The term “euthanasia”¯ nowadays has rather negative connotation, although initially it comes from the Greek word, which meant ”“ “good death”¯. In the modern meaning this action is understood as “The act or practice of ending the life of an individual suffering from a terminal illness or an incurable condition, as by lethal injection or the suspension of extraordinary medical treatment.” (Humphry, D & Wickett, 12). In reality it is not so easy to define, whether this kind of death is good or not. The controversy around the issue started a long time ago and reached its peak after such cases as that of Diane Pretty, a woman who was suffering from Motor Neurone Syndrome, and who was a strong supporter of legalization of euthanasia, but finally died due to natural reasons in 2002 (Sheldon, 29).
Euthanasia is not prohibited in the whole world, there are countries, like for example Netherlands, where is was made legal. There euthanasia is considered to be a mercy, not a murder and is said to free a person from his sufferings and allow him die with dignity.
In order to have a clear picture and to draw the final conclusion about this sophisticated issue, it is necessary to study all the arguments, explaining why euthanasia should or should not be legal, to treat the problem from various sides: medicine, ethics, religion.
Usually people, who vote for legalization of euthanasia use the major argument of worthy death. This means, that a person doesn’t have to depend on his relatives and doctors completely and lead a meaningless life, consisting of only taking medicines and depending on special medical equipment. People should have the right to decide whether to live or not and have full control over their deaths. Why should somebody have the right to force him to live, if he himself realizes, that his life has no more meaning for him, when his future life has the only perspective of pain and sufferings, at the same time causing troubles to his close people, who have to provide money and efforts to keep him alive. At this point a patient should have the right to make his final choice and pass away peacefully if he thinks this is better for him, and others should be able to help him to fulfill his wish. In case the patient is not able to make his own decision, there should be his family members responsible for this together with the doctor, who would provide the detailed analysis of the patient’s state and perspectives. “In any humane or humanistic view of what is good, it is morally wrong to compel hopelessly suffering or irreversible debilitated patients to stay alive when death is freely elected” (Sheldon, 38).
Other supporters of euthanasia assure, that natural death should be allowed, instead of prolongation of death with the help of medical equipment, because actually the role of a doctor is first of all to ease the pain or to provide treatment in case there is hope for convalescence, otherwise his actions and efforts are useful. The doctors should be able to define the moment, when the state of the patient is only getting worse and there is no more hope for other alternatives.
If the pain is hard and the illness is terminal, many people consider death better variant, than dyeing, just going through a long period of pain and sufferings and finally knowing, that the result will be the same. “Christian Barnard, at the World Euthanasia Conference, was quoted as saying, “I believe often that death is good medical treatment because it can achieve what all the medical advances and technology cannot achieve today and that is stop the suffering of the patient” (Humphry, D & Wickett, 111).
All the above-mentioned arguments are considered to be the strongest ones, supporting the legalization of euthanasia. Further in this paper we are going to refute them step by step, proving, that euthanasia as still a kind of murder and thus should not be either legalized or practiced.
The supporters of legalization of euthanasia state, that for a patient with terminal disease there are only two variants: either to die quickly from euthanasia or to die slowly, in sufferings.Ā In reality, this is not correct, as researchers of Palliative medicine show, that all the symptoms of terminal illnesses can be relieved with the help of techniques and technologies, developed at the moment. Unfortunately, at the moment, there are enough patients, who cannot receive the corresponding care due to lack of the necessary facilities. The way out is not to legalize euthanasia, but to make the effective care and training more available (Van der Maas, 333).
Speaking about the freedom of choice, allegedly guaranteed by euthanasia, we should mention, that rare patients with terminal illnesses have sufficient knowledge and skills to judge objectively about the situation and possible consequences. Besides, the state of depression might have negative impact on their judgments and decisions. Those patients, who even admit, that they would prefer to die, are often grateful afterwards, that their request was not fulfilled and instead a good care was provided. If their close people agree for euthanasia, this would rather mean, that they are not loved and are not needed. Hardly would a patient in this situation think about his free will. The awful diagnosis of a terminal illness usually gives a unique opportunity to a person to reconsider all his previous values and actions. This doesn’t mean, that terminal illness guarantees complete spiritual rebirth of a human being, but very often patients learn to accept the help and love of their close people, they have the chance for spiritual growth.
“The right to die”¯ as promoted by supporters of euthanasia can be in reality transformed into “ the right for a doctor to kill”¯. Certainly this would make the life of doctors in a way easier, instead of looking for other methods of treatments, of developing new approaches in non-standard situations, they would choose to kill a patient as soon as he doesn’t show any signs of possible recovery. “This was clearly demonstrated in the case of Nigel Cox, the Winchester rheumatologist found guilty of attempted murder after giving a patient with rheumatoid arthritis a lethal injection of potassium chloride in August 1991”¯ (Humphry, D & Wickett, 186). The afterwards research proved, that if he had consulted the people, specialized in pain management, he would get the way to relieve the symptoms of the patient, not depriving her of her life. The European Association of Palliative Care declared its opposition to making euthanasia legal, aiming first of all at “achieving the best possible quality of life for patients and their families’ by focusing on a patient’s physical, psychosocial, and spiritual suffering, requests for euthanasia are extremely uncommon”¯ (James, 13).
The arguments, we provided above are mostly related to scientific field, to medicine as a science. There are however other sides of this controversial problem. Church has been and is at he moment considered to be one of the most important institutions, defining ethical code for human behavior. Religious people don’t deny the free will given by the God to people, however they underline, that God gave us lives not only for us. Suffering is seen by church not as punishment, which should be avoided, but as an obstacle to overcome for the sake of purification of human soul. The leading Anglican bishop expressed his negative attitude to euthanasia, even as a way of deliverance from unbearable sufferings, instead, he stressed the solution of the problem in development and application of the appropriate palliative care. “Instead of a counsel of despair, we should be arguing strongly and passionately for the investment of more resources in the training and provision of palliative care specialists. Killing is no substitute for caring,”¯ he wrote in the newspaper (James, 26).
Ethically legalization of euthanasia would devaluate lives of people. Legalization in this case would from the very beginning foresee little to no choice for people with terminal illnesses, as their lives would officially be considered unworthy and without any perspectives. Certainly from the point of view of a healthy and able-bodied person such life could seem a disaster, but nobody takes into consideration, that disable people have also their chances for life achievements and activities.
As it was already mentioned, the issues related to legalization of euthanasia are sophisticated and versatile. However, if we put on scale all the arguments, this is evident, that legalization, as well as euthanasia itself is not a solution.
Only natural death of a person is irreversible at the moment, all the other situations need simply more efforts and attention.