The Ethics of Euthanasia
The ethical nature of euthanasia, or assisted suicide, in the United States has been contested for decades, which brings about the proliferation of biomedical morality. According to the New Health Guide, as of June 2015, euthanasia is legal in the Netherlands, Belgium, Colombia and Luxembourg. Assisted suicide is legal in Switzerland, Germany, Japan, Albania and in American states of Washington, Oregon, Vermont, New Mexico and Montana. Because euthanasia is not legal throughout the United States, there is a divisive public controversy over the moral, ethical, and legal ramifications.
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Many think that each person has the right to control his or her body and life and so should be able to determine at what time, in what way and by whose hand he or she will die. They believe people have an absolute right to their body, even if it emanates into an assisted suicide. Some people who are ill and could be cured are not able to get speedy access to the facilities they need for treatment. At the same time, health resources are being used on people who cannot be cured, and who, for their own reasons, would prefer to not continue living. Allowing such people to commit euthanasia would not only let them have what they want, it would free valuable resources to treat people who want to live. Many bring up the Hippocratic Oath, or the saying “Do no harm”; however, to them, it could just as easily mean “don’t artificially keep someone alive when death is preferable” (Listverse, 2013).
However, opponents of the practice argue that it should continue to be outlawed. Many anti-euthanasia arguments question the ethics behind giving a physician approval to end someone’s life, voluntary or not. To them, euthanasia is dubbed as “murder” and a “slippery slope” than can cause unwarranted killings (Listland, 2012). Another common argument on the anti-euthanasia side is that the option of assisted suicide would give too much power to doctors and encourage vulnerable patients to solely consider ending their lives. They argue that allowing euthanasia will greatly increase the risk of people who want to live being killed. Anti-euthanasia advocates also state that good palliative care is the alternative to euthanasia. If it were available to every patient, it would certainly reduce the desire for death to be brought about sooner. Also, palliative care is the entire basis of the medical industry in the world. Some fear that the introduction of euthanasia will reduce the availability of palliative care in the community, because health systems will want to choose the most cost effective ways of dealing with dying patients. If euthanasia is an option, people may stray away from going to a doctor in order to seek out this quick opportunity.
Obviously these discussions touch very important moral issues; however, I believe the biggest ethical question present is “How much control should the law have over our own bodies”? Though this is the same question asked when presented with topics like abortion and drug usage, I believe the example of euthanasia is the epitome of this question as it is literally a contention of life and death.
In order to fully grasp the ethical implications of euthanasia, it is important to understand common ethical theories’ arguments, like Utilitarianism. When the utility in question is “pleasure”, Utilitarians believe that any action should cause the greatest pleasure for the greatest number of people, and the end result is what should determine the moral worth of the initial action. Utilitarians have come to the agreement that...