Examining The Practice Of Euthanasia Philosophy

Essay add: 12-10-2017, 20:59   /   Views: 45

Euthanasia is defined as a practice, which is aimed at ending life in a manner that reduces the victim's pain and suffering. The House of Lords Select Committee on Medical Ethics defines Euthanasia as the purposeful intervention, which is undertaken to terminate the victim's life with the ultimate intention of relieving intractable pain. Various categorization of euthanasia exist, they include voluntary and involuntary, and active and passive euthanasia. Commonly, Euthanasia is used to refer to the active euthanasia. Active euthanasia is illegal since it is considered a criminal homicide. On the other hand, voluntary, passive euthanasia is considered legal. The controversy surrounding the issue of euthanasia arises due to two main arguments; the arguments categorize euthanasia into voluntary suicides or involuntary murders. The arguments against the practice are based on whether any particular death that may be considered painless, comfortable, and easy, and whether it is an unjust death. The proponents of the practice are concerned with the death that increases suffering while the opponents of the practice are concerned with the intentional death. To understand the debate better, it is critical to look at both sides of the debate; however, more emphasis should be laid on pro-euthanasia due to understand the arguments better.

Arguments for Euthanasia

Proponents of the practice are critical about the incidence of uncontrolled euthanasia; uncontrolled euthanasia is a major issue; however, the proponents of the practice have stated that euthanasia like all other issues can be controlled through regulation. The proponents of the practice appreciate that the problem remains; for instance, it will be challenging to regulate people who want to undertake euthanasia for selfish interests, or to put pressure on the vulnerable patients to accept death. Numerous arguments exist to support euthanasia; the arguments are categorized into various categories: human rights, practical reasons, and philosophical arguments.

John Stuart Mill, one of the greatest architects of democratic doctrine, designed the principle that the only reason for exercising power against the constituent of an enlightened society, in contravention to his will, is to stop him from harming others. A person's own good, whether physical or ethical is not a satisfactory guarantee to meddle with a person's freedom. Therefore, democratic societies can design laws, which are designed to prevent murder and robbery; however, they should not come up with laws, which are aimed at criminalizing fornication, religion, or voluntary euthanasia. This argument hold since the terminally ill patients opting for euthanasia, do not interfere with the rights of others in the community. Furthermore, in the instance where the victim has no dependants, who may exert pressure in various forms, the individual has a paramount right to make a choice, irrespective of the choice made. So long as the victim is lucid, and has a clear intention, which is beyond reasonable doubts, there are no further questions that should be advanced on the victim's choice. The Bill is in line with democratic principles.

The argument in support of euthanasia raised by Mill can be summed up as, "in any legal tussle between the state and the individual, the burden of proof rests on the state, rather than on the individual to prove that the actions of the individual are detrimental to the community." Therefore, the duty rests with those opposed to euthanasia to prove that voluntary euthanasia contains fundamental flaws, that the Bill on voluntary euthanasia contravenes the principles of democracy in the society, and that the Bill lacks any value.

Immanuel Kant also advances a valuable argument in support of euthanasia. He advanced the ethical principle that has come to be accepted as a natural law, a law that applies to all; thus, should be accepted. Kant argues that one should only undertake an action if they are anticipate and believe that any other person faced with the same situation, would do the same thing, regardless of who they are. There is no justification for the rule that has been advanced; however, a majority of people believes that it is an obvious truth. In philosophy, they are referred to as self-evident truths. There are different variations on the idea in various faiths; for instance, do unto others as you expect them to do unto you."

Kant's law in a more universal perspective states that a rule is universal if it is consistently willed as a law that all people ought to obey. Universal laws are the only morally good laws. The proponents of euthanasia state that, in line with Kant's ideology, granting all people the right of a decent death through euthanasia is acceptable as a universal principle. Therefore, euthanasia is universally acceptable.

