Euthanasia: Ethical Issue, Reasons for and Against Euthanasia

Subject: Medical Ethics
Pages: 12
Words: 3026
Reading time:
11 min
Study level: College

Reasons against Euthanasia

Several people have argued for the legalization of euthanasia which very few countries in the world have done. The question that keeps coming up in this debate is that is euthanasia suicidal or is it murder. The law states that suicide is legal and murder is illegal. So can we say that euthanasia is legal or murder? The case against Euthanasia can be analyzed from the following perspectives

  • Medical
  • Religion
  • Ethics
  • Society

Medical processes and Euthanasia

Euthanasia is carried out by physicians who are at the same time responsible for treating patients to restore them to good health. This presents a conflict of interest in their roles which ultimately affects their outcome and goes against their Hippocratic Oath. While the physician is meant to be the custodian of good health under any feasible circumstances by being the agent of euthanasia negates their core calling. The physicians are meant to provide that trust that under their duty the patient is safe and has hope of recovering from illness. However, this may not be the case if the physician is still the architect of death. Patients’ and physicians’ relationships will be strained as the patient may hesitate to visit the doctor because he may perform Euthanasia on him without his consent especially if his condition is worse. There is a general fear that is created. Patients while visiting the doctor will be well aware at the back of the mind that the doctor’s option lies on whether he should give euthanasia or whether he should treat him.

This will result in a lack of trust in the medical fraternity. Elizabeth Wolf (1989) argues that legalizing active euthanasia will water down the gains so far made on passive euthanasia which is considered legal. There will be strict legal guidelines that will be in place to separate the two and thus those patients who may need that specialized service under passive euthanasia may not get it. Passive euthanasia may be made illegal. The physician still agrees that their prognoses are not totally correct and that although they may consider a disease terminal, they are never certain about the direction the disease may take.

There have been cases where patients who are very sick and with doctors disapproval of any chances of survival coming out successfully. Then how are we meant to legalize euthanasia? What will be the benchmark of an ill person? If we are not meant to trust the doctor who is the savior then? The doctors may have not performed an exhaustive examination thus giving wrong results. The belief that voluntary euthanasia should be legalized in some special cases misses the point that given such legality people tend to mean anything that fits the definition. This can be manipulated and extended into many other areas thus beaten the very essence of its creation. This has well been used in abortion which was meant to be done on special medically approved conditions. The possibility of it being extended further is very possible to other areas of society.

Medical costs are rising at a high rate therefore legalizing euthanasia will provide an opportunity for cost containment such that any person find not having a high chance of survival will be given euthanasia rather than being left to consume a lot of resources. This may be done voluntarily as the patient is expected to agree on failure to which the society may start viewing him differently and that fear will definitely lead to many people carrying out voluntary Euthanasia. People will be asking what society will think of them if they don’t agree to euthanasia. This societal pressure may be disastrous to society especially to those who develop any medical complications. People may fear to disclose their status given what may come out of them.

Legalizing euthanasia may present some complications as the physicians may not be willing to perform. Their training and the Hippocratic Oath are against the intentional killing of a human being. They do also have family and friends who they may not wish for them to die. There we may be placing our physicians in a position that may be in conflict with their ethical values and standings.

Euthanasia and society

Euthanasia may also lead to a relaxed attitude towards taking care of the ill people, old and the underprivileged as it will be understood that at the end of the day these are people who add little value to the wellbeing of the others.

In the event of its legalization, the societal values of life are undermined. Life is only good as you are healthy.

Nancy Cruzan’s case presents such a scenario whereby the family thinks that she is no longer of value to society. Five years are not such a long time and given that she was still responding no ones knows about what could have happened several years to come. Probably this was prompted by the increasing cost of Medicare.

Due to the increasing cost of Medicare most governments could find this as the most appropriate way to minimize this cost and hence achieve their political agenda. In addition, people who find out that they are becoming a cost burden to society mostly due to cost reasons may choose to end their life in order to save their families the agony. These include the dependants and the elderly thus creating a strained relationship between the different people in the society. This causes huge pressure on this venerable group.

Euthanasia requires patients’ consent, however in most situations the patients are in a situation whereby they are not in a position to consent. For example, they may be in a coma, not able to hear or write or their mental capabilities are not functioning properly.i.e. Nancy’s case. Given this scenario then it’s not logical to say that the patient has consented to it but rather it may be the relatives who have done that. The young lady who has been hospitalized for several months until he no longer knew what was happening may just sign the voluntary euthanasia out of lack of that knowledge if ever she can write.

