Is Euthanasia Immoral?
Euthanasia comes from the Greek word "Thanatos" meaning death and the
prefix "eu" meaning easy or good (Russell 94). Thus, "eu-Thanatos" meaning
easy or good death. In today's society there are many disagreements about the rights and
wrongs of euthanasia. Although death is unavoidable for human beings, suffering
before death is unbearable not only for terminal patients but for the family
members and friends. Euthanasia is a better choice for terminal
patients than suicide.
In our society, suicide is always traumatic for families and friends. If
there is no alternative to relieve the suffering of terminal patients, then the
more humane option to suicide is euthanasia. An option for people that are
unsure of euthanasia is called DNR or do not resuscitate(McCuen 2). This means
that if the patient has a heart attack or another potentially fatal problem in
the hospital, the doctors are told to preform a " No Code" which means that
they should let the patient die peacefully with any amount of painkillers or
medication requested by the patient(McCuen 3). Doctors that are treating a dying
patient should treat them with care. They should make them as comfortable as
possible and give them medication to dull their pain.
Instructors tell doctors in training to treat dying patients as people "
that are alive but just that their death is more imminent than our own"(Moroney
Many families could rest easy that their relative is being treated well
and are receiving the necessary attention. A lot of terminal patients decide to
sign DNR forms or request euthanasia so that they would not be a burden on their
families. Euthanasia should be legalized in all of the United States because it
would end much suffering and pain.
Euthanasia is the justified killing or assisted killing of a disabled or
terminally ill person at their will or if the patient is incapable of making the
decision, at the family's will(Satris 260). The doctor or in some cases, a
family member, uses injections, weapons, or other means of killing to act out
euthanasia. But euthanasia is usually gentle and quiet. In most of the cases of
euthanasia, the patient died by lethal injection or certain life support systems
There are many types of euthanasia. The most common type is voluntary
euthanasia(Russell 32). Voluntary euthanasia is euthanasia that is preformed at
the will of the patient. Involuntary euthanasia is the other type of
euthanasia(Russell 32). That is when the patient does not want euthanasia, but
it is administered (i.e.-compulsory). There are also different ways to
administer euthanasia. One is direct euthanasia, which is deliberately inducing
death in order to terminate hopeless suffering(Russell 31). Then there is
indirect euthanasia which is indirectly causing death with the use of drugs to
relieve pain, but hasten death(Russell 31).
When a patient pleads for euthanasia doctors are placed in a dilemma. If
they help the patient die then their practicing license could be taken away and
they may be taken to court, possibly ruining their career(McCuen 53). However,
the patient who is constantly in pain will always be on the doctor's conscience
unless they do something about it. Usually the doctor decides to help the
patient by either giving the patient extremely strong painkillers and telling
them the lethal dosage or directly assisting in the death of the patient(McCuen
A doctor that has helped terminal patients die is Dr. Jack Kevorkian. He
is probably the most well known for this practice because he does not deny he
practices it. The first case that Dr. Kevorkian had was in 1990. He met his
"patient" in Michigan (which did not prohibit euthanasia at that time). The
woman's name was Janet Adkins, who was suffering from Alzheimer's disease(Levine
114). Using a machine that Kevorkian invented she killed herself. This machine
that Kevorkian made consisted of an IV that first dripped salt water into the
patient. Then when the patient was ready, she pressed a button that released a
chemical agent that induced unconsciousness. After about five minutes, the
machine delivered a lethal dose of potassium chloride(Levine 115).
Some people think that euthanasia is not acceptable in our society
because of a variety of reasons. Many who oppose of euthanasia fear that if it
were to be legalized then many people would die needlessly and murders in so-
called "mercy killings" would run rampant(Satris 262). Others believe that
since we are the property of God then we should wait until He is ready to
receive us(Russell 93). Many churches and religious groups oppose euthanasia
stating that the sixth commandment "Thou Shalt Not Kill" also extends to
euthanasia. But this also raises many questions. Why do these churches and
religious groups specifically target euthanasia as horrific killing when there
is war in this world. Every day countries send troops to kill and to be killed,
but these religious groups seem to ignore these problems(Russell 93). Many
medical doctors also oppose euthanasia. They say that assisted suicide "violates
one's will to survive" and that it violates our dignity. They believe that one
of our natural human goals is to survive and if we practice euthanasia, then
that goal is destroyed(Satris 258).
