There is no doubt that convictions and opinions regarding the fact that no one is given the right to take a person’s life. The reasons of the said argument may be religious, political, and medical but what is important is the preservation of life except when inevitable circumstances need otherwise. This paper will tackle how euthanasia or assisted suicide was viewed by the society in general. It will also discuss why euthanasia is advantageous and disadvantageous for a person who needs the same.
Euthanasia was known as mercy killing because of its characteristic as an assisted suicide. Knowing the history of the mercy killing will add our knowledge of the same but not really augment the value of our arguments on both sides. In places like Germany which was once ruled by Adolf Hitler, euthanasia was greatly followed which basically gives permission to end the life of patients who are suffering from painful ailments. There are rules in order to permit euthanasia in the context of permitting to destroy a life that is unworthy of life. These primary rules include the presence of advisory board that will review each case of mercy killing, the permission on the part of the patient to withdraw such request for assisted suicide and mercy killing must be done under prudent and controlled conditions. It is also necessary that legal protection be given to the physician who assisted the patient to die.
But prior to the said situation in Germany, ancient historical accounts on euthanasia already exist to haunt the society. The Greek Physician named Hippocrates who existed for about 400 B. C. ago gave an oath pertaining to the dis-allowance of giving medicine that could end a life that is unworthy life. From 14th century up to 20th century, the English Common Law also regarded mercy killing as improper and that any one who assisted suicide will be considered as guilty of murder as principal. During the 19th century, it was even a rule in both American and English laws that criminals or prisoners who asked another person to assist him for suicide will be tried for murder despite the pending schedule for execution. But at present time, these rules against euthanasia is being reviewed and studied due to the advent of convincing and powerful arguments that supported mercy killing.
The historical standpoint of euthanasia is the Hippocratic Oath which sided on patient care no matter what the consequences may be. However, as time goes by, to die with dignity is what some patients cry when suffering painful illness. As such, the advent on ethics of patients care has been reviewed to give way for patients will. As for political sides, the Republicans in the United States are against mercy killing while the Democrats support it.
The disadvantages of euthanasia rest on the physical and spiritual well-being of a person. In order to preserve life no matter how unworthy it may be is the primary and indispensable rule. First, we cannot equate the life of man with the life of an animal. If euthanasia is being carried for the benefit of animals then men should not experience the same treatment for they are more valuable than animals. Second, euthanasia is immoral for Catholics or other religious beliefs. Preserving the life of an ailing patient is an answer to God’s commandment that we should love one another no matter what. However, we should also consider a situation wherein there is no other cure for a patient who suffers painfully due to an illness. Sometimes, assisting a patient who suffers painfully of an illness is something that his heart wishes.
In line with these, we must be aware of the abuses on the right to die. In Holland for example, mercy killing is often misused as the duty to die. Out of personal interests, many patients were killed in the guise of euthanasia making the victims helpless to fight for their lives. Some families of these patients were not consulted prior to the act of mercy killing. So then, this is the basic disadvantage of euthanasia that plagued the society in general.
Third, euthanasia comes in three forms which are voluntary, non-voluntary and involuntary of which sometimes done improperly. There is no problem with voluntary euthanasia for the patient is the one who requested for mercy killing. The suffering of the patient may be unbearable such that mercy killing was requested. On the other hand, non-voluntary euthanasia is the worst of all forms of mercy killing. In that case, euthanasia is a time wherein a person has not been consulted for his or her death and is unaware to the intents of the attending doctor to do so. There is no consent on the part of the victim regarding his impending assisted suicide as it was done and decided in exclusion of the patient himself. This kind of behaviour is not acceptable as it violates the ethical standard of patient care. What is the use of medical intervention when patients are not given the chance to know its plight in the hands of the attending physician? There is none. The only thing that the patient could feel is confusion in addition to the pain that he suffered while having such illness. All these situations happen in Northern Territories in Australia and Netherlands due to the legalization of euthanasia in those areas. In connection with that, Alonzo stated that:
” Non-voluntary euthanasia is when an person utilizes non-verbal communication (such as mentioning that one would like to try a different cure but rolls his or her eyes at the contemplation) to articulate one’s desire to die; thus death is approved out by the attending physician in order to carry out the alleged desire of the patient “. In this case, it is obvious that the patient is being denied of the right to speak up for its own fate. If almost all practices of euthanasia are done in this way, then it must be stopped.”
