Complexities and Disadvantages of Euthanasia
At the moment, euthanasia is considered as a criminal offense in most of the countries. Such policies are reasonable because killing a patient is not what a doctor should do, as Hippocrates stated as early as the fourth century BCE. Instead, the doctor’s task is to heal, prevent diseases and assist the patients in leading a healthy life. A range of religious, ethical and biological arguments are cited, and the value of human life is stressed. While there is life, there is hope; pain can be ceased by strong medicaments and tomorrow the treatment can be invented. What is more, legalizing assisted suicide can place the society on a slippery slope. Incurable patient is a burden for his family; and they may influence his or her own decision for their own benefit. Besides, the disease may be not so serious, but the patient is, for instance, very rich and there are heirs interested in his or her death. They can bribe healthcare personnel and “buy”¯ euthanasia against the reason.
Advocating Physician Assisted Suicide
On the other hand, mitigating pain and sufferings is also the natural mission of doctors. If recovery is unachievable, mitigation of pain should be the foremost objective. “Some doctors today feel that the need to preserve the patient’s quality of life extends to a duty to help that patient to end his or her life in the way that he or she sees fit,”¯ Gregory E. Pence (216) informs.
Saving people from intolerable pain caused by incurable disease means showing mercy. However, the main precondition for physically assisted suicide is the informed consent of the patient. Voluntary euthanasia should be distinguished from non-voluntary and involuntary euthanasia. Non-voluntary euthanasia is performed by medical decision when the patient is not able to confirm it by informed consent because of being in a comatose or because of being legally incapable. Involuntary euthanasia is performed against the will of the patients while they are actually able to provide informed consent, but refuse to do it either because they are against it or they haven’t been asked for it. It is also controversial because it is rather hard to determine whether the patient’s decision is rational, not emotionally influenced. Distress may be a serious advisor, but not the best judge. Panic may result in irrational suicide which needs to be separated from voluntary death. If the death is harmful, irrational, capricious and regrettable, it is likely to be irrational suicide. Voluntary death is helpful, rational and well-planned instead.
Killing and Letting Die
The opponents of euthanasia state that it is the same as killing a person and thus these criminals are often equaled. To be correct, euthanasia means letting die, not killing, and the will of a patient is decisive. In fact, the difference between killing and letting die does not itself make a difference to the moral assessment of the actions (Pence 281). But if a person can live the entire life without killing anyone, it is impossible to avoid letting die throughout life. Causing something to happen and merely permitting something should be morally distinguished in some way. The main thing is that when the doctors refuse to assist in suicide, they also let the patient die if his or her disease is incurable. The difference is that otherwise the death is slow and poignant, and the term “passive euthanasia”¯ is often utilized. Therefore, active euthanasia seems to be more morally preferable than trying to save a life by the price of unbearable pain. Pence ensures that while people have the right to live, they should be free to refuse this right and exercise the right not to live. It is significant to underline that when there is such a right, it is already a relief to the patient. His or her sufferings can be stopped at any moment, so there are fewer reasons for despair and more reasons to try all the other options.
From the ethical point of view, in the majority of cases it will be utilitarian to commit physician assisted suicide. The patient’s sufferings are over; the family’s moral sufferings and expenses are over; after all, however pragmatic it may sound, it is cheaper for the hospital to commit euthanasia than to support life in a body without spirit by means of special highly expensive appliances, so there will be more costs to save those who can be saved.