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Ethics

I Have the Right to Die – Andrea & Ramona

Let’s jump into a situation.

You are 78 years old and after a long fight with ALS , you’ve had it. The pain is starting to become more and more intolerable, and you’re loosing your ability of speech.  With no family, no ability to partake in activities you once did, and no hope for the future you question your life.  You are no Stephen Hawkins, and can no longer contribute to society. You would much rather end the pain now. Why is that illegal?

Assisted suicide shouldn’t be associated with homicide, but with it’s blurred ethical lines it exists in social acceptable/ unacceptable limbo. Our logic is simple, if a human in suffering has exhausted all possible means of treatment with no success, they should obtain the right to a peaceful death. Unfortunately it is not as simple when factors such as non-voluntary euthanasia become involved.

Voluntary Euthanasia

When a person in pain with a deteriorating health consciously asks for help in their death. In countries where voluntary euthanasia exists people are provided with a way to end their suffering rather then a doctor administrating a lethal injection. People in this situation are actively taking a step towards their own death.

Non-voluntary Euthanasia

This type of euthanasia occurs when the person is unconscious or unable to make meaningful choice between living and actually dying, and an appropriate person takes the decision on their behalf. This person might be a baby, someone mentally disabled to the point of no communication, or someone in an inactive state. Non-voluntary euthanasia refers to the mercy killing of a patient who is unconscious, or otherwise unable to explicitly make his intentions known. In these cases it is often family members who make the request. It is important not to confuse non-voluntary mercy killing with involuntary mercy killing

Involuntary Euthanasia

If a person who has complete full ability to give consent does not, but they are killed anyways it is called involuntary euthanasia. This often happens against people’s will or they were simply never asked.

Active and Passive euthanasia

Active euthanasia is all about a person directly and deliberately causes the patient’s death. It involves taking any direct action to kill the patient or end their agony. This can be carried out by doctor by giving the patient an overdose of medicine or painkillers to hasten the death of the person.

Passive euthanasia on the other hand involves just letting the patient die slowly. The patient’s life is not directly taken. Rather it can be as a result of withholding or withdrawal of a treatment. The individual can even refuse medical attention or administration of drugs to him or her. By withholding, it means not carrying out surgery that will extend life for a short time.

Ironically people seem to be OK with passive euthanasia, if you don’t do nothing about a situation then you technically can’t be held at fault, right? The blurred lines of ethics stop us from seeing what is right or wrong once more and we must make a personal decision.

Questions To Ask

When do people obtain the right to die?

It is hard to say at which circumstance people should be able commit assisted suicide. Most people seem to define the moment being when a human is in suffering and can no longer keep going. Unfortunately that might be abused and we might be better off saying extreme physical pain. For example, Tommy who is a teenage boy has just failed the most important class of high school, been dumped by his high school sweetheart, and is not being kicked out of the basketball team when he was once captain. Tommy could claim that he’s suffering from a terrible pain and depression, but Tommy is only seventeen, he has much of his life ahead of him. Steps should be taken before hand to thoroughly define the situations at which we are allowed to take our own life, that would prevent Tommy making an irrational decision.

What should be done about people who can’t communicate?

There is a woman that has a husband that is in a coma, she can decide if she would like to keep him on life support or not. Although, how could she allow he husband to die if he can’t even be included in the decision? This situation bring many problems since the patient in case can not even be consulted. What if he were to wake up a week later and continue on with his life, what if the last thing he wants is to die. He could also be in major pain and wants nothing more than relief. How are we to know if we cannot communicate with them? Yet people seem to think this killing is perfectly fine in today’s society. This could be easily solved by asking people what they would like to happen to them if they were ever a serious accident and write it in their will. But what about a mental patient? on  6 month old baby? They could be suffering too but there is no way of knowing.  People argue that if they’re not dying just to leave it as it is, and in order to not make mistakes this might be the closest rational thinking we have available in this topic.

