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Euthanasia – The Essential Right to Die

Proposal

The right to die has been known from ancient times. Some primitive tribes have a custom according to which the elderly, who burden to the family, chose death to care for the tribe. Self withdrawal from life was promoted in Sparta, Ancient Greece, was allowed in ancient Rome but condemned in the middle Ages.

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The evolution of the right to death is almost opposite to the evolution of the right to life, which had a long way to the absolute and unconditional acceptance of the consolidation in the world. At the time when the right to life was enshrined in international instruments and constitutions of different states, the right to die was overshadowed, lost recognition and consolidation.

To my mind, everything depends on the situation. But every person should have the right to death as well as the right to life. So, I think that euthanasia is really good when there is a situation which makes people suffering, not only person who is greatly sick but also people who are around. So, I think that it is more humanistic to use euthanasia when a person is doomed to die. My stance in this work is that euthanasia is rather a positive process when it is needed.

Today, the right to death in most countries, in fact, is limited by law. This restriction is expressed as follows: assuming the possibility of self-care of the living (almost in any state not preserved the legislative prohibitions of suicide), the law excludes the possibility of such care through others. This is the law banning euthanasia.

The term ‘euthanasia’ is translated from the Greek word that means “easy death.” In our time, euthanasia is understood as the help of the doctor to the patient in the commission of acts aimed at “ending the life of the patient.” But I can’t entirely agree with this. It is just a way to make death easier. If to consider death as a part of life, it is a great help of a doctor.

Euthanasia is one of the keenly debated issues of law, bioethics, philosophy, and medicine, as raises questions such as: whether the people have the right freely to dispose of their lives, where is the boundary between life and death, whether life an absolute value, whether the preservation of life is always good for a human, etc.

Today, euthanasia is officially permitted only in Holland and Belgium. The world public is vigorously debating the issue of its admissibility. In the press, there are different views on this matter. In many countries, laws concerning the right to death are often considered, such as the U.K. parliament rejected it more than twenty times. There is a real “war” between supporters and opponents of euthanasia.

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The range of opinions ranging from total rejection of euthanasia: under any circumstances, it can not be morally allowed, directly to the opposite view: euthanasia is good, it must be not only permitted, but it should be welcomed as liberation from unnecessary suffering. There are more moderate points of view, offering clarifications and limitations in each of the extremities, as well as working out details regarding the control and safety of patients (Dworkin, 1994).

Lawyers and philosophers multiplying the arguments for and against euthanasia identify weaknesses of the opposing position. At the same time, there is a paradoxical situation: not solved in theory, this issue continues to be the subject of debate as an issue; euthanasia has already been implemented in medical practice and in the legal laws. Practice adjusts the theory, is ahead of it, leaves no time for lengthy discussions, refutes the theory, corrects it, rushing to test all the results.

Such a rush leads to a lot of mistakes and abuses, of what can be avoided by bringing a solid theoretical base, giving the legal status of a new human right – “right to die.” The relevance of the research topic is due to the need to expand the human rights and freedoms ethical framework. Currently, more and more discussion takes the issue to legal recognition and the right of a human to death. This law guarantees every person the opportunity to decide if to withdraw from life, to determine the time and method.

The relevance of the study of theoretical justification of euthanasia as a form of the right to death is driven by the inadequacy of the theoretical knowledge and practical needs of society.

Existing research in this area is fragmented and reveals only certain aspects of the problem, which in turn does not allow using the findings in the legal field because there is no general theoretical framework. After all, before being enshrined in law, euthanasia must be subjected to full comprehension from the perspective of legal theory. Only by developing a common vision on the issue can it be productive consideration of its private aspects (Dworkin, 1994).

The subject of research is public relations in the sphere of implementation of the right to death, carried out by euthanasia, the prevailing scientific approaches to the question of the right to die.

The main purpose of the work is to study the problem of euthanasia in the theory of law as a form of realization of the right to death, as well as recommendations for resolving the problem of euthanasia.

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To achieve the goals necessary to accomplish the following major tasks:

  • to discover the basic concepts and definitions;
  • to formulate the most appropriate general definition of the right to die, to determine the location of the right in the system of personal rights;
  • to consider and to characterize the different forms of realization of the right to die.

