Essay PreviewMore ↓
Requests for voluntary euthanasia are extremely rare in situations where the physical, emotional and spiritual needs of terminally ill patients are properly met. As the symptoms which prompt the request for euthanasia can be almost always managed with therapies currently available, our highest priority must be to ensure that top quality terminal care is readily available. While recognizing the importance of individual patient autonomy, history has clearly demonstrated that legalized euthanasia poses serious risks to society as a whole.
First of all, voluntary euthanasia is unnecessary because alternative treatments exist. It is widely believed that there are only two options open to patients with terminal illness: either they die slowly in unrelieved suffering or they receive euthanasia. In fact, there is a middle way, that of creative and compassionate caring. Meticulous research in palliative medicine has in recent years shown that virtually all unpleasant symptoms experienced in the process of terminal illness can be either relieved or substantially alleviated by techniques already available.
This has had its practical expression in the hospice movement, which has enabled patients' symptoms to be managed either at home or in the context of a caring in-patient facility. It is no surprise that in the Netherlands, where euthanasia is now accepted, there is only a very rudimentary hospice movement. By contrast, in the UK, which has well developed facilities to care specifically for the terminally ill, a House of Lords committee recently ruled that there should be no change in the law to allow euthanasia. This is not to deny that there are many patients presently dying in homes and hospitals who are not benefiting from these advances. There are indeed many having suboptimal care. This is usually because facilities do not exist in the immediate area or because local medical practitioners lack the training and skills necessary to manage terminally ill patients properly. The solution to this is to make appropriate and effective care and training more widely available, not to give doctors the easy option of euthanasia. A law enabling euthanasia will undermine individual and corporate incentives for creative caring.
2. Requests for voluntary euthanasia are rarely free and voluntary. A patient with a terminal illness is vulnerable. He lacks the knowledge and skills to alleviate his own symptoms, and may well be suffering from fear about the future and anxiety about the effect his illness is having on others.
How to Cite this Page
"Objections to Assisted Suicide." 123HelpMe.com. 18 Aug 2018
Need Writing Help?
Get feedback on grammar, clarity, concision and logic instantly.Check your paper »
- Euthanasia and Assisted Suicide In her paper entitled "Euthanasia," Phillipa Foot notes that euthanasia should be thought of as "inducing or otherwise opting for death for the sake of the one who is to die" (MI, 8). In Moral Matters, Jan Narveson argues, successfully I think, that given moral grounds for suicide, voluntary euthanasia is morally acceptable (at least, in principle). Daniel Callahan, on the other hand, in his "When Self-Determination Runs Amok," counters that the traditional pro-(active) euthanasia arguments concerning self-determination, the distinction between killing and allowing to die, and the skepticism about harmful consequences for society, are flawed.... [tags: Euthanasia Physician Assisted Suicide]
925 words (2.6 pages)
- Euthanasia The purpose of this essay is to inform readers clearly and coherently enoughof the terms and issues in the euthanasia debate that they can make sense of the euthanasia question. Descriptions are in relatively simple, non-technical language to facilitate learning. The definition of euthanasia is simple: "Easy, painless death." But the concept of euthanasia proposed by adherents of the euthanasia movement is complex and has profound consequences for all. Because the subject involves the discipline of medicine (diagnosis, treatment, prognosis, medical ethics and so on) as well as the discipline of law, the general public will have difficulty understanding it without some kno... [tags: Euthanasia Physician Assisted Suicide]
994 words (2.8 pages)
- Euthanasia, or assisted suicide, stands as one of the most important debates in contemporary moral philosophy. By definition, euthanasia is the act of intentionally killing or permitting the death of a hopelessly sick or injured individual, in a relatively painless way, for reasons of mercy. The controversy surrounding this unresolved issue seems to be fuelled by popular, albeit problematic, belief that while the passivity of permitting an individual to die is morally acceptable, the act of killing is not.... [tags: Euthanasia, Physician Assisted Suicide]
1007 words (2.9 pages)
- Ethical decisions are being made by terminally ill patients as they face death. Some are choosing to end life through PAS, physician-assisted suicide. Dr. Jack Kevorkian has been helping patients end life through his machines. The public opinion is the use of this machine is considered murder, but some have changed their thinking and created laws to make it legal for a physician to help a terminally ill patient die. Physician assisted suicide is a dignified way to end life. Dr. Kevorkian, a pathologist, born in 1928, was known for his campaign for the terminally ill and their rights for assisted suicide.... [tags: Medical Ethics ]
1581 words (4.5 pages)
