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It is apparent that euthanasia should be permitted everywhere for the following reasons: individual liberty; one s undesired pain, suffering, and misery; and the individual s frustration from having a valueless life. First of all, one should be able to understand the term euthanasia. In ancient Greece, eu thanatos meant easy death. Today s euthanasia generally refers to mercy killing, the voluntary ending of the life of someone who is terminally or hopelessly ill (Euthanasia 1). Knowing that, it is seemingly appropriate to say that one has the right to die an easy death if, and only if, he is terminally ill. Otherwise, different situations should not play any part in this issue. To understand more about the pro-euthanasia side of this issue, it is best conceived through the viewpoints, strong beliefs, and perspectives of proponents of euthanasia.
An individual has liberty, which includes the right of owning his life. He is the possessor of his life. Just as he can do whatever he wishes with his possessions, such as selling his new house, he can also wish to discontinue his life if the reasons were rational. In a typical situation, a person has some terrible, deadly disease. He is trapped in a hospital bed, with all sorts of medical equipment connected to him, unable to move or do much of anything except exist. He is in terrible pain; he begs to have these machines disconnected so he can go home and live out whatever life he has left and die in peace. He does not want to endure the pain, but instead, to assuage it. However, the doctors refuse because to turn off the machines would surely result in his death, and they have a presumed bias against doing this. If a person decides that he wants to die, and someone does not think that this is a good decision, what right does the opposing person have to tell him that he cannot do this? It is clear that a patient s decision to ask for a cessation in treatment, reflecting his own preference for death rather than for a continuation of discomfort or suffering, must be respected, barring exceptional circumstances (Behnke 17). Therefore, that individual s decision should be carried out because he has that right to his own personal decision, which is only one of many reasons why euthanasia should be legalized.
In addition, one should have the right to end his life by euthanasia because of the unsolicited pain, suffering, and misery he feels due to the disease he has or the condition he is in. People in this position would most likely want to alleviate their pain, suffering, and depression just to name a few partially because of the inconveniences, emotional and physical burdens, and drawbacks imposed on family members, relatives, and friends. Furthermore, family members may be sensitive to the costs accumulating during terminal care (Hagen 91). Consequently, patients may feel guilty in this entire ordeal. Even more, people who, maybe because of a serious illness, are extremely depressed partly because they want to live their lives to the fullest by perhaps participating in energetic and active events but know that that is not possible now that they are severely ill and sick. Since they recognize that enjoying life in those ways is no longer possible, they may want an easy way out euthanasia. Others simply do not want to sustain suffering. Everybody has different amounts of pain and suffering that he/she can tolerate (Behnke 17). In considering suffering of terminal patients, one cannot exclude from thought the grief due to distress, fear, and agony. Nor must anyone underestimate the bearable level of pain in the periods between doses of medication or simply from being turned over in bed. There is still too little known about what is actually experienced by patients as they approach death so it is evident that the individual, and only the individual, has the right to choose when he wants to die. These factors, along with unwanted suffering, pain, and misery are only some of the components considered in allowing the act of euthanasia.
The final element worthy of discussion in legalizing euthanasia is an individual s frustration in living, in his opinion, a valueless life after becoming critically ill. People who suffer from illnesses that make them unable to communicate do not want to live any longer. This includes people who are in a coma, are paralyzed, or simply so sick and weak that they cannot make meaningful sounds or other communication. If the person is no longer able to relate in any way to his relatives and friends, he might not want to live a day further (Bender 28). In addition to that, some people believe that their quality of life is so low that they would rather die. If this is the case, then what position do others have to go against this? No one other than the patient has any right to deny the patient his way of dying. Therefore, euthanasia should and must be a legal choice.
Like any other issue, there are opposing viewpoints regarding the legalization of euthanasia. Pro-lifers, people who are against euthanasia, place the emphasis on killing. They believe that we are merely stewards of our lives; it is for God to decide when our lives are to end. Further, suffering, is an inevitable part of life; our task is to understand and grow from suffering, not evade it (Mabie 65). Pro-euthanasia people, who place the emphasis on mercy, argue that stewardship has not prevented the religious from exercising control in other areas of their lives for example, in using analgesics for surgery and childbirth. If it is for God to decide when life will end, if suffering is ennobling, then the very practice of medicine is and always has been wrong. Further, they hold that theological arguments against euthanasia pertain only to the religious; the constitutional separation of church and state requires that opposition to euthanasia on theological grounds alone not be codified in law Mabie 66). Therefore, the counter-argument against euthanasia was objectionable and absurd. In our increasingly secular society, many believe that humans are sovereigns, not stewards, of their own lives. For them, it follows that respect for autonomy should mean respect for a person s decision to end his or her life. How can we demand that someone endure unbearable pain just so that we can be morally comfortable (Mabie 67)? Other arguments facing this issue focus on medical grounds. Critics say that diagnosis can be wrong. Furthermore, a cure for what is today incurable might be found tomorrow. And what of informed consent? Can a patient struggling with pain and the enormity of death make a truly rational decision to end his or her life (Mabie 65)? Pro-euthanasia people debate that diagnoses can be wrong, but for the most part they are very accurate, especially when disease is so far advanced that euthanasia is discussed. At that stage death will not be held off even if a miracle cure is found. Proponents of legalizing euthanasia respect the trust that springs from the physician-patient relationship. But they feel sure that that essential trust can be protected by establishing tight procedures to ensure that euthanasia is not abused (Mabie 67). Just as before, the pro-lifers are proven wrong.
Individual liberty, undesired misery, pain, and suffering, and one s frustration in having a worthless life all serve as critical circumstances to be considered thoroughly in legalizing the act of euthanasia everywhere. Euthanasia is a death option that should not raise controversy if performed solely in the appropriate predicaments mentioned earlier. Knowing this, shouldn t euthanasia be legalized? The solution to that question would have to be yes. Coming to an end, the crux of this matter is summarized in one simple sentence: The emphasis of euthanasia should be placed on the purpose of the act, not the nature of the act (Bender 50).
Behnke, John A., Sissela Bok. The Dilemmas of Euthanasia. Garden City: Anchor Press/ Doubleday, 1973.
Bender, David L. Problems of Death. St. Paul: Greenhaven, 1981.
Euthanasia. Compton s Interactive Encyclopedia. Softkey Multimedia Inc., 1996.
Hagen, Richard C. Death and Dying. St. Paul: Greenhaven, 1980.
Mabie, Margot C.J. Bioethics and the New Medical Technology. New York: Atheneum, 1992.