“Euthanasia” comes from two Greek words meaning “good death.” In practice, it has come to mean assisted suicide of those who are old or sick. Worldwide, support for the practice appears to be increasing. Vigorous efforts for legalisation are proceeding in numerous countries. The Dutch have now legalised ‘mercy killing’ after many years of unofficial toleration.
In the USA, euthanasia has been legalised in Oregon since 1998.Reasons given in support of euthanasia include honouring the civil rights of an individual to choose death over an unacceptable quality of life and a need for providing a means for death with dignity, often with the motive of not weighing down loved ones. Supporters often quote a report from the Oregon Health Division for the year 2000, which states that 65% of those committing suicide mention fear of being a ‘burden on family, friends or caregivers’1 as a reason for their decision.This issue is about the right to commit suicide. It is about placing the wishes of the weakest among us in the hands of people other than themselves who can often help carry out their wishes. Any normal person can commit suicide without fear of punishments being enforced on them or their families. So why can’t a person wishing to die, who is incapable of carrying out a successful suicide, have help? Is that not discrimination against those with disabilities? Once society allows a small group of people, possibly doctors, the right to end life a lot of unnecessary suffering endured by the old and terminally ill will end.Demonstrators against euthanasia think that once doctors get involved they may do wrong and misuse their powers.
They say that with euthanasia, the medical profession will lose “the ethical bonds that hold its credibility and morality together”2. For example, in the Hippocratic Oath, the following ethic will be deemed ‘useless’ if euthanasia becomes widespread in the UK: “I will neither prescribe nor administer a lethal dose of medicine to any patient . .
. “3 Once the medical profession loses its ethics, what is going to stop them from administering overdoses to the ‘unwanted’ without their consent? Look at the example from the Dutch. A 1991 Dutch government study stated that in 1990, nearly 6,000 of the 130,000 people who died in the Netherlands were involuntary euthanasia cases. But that was Holland, not the UK. I think this argument is easily overcome. Would it not be simple to devise a system to prevent this? Even if it was only a document that had to be signed by the patient, the doctor who carried it out and a member of the patient’s family verifying that it is the patients wishes for euthanasia to be carried out.
Why1) Quote taken from the 2000 Oregon report on the “Death with Dignity Act”.2) Quoted from somewhere. Unfortunately I cant remember where it comes from or who said it.3) The Hippocratic oath must be recited by a doctor, during an induction ceremony, before he treats any patients.should the fact that the Dutch couldn’t keep an eye on their doctors mean that innocent British patients have to suffer?Those who oppose euthanasia say that by legalising euthanasia morals that have been upheld by physicians for thousands of years are being ignored. Death should be natural. They say a doctor should not hasten it.
But if it shouldn’t be hastened why is it ok to lengthen it? Currently many people strive to lengthen their lives. If this is acceptable what’s the big deal about somebody deciding to shorten it?Also people who are not in favour of euthanasia may say ‘If we begin to kill off other ‘unwanted’ people we become as bad as Hitler’s Nazis’; they used euthanasia to kill millions in their attempt to create their utopian race. And I agree. I believe that a society that murders the elderly for ‘convenience’ is completely wrong but there is a vast difference between that and killing a person to put them out of misery, especially if the person in question wants to die. Is it not their decision? Is it not their right to decide on an issue as large as life? How would you feel if, on the best day of your life, somebody came along and said you are not allowed to live? This is similar to what we are doing to these people. They, on some of the worst days of their lives, want a way out. Death, for them, is that way.
Death is their last option. You want to live. They want to die. Who are we to say they can’t?