On the other hand, there are also reliable advantages of euthanasia. Those patients who are suffering from terminal illnesses may experience pain in facing the same until it kills them. The thought of undergoing such a difficult situation could lead to the physician-assisted suicide or euthanasia for the patient to be freed from such a difficult process. Such a frightening situation alone could make a patient resort to mercy killing as decided with the family. In this case, there are two questions that should be considered. First, whether or not a person should be handed assistance in killing itself and second, whether or not the same person should be forced to suffer the pain and indignity due to the terminal illness.
Based on conscience and humanitarian reasons and aside from religious beliefs, it is not proper to force an already suffering patient to take the pain of a terminal illness. If there are others means to help the patient, it should be done right away. When all else are being considered and that it was found out that the patient will certainly die, then the patient must be allowed to secure a mercy killing procedure. If the patient is too weak to ask for mercy killing, then that is the time that the family of the patient will decide together with the attending physician. It is too useless for the patient to live a little longer when indignity is the equivalent. Hence, it is the responsibility of the attending physician to use all sensible and ethical means to end the unworthy suffering of the patient.
Another question is that, is mercy killing a helpful practice? The answer is in the positive. This is because not all situations require following religious and moral ends when the result is useless. For example, a patient who painfully suffers a terminal illness could have earned his dignity if euthanasia was done in his favor. We cannot simply bear the suffering of a patient that is waiting for his eventual death in the worst situation. After all, the patient will die no matter what. Assisted death is proper only when the patient is too weak to take active steps to end his life. Those patients that can still bear the suffering may not be offered mercy killing so as to avoid misuse of the practice. The disability of patients who are suffering terminal illness must not prevent their will to end their painful experience. They must be assisted in the name of fairness and equity.
Another argument is that, mercy killing can only affect one person and it is not reasonable that other people will prevent the same. Anyway, the person who requested for mercy killing wanted it to happen in order to ease the pain. The opinions of other people regarding the morality and practicability of euthanasia do not matter when the patient who is suffering pain decided that such step should be taken in his favor. While it is true that we do not have the right take one’s life, it is also acceptable that we do not have the right to let a person suffer from indescribable pain due to terminal illness. If fairness and dignity are the things that make a society intact, then why should we allow a patient to earn indignity due to a terminal illness? Our responsibility is to weight things and apply logic and reason aside from understanding the whole problem. Without doing so, we will lose the very essence of upholding the laws and implementing justice and equity. It is unjust to force a patient to suffer pain when he can no longer bear it while being alive. Thus, euthanasia or assisted suicide must rescue such patient.
Religious groups will always opine that euthanasia is immoral. Politicians are also in the hot seat to debate on the legality and necessity of mercy killing. The society as a whole is still trying to study the subject since it was never an easy or common practice. In addition, there are things that must be considered in arguing about euthanasia. First, is the will of the patient to die amidst the painful suffering of a terminal illness and second, is the ethical standard on patient care. The two topics are difficult to reconcile since there are advantages and disadvantages of euthanasia. The primary disadvantage of mercy killing is the fact that it has been misused and abused by the people who are involved in it. However, mercy killing is very important just to help a patient that is suffering pain due to terminal illness. It is practical to end a life of a patient that suffers too much pain that proves to be unbearable. But this should be done honestly by the attending physician for the Hippocratic Oath which states that mischievous acts against patients should not be done is still enforced even up to this present time. Therefore, it is the responsibility of the people involved on euthanasia to use all reasonable ideas and moral standards to conduct the same.