Euthanasia is one of the most controversial topics in the modern society. It involves relieving suffering and pain in death, and it maybe done with or without the consent of the dying person. According to Biggs (2001), there are three categories of euthanasia, and these are involuntary, voluntary and non-voluntary euthanasia. Involuntary euthanasia is done against the patient’s will, and patients are opposed to the procedure. Non-voluntary euthanasia is done without the patient’s consent especially when they are unable to give consent due to factors such as ill health. Voluntary euthanasia is done with the patient’s consent. There are also two forms of administering euthanasia and these are active and passive euthanasia. Passive euthanasia involves withholding treatment in order to quicken the process of death. Active euthanasia involves administering lethal forces or substances which kill patients. This form of euthanasia is very controversial.
There are different people who are for and against euthanasia, and both have arguments to support their case. The arguments center on whether euthanasia can be taken as murder or manslaughter, both of which are crimes in most countries. Both groups of people have valid arguments and it is important to analyze them in more detail in order to develop consensus over the issue. Few countries support euthanasia, while the majority does not. Of those which support euthanasia, many support voluntary euthanasia which has consent from the patient. These countries include Netherlands, Luxembourg, Belgium, some US states and Switzerland (Otlowski, 2000). This paper will analyze Switzerland with regards to the issue of euthanasia. It will also offer the diverse viewpoints which relate to euthanasia and develop a supporting view to the most logical argument. Discussed issues will be summarized.
Euthanasia in Switzerland
As previously stated, euthanasia is legal in Switzerland. Swiss laws allow euthanasia, as long as the recipient gives consent and participates in administering the drug or substance which will lead to their death (Almagor, 2004). This law was passed in 1942 and allows for euthanasia except in circumstances where the recipient does not give consent or in cases where motives for committing euthanasia are selfish. After euthanasia is administered, there may be a police inquiry, which is usually procedural since euthanasia is allowed under law. However, at times, proceedings may be started in the event that it is clear that the patient could not have given consent. The Swiss laws also prohibit active euthanasia.
There have been many people who have undergone euthanasia in Switzerland and many of these have been foreigners. Some tourists opt to perform euthanasia in Switzerland since it is legal, and they are referred to as suicide tourists. There are some organizations such as Dignitas which cater to euthanasia needs of foreigners. However, these organizations have been condemned by various countries after assisting their citizens to end their lives.
Arguments for and against euthanasia
There are different arguments which support or reject the practice of euthanasia and they will be discussed in more detail below;
Arguments for euthanasia
Right of choice
Proponents of this school of thought explain that a person should be allowed to choose when they want to die since it is their life. They explain that since life belongs to an individual, then they should be allowed whether to end their life or not (Buse, 2008). In democratic societies, people enjoy various rights and freedoms, and the right to choose life or death should be one of the freedoms guaranteed by laws in democratic societies. Death should therefore be an individual choice rather than a choice made by other people. This argument appears to support voluntary euthanasia where patients give consent.
Dignity in death
In many cases, euthanasia is performed to ease suffering and ensure that the patient dies the least painless death. This is performed to maintain dignity even when a person is dying. Most people who are dying, even those opposed to euthanasia, would want to die in dignity. This can be achieved through allowing euthanasia, as explained by proponents of this argument. Euthanasia uses the most humane and painless method of causing death, and allows recipients to die in dignity.
Prolonging natural life
There are various groups which support euthanasia, which argue that humans should not prolong life when it is clear that one’s life is about to end. They argue that the use of life-support and other machines and medication only serve to cause further pain to a dying person, since their life is usually almost over (World Faith Organization, 2010). In such cases, these people argue that the person should be allowed to die a natural death without intervention from anyone. This is consistent with support for passive euthanasia where medication is withdrawn from patients who are about to die.
