What Is Euthanasia (Arguments & Counter-arguments)?

by Anthony Carter on July 8, 2011


euthanasiaEuthanasia is a fiercely debated topic that most people will have a view about. It involves the right of people who are terminally ill to die. This is usually done using a lethal injection. This is an extremely emotional topic because it involves legal, ethical, and religious considerations. Sick and injured animals are commonly ā€˜put to sleepā€™ and this is viewed as an act of mercy. When it comes to humans though, the same argument is not always as convincing; what one person may view as a mercy killing another may view as murder.

The Case against Euthanasia

There are many convincing arguments against euthanasia including:

  • Where there is life there is hope. A miracle cure may be found in the future for conditions that now seem hopeless. There is also variation with how these terminal diseases progress. Some individuals may lose out on many good days in the future because of their decision to die.
  • Nobody should be given the power to decide when others live and die. Euthanasia is impossible to manage practically because there is nobody morally able to make such a decision. If doctors are allowed to make such decisions it gives them too much power over human lives.
  • By allowing euthanasia it makes other forms of suicide more acceptable ā€“ this could be a slippery slope.
  • Many religions view suicide as a sin.
  • Hospitals may decide that euthanasia is more cost effective then long-term palliative care. There may be attempts to persuade patients to choose this option.
  • If euthanasia becomes an acceptable way to treat terminal illness there will be less motivation to search for cures.
  • Medical professionals have a duty to save lives and not to end them.
  • It would be relatively easy for murder to occur but for it to be covered up as euthanasia.

The Case for Euthanasia

There are also compelling arguments that support the case for euthanasia:

  • Suffering is bad and people should not be made to go through this if there is unlikely to be any improvement in the future. We wouldnā€™t do it to a dog so why is it acceptable to put a human through such misery.
  • People have a human right to autonomy. This means that they should be allowed to make decisions about when they die.
  • Keeping people alive when there is no hope is just a waste of resources. This is particular true when the individual does not even want to be alive.
  • Just knowing that there is a way out of their suffering will be enough to encourage a lot of terminally ill people to keep going. They will have comfort in knowing that they can end things should it get too bad. Many terminally ill people commit suicide because of fear about what is going to happen; not what is actually happening at the time.
  • Euthanasia may mean that the family of the individual is spared a lot of hardship.
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