- Dutch vs. American Euthanasia The Dutch take their euthanasia seriously. The Dutch government has resubmitted its proposal for formally legalizing assisted suicide and euthanasia, while modifying its controversial provision allowing euthanasia for children. When first proposed to Parliament over a year ago, the bill allowed for cases where children from 12 to 16 years old could request and receive euthanasia "against the wishes of their parents." The modified proposal still allows child euthanasia in this age group, but not over parents' objections [New York Times, 7/14/00].... [tags: Euthanasia Physician Assisted Suicide]
1244 words (3.6 pages)
- In this essay I will be analysing the morality of voluntary active euthanasia (VAE). I will focus on the argument that if such an act is considered morally acceptable, it can only lead down a slippery slope in which society becomes grossly unrecognizable in terms of the value of life. This essay will examine the strengths and weaknesses of this argument and the moral principles which underpin it to determine whether or not it remains a convincing argument to VAE. Firstly, I must ascertain what segregates VAE from other forms of euthanasia and introduce the argument to it.... [tags: assisted suicide of the terminally ill]
1127 words (3.2 pages)
- You’re visiting the hospice for the twenty-third day in a row; the soft squeaking of the linoleum and the gentle buzz of the fluorescents in the waiting room greet you as you walk in. You’re visiting your Grandmother, whose lung cancer has entered metastasis, and has been slowly spreading throughout her body; she has already lost movement in her arms. She is a hollow shell of the woman she once was; her once bright eyes have been fading steadily every day, and her bubbly demeanor has become crushed and gravelly, and every day before you leave, she will only say, “Kill me.” What would you do in this situation.... [tags: Assisted Suicide]
927 words (2.6 pages)
- Ethics Euthanasia is the act of killing a patient who is undergoing a very serious painful disease that can’t be cured. The killing process involved does not involve any pain. There are different classification of euthanasia; involuntary and voluntary, non-voluntary, passive and active euthanasia. Active euthanasia refers to the painless killing of a patient using poison. It is done by administering any poisonous injection to the hopeless patient (Wennberg 175). People across the world, including the Americans, view the theme of active euthanasia differently.... [tags: the right to die, doctor assisted suicide]
945 words (2.7 pages)
- Writing the fifth assignment for the English class was by far the hardest essay I have had to write. Constantly was I running into problems, and this ended up taking me much longer than I had originally planned. Writing about the opposing side of this topic was very hard, as I usually caught myself writing things that I couldn’t make work in my paper. The writing was very tough to keep on track because it isn’t actually how I feel. This essay helped me to better understand the argument that is presented from both sides.... [tags: Assisted Suicide Death Essays]
839 words (2.4 pages)
- Assisted Suicide I examine the ways in which our cultural expectations with respect to death may be transformed by the legalization of assisted suicide. I suggest the inadequacy of the philosophical framework currently taken as the basis for discussing the advantages as well as the dangers of legalizing assisted suicide. I do not believe that individual autonomy is any sort of possibility for dying patients, regardless of the social policies that surround death in a society, insofar as our individual agency in this situation is necessarily intertwined with that of various relevant others.... [tags: Euthanasia Physician Assisted Suicide]
4614 words (13.2 pages)
Many elderly people already feel a burden to family, careers and a society which is cost conscious and may be short of resources. They may feel great pressure to request euthanasia 'freely and voluntarily'. These patients need to hear that they are valued and loved as they are. They need to know that we are committed first and foremost to their well-being, even if this does involve expenditure of time and money. The way we treat the weakest and most vulnerable people speaks volumes about the kind of society we are.
3. Voluntary euthanasia denies patients the final stage of growth. It is during the time of a terminal illness that people have a unique opportunity to reflect on the way they have lived their lives, to make amends for wrongs done, to provide for the future security of loved ones and to prepare mentally and spiritually for their own death. Not all make full use of this opportunity, but those involved in hospice work often observe a mending of family relationships and rediscovery of mutual love and responsibility that may not have been evident for years.
It is often through facing the hardship that terminal illness brings, and through learning to accept the practical help of others that human character and maturity develops most fully. Death if properly managed can be the final stage of growth. It can also be a time when words are spoken and strength imparted that will help sustain 'those left behind' through the years ahead.
Losing the opportunity of caring for vulnerable people denies us an essential part of our humanity. We conquer suffering, not by being insulated from its realities, but by facing it. Voluntary euthanasia, by artificially shortening life, denies these possibilities.
