Euthanasia: The Question of Legalization

Thesis Statement: The tendency in the world today is to legalize euthanasia, and already several countries are considering the passing of legal bills to make euthanasia legal.

Argument I: Euthanasia in our modern time is seen as a merciful solution, not as a crime, and it is justified by human feelings and understanding.

A- Counter Argument: Euthanasia is nothing than an act of suicide, and hence, it is as morally wrong and unacceptable as suicide is.

B- Refutation: Suicide and euthanasia are morally different because suicide is the choice of death as one of several options whereas in euthanasia it is the only choice to end permanent and unbearable pain and suffering.

Argument II: Euthanasia should be legalized because this is the only way to regulate a concept that is practiced all over the world anyway.

A- Counter Argument: Doctors who assist patients to commit euthanasia should be punished as criminals, because according to their oath, they are supposed to elongate the lives of their patients, not to end them.

B- Refutation: Doctors who assist euthanasia cannot be treated as criminals if their intentions are to relieve patients of permanent and unbearable suffering. Medical assisted euthanasia is not in violation with the oath that doctors take to relieve their patients of unbearable and permanent pain.

 

Argument III: Euthanasia has deep roots as it has been practiced by human civilizations.

A- Counter Argument: Euthanasia was practiced by barbarian and inhuman regimes and it was prohibited by the Church.

B- Refutation: Euthanasia is not completely prohibited by the Christian Church and the reasons for which it was practiced in ancient days still persist today.

One major controversial issue that dominated the twentieth century and that has still persisted in this century is the issue of euthanasia, also known as mercy killing or doctor-assisted suicide. The arguments and debates related to euthanasia have involved areas such as law, morality, ethics, philosophy, and human rights, and of course religion. Although the debates on both sides are endless, and even though both sides have very strong arguments, the fact remains that the tendency in the world today is to legalize euthanasia, and already several countries are considering the passing of legal bills to make euthanasia legal.

Euthanasia in our modern time is seen as a merciful solution, not as a crime, and it is justified by human feelings and understanding. however, some argue that it is a crime because it involves taking away the life of a human being, which no one has the right to take away. On the other hand, it is not just putting an end to a life, because it has social, religious, and human views that support it. Euthanasia is defined as mercy killing, that is, killing a human being to release him or her from the suffering of pain or disease (Wasmuth 711).

This definition of euthanasia is rejected on the basis that human beings do not have the right to end their own lives. Euthanasia is defined as one ending his own life or having someone do it on his or her behalf if the person is unable to carry out the decision. Similarly, suicide is the ending of one’s life at one’s will. Killing oneself is equivalent to suicide which is considered to be a sin according to religion. Even man-made laws in modern times consider suicide attempts as felonies for which a person is punished by law (IAETF 2).

Euthanasia and suicide cannot be treated in the same manner because of the moral differences between them. A suicide is a situation where a person ends his own life because he is afraid of or unable to face his own responsibilities and problems in life. On the other hand, euthanasia involves the ending of a life because the patient has no hope or solution, and either has to wait for death while suffering all kinds of pain, or have his life ended in order to end his own pain as well as the pain of those who are around him. It is for this reason that euthanasia and suicide cannot be treated in a similar manner, and the argument that is based on making them morally equal is completely rejected (IAETF 2).

Euthanasia should be legalized because it is happening anyway. All over the world, thousands of doctors practically end the lives of patients who are terminally ill and hopelessly suffering. These doctors know very well that all medical options have been used and that there is no hope for the patient. They also take the step to end the lives of their patients according to a request made by the patient himself, or by relatives if the patient is completely incapacitated and can never make a decision again. This specifically applies to patients who are in permanent comas (Associated Press 1).

Those who oppose euthanasia argue that doctor-assisted mercy killing is a crime for which doctors should be punished. These doctors take an oath when they graduate that they will do their best in order to elongate the lives of their patients and to relieve them of their pain. Their mission, therefore, is to keep their patients alive, not to have their lives terminated with the use of medicine. If doctors are to be legally capable of assisting their patients in euthanasia, then this will give many the opportunity to get rid of their rich relatives who are normal patients in hospital, with the assistance of doctors who will claim that they were assisting in the ending of hopeless pain. In other words, laws that legalize euthanasia will become death licenses in the hands of doctors who can easily abuse this situation for their own benefits as well as for the benefit of the relatives of their patients (IAETF 3).

The argument that doctors should be treated and tried as criminals for assisting in the termination of the lives of patients who are terminally and hopelessly ill and suffering is absurd. Thousands of doctors involve in such a practice all over the world, even in countries where the law prohibits such a practice. These doctors assist in the death of their patients out of mercy, not out of financial use. In fact, doctors have more to gain if they keep their patients alive, since they will be charging them medical bills. Although some doctors may have indeed violated the law in conspiracy of relatives who benefit from the death of patients, these remain very exceptional cases that can be monitored by the medical systems through autopsies. Moreover, when a doctor assists in the death of his terminally ill and suffering patient, he is not violating his oath as a doctor, since he is relieving his patients from pain in the only possible way that is available (Associated Press 2).

Euthanasia is the development of a long history of moral struggle, especially in civilizations that have long contemplated the meaning and value of life. It was known in ancient times, especially among the Greeks and Romans, and it was practiced by other civilizations as a moral solution for those who are seeking final relief. Euthanasia was also considered as an acceptable solution because ancient societies were understanding about the fact that a terminally ill person who has no relief or hope in life eventually becomes a big burden for his family and society (Wasmuth 712).

Opposition to Euthanasia is based on the argument that euthanasia was predominant among barbarian people. As Christianity became dominant in Europe, euthanasia was considered a crime of murder if some kills another to relieve him or her of pain, and a suicide if the patient chose to kill himself or herself. Both suicide and euthanasia are condemned in Christianity, especially by Catholics. Moreover, euthanasia was used by the ruthless and inhuman Nazi regime in Germany and it was applied systematically by the state in order to exterminate individuals who became a burden on the state (Wasmuth 711).

It may be true that Nazi Germany applied euthanasia as a solution, but so did most other ancient civilizations. Moreover, Christianity permits euthanasia under one condition only, when the life of patient cannot be sustained except by extremely extraordinary methods. The fact that a person has the right to relieve himself of being a burden on his family and society because his ill is terminally fatal and its pain is unbearable is still applicable today, especially that modernity has not solved the same problems that persisted in ancient times such as poverty, the lack of resources, and the fact that people hate to live under unbearable and permanent conditions of pain and suffering (Wasmuth 712).

In conclusion, the debate over euthanasia will continue, and whether legal systems worldwide will eventually legalize it or not, there will be millions of supporters on both sides. If this proves anything, it shows that the decision whether euthanasia is acceptable or not remains a personal decision that only the patient in the first place and his family in the second place can decide. Apart from this, any intervention to prevent euthanasia or make it appear illegal is actually an unacceptable interference with the right of the individual to choose for himself whether he should continue to bear unbearable pain and suffering forever. Any argument or debate on euthanasia can last forever, but only those who are facing such situations where pain is eating them alive everyday, or those who are watching family members suffer for no reason all the time will understand why euthanasia should be legalized.

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