popularly called mercy killing is regarded as a thoughtfulintervention done with the precise purpose of ending the life or asick individual to relieve him/her intractable suffering. Thedecision to terminate the life of a patient is regarded as anincredibly complex as well as difficult to make. Similarly, the waythe life of a patient is brought to an end medically has also beenperceived as a controversial and complicated matter. When anindividual suffering from a severe illness or the family of thatpatient makes the decision to end his/her life, the two availableoptions are usually assisted suicide or euthanasia. When a doctor orphysician purposefully ends the life of a patient following theinstructions of the patient’s household or the patient himself, thecase is regarded as euthanasia. The doctors instructed to undertakeeuthanasia usually undertake the act following a number of methodsthat are intended to cause no pain or as little as possible (Taqi226). has been categorized into two namely, passive andactive euthanasia. Passive euthanasia encompasses letting theindividual patient die by stopping or not commencing any medicaltreatments or interventions that could otherwise keep the individualalive. For instance, a patient requiring the ventilator machine tobreathe is denied these services and the patient, in turn, diesbecause the treatment was never given in the first place. On theother hand, active euthanasia encompasses causing an individualpatient to die by committing a particular act, which ends the life ofthe patient. For instance, a doctor who injects a large quantity ofpain medication to stop the patient’s heart or other vital organsfrom functioning is regarded to be involved in active euthanasia(Friedman 19).
Theeuthanasia debate has been around for a considerable time dating backto the days of Plato, Socrates, and Hippocrates. In their days,Socrates and Plato reinforced euthanasia while Hippocrates appearedto oppose it. In his sentiments, Hippocrates argues that he will notrecommend a lethal drug to gratify any individual or offerinformation that may lead to the person’s death (Taqi 226). In the19th century, the debate was triggered when John Warren backed theuse of morphine to get rid of the misery of death being aware thatthe medication may, in essence, accelerate death itself. The sanctionappeared to put emphasis on relieving pain while ignoring theacceleration of mortality. Medical developments in the vital organfunction sustenance, as well as treatments in the final part of thetwentieth era as well as organ harvesting for replacement reasons,have added novel dimensions to the debate. Reviewing the historicalinformation appropriate to the debate on euthanasia and the ethicalpositions taken by different groups, this paper will argue againstthe act and take the position that it is not right to take the lifeof an individual patient without his own consent.
Historicalinformation on euthanasia
Thedebate on euthanasia has attracted comments from various sectors ofthe society ranging from the religious to the physicians perspectivesamong others. In the society, the palliative care, as well as thequality of life concerns in patients with the terminal illnesses,such as AIDs and advanced cancer, has become an important matter forthe clinicians. While this is regarded as an already weighty matterin the society, the subject of euthanasia in India has attracted bothproponents as well as opponents with each voicing valid reasons fortaking their stand. The advocates of euthanasia feel that the rightof an individual to autonomy entitles the patient to make the choicefor a painless death. However, the opponents hold the thought thatthe role of the physician in the death of a patient is a violation ofthe central principle of the medical profession (Sinha and Sarkhel182). Furthermore, the undiagnosed depression, as well as thepossibility of social coercion in individuals asking for euthanasia,appears to raise more questions regarding the ethical principles thatunderlay the act.
Theweight of the debate regarding euthanasia has also been demonstratedby the extent to which it is covered in the society. Hausmann (218)examined the way the press treated the subject of euthanasia andconcluded that in Britain, the press endorsed the terminal illnessdiscourse as a mark that justified the act. According to Hausmann(220), the voluntary euthanasia discourse, as well as its coreprinciple of choice, is regarded as the most legitimate. Withsufficient coverage of euthanasia in Britain, it has also beenevident that it is not only an ethical matter but also a legal one.Given that the individuals with extensive expertise in the care ofthe terminally ill and the dying are the nurses, it is important thatthey are given priority in influencing policy and law because it willinfluence future nursing practices (Woods and Asher 17). There isalso the need to educate the clinicians on the subject of euthanasiaprior to enacting any laws in support or against it (Khan et al.185).
Twoopposing ethical positions
Thetwo opposing ethical positions that have been taken on the subject ofeuthanasia encompass the natural law and the situation ethics. Thetheology of the natural law seems to have resulted in a substantialsanctity of life mainly from the Catholic Church (Adolphe, Fastiggi,and Vacca 29). The theory of natural law deals primarily with moralabsolutes or the secondary precepts that can never be brokenirrespective of the circumstance. According to the natural law, it isimportant for one to do good and avoid evil at all cost. The end isnever supposed to justify the means, which implies that no quantityof suffering can be taken to justify an evil act. The primary preceptof the natural law is that individuals are supposed to protect aswell as preserve the lives of the innocent. The natural law is,therefore, regarded as a secondary precept as well as an outrightmoral rule that one is never supposed to kill any innocentindividual. According to the natural law, the position taken on thesubject of euthanasia is that it is always wrong (Paterson 25).
