Euthanasia is the intentional end to a human life. This is done end his/her suffering, or because it is considered to be an act to the best of interest of all parties involved. Euthanasia can either be active or passive. Active euthanasia is giving a patient some drug meant to end his or her life; passive euthanasia on the other hand, occurs where doctors withdraw the treatment procedures from a patient, because death has been proven imminent for him or her, and nothing can be done to evade this. Debates about euthanasia have taken different directions.
There are those argue for it; the libertarian point of view and there are those who argue against it; the traditional point of view. There are many ethical issues presented by the practice of euthanasia. Libertarians base their arguments on the individuality of human beings, while the traditionalists base their arguments on life as a gift from God. In this paper, I will analyze these two views on euthanasia and give my opinion.
The libertarians argue that human beings are autonomous, and characterized by individuality. They present human life as being a factor of two views; the biological aspect and the biographical aspect. They argue that the biological nature of life, that is, we humans only by the virtue of life; is less significant compared to the biographical aspect of life. They state that the biographical aspect of human beings is the most important, because it is with this view that we can choose and pursue our interests. This is where the autonomy and individuality comes in. Just by being a life does not give us a chance or an opportunity, to pursue our interests.
We can only do so by viewing life from the biographical aspect. They, therefore, argue that human decisions ought to be respected, because every human knows what he/she wants and no one should hinder him/her from his or her aspirations. Thus, a person’s choice to end his/her life because his/her biographical life has been ruined and he/her is no longer able to pursue his or her means to ends, should be respected because there is nothing that the individual can realize from continuing with his/her biological life, Stearman (2011).
Libertarians argue that there is no clear difference between active and passive euthanasia, they both lead to similar results. If doctors realize that a patient is terminally ill, and withdraw medical procedures from him/her, then it will make no difference if they administered him/her with a with a life ending drug. The intentions in both cases are similar. When doctors withdraw the medical assistance from the patient, then their intention would be, to avert suffering of the patient or act to the best of interest of the patient’s subjects, by allowing him or her to die, intentions will similar if the physicians administered mercy killing to the patient. The libertarians argue that a mercy killing procedure, would, therefore, be preferable to the passive procedure because it will reduce the sufferings the patients will have to endure before his/her death. They, therefore, support euthanasia, because it alleviates suffering.
Libertarians argue that it is inhuman, and vast violation of the rights individuals rights, to deny the terminally ill person a euthanasia procedure, while the procedure could certainly take the person away from his/her sufferings. Allowing a person to end his/her life, therefore, is considered an act of mercy, because it alleviates the individual’s pain and sufferings. Euthanasia is, therefore, acceptable according to libertarians, because it is an act of mercy.
Libertarians argue that euthanasia is permissible and morally acceptable when it favors all parties concerned. Euthanasia favors the patient because it will end his/her sufferings; at same time, it considers the relatives of the patient, or the community because it will alleviate the medical bills they would incur for the patient, while it is certain that the patient can never recover from his/her illness. Therefore, euthanasia is permissible in such a case, according to libertarians because it will favor all parties concerned.
Libertarians use the golden rule to explain the relevancy of euthanasia. Take, for example, given the chance to live a peaceful eighty years, and to die peacefully at eighty; or given an extra ten years of unmentionable suffering, undoubtedly everyone would to die a peaceful death at the age of eighty. If person is in suffering and pain from a terminal illness, and that person begs for a euthanasia procedure conducted on him or her, it should not be denied because everyone faced by the same situation would wish for the same. From this view, euthanasia is morally permissible according to libertarians.
These views of libertarians have been criticized by the traditionalists, who argue against euthanasia basing their argument on the sanctity of human life.
Traditionalists argue that modern medicine can alleviate pain and suffering to a great extend. There are remarkably few cases if any that modern medicine cannot alleviate pain. Therefore, traditional view of euthanasia argues that it is euthanasia is wrong because it build on a weak ground. The supporters of euthanasia advocate for it basing their supporting their arguments from extremely few cases, and according to the traditional view, it is wrong to build an ethical doctrine on a few bases. Therefore, according to traditionalists, euthanasia as a means of mercy killing is unacceptable. The traditionalists argue also, that there are values and lessons that can be learned through suffering to the society. When an individual goes through pain and suffering without giving up, this action shows the value of life to the community, and how far they should go to uphold and protect it, this lesson cannot be learned if euthanasia was conducted immediately.