The methodological framework is based on fundamental research to the legal, philosophical, and medical sciences to formulate a common understanding of the law on euthanasia and death as a scientific problem and provide some part of the thinking in the context of contemporary reality.

Introduction

The problem of euthanasia – voluntary departure from the life of the terminally ill person – in recent years has been actively discussed by doctors, lawyers, philosophers. Disputes are about being on the notion of incurability, the possibility of the legal reasoning of “easy death.” In some countries, euthanasia is legally sanctioned, for example, in Holland in 2001, although it was used in this country before, based on case law. Euthanasia is legalized in Australia and some U.S. states.

The phenomenon of euthanasia occurred with the development of social progress and, in particular, science and technology related to the maintenance of life seriously ill people. The relevance of this topic is hard to overstate, firstly because of the fact that it is linked to the most valuable – life. Second, because of little awareness of the problem in the writings of scholars and public in legal acts of the countries.

To my mind, everything depends on the situation. But every person should have the right to death as well as the right to life. So, I think that euthanasia is really good when there is a situation which makes people suffering, not only person who is greatly sick but also people who are around. So, I think that it is more humanistic to use euthanasia when a person is doomed to die. My stance in this work is that euthanasia is rather a positive process when it is needed.

Active and Passive euthanasia

Among patients, there are people who do not recognize euthanasia. It is considered to be a sin for them. With the right to die, people intuitively decide on the advice within themselves to something deeper than religion. Nevertheless, we must recognize that the interruption of life, alone or with the help of doctors, is contrary to one of the basic tenets of Christianity: the more people suffer on earth, the easier it will be in heaven, and to interrupt their suffering – thus doom themselves to beyond the grave death flour. To my mind, religion is not always the thing that can save a life or make death easier. People should help each other, as religion says, and it is possible to say that euthanasia is also helpful.

But there is another disturbing aspect of euthanasia: the likelihood that the legalization of euthanasia could be used for criminal purposes. For example, the moral pressure on the sick brings them to commit suicide in order to seize the inheritance. That is why great attention should be paid to every case of euthanasia to avoid criminal problems.

There is a difference between active and passive euthanasia, and it is considered a critical issue of medical ethics. In some cases, the treatment can be stopped, and the patient will die their own death because of their incurable disease, but without undertaking any direct action aimed to kill the patient. But still, there are some arguments against this.

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It is possible to start with a typical situation: a patient who is dying from incurable cancer of the larynx is suffering greatly. It is possible that the patient will die even if to continue the treatment. But he does not want to live these days, since suffering is non-portable and they ask the doctor to stop it, his family subscribes to this request (Moreno, 1995). I think that is the right argument for euthanasia. To my mind, every person has the right to easy death.

It is possible to imagine that doctor agrees to stop treatment, as was mentioned above. Justification is the following reasoning: the patient is in terrible agony and will die in any event, so it would be wrong to prolong their suffering unnecessarily. But the mere cessation of treatment in this situation could prolong the patient’s death, and therefore perhaps they would suffer more than if there was an imminent act of killing by lethal injection. This gives serious grounds to believe that as long as the decision not to prolong the agony of the patient was taken, active euthanasia in this case really is preferable to passive. To say otherwise, it would prefer the choice of more suffering, not less, contrary to the humanist grounds, bringing the decision not to renew their life (Snyder, 2006).

So, in my opinion, to die because of incurable illness is much more difficult and painful than to get an injection which would help to die. There are some examples of this and some arguments for euthanasia. In the United States, every sixth child has Down syndrome. Most children with this syndrome in otherwise healthy. That is if appropriate pediatric care can be a normal child. Some, along with Down syndrome, have more congenital disabilities.

In this case, when the child survives, surgery is required. But sometimes, children die because parents and doctors see no other way out. So, it is obvious that in this case, the process of euthanasia makes the situation easier, because the child has a chance to have easy death and not to suffer all their life and parents have an opportunity to give birth to a healthy child if they can do this according to their genetic data. (Manning, 1998)

It is easy to understand the parents who want their children to live even if they have some mental disease. I can also understand why other people prefer to kill those children fast and painlessly.