When doctors receive their license to practice medicine they have to
take the Hippocratic Oath. This oath says that " I will neither give a deadly
drug to anybody when asked for it, nor will I make a suggestion to that
effect."(Levine 104). However, many pro-euthanasians say that the oath means
that they should not give anybody a deadly drug to kill an enemy with, nor
they tell the person what to use to kill. A quote from Carol Levine says, " on
the other hand, if the goal of medicine is not simply to prolong life but to
reduce pain, then questions arise about the oath"(105). Another problems with
euthanasia is that if an elderly patient is entered into a hospital, they are
immediately deemed to be frail and are treated like terminal patients. The
thought of euthanasia as a choice instead of a cure may prompt doctors to
prematurely induce death(McCuen 2).
The recovery from an illness requires that we fight it. If we know that
there is an easy way out, such as euthanasia, then the human consciousness
instinctively tries to take that way out(Satris 262). Other problematic
situations with euthanasia is that a person with a non-terminal disease may
blindly choose euthanasia without a settled desire to die(Haifetz 21). It is
also likely that a person who chooses euthanasia may change his or her mind at
the last moment and then
it is obviously too late(Heifetz 21).
On the other hand, a growing number of people believe that euthanasia is
acceptable in our society because it relieves the unnecessary pain and suffering
of patients and their family.
Euthanasia is also a good way for people that have family members that
are either extremely deformed or retarded to help out the person and end their
incapacitated lives. In the Netherlands, euthanasia can be legally
administered under four conditions: a) if the patient is suffering intolerably
and there is no hope of recovery, b) if the patient is capable of deciding
whether to choose euthanasia or not, c) if the patient repeatedly asks for
euthanasia over a repeated period of time, and d) if another doctor that has not
treated or previously examined the patient agree that euthanasia should be
enforced(Levine 110). Robert George has his opinion on the "right to die", He
says that 1) people own themselves, 2)owners can dispose of their property as
they see fit, and 3) people are therefore entitled to kill themselves and even
to engage the help of others in doing so(50)
Euthanasia is also a very good choice for senior citizens because they
often suffer much before they finally can die.Sufferring is a terrible thing and
we have a clear duty to comfort those in need and to ease their sufferring when
we can. Elderly people are also prone to painful diseases and medical problems.
Mercy killing can end their pain in a non-traumatic way for their families'. In
the days of Socrates, Plato and the Stoics euthanasia was even
permissible(Russell 42). The Greeks had a tradition that when all the old
members of the society outlived their usefulness, they would ge together and
drink a deadly poison(Russell 42). Thus eliminating a burden on their families
and on themselves.
To date, there is still much controversy about the legalization of
euthanasia. But as long as there are willing and kindhearted doctors and people,
eventually there will be a time when euthanasia will be allowed and poor
souls can die peacefully. So far, 35 states allow the withdrawal or withholding
of life sustaining equipment of terminal patients at their will. The trend in
mercy killing will continue until leaders in health care can show that there is
another alternative that is more merciful(McCuen 3). Until then, Doctors and
family members, will still have to resort to illegal euthanasia to help their
patients and loved ones.
George, Robert P. and William C. Porth Jr. "A Duty to Live?" National Review
26 June 1995
Heifetz, Milton D. and Charles Mangel. The Right to Die.
Toronto: Longman Canada Limited, 1975.
Levine, Carol. Is Physician-Assisted Suicide Ethical?
Guilford: The Dushkin Publishing Group Inc.,1991.
Russell, Ruth. Freedom to Die.
New York: Human Sciences Press, 1977.
Society for the Right to Die. The Physician and the Hopelessly Ill Patient.
New York: Society for the Right to Die, 1985.
Lemonrick, Michael D. "Defining the Right to Die." Time
15 April 1996. 82.
Moroney, Catherine. "Three Choices for Death." America
21 November 1992.
Nichols, Mark. "Dying by Choice." Maclean's Magazine.
20 May 1996. 47
William, J. Gay. "The Wrongfulness of Euthanasia." Intervention and Reflection:
Basic Issues in Medical Ethics. Ed. Ronald Munson. Gilford, Connecticut: Dushkin
Publishing Group Inc, 1979
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