Enduring suffering also teaches the community the virtue of handling adversity; individuals do not have to evade their problems immediately. Benefits could be realized by going through the problems. Going through suffering and pain without giving up, also teaches the community to always to care about others even in dyer needs. Therefore, according to the traditional view, euthanasia as a way of mercy killing is morally not permissible, Rachels (1986).
The traditional view advocate that doctors should administer modern medicine than can alleviate pain and suffering of individuals, even when death is imminent. The point is that the death should not be intended and should occur naturally. The traditionalist view argue from the theism point of view that life is a gift from God, and that euthanasia is like a way of rejecting that gift from God, this view is, however, only for those who support deism.
The sanctity of life has to be upheld despite all interests and the golden rule. Not everything that people would like done to them should be morally permissible. Granting an individual’s wish for euthanasia just because in such a situation we would wish for a similar procedure is contrary to morals. This indicates that the golden rule should have its limits. Doing euthanasia on the basis of the golden rule is morally wrong.
Individuals may make decisions that are morally wrong due to adversarial situations they face, this does not, however, mean that their decisions are morally permissible; therefore, using the golden rule to support euthanasia will go out of moral uprightness. Also, not all things that individual’s term as being to the best of their interests are morally acceptable. It is, therefore, morally wrong to support euthanasia on the basis that it would be to the best of interest to the concerned parties; doing this will be violation of societal morals.
According to the traditionalists’ view, the human life has both the biological and the biographical views; none of the two should be termed as of less importance than the other. Life is as vital from the biological view as it is in the biographic view. The arguments of the libertarians that the biographical view is of higher importance than the biological view is too subjective, subjective decisions are often biased and wrong.
In 1973, there was a person by the name of Donald C who had a fire accident, and his body parts were considerably burned, the patient begged for euthanasia because he felt that his biographic life was destroyed, however, the doctors did not admit to the procedure, and after two years the individual recovered and he is still alive today. Therefore, destruction of the biological life does not necessitate the end of life of the individual. Donald’s decision was, therefore, too subjective, and this made it wrong.
Although death may be the result with or without a euthanasia procedure, the intentions in the two cases are far much different. The difference in actions is immensely relevant. Just by the fact that the individual will eventually die, it does not give the prerogative for a euthanasia procedure to be done on an individual. Take, for example; the taste of two wines cannot be distinguished when both are mixed with a green persimmon juice, does not mean that the two wines are not different. Euthanasia cannot be permissible just because despite the actions taken the results will be similar. The means-to-ends matter a lot in this case because life is sacred.
Active euthanasia violates the sanctity and worth of life, Sydney (1989). Passive euthanasia on the other violates ones right to treatment and the benefits realized from the continued treatment. Secondly, a mistaken diagnosis can be reversed if the patient is allowed to continue living; this would not be the case if euthanasia was conducted immediately. Active euthanasia also violates the physician’s duty of preserving life. Euthanasia above everything violates the sanctity of life. Human life is sacred and should by all means be preserved, Kelvin & Benedict (1982).
Both the traditionalist’s and the libertarian’s arguments are valid. However, it is true that euthanasia is permissible in some cases, consider, for example, an individual whose considerable body organs are destroyed in accident, there will be no essence to life for such an individual because, it will be pain and suffering to her and a burden to people around him/her.
Rachels, J. The end of life. Oxford: Oxford University Press. Pp 151-167, (1986)
Kelvin, D. & Benedict, M. et al. Healthcare ethics. St. Louis, MO: The Catholic Association of United States. Pp 199-205, (1982)
Sydney, H. The physicians’ responsibility toward hopelessly ill patients: A second look. The New England Journal of Medicine, (320): pp 844-849, (1989)
Stearman, K. Euthanasia (Ethical Debates).USA: Wayland, (2011)