How will the law protect such people who are not in a position to make such an informed decision? Voluntary euthanasia as is popularly advocated may not fit in such situations.

This voluntary killing may be extended to mean that any person who is in such a position that society thinks is not worth leaving should be relieved of his or has precious life. Not because he or she doesn’t want to but because society feels it’s the right thing to do. What will the doctor and society think of a person who refuses to take voluntary euthanasia? Will he be viewed as suspicious as a burden to society?

Legal Protections, Diagnosis, and Religion

In reality, no system can provide such safeguard to ensure that legality is upheld without abuse. What happens if the doctors’ prognosis was not correct? It’s medically agreed that no such prognosis is certain enough to predict the effects of a particular medical condition. The proponents of euthanasia argue that it’s justifiable to kill because these do happen in such circumstances as self-defense whereby people kill one another. People argue that in many situations human life has been lost in circumstances akin to euthanasia such as in self-defense. However, they miss it out because in a situation such as self-defense it’s the desire to save several lives that prompt the killing of one or more life, in euthanasia on the other hand it’s purely a killing act of a person.

As a Christian, I believe that all human beings were created by God and therefore it’s only God who has the right to end this life. What may constitute a terminal disease in the human eyes may be a way of God communicating to his creation.

Some disease which doctors may have said to be incurable has in some circumstances been cured.

It’s argued that in his time Christ healed the sick and some he let them die naturally as per the will of God, therefore human beings should let the will of God prevail.

What really constitutes a terminal disease which should warrant Euthanasia? Was Nancy’s case a terminal disease? In some situations, people diagnosed with life-threatening related illnesses have survived beyond the medical expected period. How can this happen? The physician still can’t explain this. These show that doctors are not a hundred percentages and hence should not be relied upon wholly to determine the fate of a human being. Many people argue that euthanasia should be for those people who are terminally ill. However, we don’t have a clear definition of what terminal illness is all about.

Euthanasia and the individual

Human beings have a responsibility to society, so the whole argument should prevail. Is it the individuals or the society? In Scott Ames’s case although the patient may be in so much pain his family may be so much willing to have her just the way she is and they are ready to take care of her.

Situation ethicist argues that we should look at what action lead to the most love. A family may choose to involuntarily kill one of their own as this will bring most love to them then or in the future. However, as Christians, no one knows the future except God himself and the love that it brings with it. Should the patient be selfish to ignore such a request not to undertake euthanasia for the general good of the family? It’s a case of one against many. It’s therefore prudent for this precious life to be maintained for the sake of many as opposed to one. What constitutes voluntary and non-voluntary Euthanasia is determined by the origin of the desire to end a life. Legal it should be the individual who has the mandate of defining his course of life. Therefore he should be the one who determines whether he is to take euthanasia or not. However, in many situations, this is not the case. The patient may not be in a state to know what is happening.

Research and Euthanasia

Research and development occurs as result of that desire to obtain solutions that will help human beings. How then can this be developed if human beings are left to choose the time to end there life’s. Therefore legalizing euthanasia will jeopardize research efforts from being developed. Research work has progressed due to the fact that there is no any other alternative. Necessity is the mother of invention. However in situation where their is such an alternative the people will be relaxed as to why should they struggle so much yet someone can just be killed. If euthanasia was legalized 30 years ago many of the medical inventions that we are having today may not have been invented. This means that even the quality of life will not be as high as it is today because many of this invention have in one way or the other affected us. In extension the physician commitment in the process of treating patients may be reduced significantly because the patient has the right to request for the withdrawal of the services being rendered and demand for an euthanasia.

Euthanasia and Relationships

People may also propose volutary euthanasia in order to assess how much those who know him or her value him. In such a situation the reaction by friends and relatives may determine his fate. If the patient feels like family and friends don’t like him then he may go ahead and demand an euthanasia due to desperation.

The relation that is meant to be their between the patient and the doctor will be affected. Patients will be afraid to go to the doctor as he thinks that the doctor may carry out an euthanasia on him without his assent. Such situation may affect the productivity level of a people in the nation. Also the medical fraternity may be viewed with suspicion.

