The Morality of Euthanasia
“Eu thanatos” is the Greek origin for Euthanasia, which means “good death”. Euthanasia has come to mean the intentional ending of a life because the person would be better off dead. This means they’d be free from suffering. (Munns) As an existentialist, we have free will for there is no God to mandate our personal decisions and whichever decision we make we alone are responsible for. If you believe Euthanasia is moral for you under one circumstance then it is okay under all circumstances and it is moral for anyone to do it.
There are four types of Euthanasia. Both passive voluntary and involuntary euthanasia involve the terminating of medication and/or life supporting means to prolong the death. However, voluntary means that the patient has either directly requested it himself or through a living will while involuntary is decided by a physician or family member. In active voluntary and involuntary euthanasia the medical personnel directly administers a lethal injection. The definitions for voluntary and involuntary still apply. (Rachels, 173)
All types of euthanasia should be legal because we have the right to make our own decisions. For passive euthanasia, we have the right to refuse treatment for it is our free will and only we alone are faced with the consequence of our action. Therefore, one can also decide for us in the case we are in an unconscious state to remove us from any sort of treatment. If we allow passive euthanasia, then active euthanasia should also be allowed. In both scenarios, the physician is preventing the patient from prolonging his life whether by direct or indirect means. (Boss)
Rachels used an example in his article about a six-year-old boy. In one scenario, his cousin Smith kills the child in the tub because he would get a large sum of inheritance if anything were to happen to the child. In the second scenario the child hits his head and drowns. His cousin Jones witnesses such occurrence, but does nothing to save him for he, too, will get a large sum of inheritance in the death of the child. Smith’s is intentional while Jones simply saw it and did nothing. How is it to say that one is moral and the other immoral? (Rachels and Boss, 187-188) If one is immoral, then both should be immoral. So if passive euthanasia is deemed moral under circumstances, active euthanasia should also be deemed moral.
Since there is no God, it’s us who decide what happens to ourselves as long as we don’t physically harm others in the process. It is us who are facing the consequence of death when no other means seem enough. Some might argue that by using any sort of euthanasia we are going against God’s will. However, are we not going against God will by taking treatment for a disease that was given to us by God’s will? (Munns) When we start believing in a higher power and deciding for him what his “free will” would be we are renouncing our autonomy. (Boss, 180, 193-194)
We have the right to euthanasia in the case of a terminal illness. If it has been decided we will not live a long life then why must we suffer our last months or days in pain and suffering? We have the right to die with dignity and without misery. (Boss, 181) Technical advances have allowed people suffering from terminal illnesses to live longer, but most of these treatments aren’t always guaranteed and often cause pain to the patient. Because of this, people have become obsessed with keeping others alive by any means, but by this all we are doing is simply experimenting for future knowledge at the patient’s own expense and misery. How is this moral? (Battin, 191)
If euthanasia is acceptable for those in physical pain then it must also be allowed for those in emotional pain such as those with depression. By legalizing anything, we are also imposing regulations. Therefore, mental illnesses would be evaluated the same way as physical illnesses. Those with disabilities, which impede them from having any happiness or having any self-sufficiency, should also be allowed to qualify for euthanasia. Who is to say that one pain is more real than the other if it stops a person from being a functional member of society? (Munns)
Other reasons why people with physical or mental illnesses should have the option of euthanasia is in the case of becoming a burden to the family. Why does the family have an obligation to care for someone who is nothing but an expense and time occupier in their lives? By making the conscious choice to have euthanasia performed on ourselves we are choosing what is best for ourselves as we are alleviating from pain as well as doing what’s best for the caretaker. Many terminally ill patients aren’t offered palliative care and a national survey discovered that “59% of people gave the quality of end-of-life care a fair or poor rating when it comes to making sure patients were as comfortable and pain free as possible at the end of life”. (Boss, 181) This is mainly due to Westerner’s fear of drug addiction and abuse. (Boss, 181) So if we don’t even have the means to make the last moments of someone’s life comfortable, why are we forcing laws that make them suffer through it?
Rachels argued that while euthanasia in general should be legalized, active is preferable because the point is to alleviate pain. When passive euthanasia is involved, we are stopping medication that not only prolongs death, but sometimes prolongs pain as well. So while we may die sooner, we are suffering which is a cruel thing to allow someone to endure. For this reason, active is the more humane choice keeping in mind that both types of euthanasia bare the same action and consequence from the patient and physician. (Rachel and Boss, 185-189)
In conclusion, we have the right to euthanasia if we are terminally or mentally ill. Regulations would take place to make sure that the person truly has no chance of recovery and is better off dead in either situation. If passive euthanasia is allowed, then we should allow active euthanasia for not only do the same morals apply, but also it’s more humane than passive euthanasia. By choosing euthanasia as a moral act, I am speaking for everyone as well. Not only that, but by choosing euthanasia as acceptable, I am accepting all types of euthanasia and for any medical reason that impedes a person from living a happy life.
Boss, Judith. (2012) Analyzing Moral Issues (5ed.). Columbus, OH: McGraw-Hill Higher Education.