Should Euthanasia Be Legal Essay
Euthanasia implies the deliberate and purposeful acceleration of the death of a critically ill patient carried by the doctors and aimed at relieving the sufferings of the desperately ill patients. It usually involves the actions of the physicians directly leading to death (active euthanasia) or the termination of the medical care necessary to prolong the life of the patient (passive euthanasia). Sometimes, euthanasia is understood as assistance in suicide. Then, it meets the original meaning of easy death, introduced by F. Bacon in the 17th century. Through the history of medicine and health care practice, euthanasia has remained under the absolute prohibition, being condemned by society and prosecuted by law. However, since 1970s, the attitude to euthanasia has gradually changed and become one of the most controversial issues of the modern medical practice, causing the series of discussions, which cast doubt on the credibility of the existing regulations and the humanist tradition of the modern health care. So, has the health care professional the right to assist someone in his desire to death? Has any of the human beings the right to decide when the life should be terminated? I truly support the idea that the life is the highest value. Thus, I belong to the opponents of euthanasia and support the idea that none can be killed, even because of their personal will.
Based on the abovementioned, the following paper aims to provide the overview of euthanasia as one of the most controversial issues of the modern heath care practice, discussing its pros and cons. Through the analysis of the international practice, the paper will discuss the issue of euthanasia legalization, as well as provide the personal attitude of the writer towards the issue.
The Essence of Euthanasia
Based on the consent of the patient, euthanasia can be classified as involuntary, non-voluntary and voluntary. The voluntary euthanasia is based on the unforced desire and consent of the patient. To the contrary, non-voluntary euthanasia refers to the patients that cannot provide their consent (for example, due to the comma). The involuntary euthanasia implies the performance of euthanasia on people who are able to provide the informed consent, but do not do it. In fact, the involuntary euthanasia is completely forbidden through the world and is considered as the legal crime, while the active and passive forms of voluntary and non-voluntary euthanasia are supposed to be the issues of the various discussions in the health care community.
The abovementioned proves that euthanasia and the related topic of suicide with medical assistance belong to the moral and legal issues that are highly controversial around the world. While proponents of euthanasia suggest that it may be preferable for some people who suffer from the long-term and ultimately fatal diseases, as well as constant painful symptoms, its opponents refer to the value of life, stating that the legalization of euthanasia could lead to serious abuses. The debate on the morality of euthanasia is likely to never be resolved, just as debates on some other moral issues will never reach the universal agreement. Still, since 2000, several countries, including Albania, Belgium, the Netherlands and Switzerland, as well as some of the US states, have introduced the laws aimed at legalizing euthanasia or physician-assisted suicide. In addition, some other countries, including Japan and Colombia, introduced the conflicting laws based on the judicial precedents on this issue.
However, while discussing the legal status of euthanasia at the international level, it is quite important to understand the difference between euthanasia and physician-assisted suicide. In fact, the Medical assistance in suicide refers to a situation in which the doctor can prescribe a lethal dose of medication, while the patient is responsible for their intake. To the contrary, euthanasia refers to a situation when the health care worker either deliberately gives the patient a lethal dose of medication to end the patient's life or terminates the treatment necessary to assure the patient’s life. Not all countries outlaw both forms of euthanasia. For example, in Germany, physician-assisted suicide is legalized since the 18th century, while the direct active euthanasia is illegal.
The International Experience of Euthanasia Legalization
The Netherlands became the world’s first country that legalized the active euthanasia. In fact, the question of the legalization of the mercy killing of the hopeless patients rose in the 1970s. In 1993, there was issued a special list of 12 mandatory points, which became the basis of the law on euthanasia. On April 1, 2002, the law on euthanasia officially took effect. According to the law, the procedure can be applied only at the request of the patients who are at least 12 years if it has been proved that the patient’s suffering is unbearable, the disease is incurable and the doctors cannot help. This necessarily requires the repeated consent of the patient. The decision on euthanasia should be conducted by at least two doctors, and in case of doubt, the issue will be considered by the prosecutor’s office. In addition, the doctors also fall under the control of special commissions of experts in medicine, law and ethics.
Belgium became the second country where mercy killing of terminally ill patients was legalized. The relevant law came into force in September 2002. According to the law, the doctor performing euthanasia will not commit a retreat from it if his patient constantly undergoes unbearable physical or psychological suffering due to accidental illness or an incurable disease. The doctor must be sure that their patient is an adult and capable of making their own decisions. The request for euthanasia must be formulated voluntarily, deliberately and repeatedly.