Mostly some serious medical complications such as depression are arising as a result of problems relating to the social standing of an individual. The disadvantaged member of the society maybe the most highly affected. These groups include the physically challenged, the unemployed and the poor in the society. Therefore this group will be prone to a high level of euthanasia due to the perceived inferiority and the general lack of interest in life.

Christians argue that suffering is part of human wellbeing as that’s God’s will. Jesus on healing the blind boy stated that his blindness had nothing to do with his sin but it was the will of God.

Suicide by any means is devastating to those who have been left behind. This is especially so for children who have been left behind by their parents. They wonder if indeed their parents loved them and what life is all about. This brings in a social problem and some life consequences whereby this children may choose the same route.

Euthanasia is highly propagated by a select few members of civil society, however their consequences touches the lower spectrum of the society including the poor, disabled, and the unemployed people who feel that they are sidelined and they are inferior to others in the country.

Ones euthanasia has been well implemented in the society and the people are meant to belief that life can be terminated because of its valueless, what prevents this practice from being extended to other area in the society such as to those who are physically challenged. The wedge theory argues that once voluntary euthanasia has been accepted by the society its wing will spread further to involuntary euthanasia as there is no clear-cut difference between those who things they are burden to the society and those who society things they are burden to others. Therefore euthanasia will be subjected to abuse and misuse. People especially those in power may extend it to others in order to confirm their authority on them. Personal vengeance may also be practiced by medical practitioners who are involved in this practice. It may be very hard for the physician to drawer a line between those who require the medical attention and those who don’t. This will present a situation in which the separation of medicine and society is blurred. In extension also those patient who may be willing to live but they can’t express themselves due to the nature of their sickness may die.

Suicide and the act of assisting a person to commit suicide are intrinsically evil.

Proponents for euthanasia

Although it can generally be agreed that euthanasia should not be practiced some issues can just not be overlooked.

The right to die in dignity

Human beings have the innate right of enjoying his life both in leaving and dying. The right to make choices is a fundamental human right. Therefore given a situation where this individual life is being maintained by machine against his will is a violation of his essence of existences. His life being extended by some few due days while it’s so apparent that he is going to die soon can be said to be an ignorance of the situation of pain and sickness to human being. A human being should have the right to refuse the use of life sustaining machine and be left to die as he so wish.

This is especially highly regarded is situation whereby the individual has been sick for quite some time or he is very old and tired of leaving.

Pain and suffering

Human being pain can be reduced especially in situation whereby it’s obvious that the patient is terminal ill and that the chances of survival are very minimal. Human being tend to avoid pain at all cost and given in situation whereby that human being is not being assisted to reduce the pain then it amount to encouraging the suffering of other fellow human beings. The emotional, agony and the physical pains are devastating. Therefore it can be said that human being should be helped to reduce this pain in whatever circumstances.

Cost of Medical procedures

Some of the most complicated medical procedures may be so costly only to one individual and may present suffering to very many number of persons. The individual may not leave to see many more years but the cost which may have been incurred may be too much. Therefore we may be trying to reduce some pains on one level but actually transferring this costs to some other area of the society. Although the social importance of the right to leave and be taken care of is upheld this may be at a very high cost which may cause damage to some other areas.

Shortcomings of this prepositions

Although human beings have the right to live and to make choices, these are not absolute rights. Given that the individual has the right to end his suffering through euthanasia this may not be absolute right because in extension this person is shortening his life. So which is better than the other? Is it the reducing the suffering that that person is going through or is it reducing his life. As Christian we belief that suffering is part of human being and that God has a reason for the suffering.

The proponents also argue that the efforts of saving life are worthless given the pains through which human being go through. However many can agree on how good it is to endure the suffering and come out successful. The human effort should be acknowledged in the endeavor to making life better every day. Without this efforts life could be full of more suffering and the pains.

The American Hospital Association recognizes that no human being has the absolute control over his body and mind. No human being has the absolute freedom to do what he wants to do. We are controlled by law and some other external forces which no one can say he is free off. Therefore it’s only for our good to say that we are better off without euthanasia than with it.


James Rachel (1986) The End of Life: Euthanasia and morality, United Kingdom, Oxford University Press.

David Cardiff (1992) Euthanasia is Not The Answer: A Hospice Physician View, Germany, Humana Press.