But why should someone prefer the dehydration and infection drying a tiny creature during the hours and days?

There are some other examples that show another side of the problem.

Let us consider the example of children with Down syndrome again. Sometimes children need an operation that is not related to the mental disease, and if there is no operation – they die. But when a child with the syndrome does not have defects and hence the operation is not required, they continue to live. But still, there is a question if it is better to live as a plant or to die as a human?

Different views on the problem of euthanasia

So, there are different views on the problem of euthanasia. The word ‘euthanasia’ is interpreted in different ways.

Oxford dictionary interprets the word “euthanasia” threefold. First, it is a quiet, easy death. Secondly, it is the leverage necessary to do so. The third is an Action to implement such a death. That is what the dictionary says about the only forms of death, but it does not give them an ethical evaluation (Moreno, 1995).

Modern ethics include: if applicable, that death may be a blessing, the form of dying should not be discussed and evaluated separately but combined with events. Indeed, the fascist propaganda to justify the mass extermination of the mentally and physically disabled people speculates on that ambiguity, the term “euthanasia,” fluctuating between process and outcome.

Over the past half, a century in ethics occurred very serious changes. Both the ancient Greek term “easy death” in relation to modern circumstances sounds like an anachronism. Even critics of Kant realized that a lot of ethics is outdated, and all the important ethical concepts must be strictly analyzed logically. The results of this were very bad. It turned out that the possibility of abstract analysis of exhausted and moral categories has not been identified.

Scientists rushed to the other extreme – from “dry” logic in the thick of life, the empiricist. Basically, these were the British and Americans in the sociology and psychology of morality. But here, the ethics of not regained its main recipient – specifically happy and suffering humans. What is good for the team can suppress the identity and vice versa. Life is a form of protein bodies, in the frame to be social and moral issues. So, if to consider the issue from the side of social life, there are still some unresolved biological and moral issues. (Snyder, 2006).

The latest period, which is now considered the question of what euthanasia is, is called applied ethics. It involves a very clear delineation of ethical categories, depending on what they are used. In this case, it is bioethics, and in its way, for example, the debate on abortion, the moral status of embryos, and euthanasia.

If the patient is diagnosed with an incurable disease with an unfavorable prognosis and they would live no more than six months, they must twice verbally and once in writing to ask for euthanasia. These conditions are laid down by law for the above procedure in the U.S. state of Oregon. In doing so, the patient must be conscious and active; the interval between the statements should not be less than two weeks, a diagnosis of incurability confirmed by two doctors. The lethal dose is appointed by a doctor and taken by the patient (Moreno, 1995).

In Japan, the legalization of euthanasia is supported by more than 70 percent of the population and more than 80 physicians. However, a doctor who disconnects the life-support system, threatening to jail, and several Japanese doctors are already there. Nevertheless, Japanese proponents of the bill created a one hundred thousandth civic organization called “death with dignity” and have collected nearly one hundred and fifty thousand signatures in support of future legislation. (Manning, 1998)

In these two examples, we see that the developed countries are equally sensitive to the problems of active and passive euthanasia. In Japan, this may be due to traditional attitudes of Japanese culture to death, in the United States – the absolute right of any person to the fullest personal freedom. But the culture of these countries, and ethnic and political, did not decide for themselves what human life is. Is it the supreme value or the highest value – it is the absence of suffering in life?

In the first case, it was a purely religious point of view. Churches overwhelmingly condemned euthanasia, equating it to murder or suicide. The second – is a purely technological viewpoint on the problem. It affects those not particularly moral factors, such as overcrowding, aging of society, lowers the productivity, a gradual redeployment of the budget was not in favor of workers and for the disabled, the sick and elderly (Snyder, 2006).

The ethical and philosophical side of the process of euthanasia

The ethical assessment of euthanasia is not in the best way to kill a hopelessly sick person but in deciding whether to conduct the process of euthanasia. Common sense, compassion to such people gives us a hasty and dangerous decision: to allow physicians in accordance with the procedure and analysis of all the arguments and counter-arguments to meet the request of the patient and to deprive them of the most painless way. But there are different assessments of such acts.

