Tuesday, 8 May 2012

Euthanasia: Friend or Foe?

by Shireen Avasthi

euthanasia, heart monitor
Not many people are aware of the term ‘euthanasia’. It's derived from the Greek word euthanatos, which means easy death. Euthanasia is when a very sick person’s (they are often on life support) life is discontinued (at their request) in order to cease their malady. Someone who chooses to undergo euthanasia usually has an irremediable condition.
In most cases, euthanasia is carried out at the request of the person in question. However, from time to time there are cases when the person is much too afflicted to make the decision themselves, so in that case it is usually made by close relatives, sometimes made by doctors and, in very rare cases, made by the courts.

Should euthanasia be legalised? What are the pros and cons?

Although euthanasia is illegal in most countries, there have been many instances across the globe where families of those suffering from incurable and incredibly afflictive conditions have begged for their loved one's pain to be put to a quick and relatively innocuous end. What would you want if you were in their position?

There is an incredibly fine line between killing someone, and letting them die. Euthanasia can be carried out in either way; euthanasia can be effectuated by either taking actions, for example by giving a lethal injection, or by simply not doing what is required to keep the person alive.
Euthanasia is, of course, not something to be taken lightly, but at the end of the day, isn’t it a case of freedom of choice? If someone’s quality of life is at an ultimate low, and there is very little hope of it improving, shouldn’t they have the right to decide whether or not it is worth them continuing to capitulate to meaningless pain?       

A lot of doctors wouldn't want to be involved in letting one of their patients die through euthanasia -  not only would they feel it is wrong to let someone die when they could stop it, it would also be going against the Hippocratic Oath that all doctors have to swear to follow. However, doctors face a tough decision, especially when they are sympathetic towards their patient’s situation, as well as the relatives having to watch their loved one suffer day in, day out. Arguably, not only does letting someone who is no longer willing to live put that person out of their agony, it also gives hospitals additional medical funds and equipment – which are always high in demand – available to use on patients who severely need it.   

Apart from the genuine plus points to euthanasia, there are definitely some downfalls to the undergoing of euthanasia. For example, many people back the opinion that euthanasia devalues human life; a lot of people support the idea that euthanasia is similar to an abortion – they believe it labels human life as a 'thing'. In their opinion, human life is precious, and shouldn’t be thrown away; to them, it’s a chance, not a choice. They say death is supposed to be a natural occurrence - not self induced.

Furthermore, someone dying does not just affect that individual; it affects everyone around them – everyone who cared about them.

Another point to consider is that if euthanasia was made legal, it could lead to a disastrous chain of undesirable events. Firstly, it could become a method of health care cost containment – doctors might start letting patients die on purpose in order to have more medical resources and equipment available to use on patients with superior chances of making a full recovery.

Secondly, if euthanasia was legalized, it could lead to the slippery slope of legalized murder:

 “In a society as obsessed with the costs of health care and the principle of utility, the dangers of the slippery slope... are far from fantasy... Assisted suicide is a half-way house, a stop on the way to other forms of direct euthanasia, for example, for incompetent patients by advance directive or suicide in the elderly. So, too, is voluntary euthanasia a half-way house to involuntary and non-voluntary euthanasia. If terminating life is a benefit, the reasoning goes, why should euthanasia be limited only to those who can give consent? Why need we ask for consent?” - Edmund D. Pelligrino, MD, Professor Emeritus of Medicine and Medical Ethics, Georgetown University.

It is undoubtedly true that legalizing euthanasia would eventually lead to the slippery slope of legalized murder, but it is also clear that in some cases, the person in question would be much better off if someone would just put an end to their suffering, as they would be far more comfortable in death. So why doesn't the government make it so that each case of proposed euthanasia has to be presented in a court? That way, if someone’s only way out is euthanasia, they can have it, but at the same time, it can’t be turned into legalized murder. Isn’t this the logical solution?

If you had the power to make a final decision about euthanasia, what would you adjudicate? Let us know via the comments section below. =’{)


  1. This article is really insightful. It showed me a new way of looking at things, and was very helpful! I've read a couple of the others, and I liked them too. Thanks for posting!

  2. This is one debate which will remain an eternal debate for life is sacrosanct. "what if" will always haunt those who take a decision in favour of ending the life of a terminally ill person. But I personally feel that a life with no consequence is better switched off. The question in my humble opinion which should be asked is , what would nature want to do ? If nature would have decided that this life is of no consequence then assisted death is neither immoral nor against the tenets of humanity. Of course this question will not arise if there is no hope.....

  3. You make some really interesting points. However, in my opinion it is almost impossible to find out what nature would want, because there is so much interference from high tech medical equipment in the modern world that it has become hard for us, as humans, to see what nature would want. Thanks for reading my article, I'm glad it got you thinking! ='{)

  4. Interesting article however I would like to point out that it is no longer the case that all physicians have to take the Hypocratic oath. You're points are well made but, since it is often the most contested issue, it would be good if you could delve a little deeper into the issue of "legalised muder" often it's not just medical professions; making something like euthenasia legal could lead to people persuading someone to go through euthenasia in order to gain funds from their will.

  5. This a great post – thanks for publishing it. On a side note does anyone know about the Bankers life and casualty company . I heard they have good products for life insurance & annuities and they have local agents who help in retirement planning. Any feedback about them is greatly appreciated.

  6. I’m impressed, I must say. Rarely do I encounter a blog that’s equally educative and entertaining, and without a doubt, you have hit the nail on the head. The problem is something which not enough people are speaking intelligently about. I'm very happy that I found this in my search for something relating to this.

    1. What a lovely compliment, you've made me feel proud as editor of this blog. However, I would disagree with what you've said about not enough people speaking intelligently about euthanasia. In fact, it is one of the most passionately debated contemporary issues!


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