4. Voluntary euthanasia undermines medical research. One of the major driving forces behind the exceptional medical advances made this century has been the desire to develop treatments for previously fatal illnesses, and the eagerness to alleviate hitherto unmanageable symptoms. Medical research is essential if medicine is to advance further. When the focus changes from curing the condition to killing the individual with the condition, this whole process is threatened. The increasing acceptance of prenatal diagnosis and abortion for conditions like spina bifida, Down's syndrome and cystic fibrosis is threatening the very dramatic progress made in the management of these conditions, especially over the last two decades. Rather than being employed to care and console, funds are being diverted to fuel the strategy of 'search and destroy'.
If euthanasia is legalized we can expect advances in ktenology (the science of killing) at the expense of treatment and symptom control. This will in turn encourage further calls for euthanasia.
5. Hard cases make bad laws. Legalization of euthanasia is usually championed by those who have witnessed a loved one die in unpleasant circumstances, often without the benefits of optimal palliative care. This leads to demands for a 'right to die'. In reality the slogan is misleading. What we are considering is not the right to die at all, but rather the right to be killed by a doctor; more specifically we are talking of giving doctors a legal right to kill. This has its own dangers which we shall consider shortly.
Allowing difficult cases to create a precedent for legalized killing is the wrong response. We need rather to evaluate these difficult cases so that we can do better in the future. This was clearly demonstrated in the case of Nigel Cox, the Winchester rheumatologist found guilty of attempted murder after giving a patient with rheumatoid arthritis a lethal injection of potassium chloride in August 1991. Had he been willing to consult those specialized in pain management, he could have relieved his patient's symptoms without killing her. If errors of omission are acknowledged, changes can be made.
The European Association for Palliative Care recently registered its strong opposition to the legalization of euthanasia. If care is aimed at achieving 'the best possible quality of life for patients and their families' by focusing on a patient's physical, psychosocial, and spiritual suffering, requests for euthanasia are extremely uncommon.
The answer is not to change the law, but rather to improve our standards of care.
6. Autonomy is important but never absolute. Autonomy is important. We all value the opportunity of living in a free society, but also recognize that personal autonomy has its limits. Rights need protection, but must be balanced against responsibilities and restrictions if we are to be truly free.
We are not free to do things which limit or violate the reasonable freedoms of others. No man is an island. No person makes the decision to end his or her life in isolation. There are others who are affected: friends and relatives left behind, and the healthcare staff involved in the decision-making process.
Western society no longer recognizes suicide as a crime, but still appreciates that a person's decision to take his or her own life can have profound, often lifelong effects on the lives of others. There may be guilt, anger or bitterness felt by those left behind. Personal autonomy is never absolute. The effect of personal decisions on others now living or in future generations must also be considered.
7. Voluntary euthanasia leads to euthanasia tourism. Once voluntary euthanasia is legalized in a single country or state, people from neighboring constituencies will take advantage of it. In this way no territory can act in isolation. The decisions we make have implications for other nations, not only for their citizens who choose 'euthanasia tourism' but also for future changes in their own laws.
Any state considering a change in its laws in this regard has a responsibility not just to its own citizens but to the whole international community.
8. Voluntary euthanasia changes the public conscience. The law is a very powerful educator of the public conscience. When a practice becomes legal, accepted and widely practiced in society, people cease to have strong feelings about it. This was most dramatically demonstrated in Nazi Germany. Many of those involved in the euthanasia program there were doctors who were motivated initially by compassion for their victims. Their consciences, and that of the society which allowed them to do what they did, became numbed. The testimony at Nuremberg of Karl Brandt, the medic responsible for coordinating the German euthanasia program is a chilling reminder of how conscience can gradually change:
'My underlying motive was the desire to help individuals who could not help themselves... such considerations should not be regarded as inhuman. Nor did I feel it in any way to be unethical or immoral... I am convinced that if Hippocrates were alive today he would change the wording of his oath... in which a doctor is forbidden to administer poison to an invalid even on demand... I have a perfectly clear conscience about the part I played in the affair. I am perfectly conscious that when I said yes to euthanasia I did so with the greatest conviction, just as it is my conviction today that it is right'.
He sincerely believed he was innocent. This demonstrates that once doctors start killing, it is possible for them to carry on doing it without feeling any guilt.
9. Voluntary euthanasia violates historically accepted codes of medical ethics.
Traditional medical ethical codes have never sanctioned euthanasia, even on request for compassionate motives. The Hippocratic Oath states 'I will give no deadly medicine to anyone if asked, nor suggest such counsel....' The International Code of Medical Ethics as originally adopted by the World Medical Association in 1949, in response to the Nazi holocaust, declares 'a doctor must always bear in mind the obligation of preserving human life from the time of conception until death'. In its 1992 Statement of Marbella, the World Medical Association confirmed that assisted suicide, like euthanasia, is unethical and must be condemned by the medical profession. When a doctor intentionally and deliberately enables an individual to end his life, the doctor acts unethically.