Suffering by relatives
Supporters of euthanasia argue that in addition to ending suffering to the recipient, euthanasia also ends suffering by friends and relatives who watch their relatives die slowly and painfully (Tulloch, 2005). When relatives watch their loved ones die painful and slow deaths, they suffer from trauma which may adversely affect them, and it may lead to development of mental disorders. Euthanasia is therefore seen as away of ending suffering to friends and relatives of those who are about to die.
Arguments against euthanasia
License for murder
Some opponents of euthanasia argue that allowing euthanasia will encourage relatives and friends to commit murder under the guise of euthanasia. They may commit euthanasia against recipient’s wishes for selfish reasons. Many countries which allow euthanasia have attempted to criminalize euthanasia for selfish reasons. However, since euthanasia is allowed, it is impossible to prevent murder through euthanasia from occurring. In addition, such murders may not be detected, since they may appear to be euthanasia. This may open a loophole for murders, and it can only be prevented through banning euthanasia.
Right to life
Other opponents of euthanasia argue that every person has a right to life and that no human being has the right to take another’s life. This view is mainly supported by people with the religious belief that only God has the can take life. They argue that taking one’s life is morally and religiously wrong. Proponents of this argument explain that euthanasia is murder, whether it is consensual or not, and that people who participate in it should be prosecuted for murder.
Reduction of health costs
One argument which is widely supported by people against euthanasia is that it has the potential of being misused especially when patients have incurred huge health costs. When terminally ill patients have incurred huge costs, doctors and relatives of such patients may opt to perform euthanasia as a means of mitigating costs (Jackson, 2005). When this happens, the interests of the patients are ignored, and doctors and relatives look after their own interests, which defeats the purpose of euthanasia. It is therefore essential that euthanasia is banned to prevent such cases from arising.
Definition of “terminally ill”
When euthanasia is allowed for people who are terminally ill, then it is likely to be misused since there is ambiguity as far as defining “terminally ill” is concerned. Most patients who are presumed to be terminally ill live many years beyond what was predicted by the doctors. Since it is difficult to define “terminally ill”, anyone with suicidal thoughts could opt to undergo euthanasia to end their life, and this would be undermining the aims of euthanasia. It is therefore better to ban the practice altogether to seal this loophole.
After analyzing arguments proposed by both groups of people, I am of the opinion that euthanasia should be allowed, but only if patients give their consent. I support this view for various reasons. The first is that human beings should have the right to determine whether or not they want to die. When they have chosen to end their own lives, they should be allowed to, since it is their own life they are ending. The other reason regards dying with dignity. Since human beings usually “put down” pets and animals when they are suffering, then it would be hypocritical not to allow humans to practice the same.
Euthanasia will allow patients who are terminally ill to die with dignity. It will also allow families of such patients to alleviate suffering and resume their normal lives.
However, it is important to avoid cases where patients are killed without their consent or cases where euthanasia is performed specifically to cut costs attributed to patients. In order to do so, the Switzerland model should be adopted and every euthanasia case should be documented and filmed. Investigations should also be carried out after each euthanasia case to determine its motive. This will prevent murders which occur under the guise of euthanasia.
Summary and conclusion
Euthanasia has been seen to be legal in countries such as Netherlands, Luxembourg, Belgium, some US states and Switzerland. Various arguments for and against euthanasia have been evaluated. Arguments for euthanasia have discussed right of choice, dignity in death, suffering by relatives and prolonging natural life. These arguments have explained that one has a right to make a choice between life and death and that each person should be allowed to die in dignity. Arguments against euthanasia have discussed license for murder, right to life, reduction of health costs and ambiguity in definition of “terminally ill”. These arguments have explained that only God has right to take life, and that euthanasia has potential to be misused, if legalized.
However, my opinion is that euthanasia should be legalized since every person has the right to make decisions concerning their lives. Each person also has the right to die in dignity, as is allowed for animals and pets which are “put down” when in suffering. However, to safeguard the misuse of euthanasia, documentation and investigations will reveal the motives under euthanasia and appropriate actions taken under available law.
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