Luxembourg became the third EU country that legalized euthanasia. The relevant law came into force in March 2009. According to the law, the criminal penalties, as well as civil proceedings in court, cannot be applied to the doctors who help their patients to die.
In the US, euthanasia is officially authorized in the states of Oregon and Washington. In Oregon, euthanasia was legalized in 1998, while in Washington, it was legalized in 2009. In both cases, the decision was adopted by referendum. However, it should be mentioned that the terminally ill people are prescribed the specific poison that they need to take by themselves. At least two independent doctors must confirm that the patients are terminally ill. The patients must orally and in writing in the presence of witnesses express their desire to die. After 15 days, the period necessary for a person to reconsider the taken decision, the request must be repeated. In addition, the doctors are obliged to inform such patients about all possible alternatives, while the patients have the right to communicate with the religious leaders and representatives as all the major religions are opposed to the voluntary death.
At the same time, some countries allow the passive euthanasia, i.e. the termination of the medical assistance in order to accelerate the onset of a natural death. In other words, it implies the termination of the struggle for the life of the patient. This form of euthanasia was first legalized in 1976 by the Supreme Court of California (USA), where the law ‘On the right to die’ was adopted after a referendum in 1977. It implies the right of the doctors to disable the resuscitation equipment for the terminally ills patients.
In December 2006, Israel enacted a law allowing terminally ill people to refuse the artificial life support. The law applies to the patients who even with the appropriate treatment cannot live more than six months.
The patient has the right to forbid doctors to take any actions of surviving nature, including forcing the oxygen and nutrient solutions, electric shock, surgery, etc. If the patient is not able to express the personal will, the physicians can be guided by the testament or act according to the decision of the fiduciaries and relatives of the patient who received the appropriate authority from the patient.
Personal Attitude to the Issue
While talking about euthanasia, it should be mentioned that many the modern philosophers, jurists and physicians point to the illusory nature and logical inconsistency of the passive and active euthanasia, denying the difference between the touch of a button, breaking the respirator, and lethal injection, as both of the actions lead to the same result, i.e. the death. The opponents of the active euthanasia legalization often raise the practical objections. They mention the likelihood of the medical abuse of the patients. In fact, the palliative care is associated with the same risk as the administered drugs have the double effect. In some cases, it is difficult to see if the death has been caused due to the diligent efforts of doctors to improve the quality of life or as the result of intentional excess dose. They also say that the request for euthanasia may not always reflect the true will of the patient; it can be dictated by the pressure from relatives or simply reluctance of the ill person to burden them. Even while signing the disclaimer on the artificial life support, the patient can be motivated by such thoughts.
Being the representative of euthanasia opponents, I fear that the formal resolution of euthanasia can cause the certain mental obstacle to finding new and more effective means of diagnosis and treatment of seriously ill patients, as well as contribute to bad faith in the care and treatment of such patients. The intensive care requires not only high material costs, but also the enormous physical and emotional stress. The lack of the appropriate treatment and care can stimulate the demand to accelerate the death of the patient, which will allow the doctor to completely stop all treatment and care of the seriously ill patients.
Therefore, most of the doctors act according to the dogma that the patients always need to be treated. The most important professional argument against the introduction of euthanasia states that the doctors will stop striving to help the sick people. The more accessible the euthanasia becomes, the greater the temptation to get rid of the burden of these concerns will be. The tiny line between the permissible mercy and the crime can disappear. There will always be a risk of abuse. The patient will be afraid to get to the hospital, as they will not be confident in their safety. The doctor is not the God. He needs to decide how to treat, but not who should to live.
Most members of society are unanimous in saying that human life is inviolable. People share the belief that a person is not entitled to cease the life voluntarily, even if their desire is caused by the aspiration to stop the unbearable pain and the loss of human dignity. Christianity, like many other world religions, claims that suicide and euthanasia is contrary to the God’s will. The life is viewed as the highest value so that none of the human beings can decide when it should be terminated. Being the religious person, I belong to those who oppose the legalization of euthanasia. I truly believe that the key goal of each health care worker lies in rescuing the lives. No matter what happens, the doctors and the patients should struggle for live, implementing the latest achievements of the scientific and pharmacological research to overcome the illness. In fact, the wise people say that it was completely impossible until someone did it. It means that everything is possible, while impossible just takes longer.