10. Voluntary euthanasia gives too much power to doctors. Calls for voluntary euthanasia have been encouraged either by the failure of doctors to provide adequate symptom control, or by their insistence on providing inappropriate and meddlesome interventions which neither lengthen life nor improve its quality. This has understandably provoked a distrust of doctors by patients who feel that they are being neglected or exploited. The natural reaction is to seek to make doctors more accountable.
Ironically, voluntary euthanasia legislation makes doctors less accountable, and gives them more power. Patients generally decide in favor of euthanasia on the basis of information given to them by doctors: information about their diagnosis, prognosis, treatments available and anticipated degree of future suffering. If a doctor confidently suggests a certain course of action it can be very difficult for a patient to resist. However it can be very difficult to be certain in these areas. Diagnoses may be mistaken. Prognoses may be wildly misjudged. New treatments which the doctor is unaware of may have recently been developed or about to be developed. The doctor may not be up-to-date in symptom control.
Doctors are human and subject to temptation. Sometimes their own decision-making may be affected, consciously or unconsciously, by their degree of tiredness or the way they feel about the patient. Voluntary euthanasia gives the medical practitioner power which can be too easily abused, and a level of responsibility he should not rightly be entitled to have. Voluntary euthanasia makes the doctor the most dangerous man in the state.
11. Voluntary euthanasia leads inevitably to involuntary euthanasia. When voluntary euthanasia has been previously accepted and legalized, it has led inevitably to involuntary euthanasia, regardless of the intentions of the legislators. According to the Remmelink Report, commissioned by the Dutch Ministry of Justice, there were over 3,000 deaths from euthanasia in the Netherlands in 1990. More than 1,000 of these were not voluntary. Other assessments have been far less conservative, and these figures pre-date February 1994 when euthanasia in that country was effectively legalized.
Holland is moving rapidly down the slippery slope with the public conscience changing quickly to accept such action as acceptable. The Royal Dutch Medical Association (KNMG) and the Dutch Commission for the acceptability of life terminating Action have recommended that the active termination of the lives of patients suffering from dementia is morally acceptable under certain conditions. Two earlier reports of the commission affirmed the acceptability of similar action for severely handicapped neonates and comatose patients. Case reports include a child killed for no other reason than it possessed abnormal genitalia and a woman killed at her own request for reasons of 'mental suffering'.
12. The British House of Lords recently recommended no change to the law on euthanasia after an extensive inquiry. In view of increasing public interest in euthanasia, and in the light of the Nigel Cox and Tony Bland cases, the House of Lords set up a Select Committee on Medical Ethics to look seriously into this issue in 1993. During their deliberations they took submissions from a variety of persons and parties. Of these the Department of Health, the Home Office, The British Medical Association and the Royal College of Nursing all argued against any change in the law. The committee in its final report in February 1994, despite being earlier undecided on the issue, unanimously ruled that there should be no change in the law. Lord Walton, the committee chairman, reflected on this in a speech to the House of Lords on 9 May 1994 in saying:
'We concluded that it was virtually impossible to ensure that all acts of euthanasia were truly voluntary and that any liberalization of the law in the United Kingdom could not be abused. We were also concerned that vulnerable people - the elderly, lonely, sick or distressed - would feel pressure, whether real or imagined, to request early death.'
1. Select Committee on Medical Ethics. Report. London:HMSO, 1994. (House of Lords paper 21-I)
2. Twycross R (1993) A Doctor's Dilemma. JCMF 39:1, 153:1-3
3. Ventafridda V (1994) Euthanasia: More Palliative Care is Needed (letter) BMJ 309:472
4. Brandt K (1948) Nuremberg Trials
5. International Code of Medical Ethics adopted by 3rd World Medical Assembly,London, England, October 1949.
6. Handbook of Declarations, WMA, 1992, France
7. Rees, W et al (1987) 'Patients with Terminal Cancer' who have neither terminal illness nor cancer. BMJ 295:318-9
8. Van der Maas PJ et al (1991) Euthanasia and other medical decisions concerning the end of life. Lancet 338:669- 74
9. Hellema H (1993) Dutch doctors support life termination in dementia BMJ 306:1364
10. Sheldon T (1994) Judges make historic ruling on euthanasia. BMJ 309:7-8.
11. Dutch doctors pushed on to 'slippery slope' over euthanasia. The Independent Wednesday 17 February 1993 p8.
12. Select Committee on Medical Ethics. Report. London:HMSO, 1994. (House of Lords paper 21-I)