Euthanasia – The Argument


With all the talk of Terry Pratchett’s BBC program in which he travels to, Euthanasia clinic, Dignitas  in Switzerland, I thought I’d discuss the ethical argument surrounding the controversial subject.

Pratchett is suffering from Alzheimer’s disease, where not only do you begin losing short and long-term memory but eventually you lose the capability of your bodily functions. Your body forgets how to live. Alzheimer’s is a terminal illness that has symptoms of severe depression (quite understandably considering the prognosis), so euthanasia or  assisted suicide is an option that some may consider in order to escape before they lose themselves completely. Illegal in this country, euthanasia can be carried out in the Dignitas clinic Pratchett visited in Switzerland, but should there be this option? Is it an acceptable solution?

The Religious Argument

According to the devout Christians among us, it is against God’s plan to commit suicide. Despite his granting of freewill to us, they don’t want it used as it denies God’s right to our lives. Some even believe that the suffering process is good as it allows a Christian to better understand the sacrifice Jesus made;  Pope John Paul II wrote that “It is suffering, more than anything else, which clears the way for the grace which transforms human souls.” But Jesus didn’t have a terminal illness that caused suffering and degradation over a period of years, did he?

The Medical Argument

Some worry that if euthanasia is legalized it may become a more commonly used procedure on the elderly and sick to save on expensive medical bills. It is widely believed that if Palliative care is working to its purpose than euthanasia is unnecessary as pain should be relieved in more “ethical” ways. How true this is, I cannot say. Does it undermine a doctor and nurses duty to care? Well in my opinion no, if it is truly what a patient – who is still in sound mind – wants then it is  within their right to end their suffering that way, and doctors and nurses will have a duty to oblige to the patients needs.

The “Slippery Slope” Argument

Aktion T-4 was the name of the Nazis’ program that authorised the mass killing of the disabled and mentally ill, starting with children that were seen as “life unworthy of life”. Seen as a drain on the economy and an obstacle to Nazi ideology regarding the superiority of the Aryan race, the Nazis were ruthless enough to order their deaths without their consent. It is this disregard for life, that is argued by many to have led to policies such as. ‘The Final Solution’; the genocide of 6 million Jews. It is this sort of escalation that many are afraid of, at first it would be euthanasia of the consenting patient, but before long the patient may have no say in the decision process what so ever.

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I personally believe that euthanasia is acceptable if the patient is still deemed able of making his/her own decisions. It should not however be down to relatives who could have ulterior motives such as an earlier inheritance; disgusting as it may sound, there are people like that out there. When the choice is taken away from the patient and made by someone else it is no longer euthanasia that is a sanctioning of murder by an outside party. Understandably it must be difficult for a spouse, sibling, parent, child to sit and allow their loved ones to suffer, however they ultimately cannot decide when their loved one can die; the law would be simply too difficult to police. The medical and slippery-slope argument have merit, and these are certainly dangers regarding the legalisation of the euthanasia process, however if sufficient regulations are installed and it is strictly a decision by the patient then I can see little room for escalation in a 21st century liberalised world; relatively fresh from the horrors of the Nazis’ genocidal policies.

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4 thoughts on “Euthanasia – The Argument

  1. The problem is that every law is only the starting point for more legislation, and there come the lawyers. I think they have moved in already, and doctors now have to think of the lawyers first, the members of the family next.

    Instead of the problem of abortion (how many weeks or months….etc), think of construction. Have you read architects complaining that building has become a service industry meaning that red tape takes up more resources and energy than the building operation itself ?

    Now imagine euthanasia as a service industry.

  2. I agree with you. I don’t see why we should be denied the right to make a decision about the one thing that inevitably will happen to us all. We should be able to choose a dignified death over a slow and painful one, not only for yourself, but for your family and loved ones. But only, as you say, if you are still deemed able to make your own informed decision and you are of sound mind.
    I believe suicide is one of the most selfish acts a human being can commit. The families and loves ones left behind after such a horrific act have to pick up the pieces and come to terms with not only the fact that they’ve lost someone, but also the massive shock of how it has happened.
    But suicide and euthinasia are two different things. People that throw themselves in front of trains or stick their heads in ovens are crying out for an end to their mental torment, and if they want to die, i mean REALLY want to die, they will.
    The kinds of people that the Digitas clinic deals with, are faced with two options: go quickly and painlessly with the blessing of my family, or let the illness take me and render me completely unable to look after myself and dependent on other people. If someone I loved was faced with this choice, I know which one I would want them to choose and at least then, I would know that they’d pass on in the way they wanted, in a dignified and controlled environment, in the company of their nearest and dearest.
    Think of all the elderly folk in homes and hospitals that have alzheimer’s and dont even know their own names anymore. Incontinent, confused, frustrated and extremely vulnerable. If i am ever at that point, like Sir Terry Pratchett said “I’d like to die outside, in the sunshine…I suppose sometimes the sun does shine in Switzerland “

  3. Sorry ….. but can’t agree with the comment left by Vicky …… “I believe suicide is one of the most selfish acts a human being can commit”. An act such as suicide can not even begin to be considered in the frame work of a ‘selfish act’. As you indicated later in your comment, people who commit suicide are in ‘mental torment’, and therefore I find it deeply disturbing that they should be considered by anyone as selfish. Of course family, friends and in some cases train drivers or onlookers, are left with a devastation that perhaps few of us can imagine, but it remains within all of us demonstrate a deeper understanding and compassion toward those people who considered suicide as the only solution to peace.

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