Theweakness of this stand regards the fact that it is tough to argue insupport of the assisted suicide since the principle would essentiallyoutlaw the killing of oneself if one can justify helping another todie. The natural law also appears to be promoting the double effectprinciple. For instance, one would question that if it is wrong tokill, is it wrong to also give someone else pain relief with theknowledge that the secondary effect will be the death of that person.The acceptance that death is a by-product of another action raisesserious concerns regarding the natural law. It essentially appears tobe prompting a type of utilitarian ethics, which is a severe weaknessof the natural law. Therefore, from an outright position, it isevident that the natural law does not support euthanasia. While itmay permit an action whose intention is to relieve the patient frompain regardless of whether the action will lead to death or not,natural law seems to be a double standard position. Investigating adistinction between voluntary, involuntary, and non-voluntaryeuthanasia, Stoyles and Costreie (675) suggest that thesedissimilarities do not reflect what is significant from theperspective of the patient or the health care providers. Therefore,the case of a double standard concerning the position of the naturallaw on euthanasia is addressed. The natural law appears to besupported by a number of groups across the globe. In a study thatexamined the views of professionals on the subject of euthanasia inFinland, Jylhankangas et al. (365) concluded that majority of thereligious, as well as the worldview professionals, rejectedeuthanasia on the grounds of a sacred moral code that prohibitskilling, a central precept of the natural law.
Anopposing view to the natural law is the situation ethics. Situationethics has been regarded as being more personal because it putspeople before the set rules (Bowie and Bowie 105). Based on thistheory, the loving thing to do may be to give an ailing individual apeaceful death. The position taken by this view is pragmatic in thatit allows individuals to do whatever they think works best in thepossible situations. Situation ethics holds that it is of no use tokeep someone alive to suffer. Studies have shown that relativism isat the core of the situation ethics. It implies that in any givencircumstance, when faced with a hard decision regarding euthanasia,one needs to act out of love and ignore any fast and complicated ruleand do what the situation demands. One of the strengths of thisposition regards the fact that it gives one the freedom to act out oflove. It also considers the fact that euthanasia would be relievingone of the pain that he would have to endure if he continued living.It is evident that the position taken by situation ethics is that ofpro-euthanasia (Oliphant 90). However, a major weakness withsituation ethics regards the fact that it may be difficult toimplement when legislation is involved. The situation ethicist islikely to ignore any set rules or legislations when acting as per thedemand of the situation. They are likely to be concerned about thelaws that allow euthanasia as having the capacity to put pressure onthe individuals who do not want to die. Therefore, according to thesituation ethics, even if the laws did not allow euthanasia, it willstill be right to break those laws and assist someone to die torelieve him/her from pain. An assessment of the term euthanasia andits influence on people’s opposition or support for the act usingthe attitudes scales appeared to support the position of situationalethics. The assessment done by Aghababae, Farahani, and Hatami (7)showed that there were lower oppositions against the act.
Acommon weakness regarding both opposing ethical positions is thatthey do not address the mechanism of coping for the health careproviders who undertake assisted suicide. Research shows that theindividuals who assist undertake euthanasia are affected by the act.For instance, findings of a study by Hartnack et al. (6) focusing oneuthanasia in animals revealed that veterinarians who had worked forfewer years were probable not to support euthanasia in some of themost convenient cases. The study showed that the participants wereaffected by euthanasia implying the need to design a copingmechanism.
Myposition on the debate
Thesituation ethics represents my position on the issue of euthanasia.According to the situation ethicists, it is right to act in thegreatest way as per the situation presented. For instance, it is notright to keep an individual in pain alive while undertaking assistedsuicide will help relieve him. Regardless of whether the law mayappear to contradict this position or support it in cases where it isallowed, the principle of situation ethics holds that one needs toact out of love and ignore any fast and arduous rule by doing whatthe situation demands. It is also important to note that theappropriate position based on the situation ethics should be one thatsupports the consent given by the patient. Nonetheless, importantfactors that should be considered prior to undertaking assistedsuicide or euthanasia regards the need to understand the differencebetween a valid medical decision and euthanasia. There has beenconfusion between euthanasia and the interpretation of the medicaldecision (Polaks and Liholaja 224). Understanding the distinction isimportant in making an ethical decision on the subject of euthanasia.
Inconclusion, this discussion presented a position paper on the subjectof euthanasia. The paper examined two opposing ethical positions onthe issue of euthanasia and concluded that the only appropriateaction to take based on the situation should be one that is supportedby the patient’s consent. It is not right to absolutely regardeuthanasia as unethical.
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