Today, euthanasia is one of the most controversial issues. On the one hand, euthanasia evokes a strong support from the part of those, who believe that people should have the possibility to put the end to their sufferings when they cannot carry on living and maintain a normal life.
On the other hand, euthanasia raises a number of ethical concerns because it leads to the death of patients involving health care professionals. In this respect, it is important to understand that both positions concerning euthanasia have their own limitations and justifications. In such a situation, the definition of the adequate approach to euthanasia and its legalization or ban should be grounded on the understanding of the essence of both views pro and contra on euthanasia.
In actuality, the problem of euthanasia raises a number of ethical issues as well as legal issues. Specialists (Batlle, 2003) single out such problems of euthanasia as the violation of human rights to life, which is contrasted to the right of individuals to take independent decision.
In addition, euthanasia raises legal issues concerning rights of health care professionals which actually assist to suicide of patients, if they use euthanasia. At the same time, ethical issues are not less controversial than legal ones. For instance, euthanasia abuses traditional views on the human life in religious terms, which imply that human cannot commit suicide or assist to the death of another person. Alternatively, the ethical concern of the prevention of unnecessary, long-lasting sufferings makes euthanasia acceptable. In such a way, it is possible to distinguish two controversial views on euthanasia and both views have their justification and operate in their own terms. To put it more precisely, each view on euthanasia, either pro or contra, are justified when the respective set of values or personal philosophy is taken into consideration. In other words, both views on euthanasia, pro and contra, have their own ethical and legal considerations.
In such a context, it is important to dwell upon both views on euthanasia. Basically, the position of supporters of euthanasia is similar in many countries of the world. Traditionally, euthanasia is defined as an action targeting at relief of sufferings of a patient and implies ending of the life of the patient who is terminally ill in a painless or minimally painful way. In such a way, euthanasia implies the end of the life of a patient to end his or her sufferings and this act is carried out by a physician. In this respect, it is important to lay emphasis on the fact that the consent of the patient or his or her relatives is needed. Normally, it is the patient who takes decision on euthanasia, while, in some cases, when a patient cannot take decision, being in coma, for instance, it is relatives who can desire to put the end to sufferings of the patient. In such a way, proponents of euthanasia argue that euthanasia can never be viewed as a murder because the physician performs his or her professional duties to relieve sufferings of the patient and fulfill the will of the patient (Bernat et al, 1999). In such a way, euthanasia turns to be the act of the implementation of the free will of a patient or his or her relatives. At this point, it is important to understand that euthanasia is applied only when the death of a patient is inevitable and the refusal from euthanasia will continue physical and spiritual sufferings of the patients. Therefore, according to this view, euthanasia brings relief to patients as well as their relatives.
In addition, it is possible to argue that euthanasia does not necessarily intend the death of a patient. In actuality, the death is rather hasted.
What is meant here is the fact that the death of the patient is inevitable and physicians can use euthanasia to hasten the death in order to avoid unnecessary physical sufferings of patients. Secondly, euthanasia is not necessarily unethical termination of a patient’s life because it may be viewed as the practical realization of a patient’s will to remove the life support.
Finally, as it has been already mentioned above, euthanasia is not abusive since, instead of sufferings of a patient, it brings relief. At this point, it is important to precise that the relief is desirable for both patients and his or her relatives, whereas health care professionals simply stop continuing to maintain the life in patients that will die inevitably.
However, arguments of opponents of euthanasia are also quite persuading and have their own justification. The aforementioned arguments of proponents of euthanasia do not persuade opponents of euthanasia. The latter argue that euthanasia is absolutely unethical and, what is more, they view euthanasia as a form of murder and, therefore, a crime.
At the same time, it is necessary to remember about patients, their needs and rights. It should be said that, in this respect, the view on euthanasia may also vary considerably from the rejection to the agreement with the necessity of its implementation. In such a way, euthanasia and its legalization provoke numerous discussions which basically refer to ethical sphere but, at the same time, they need to be legally regulated that implies that the legislation concerning euthanasia should be introduced to eliminate existing contradiction in regard to this problem. In this respect, the position of health care specialists and the public opinion are of a paramount importance since any changes in legislation concerning the problem of euthanasia should be primarily based on their acceptance by specialists and gain the public support.
In this respect, it is worth of noting that even health care professionals stand against the legalization of euthanasia. The opponents of euthanasia view it as the unethical termination of life support for doctors should maintain and save human life but not end it as euthanasia implies. Also, euthanasia is perceived as highly abusive since it violates the basic human right, the right of life.
In addition, it is important to remember about the psychological state of patient which ask for euthanasia. In fact, euthanasia is a form of suicide for patients, who need the assistance and supervision of physicians to carry out their will to commit a suicide. However, opponents of euthanasia (Emanuel, 1999) argue that the psychological state of terminally ill patients may be unstable and, therefore, they can take decision on euthanasia being in a state of depression or even being mentally ill. Obviously, it is quite difficult to reveal psychological problems of patients who ask for death. On the other hand, any form of suicide is abnormal for humans and the desire of death indicates to psychological problems of patients, which, though, can be explained by objective factors, such as unbearable physical sufferings of patients.
Furthermore, it is worth mentioning the fact that the use of euthanasia is controversial from the legal point of view and, under certain conditions, euthanasia can lead to the prosecution of health care professionals involved in euthanasia. At any rate, it is possible to view the involvement of health care professionals in euthanasia as professional negligence that led to the death of a patient. This may be a reason for prosecution of health care professionals. At the same time, it is important to stress the fact that whatever the legal effects of the act of euthanasia are for health care professionals, their professional career is likely to come to an end if their involvement in cases of euthanasia become subjects to public debate and discussion. From the point of view of professional ethics, euthanasia is highly controversial and raises a strong opposition from the part of some health care professionals (Thomson, 1999), who stand on a conservative ground.
On the other hand, the use of euthanasia is mainly supported by health care professionals (Brock, 1999). Probably health care professionals are more aware of the physical state, sufferings and spiritual sufferings of patients who are willing to undergo euthanasia compared to average people whose views on euthanasia is determined by their stereotypes and biases. In addition, it is important to take into consideration the emotional state of relatives of patients who can undergo euthanasia. In fact, often relatives have different, antagonistic view on euthanasia because some relatives insist on euthanasia, which is the manifestation of the free will of the patient, while, on the other hand, other relatives may oppose to euthanasia simply because of their unwillingness to see their relatives passing away.
Thus, taking into account all above mentioned, it is possible to conclude that euthanasia is a highly controversial issue that raises heat public debates in the modern society. Today, it is possible to distinguish absolutely antagonistic views on euthanasia. In this respect, it is important to lay emphasis on the fact that supporters and opponents of euthanasia have their own justification of their position. Their arguments are logical and persuading but the problem is that the acceptance or rejection of either position is determined by the set of values and personal philosophy of each individual. In fact, health care professionals often admit the possibility of euthanasia because they understand that the death of their patients is inevitable and euthanasia can put the end to their sufferings. In contrast, religious people believe that euthanasia is unacceptable as a form of suicide because it contradicts to their religious beliefs.