Is Euthanasia Immoral?
By Sanya Saxena
Medical advances made over the past one hundred years have extended the human lifespan astronomically. Diseases that a couple of years ago would have been death sentences are now treatable with medicine. However, there are still diseases that unfortunately do not have cures yet, and lead to a slow painful death. These people are forced to go through insurmountable amounts of pain for extended periods of time, aware of the fact there is no way of ending it. In these situations, should individuals have the right to decide whether or not they continue on living? Death has always been stigmatized within society. In fact, a survey conducted by the New Scientist magazine tells us that three in 5 people would do anything to live forever. As human beings, it is in our nature to fear the unknown and unpredictability. The idea that someone would willingly seek death for themselves is difficult for people to understand. This brings us onto the subject of euthanasia– the practice of intentionally ending life to relieve pain and suffering. Most times we see euthanasia being performed on patients with terminal illnesses as a way of alleviating their pain and allowing them to die of their own accord rather than continuing to suffer. Yet, despite the rising support for the practice, there are still a lot of people who believe that this practice should not be allowed to see the light of day.
The first and most prominent argument against euthanasia stems from religious beliefs. There is the belief that one must not interfere in the doings of God, as God has a purpose to everything. Euthanasia is considered wrong by most religious people as they believe that every human being is the creation of God, and that this imposes certain limits on us. Our choices involve more than just ourselves, however, God has given us the intellect to make one’s life as optimal as possible. Humans with their knowledge have made advancements in medicine to cure diseases; if we were to lead our lives believing that we could not do as we see fit, then why even use medicine to treat illnesses? Wouldn’t that be against God’s will too? For a long time, people have been afraid of legalizing euthanasia due to the prediction that it may open doors to non-voluntary euthanasia as well. The sick and dying can easily be taken advantage of through euthanization without consent. To prevent this from happening the practice must be properly regulated and it should be ensured that the choice to be euthanized is the patient’s choice and the only the patient’s choice.
There are also many points against euthanasia that revolve around the quality of healthcare. It is believed that allowing euthanasia will result in lower quality care for the terminally ill as it could undermine the motivation to provide good care. Euthanasia could become a cost-effective way to dealing with untreatable patients, as opposed to spending on painkillers and ventilators to keep people alive. Because euthanasia is a practice that aims to fulfill a patient’s wishes by giving them the option to end their lives after all other treatment options have been exhausted, it is unlikely that euthanasia would be exploited as it comes as a choice for suffering patients.
Another major argument against the practice is that if allowed, it could discourage research for treatments for the various terminal illnesses prevalent today. Thoughhis is a valid argument, euthanasia is only an option for people who are about to die and have no other way of ending their pain. To them, death comes as a friend. It does not change the fact that searching for cures will help provide them with more options of alleviating their suffering. We rarely see patients suffering from curable diseases opting to be euthanized.
Despite these arguments against it, euthanasia is a practice that many people all over the world support. The Times reported that, according to the 2007 British Social Attitudes survey, 80% of the public said they wanted the law changed to give terminally ill patients the right to die with a doctor's help. It is widely believed that the right to die should be a matter of choice.
Those in favour of euthanasia argue that a civilised society should allow people to die in dignity and without pain, and should allow others to help them do so if they cannot manage it on their own. Our bodies are our own, and we should be allowed to do what we want with them. Is it not wrong to make anyone live longer than they want? In fact making people go on living when they don't want to could violate their personal freedom and human rights. Isn’t it immoral to force people to live a life full of suffering and pain? Medical technology today has achieved remarkable heights in prolonging human lives. For patients who have a realistic chance of surviving an illness or accident, medical technology is the greatest gift to humankind. For the terminally ill, it’s just a way to prolong their suffering. In fact, euthanasia could also help to preserve life. Consider someone dying due to organ failure. There are long waiting lists for hearts, kidneys, livers, and other organs that are necessary to save the lives of people who can be saved. Doctor-assisted suicide allows physicians to preserve vital organs that can be donated to others. Doctor-assisted suicide also allows the more medical resources available to save those who have a real chance of living. In most countries there is a shortage of health resources. As a result, some people who are ill and could be cured are not able to get speedy access to the facilities they need for treatment. At the same time health resources are being used on people who cannot be cured, and who, for their own reasons, would prefer not to continue living. Allowing such people to choose euthanasia would not only let them have what they want, it would free valuable resources to treat people who have a real chance at life. Ultimately, people have the right to choose if they want to die, death is a private matter and if there is no harm to others then the state and other people have no right to intervene.
The right to assisted suicide must be freely bestowed upon those who are terminally ill. This right would allow them to leave this earth with dignity and relieve them from insufferable pain. To give competent, terminally ill adults this necessary right is to give them the autonomy to close the book on a life well-lived.