthanasia can even corrupt in the sense that doctors and attending care providers may not try hard enough and look at euthanasia as an easy option. But I argue that insufferable pain is against nature and ending it should only be in tune with it and not against it. Euthanasia can be looked at from the viewpoint of other ethical theories as well. Utilitarianism says that any act should be judged on its ability to contribute to the happiness and well-being of society. Euthanasia as defended by me will certainly contribute to the happiness of the patient and even those who see him or her suffer. Kant’s focus on rationality is also in tune with what I believe. A rationally thinking person will agree that mercy killing is the only way to ease extreme pain and imminent death. Relativism too can support my viewpoint. For example, a patient who is willing to suffer excruciating pain can say no to euthanasia. The choice is left the sufferer.
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Euthanasia is no doubt a controversial topic. I take a moderate stand and argue that in some instances (dependent on the six conditions mentioned above), it is acceptable. But people like professor Williams are against this practice under any circumstances. The AMA is also not agreeable to this. But what I argue is that, like the death penalty where many conditions have to be met; euthanasia too can be safely done in a controlled manner. Ethical theories too can be viewed from my standpoint. To me, it is an act of mercy towards those who suffer insufferable pain and where there is no hope for recovery.
Code of Medical Ethics. American Medical Association. 1996. Web.
Decisions Near the End of Life. American Medical Association. 1992. Web.
Dowbiggin, Robert. A Merciful End. Oxford University Press. 2003. Web.