Should people be forced to stay alive?

Quite a bit of religious people say it is not right for us to play god, and we cannot obtain the right to take life away. However, today with all the technology we’ve developed we have ways of painlessly killing people, and the reason this topic is more and more controversial is because it is possible now. Terminally ill people with no more options for life could choose to save their dignity and not prolong their death any longer. If it is possible, then what gives us the right to stop them from obtaining their wish. How could we take away this opportunity they have to get their peaceful ending.

Some further questions that could be explored in the comments section are:

Does the government have the right to make people suffer?

Should people have the right to commit suicide?

What about euthanasia for not terminally ill people?

Could people be forced in to euthanasia? and how would that be avoided?

Different Views

Immanuel Kant believed that the moral rules can, in principle, be known as a result of reason alone and are not based on observation. He believed that reason can be revealed in the basic principles of morality. These principles are goodwill, duty and categorical imperative. His categorical imperative states that we should act in such a way that we can all will the maxim of our actions to become a universal law. An objective principle, in so far as it is obligatory, is called a command (of reason), and the formula of the command is called an imperative. All imperatives are expressed by the word ought, and indicate the relation of an objective law of reason to a will which is not necessarily determined by it. They say that something would be good to do, but they say it to a will which does not always do a thing because it is conceived to be good. “What makes a moral act right?” And this happens to be what we are looking for, in the sense of what makes euthanasia right?

Kant is not happy with all of these ideas that euthanasia should be legalized or encouraged no matter the situation. His first formulation of categorical imperative talks about: man being a rational being; since he is a rational being, he has no right to formulate such a maxim like “if I am in a terrible condition, I have the right to take my life or reserve the right to the doctor or my family members”. This kind of maxim will not form a universal law; since it cannot form a universal law, then it should be removed and replaced with a more reasonable maxim. If we will such maxim, we will end in hypothetical imperative not categorical. Furthermore, he speaks of humanity as an end not a means to an end in his second formulation of categorical imperative. If humanity is an end, no man has the right to take his life even in whatever condition he finds himself. We must then act in ways that don’t disrespect our fellow human beings and ourselves—it will be disastrous if we act in such way as dehumanizing ourselves through euthanasia. This is the point that Kant wants us to understand.

Believing in the harmony of life, Plato was against what nowadays is called ‘active euthanasia’. He suggests in a general way that doctors should be punished by death, if by administering any sort of drug they contribute to the termination of life. Also it is stated, he opposes a man who committed suicide because it is against the will of the gods and therefore not allowed. However, although Plato states that those who commit suicide should be buried in unmarked, solitary graves in deserted areas, he is tolerant of people who suffer from insurmountable pain. He recognizes the right of the desperate individual to commit suicide, when faced with unavoidable misfortune due to having led a less than good life. Plato takes into account the unhappiness of such people and states that there should be some alleviation for these people. In any other circumstances, suicide is the result of “a spirit of slothful and abject cowardice”. He also stated that patients unable due to their suffering to live a normal life, should not receive treatment for the prolongation of life. It is evident that Plato is against active euthanasia but that he accepts passive euthanasia, saying that it is not reasonable to prolong the suffering of a man who is not useful to himself and to society.

Thomas Aquinas does not deal with euthanasia directly. Aquinas does address whether, in certain circumstances, homicide might be allowed. Specifically, it is not wrong to kill a person in order to preserve one’s life so long as one does not intend to kill, but only to save one’s life. The one who has care for the good of the community may also kill an evil-doer if he or she is a threat to the community.

Aeschylus was not against euthanasia. ‘It were better to die once and for all than to drag out my lingering days in anguish.

Sophocles’ respect for the gods resulted in his strictly negative viewpoint with regard to euthanasia. He believed that life was the highest good given to mankind by the gods.

This website and this one do an excellent job at explaining some of the issues  that people debate over when it comes to euthanasia. Both of the sites show what both sides or the argument are and how people see and debate it.

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