Euthanasia as a problem is only for those who recognize the humanistic principle of absolute values of the individual and their life, in relations among individuals, who by the nature of personal relationships and social positions only wish good to each other.

If relationships of people are full of enmity and mistrust, then the process of euthanasia can not be considered because it is in these situations, only one covered the possibility of committing evil. The internal tensions of the process of euthanasia – euthanasia situation is a situation of moral choice, when you need to make a decision about euthanasia – the problem of this situation and it is seen as a continuation and a concrete expression of the humane, moral, and respectful attitude to help to die. It is perceived as an exceptional case when able to adopt the principle of humanism in its positive meaning through the apparent retreat from it. (Griffiths, 2008)

Philosophical analysis of the problem of euthanasia is very important, in my opinion, because it enables discussion of the issue of personal morality. Here I will try to trace the three questions provided by philosophers: the sanctity of life, the killing or letting to die, and the doctrine of double effect.

The sanctity of life

Usually, people are opposed to the practice of euthanasia, turning to the principle of the sanctity of life. This principle asserts that human life is so unique that we should never abandon it.

Immanuel Kant makes a philosophical defense of this uniqueness by its categorical imperative. In simple terms, the principle states that we must always be considered intelligent beings as an end in itself rather than as an interim stage. Kant could continue, saying that you can not do away with life because it is hard for you. This step will use to put an end to the will, which he considers controversial, and therefore, contrary to our reasonable nature. For those who apply the principle of the sanctity of life to the issue of euthanasia, it is clear the view that the cessation of life for any reason is morally wrong. People who believe so should carefully check the consistency of the position. (Keown, 2002)

The killing or letting to die

The second issue, which affects the philosophers against euthanasia, is the distinction between killing and letting to die. Some authors argue that passive euthanasia is not euthanasia at all, but this approach is just the problem of repulsion to the side. Even if letting to die is not euthanasia, it is necessary to show why this permission is morally permissible and, while murder is not permissible.

If we ask the question of what is meant by the supernatural and natural effort, the answer is likely to be given in terms of cost and frequency of use. For example, the use of expensive life support systems for heavy coma patients is considered to be superhuman, while low-cost antibiotics are prescribed in some elderly patients with pneumonia are common. Looking at these examples, one can readily agree that a patient with pneumonia should be prescribed antibiotics, while the system’s life support should not be used to support a bad coma patient.

But it is not clear whether the cost or frequency of use is the moral cause of division. Indeed, the initial difference is the moral force of the treatment rather than its value or ordinary. The strength and efficiency are useful ideas that can be applied, given the utilitarian approach to morality. But they were helpless in trying to show that doctors should never kill, and in some cases, allow dying. Therefore, we must return to the question of the opposition: the murder – permission to die.

The only method of euthanasia in society can be voluntary and passive euthanasia. It should be clearly and unambiguously formulate laws according to which the patient has every right to know the diagnosis of their disease and its possible consequences, the risk of adverse outcome in the refusal of treatment, the degree of hope for recovery (Tada, 1992).

If the patient is in a vegetative state, the main thing is to determine the irreversibility of such a condition. In my opinion, the issue of euthanasia should be resolved in the presence of the patient or their representative, has previously documented the expression of will, if it is not possible, for several reasons, it is still a question about the killing should not be handled by one person, as, for example, the council of physicians. Also, it is needed to avoid the physical suffering of the dying, even though the use of those funds otherwise would have been contraindicated. Only in this case, the result can be death, but by the will of the patient.

Conclusion

The main arguments in favor of euthanasia can be reduced to three.