James Rachels advocated for the libertarian view on the issue. The view argues that there is no distinction between active and passive euthanasia. Rachels continues and observes that it is the biographical life; the life containing ones aspirations, human relations, and interests rather than the biological life, the aspect of being human that matters form a moral perspective. Therefore, if passive euthanasia is justified in a particular case, then, active euthanasia is justified in the case too since no distinctive variations exist between the two. Furthermore, the traditional view, which holds that a distinction between the two exists, argues that passive euthanasia is morally acceptable. However, it states that the following conditions need to be met: the patient is terminally ill, death is forthcoming, treatment is regarded as extraordinary, and the intention is not to cause death directly, but rather death is foreseen.

Arguments against Euthanasia

Numerous arguments have been advanced in opposition to euthanasia. The main argument against euthanasia is its uncontrollability. Euthanasia is proposed for the terminally ill patients; however, there is a high likelihood that the terminally ill patients will not be the only ones to undertake it. Furthermore, the definition of terminally ill raises another challenge. Several definitions of the word terminal exist. For instance, Jack Kevorkian defines terminal illness as any disease that restrains life even for a single day. Other laws have defined terminal conditions as conditions in which death will occur in a relatively near future, while others have defined the near future into a period of less than six months.

Even in cases with a specific life expectancy such as six months, medical experts agree that it is virtually impossible to predict the life expectancy of a patient with precision. Some patients who have been diagnosed with terminal illnesses have lived for years with the diagnosed condition. However, euthanasia activists have replaced the terminal ill reference with such terms as hopeless condition and meaningless life. The hopeless condition has been defined as conditions, which include terminal illnesses, extreme psychological pain, mental and physical deteriorations, or a low-quality life, which is no longer acceptable to the victim. Therefore, terminally ill implies anyone who has a suicidal impulse. These definitions complicate euthanasia regulation and may result in euthanasia being undertaken even by patients who are not terminally ill.

The acceptance and legalization of voluntary euthanasia will be the first step towards the legalization and acceptance of involuntary euthanasia. It is practically impossible to make sure all the euthanasia cases are voluntary, and that the liberalization laws on the practice would not be abused. Furthermore, there is the imminent threat that the acceptance and legalization of euthanasia would put pressure on the vulnerable members of the community such as the sick, lonely, or elderly to opt for an early death. This has come to be referred to as the slippery-slope argument; it states that allowing something that seems harmless today may set precedence for an unthinkable and harmful trend in the future. The argument has adopted various forms; altering the law to incorporate voluntary euthanasia increases the challenges encountered in controlling euthanasia. Doctors may soon commence the practice of taking the lives of their patients without seeking their permission. Furthermore, the rising healthcare costs will lead doctors to killing their patients to save on cost and free up space. The Nazis undertook extensive programs for involuntary euthanasia; therefore, we cannot place our trust on the doctors' good morals. Lastly, legalizing voluntary euthanasia eases the process of committing murder; the perpetrators can easily disguise it for active voluntary euthanasia.

Solution to the Euthanasia Debate

In conclusion, the debate on euthanasia is massive and ongoing. However, it is plausible to assume that the fundamental grounds for making a decision on the life-sustaining treatment should be to respect the victim's autonomy. This has a direct relevance to euthanasia. Therefore, the extension of the right of self-government to include cases concerning euthanasia will not be a significant shift in legal policy. Key to the discussion on the legalization of euthanasia is the fact that suicide and attempted suicide are not criminal offences in many jurisdictions. This indicates that the significance of an individual's self-determination in a strongly analogous situation has been accepted. Furthermore, supported suicide and voluntary euthanasia are not widely criminalized in many jurisdictions; this best explains the argument offered for excluding the victim's consent in killing due to the challenges encountered in establishing guidelines for obtaining the consent. However, the establishment of processes for giving approval to supported suicide and voluntary euthanasia are easier compared to those of establishing rules for involuntary euthanasia such as discontinuing burdensome medical treatment. The later has been achieved in various jurisdictions; thus, the former is easily achievable.

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