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William Daniel Gizzi


Mrs. Moore
Research Paper
April 15, 2011
Euthanasia: Varying Arguments and Viewpoints
Euthanasia is derived from the Greek words eu, meaning good, and thanatos,
meaning death; thus forming the definition good death. However, in contemporary society, it is
commonly defined as mercy killing, such as when a terminally ill patient requests their doctor
to induce them with a lethal injection to end their uncontrollable suffering (Fletcher 83).
Euthanasia is an international issue that has been debated upon for years. It has initiated
numerous moral, ethical, and religious arguments. Before discussing the vast viewpoints of
euthanasia, a brief understanding of what euthanasia actually is and the differences between its
methods is needed.
There are three different types of euthanasia: voluntary, non-voluntary, and involuntary.
Voluntary is when a physician is directed to do so by a patient, non-voluntary is when the
consent of the patient is unavailable such as a person in a vegetable-like state or a child, and
involuntary is when it is done against a patients will. The medical procedures of Euthanasia are
called passive, withholding common treatments necessary for the continuance of life, and active,
the use of lethal substances or the forced death of someone. All forms of euthanasia, including
active, are only legal in Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Switzerland, Colombia, and Belgium. The
states of Washington, Oregon, and Montana have legalized passive euthanasia only. Active
euthanasia is extremely controversial and it is much easier to understand these conflicts through
the analyzing of complete arguments, rather than simply comparing common pros and cons.

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A prevalent argument regarding euthanasia is that if legalized, it will become abused.
Margaret Somerville states, A more pragmatic, but nevertheless very important, objection to
euthanasia is that its abuse cannot be prevented (2). Supporters of euthanasia argue that
legalized euthanasia would save money because drugs used for assisted suicides are
approximately 40 dollars where it can cost beyond 40,000 dollars to treat a terminally ill patient.
This would allow for funds to be allocated to others who truly need care, rather than wasting
money on terminally ill patients (Would Legalizing Euthanasia). Because of this same reason,
the opposing party believes that the low cost of euthanasia, added to the concern of being a
burden, could act as very powerful forces that could potentially guide a person to choose
euthanasia. If widespread, euthanasia could possibly be abused as a profit-enhancing tool for
large Health Maintenance Organizations. The restrictions will loosen and euthanasia will not be
limited to those who are terminally ill, but extend to those who are not terminally ill as well
(Arguments Against Euthanasia). This matches the belief that government euthanasia laws are
not for suffering, but to protect abuse and to protect people from devious doctors (Top 10
Pros). However, this claim has been disproved by the state of Oregon, which has had
legalized euthanasia since 1997. Their assisted dying rate is lower than that of any other state at 1
in 250 compared to 1 in 10,007 (The UK Law).
Rather than supporting the belief that euthanasia cannot be abused, many euthanasia
advocates claim that it is good if regulated and it will be difficult to deal with patients who
request euthanasia for selfish reasons. However, nothing in our world can ever be completely
regulated. An example can be seen in laws against stealing: The law prohibits theft, but that
doesnt stop bad people from stealing (Arguments in Favour).

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According to the Suicide Act of 1961 in the United Kingdom (UK), assisting a suicide is
an offence punishable with up to 14 years imprisonment. However, it also made it legal for an
individual to take his or her own life. Dignity in Dying, an organization in support of euthanasia,
states, The Suicide Act is nearly 50 years old and is out of step with public opinion and current
morals and values (The UK Law). Collectively, the human race has changed drastically
since 1961, when the law was originally manifested. We place less of a value on human life and
do not take assisted deaths as seriously. If we had not changed since 1961, there would not be a
debate over euthanasia and assisted suicide laws. To accommodate this change, supporters of
euthanasia believe that the Suicide Act of 1961 needs to be either repealed or altered. Each year,
numerous terminally ill people resort to vicious and often failed suicides. Many even refuse food
and water to gain control of their time and manner of death. Also, over 900 people in the UK are
forced to seek illegal assistance to die each year, and those who assist can suffer from vast
penalties (The UK Law).
Many believe that because the Suicide Act makes it legal for one to take their own life, it
can be concluded that English law has acknowledged that people have the right to die. The law is
somewhat of a paradox, it grants you the freedom to end your own life, but not the freedom to
give a doctor permission to aid you in ending your life. Perhaps the Act is really there to make it
impossible to escape a homicide charge by disguising the crime as an assisted suicide
(Arguments in Favour). Dignitas, a Swiss organization that aids terminally ill people with
death, is often featured in British media. Approximately 650 British citizens are members of
Dignitas and over 100 British citizens have traveled to Switzerland between 2002 and 2008 to
die. Because euthanasia is not legal in the UK, many are forced to die in a foreign country far
away from their loved ones (The UK Law).

