Is Euthanasia Ethical?
Euthanasia is the legal term for a medically assisted mercy killing; however in most countries, euthanasia is illegal. This begs two fundamental questions. First, is euthanasia ethical or unethical? Second, depending on the first question, should euthanasia be legal or illegal?
To help answer these questions, we must first understand both types of euthanasia.
The first form of euthanasia is the voluntary decision of a patient. This is when a patient asks a doctor to terminate the patientís life if and when the patient suffers too much, the patient has no hope of recovery, the patient has no hope for a decent quality of life, or the patient wishes to relieve the financial or psychological burden on the patientís family. This is sometimes referred to as euthanasia by consent.
This form of euthanasia has the least number of issues. The first issue is that the mental competency of the patient is always is question. However, I think that the mental competency of an individual should be easy to prove or disprove. Second, the social pressure can affect this decision. Again, if the person is proven mentally competent, this should not be an issue. Therefore, if a person is mentally competent, the government should not question or disagree with a personís euthanasia decision. And finally, some religions do not allow suicide, and most people consider euthanasia as a form of suicide. Since not everyone shares the same religion, some peopleís beliefs allow euthanasia. Furthermore, it does not make sense for a government to outlaw euthanasia by consent for reasons of religious beliefs. This is equivalent with forcing a religion on a patient.
The other form of euthanasia is an involuntary decision by friends or family of the patient to end the patient's life. This is sometimes referred to as euthanasia without consent from the patient.
This form of euthanasia is definitely the most complicated. Sometimes the friends or family members do not agree, either among themselves or even with the patient, for or against euthanasia. If the patient is no longer able to communicate, this adds even further confusion. Since euthanasia is illegal in most countries, there are almost no policies or laws dictating who has the final decision of euthanasia, if the patient can not make it. I think such laws should exist, and this decision should be determined by the spouse, parents, and children of the patient in that order. Again, religion and beliefs should not be a reason for the governmentís intervention. Also, the person(s) making the decision should be proven mentally competent too.
I find it very hypocritical that most countries that do not allow euthanasia, do allow animal euthanasia. For instance, if a horse or cow breaks its leg, then the animalís owners or veterinarians can easily put down an animal with little or no moral or legal issues. Another example is if a very old dog is no longer mobile and in great pain, the owner can ask a veterinarian to put the dog to sleep. However, the same person can not ask a doctor to do the same for themselves or another person.
Moreover, the Hippocratic Oath that all doctors take can be interpreted differently by different doctors. Some doctorís believe that euthanasia is not moral, and I believe this act should not be imposed on those doctors. However other doctors, who believe euthanasia is moral, should step in instead.
Whether euthanasia is murder, assisted suicide, or mercy killing, I believe euthanasia should be the decision and belief of individuals rather than the government. And an individual has the first and final decision for their own life.
by Phil B.