Euthanasia is the theme that starts much controversy, just like capital punishment does, mainly because it is irreversible. Most people would not even like to raise the question whether euthanasia is right or wrong. However, recent changes in the laws about euthanasia provoked the new Euthanasia debate. The issues that were raised, made me have more questions to which I will try give answers in this essay.
I would like to oppose the views that state several reasons on which the people holding the views conclude that euthanasia is wrong.
In most developing countries, death remains a part of life. From a very young age, people know the inevitability of death. There is a slightly different situation in developed western countries, members of western society prefer to keep death behind the hospital doors, the topic of death is left unspoken because it is uncomfortable and disturbing. The writers against euthanasia try to persuade their readers that it is wrong based on neglecting and little understanding of the principle of life and medical professionals work.
For Clowes, one of the most active writers against euthanasia, to imply that a health professional’s primary concern is the conservation of medical resources and cost containment, as opposed to the betterment of human life, is a gross inaccuracy and insulting to those dedicated to the ethos “the betterment of human life” upon which health care was built. Euthanasia is irreversible – the writer starts by clearly defining the differences between direct and passive euthanasia and natural death, terminology that is essential to understanding the issue at hand. However, once established by the writer, these concepts seem to have little relevance to the rest of the argument. He then continues his debate by clearly establishing that euthanasia is permanent and irreversible, a point that is difficult to dispute and does emphasize the importance of the issue to the reader. Yet, his persistent use of medical cases where patients were classified as irreversibly comatose and where all decisions regarding their continual treatment were made by others, neglects to recognize the numerous cases of terminally ill patients, who simply ask for the right to control their own destiny and to die with dignity. His use of extreme cases, all of which were found in ‘National Right to Life News’, gives the reader a distorted picture and neglects the many types of cases where the prolonging of life would be cruel, inhumane and immoral. (Johnstone, 1994:353)
Opponents of Euthanasia say that it sets a bad example. On that, I would like to ask what kind of example are we giving our young people when prolonging life at any cost? What has to be considered – quantity or quality of life? Is it always wrong to take away human’s life? As early as the eighteenth century, William Mitford, well-known English historian said: “Men fear death, as if unquestionably the greatest evil, and yet no man knows that it may not be the greatest good.” (Bradley, Daniels & Jones, 1969:194) The author considered here the comparison of suicide and euthanasia. His point was such as if euthanasia was a legal practice that would have negative repercussions on the rest of society. I think that the similarity of the two acts is that people seeking them are looking for the end of their sufferings. But in the case of euthanasia one is just seeking for a way of ending a physical pain for which there is no treatment. It just reflects the desire and willingness to accept the inevitable.
Is some way, for those, terminally ill, euthanasia remains the only hope of maintaining their self-dignity in life over which they have no control, where pain destroys their existence. In the case of suicide among the young, it is just a way of ending mental sufferings of the person that can be fixed. It represents the unwillingness to face life and not accepting the change. In contrary to euthanasia, this act is based on hopelessness towards life, where the death is just one of the variety of options that could be used to solve the mental pain.
Euthanasia is Entropic It is difficult to refute an argument that is based on a complex theory where the average person, outside of those who study the physical sciences, would have little understanding. Whether or not this was the author’s intention, it does appear he is attempting to present an argument as right by simply associating it with another truth. He attempts to make a moral association between a physical and social phenomenon with a use physical law to back up his belief that “whatever is man influenced and grows by itself is ‘bad'”(Clowes: p7). However, I am not convinced that laws of physics can be used to explain a sociological occurrence, nor am I convinced physical quantities have an inherent moral nature (i.e. good, bad or evil). For myself, I am hesitant to accept a social argument that is based on a physical law and would question whether the laws of physics can be used to predict the social outcome of legalizing euthanasia. Further, for the writer to suggest ratings something good or bad by the amount of confusion it causes would, I believe, take us back to the days pre-enlightenment where any new theory or thought that questioned the established structure was considered witchcraft. He believes “if something is incomprehensible to the common man, it is usually something that is not in his best interests.” Yet history is the story of people who dared to challenge those things readily accepted by others. Those who dared to question existing standards brought about social change, both good and bad. History demonstrates the need to question the confusing in order for society to advance and learn. To accept things blindly as right and to never ask ‘why’ I believe would lead to little or no social progression, good or bad.
Another point against euthanasia is that it against God. However, I would state that there is not the remembrance of euthanasia in Bible and besides God is always acting through people to not disturb people’s psychological balance. How do we know that it is not his own will to end person’s sufferings? Besides, for those who do not believe in God this argument does not carry any value. A problem only exists when God alone is offered as the reason for an action. For the atheist or even the agnostic, such a statement is of little significance and gives no substance to an argument.
The whole euthanasia debate is very complex full of unanswered questions and incomplete answers. However, I think that the issue is worthy of being addressed and discussed.
I do not claim to hold the answers to the difficult questions euthanasia raises, nor do I claim to be a pro-euthanasia lobbyist.
The question is, do we go that one-step further and legalize acts of direct euthanasia? It is a question to which I am yet to find a satisfactory answer, however, I believe it is an issue that needs to be shared by more than the health profession. Johnstone (1994:355) debates “the question society needs to answer is not: is euthanasia morally permissible (it has tacitly conceded that it is), but which type of euthanasia is permissible, and under what conditions?” The power to terminate life, at present, solely rests in the hands of the medical profession and is not exempt from misuse or abuse. The law needs to confront the matter of euthanasia, as safeguards are essential and assist in diffusing or dissipating the power already firmly held and practiced by the medical profession. (Johnstone, 1994:354)