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Opponents of euthanasia argue that we do not have a right to die because life is a
marvelous gift and no life has a price limit. The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops
states, As Catholic leaders and moral teachers, we believe that life is the most basic gift of a
loving Goda gift over which we have stewardship, but no absolute dominion (Top 10
Pros). Many other religions also support this belief that we have no permission to
intentionally end ours or anyone elses life. When someone dies, most cultures follow with a one
to two day ceremony or period of mourning. This shows that human life is important and sacred
to most if not all people. Whenever there is a gruesome murder on the news, it is not uncommon
for a person to contemplate how another human being could commit such a treacherous act to
another. Euthanasia opponents believe that euthanasia demeans this value of life and that taking
away a life because its inconvenient, unimportant, or too expensive is equal to the many
murders we view on the news. If someone in your family is on the brink of death, and you love
them, then their life shouldnt have a price limit. People should be willing to do anything to keep
a loved ones life. To even consider euthanasia is saying, I dont care (Somerville 3).
Margaret Somerville, a professor of medicine at McGill University and the Gale Database
Professor of Law, states, Euthanasia is a simplistic, wrong, and dangerous response to the
complex reality of human death (Somerville 2). Basically, euthanasia portrays death as
unimportant and life as disposable; It is a quick fix for difficult problems. Somerville also
supports the claim that people in contemporary society are uncomfortable with mysteries,
especially those that create intense fear and anxiety such as death; everyone wants control over
these events. For many, euthanasia is a terror reduction mechanism (Somerville 1). Burke
Balch and David Waters, two protestors of euthanasia, state that years of medical research has
found facts that prove that individuals who attempt suicide and want to die are in great need of

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psychological help. With legalized euthanasia, suicide attempters and those who wish to die
would be considered normal rather than how years of medical research proved them to be,
deranged (Balch and Waters 1).
Even though euthanasia is described as a good death, and is used to escape from
terminal illnesses, many believe that euthanasia can actually cause more harm than good. Dr.
Joseph Fletcher, among others, believes that euthanasia can sometimes take longer than expected
and actually result in a slow, painful death, rather than a quick one without pain. Besides
physical pain, euthanasia can also cause great psychological pain: suffering, the
excommunication, the exclusion of a person from the community of the living while he (or she)
is still alive (Fletcher 86).
Many patients choose euthanasia because of uncontrollable pain. If doctors were more
educated and if the medicine and technology used for pain relief was more widely used, then
euthanasia would hardly ever be wanted. An example can be seen with the increased options for
administering opioids, or painkillers. In the past, there was a long delay in receiving pain relief
because patients had to request and wait for a nurse to tend to them and administer the medicine.
This delay is eliminated with Patient Controlled Analgesia (Balch and OBannon 3). However,
pain management, a substitution for euthanasia, is not a simple task. With many patients, the
social and mental pain that they suffer from are overlooked and the obvious physical pain is the
only thing being treated. Thus, a large amount of varied medical personnel are required to
effectively resolve all pain. Many patients would rather be euthanized (Balch and OBannon 4).
Persistence, against a patients will, that death be delayed by all means available is contrary to
law and practice. There comes a time when continued attempts to cure are not compassionate,
wise, or medically sound (Reasons for Euthanasia). For many people, even quality palliative