  • Life is good only when there is more pleasure than suffering, more positive emotions than negative. In the case of euthanasia, this balance is irretrievably broken. This argument is the most compelling of all three, even more so when the pain is unbearable, and the reluctance of human rights is in for a painful condition confirmed unequivocally expressed wishes. The opponents of euthanasia have two objections.
    • First, in analyzing the permissibility of euthanasia, it would be incorrect to compare suffering from good; there is tension between living in the form of suffering and lack of life in any form. Life is good, and it remains good even when it becomes essentially continuous suffering.
    • Second. Arguing the admissibility of euthanasia that is conscious of the will of the patient, we therefore recognize, if the patient were able to order their lives when it is unbearable, they would have stopped it themselves, that is, in fact, we recognize the right to suicide. However, not everyone who recognizes the right to euthanasia recognizes the right to suicide.
  • Life can be good until it has a human form, exists in the field of culture and moral relations. Degraded to a purely vital level, it loses ethical approval and may be viewed as an object, a thing, and therefore the question of its termination – no more than the question of whether to cut dry wood. This argument strikes especially by its emotional emptiness because, in addition to the external side of human life, there is its interior.
  • Maintenance of life in the process of dying, carried out with the help of advanced technology, is too expensive. Namely: the funds are spent on the maintenance of life in a hopeless situation would be enough to treat dozens, hundreds of people who are amenable to treatment. This argument is purely practical and is, of course, important in the practical decisions related to the distribution of finances, the organization of the health system. But it can not be taken into consideration when it comes to the moral justification of euthanasia. It is clear that euthanasia does not hold the ethical criticism, so it should be, because if it was not a deterrent and ethically, it increased the risk of misuse by the third parties.

So, there is a question of whether death is a law or just its violation. From the point of view of nature – it is natural law, but from the point of view of the judicial system – it is a violation of human rights. And since life is regarded as a blessing, the charity requires to retain or extend it. But if euthanasia is death for its own benefit, the charity must be in favor of euthanasia.

References

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Dowbiggin Ian. A Merciful End: The Euthanasia Movement in Modern America. Oxford University Press, USA; 1 edition. 2003.

Dworkin Gerald , Frey R. G. Euthanasia and Physician-Assisted Suicide (For and Against). Sissela BokCambridge University Press; 1 edition. 1998.

Dworkin Ronald. Life’s Dominion: An Argument About Abortion, Euthanasia, and Individual Freedom. Vintage. 1994.

Griffiths John , Weyers Heleen , Adams Maurice. Euthanasia and Law in Europe. Hart Publishing (UK); 2nd edition. 2008.

Gorsuch Neil M. The Future of Assisted Suicide and Euthanasia. Princeton University Press. 2009.

Humphry Derek , Wickett Ann. The Right to Die: Understanding Euthanasia. Carol Publishing Corporation. 1991.

Humphry Derek. The Good Euthanasia Guide: Where, what, and who in choices in dying. Norris Lane Press; 2008 edition.

Keown John. Euthanasia, Ethics and Public Policy: An Argument Against Legalisation. Cambridge University Press; 1 edition. 2002.

Larue Gerald A. Euthanasia and Religion: A Survey of the Attitudes of World Religions to the Right-To-Die. Grove Pr. 1985

Moreno Jonathan. Arguing Euthanasia: The Controversy Over Mercy Killing, Assisted Suicide, And The “Right To Die”, Touchstone. 1995.

Manning Michael. Euthanasia and Physician-Assisted Suicide: Killing or Caring? Paulist Press; 1 edition. 1998.

Magnusson Roger S. Angels of Death: Exploring the Euthanasia Underground, Yale University Press; 1 edition. 2002.

Paterson Craig. Assisted Suicide and Euthanasia. Ashgate. 2008.

Snyder Carrie L. Euthanasia (Opposing Viewpoints), Greenhaven Press. 2006.

Rebman Renee C. Euthanasia and the Right to Die: A Pro/Con Issue. Enslow Publishers; 1st edition. 2002.

Rosenbaum Stuart E. , Baird Robert M.. Euthanasia: The Moral Issues. Prometheus Books. 1989.

Smith Wesley J. Forced Exit: Euthanasia, Assisted Suicide and the New Duty of Die. Encounter Books; 1 edition. 2006.

Tada Joni Eareckson. When Is It Right to Die?: Suicide, Euthanasia, Suffering, Mercy. Diane Pub Co. 1992.

Yount Lisa. Right to Die and Euthanasia. Facts on File; 2 Revised edition. 2007.

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