Should voluntary euthanasia be legal?

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Subject classification: this is a medicine resource.

Voluntary euthanasia, also known as assisted death, is a medical process which is similar to but distinct from the question should suicide be legal? In euthanasia, a person facing terminal illness has life-prolonging treatment denied and some actions by medical practitioners can active kill the patient. Does this represent a violation of doctors' commitment to do no harm or is it actually an example of it?

Euthanasia is the practice of intentionally ending a life in order to relieve pain and suffering. Voluntary euthanasia is different from non-voluntary euthanasia and involuntary euthanasia in that it has the consent of the patient. Some forms of voluntary euthanasia are legal in Belgium, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Switzerland, and the US states of Oregon and Washington. Should voluntary euthanasia should be legal worldwide?

Arguments[edit | edit source]

Voluntary euthanasia should be legal[edit | edit source]

  • Argument for Every person has a fundamental right over their own body and life. Forbidding voluntary euthanasia would be preventing willing but unable individuals to exercise this right. The practice of euthanasia isn't expensive or complicated (quite the opposite), so society has no reason left to deny it to a willing individual.
  • Argument for By not legalizing euthanasia, many people would continue to suffer, waiting for them to die, and with euthanasia they could stop suffering.
  • Argument for In some cases, not legalizing euthanasia will not stop people who needs it to find a way to die, but to find other more dangerous and unhuman ways of finishing their life, like suicide, with the terrible impact on relatives and other citizens.

Voluntary euthanasia should be illegal[edit | edit source]

  • Argument against If euthanasia was legalized, some health insurance companies would see it as a profit-enhancing and cost-saving tool. It is well known that many health insurance companies have an economic interest in denying treatment to their patients, and they routinely find excuses to do so. If euthanasia were made an alternative, then it would not be long until they start recommending it instead of more expensive treatments, even if such treatments may lead to recovery.
    • Objection This hasn't happened in countries that legalised euthanasia (as far as I know), it's still viewed as a last resort.
    • Objection One still has the decision and just because ones decision could be influenced, the possibility to decide shouldn't be removed. As an example, we are always being influenced by advertisement to buy certain products. Still, this argument is valid but what is needed is more regulation on health insurance companies to avoid abuse. What the argument really suggests is the need for well regulated euthanasia and a thorough record of consent, incorporating practices that are resistant to malicious manipulation.
  • Argument against If voluntary euthanasia was legalized, then it won't always be voluntary. Emotional and psychological pressures could become overpowering for depressed or dependent people. If the choice of euthanasia is considered as good as a decision as receiving care, many people will choose euthanasia. Financial considerations, added to the concern about 'being a burden', could serve as powerful forces that would lead people to 'choose' euthanasia.
    • Objection The pressure to end one's life would likely be lesser than the pressure to continue living. Society generally does not encourage suicide and encourages people to remain alive.
    • Objection Dependent people already feel the pressure of 'being a burden'. The legality of the act does not bear upon serious suicidal considerations. Put another way, think about who a dependent person might be concerned with burdening. It might be their family, friends, or care providers, but certainly not the state.
  • Argument against Legalizing euthanasia can lead to suicide contagion. When the media portrays assisted suicide as a means of 'taking control' or claims that someone helping another person kill themselves is 'death with dignity', then society (including teenagers) is receiving the dangerous message that suicide is a legitimate answer to life's problems.[1]
    • Objection The argument relies on speculation as to the behavior of media and the behavior of society as a result. One might also speculate that the "contagion" effect is limited to adolescents, since the study also showed that the effect lessens with age.[2]
    • Objection The argument fails to show that an increase in suicide rates ought to be addressed through law (or at all).
    • Objection Similar arguments are used in other debates, like the abortion debate. Critics think that, if legalized, people will "run" to abort in a contagious way. However, reality shows that letting people to decide about their own bodies in no way incentivates the act.
  • Argument against Euthanasia contradicts professional medical ethics where life is sought to be preserved.
    • Objection Then it should be re-discussed if it is more important for medical ethics to preserve human life per se, or to prevent suffering.

See also[edit | edit source]

Notes and references[edit | edit source]

  1. "Suicide Contagion is Real". National Review. 2013-05-21. Retrieved 2022-08-16.
  2. "Media". About us. Retrieved 2022-08-16.