Exercise 2: Euthanasia
Euthanasia, sometimes referred to as physician-assisted suicide, is the act of ending a very sick person’s (terminally ill) life to relieve them of suffering. Euthanasia is a topic of intense debate for religious, ethical, and practical reasons. Although illegal in the United States, people should have the right to be able to make decisions to end human suffering whether it be for themselves or their loved ones. How can a right to life include a life of minimum quality and value through suffering and pain? Euthanasia should be an acceptable ethical choice in society and should be viewed as a practical way to reduce the suffering of those that are terminally ill (BBC Ethics Guide: People have the right to die).
The first argument for euthanasia would be the deontological ethics argument. An individual exercising their right to human life by ending their own suffering is using deontological ethics because they are focused on their own welfare. The action of euthanasia is justifiable because it reinforces terminal values, increasing happiness, by ending pain.
Another argument for euthanasia would be the right of free choice and the duty of compassion that all people should possess. All persons have a moral right to choose freely what they will do with their lives as long as they inflict no harm to others (Andre & Vasquez 1). Why should one suffer if they wish not to? Humans have a duty to be compassionate towards others as well. In the case of euthanasia compassion means all people have an obligation to reduce the suffering of our fellow human beings while also respecting their dignity (Andre & Vasquez 1). Respecting a person’s dignity also means making sound ethical decisions to protect those who most need it.
To be ethical, the act of euthanasia should be a conscious and informed decision by the patient for reasons that benefit the patient. This means that the patient is not only responsible, but the physician has a duty to inform the patient and accept moral responsibility if euthanasia is for wrong reasons.
Culpability is defined as responsibility for a fault or wrong. A physician should be culpable for a patient’s death if it is for wrong or degrading reasons including self-interest or inhumane practice. For example, if a physician is paid or pressured by another person to give false information to a patient causing that patient to choose euthanasia when another solution is possible. If euthanasia was made legal it might be possible to regulate and better protect vulnerable patients (BBC Ethics Guide: Regulating euthanasia 1).
Immanuel Kant created a commonly accepted ethical principle that states: only ethical principles that could be accepted universally should be morally accepted. An example for this principle would be: “do unto others as you would have them do unto you” (BBC Ethics Guide: Moral rules must be universalisable). To end suffering should be a universal principle also making it morally acceptable (BBC Ethics Guide: Moral rules must be universalisable). Those who accept this principle realize that if they were in a situation of suffering they would want the option of euthanasia as well.
Although utilitarianism implies that euthanasia is negative, playing the devils advocate could prove utilitarianism to be a reinforcing argument why euthanasia should be accepted. Utilitarian ethics states that an ethical decision is the one that has the most benefit for the most number of people in society. When a person is terminally ill and suffering in excruciating pain it is hard to believe that their loved ones enjoy what they are going through. In fact it may be a burden to see a once healthy person suffer so miserably with no hope of recovering. When a person makes a decision to end their own suffering through euthanasia, shouldn’t the loved ones be relieved for that person? Isn’t it the greater good to know…