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care fails to address their worries about losing independence, control, and dignity at the end of
their lives (The UK Law).
Death is the opposite of life, but the process of dying is a part of life. Because a person
has the right to make life events as beneficial as possible, they have the right to make dying as
good as possible. Death is viewed as a bad thing because most people dont want to die, human
life is intrinsically valuable, and religious followers believe that life and death are Gods business
in which we should not interfere. However, if death is not considered a bad thing, then many of
the objections to euthanasia disappear. Until we die, we will never know what exists beyond the
realm of life, as we know it. Therefore, we cannot make any assumptions on death, neither good
nor bad. Death is an end to life, but it could possibly be the beginning to something far greater,
and if this were the case, euthanasia would be a great favor to us all (Arguments in Favour).
Dr. Jacob Jack Kevorkian is a doctor who was convicted for second-degree murder for
illegally euthanizing Thomas Youk, a 52-year-old man who sought euthanasia to escape from
Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis, more commonly known as Lou Gehrigs Disease. Dr.
Kevorkian was released from prison in 2008 and is obviously a very controversial figure in the
debate of euthanasia. He believes that we must establish professional staffed and well equipped
suicide centers, which he calls Obitoriums. In this hypothetical scenario, euthanasia would
be exchanged with the positive benefit of experimentation and organ donation. Dr. Kevorkian
calls this exchange of mercy killing for beneficial results medicide (Kevorkian 185-204).
It is obvious that euthanasia has evoked many moral, ethical, and religious debates. The
three primary arguments are whether or not euthanasia will be abused, if we have a right to die,
and if euthanasia is more beneficial than pain-managing palliative care. These conflicts have
existed for years and hopefully will soon be resolved in the years to come.

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Works Cited

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"Arguments Against Euthanasia." Euthanasia Suicide Mercy-killing Right-to-die Physician
Assisted Suicide Living Wills Research. Web. 27 Mar. 2011.
<http://www.euthanasia.com/argumentsagainsteuthanasia.html>.
Balch, Burke J., and David Waters. "Why We Shouldn't Legalize Assisting Suicide, Part II: Pain
Control." National Right to Life. Web. 27 Mar. 2011.
<http://www.nrlc.org/euthanasia/asisuid2.html>.
Balch, Burke J., and Randall K. OBannon "Why We Shouldn't Legalize Assisting Suicide, Part
I." National Right to Life. Web. 24 Mar. 2011.
<http://www.nrlc.org/euthanasia/asisuid1.html>.
"Arguments in Favour of Euthanasia." BBC - Homepage. Web. 24 Mar. 2011.
<http://www.bbc.co.uk/ethics/euthanasia/infavour/infavour_1.shtml#h3>.
Fletcher, Joseph. "Sanctity of Life versus Quality of Life." Ed. Robert M. Baird and Stuart E.
Rosenbaum. Euthanasia: the Moral Issues. Buffalo, NY: Prometheus, 1989. 83-95. Print.
Kevorkian, Jack. "Killing In the Shadowy Valley." Prescription, Medicine: the Goodness of
Planned Death. New York: Prometheus, 1991. 185-204. Print.
"Reasons for Euthanasia." Euthanasia Suicide Mercy-killing Right-to-die Physician Assisted
Suicide Living Wills Research. Web. 26 Mar. 2011.
<http://www.euthanasia.com/reasonsforeuthanasia.html>.
Somerville, Margaret. Euthanasia and Physician-Assisted Suicide Should Not Be Legal. At
Issue: The Right to Die. Ed. John Woodward. San Diego: Greenhaven Press, 2006.
Opposing Viewpoints Resource Center. Gale. Neptune High School. 28 March 2011.
"Top 10 Pros and Cons - Euthanasia." Euthanasia ProCon.org. Web. 24 Mar. 2011.
<http://euthanasia.procon.org/view.resource.php?resourceID=000126&print=true>.

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"The UK Law That Places an Absolute Ban on Assisted Dying Does Not Work - Dignity in
Dying." Campaigning for Assisted Dying, Not Assisted Suicide or Euthanasia - Dignity
in Dying. 2009. Web. 24 Mar. 2011. <http://www.dignityindying.org.uk/assisteddying/law-not-working.html>.
"Would Legalizing Euthanasia and Physician-assisted Suicide save Money for the American
Healthcare System?" Euthanasia ProCon.org. Web. 23 Mar. 2011.
<http://euthanasia.procon.org/view.answers.php?questionID=000203&print=true>.