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Euthanasia is one of society's most widely and hotly debated moral issues. It
has pained and exhausted the courts for entirely too long, questioning the
ethics and morality of the issue. It is a never-ending loop that by no means
considers our right, or the victim's right, to freedom. It has pierced the
pocket books of American taxpayers extensively and should be put to rest with
only this statement. Let them die!
I believe that euthanasia is only debated and kept on the political agenda to
keep the courts busy, thereby ensuring the security of political pocket books.
The vast majority of the population is in favor of euthanasia. However, their
elected candidates don't represent their views (Humphry). Thus eliminating
their power of democracy and right to freedom. In this essay I will argue that
euthanasia is not a concern of religious ethics but rather an entitlement of
Euthanasia is typically broken into two categories:
1. Active euthanasia: The act of ...administering a lethal drug, or using other
means that cause a persons death" (MacKinnon, 126).
2. Passive euthanasia: "Stopping (or not starting) some treatment, which allows a
person to die, the persons condition causes his or her death, (MacKinnon, 126).
Active euthanasia is typically the more highly debated of the two acts of
euthanasia and is better known because of the actions of Dr. Jack Kevorkian, who
has aided in many successful suicides.
Passive euthanasia, on the other hand, is rarely debated and usually never
enters the mind's eye because it is typically looked at as letting someone die
naturally. In passive euthanasia one simply refuses treatment with the
knowledge that death is imminent. This offers little debate for several
reasons, primarily because it is seen as a natural way of dying. The exception,
however, is that some religions refuse to accept treatment with the knowledge
that without the treatment they will die. For example in the faith of the
Jehovah's Witness, a child, who has been in a vicious car accident and is in
need of blood, will die rather that accept treatment. This kind of passive
euthanasia would come under much scrutiny, but be accepted because it is tied to
In either case, active or passive, the victim will die. There is essentially no
difference between them. From herein both active and passive euthanasia will not
be separated but rather both will be referred to simply as euthanasia. It will
be the primary interest of this paper to focus on and address the concerns of
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that both result in death. It is fair to note that the exceptional
circumstance of a comatose patient will not be addressed in this paper, as this
falls into a category all its own and requires an entirely different approach to
Those who oppose the practice of euthanasia argue that helping the terminally
ill bring about their own deaths, or allowing them to determine the how and
when, is not only inhumane, but is also an act of "playing God". This may be
true, assuming that one believes in God. However, a tactical logician may pose
this counter argument.
If it is the case that God is "I AM THAT I AM " (King James Version, Exodus
3:14), it then follows that God is everything. If God is everything, than he
would not only be disease but also death. If it is the purpose of disease to
bring about death and God is disease and death, then the actions or the will of
God would be reflected by the resulting death that comes about through disease.
If it is the case then that God is a disease, terminal or not, then would God
not be carrying out his will by killing an infected person? And if the infected
person chose to not allow the disease to take its course, then would that person
not be playing God, or interfering with the will of God? Finally, if the person
chose to partake in the action of euthanasia, could this action not be
considered an act of aiding or following the wishes of God's will? One last
point to ponder is this: If God is everything, then, is God not also the
compassionate urge to euthanize?
Proponents of freedom view euthanasia in a very different way. "[They] believe
that everyone has the right to choose how they live and die" (TVES). Euthanasia
allows the person, who is simply living to die, to maintain dignity by
orchestrating their own end. Thus letting him/her die in peace, rather than
suffering to the end. It eliminates their own, as well as the next of Kin's,
perception of the dying to be a burden, physically and financially, and/or a
disgrace. "Each person has value and is worthy of respect, has basic rights and
freedoms and the power to control his or her destiny. [The proponents] campaign
to legalise [sic] assisted dying within certain strictly defined circumstances
is fundamentally about choice" (TVES).
Detractors of euthanasia may contest that dying is not disgraceful. Little do
they know. Dying of a terminal illness is a burden, physically and financially,
as well as a disgrace. Victims in the advanced stages of terminal illness will
have limited muscle control and experience excruciating and unrelenting pain.
"Not everyone dies well. At least 5% of terminal pain cannot be fully
controlled, even with the best care. Other distressing symptoms such as
sickness, incontinence or breathlessness cannot always be relieved" (TVES).
Mitch Albom, in his book Tuesdays with Morrie, discusses the terminal illness of
his former professor Morrie Stein. Morrie was stricken with Lou Gehrig's
disease, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, and was terminally ill because of it.
Morrie would inevitably die a painful, expensive and disgraceful death.
Albom describes his visits and the cumbersome chore of having to move Morrie,
physically, during the later stages of his disease. In the book he also
discusses the inevitable disgrace of having to hold a bottle while Morrie
urinated and also how Morrie dreaded the day when somebody other than himself
would have to "wipe [his] ass" (Albom).
Could any of these detractors of euthanasia imagine doing this? Could you
imagine doing this? Let me describe what I imagine it would be like. Let's
say that my friend Harry was terminal in the same way that Morrie was. One
month prior to his death I visit Harry. It has been 6 years since we last saw
each other; however, we kept in close contact via email and telephone. I show
up at Harry's house to be greeted by his thinning wife. Her hair is graying;
she looks distraught, tired and weak. She shows me into the room where Harry is
pretty much confined. My first impression of Harry is this. He is sitting
slumped in a chair drooling. A distinct odor has permeated the room. Harry's
wife says under her breath, "Damn!" She goes to where Harry is slouching and
lifts the blanket that is covering him. Underneath the blanket Harry was
wearing an adult diaper and a T-shirt. His diaper was soiled; apparently Harry
was not receiving enough fiber to keep his stool hardened. It was loose and
wet, oozing and spilling out of the sides of the diaper onto the chair. His
wife began cleaning. It seemed as if this were a wearisome task for her, one
that she does quite often. I could only stand and watch as Harry's wife cleaned
up his mess and wipe his ass. What a disgrace! Not only was Harry disgraced;
his wife and I both shared in his shame. He has been striped of his freedom.
The freedom to control his muscles and his stool, and his freedom to choose
"In October 1997, out of nearly 3,000 people who took part in a Sun newspaper
telephone poll, an amazing 97 percent said terminally ill people should have the
right to die with dignity" (TVES). National opinion polls show average support
of 70 percent in the USA, 74 percent in Canada and 80 percent in Britain"
(Humphry). The clear-cut majority of these democratic populations are in favor
of legalizing euthanasia. So why in Canada and most of the United States does
euthanasia remain unlawful? If we live in presumably the freest of free nations
in the world, then why can one not exercise his/her freedom by taking his/her
own life? Especially if he/she is in an overwhelming amount of pain. The only
logical explanation is that the government needs something to squabble about in
the court systems to ensure their next paycheck.
If it has been established that the person is going to assuredly die, and that
the death will be humiliating, painful, and drawn out, not to mention time
consuming and expensive, then in the most free of all of the free nations he/she
should be allowed to die. Let them die! This is not an ethical concern of God;
it is a question of freedom.
Albom, Mitch. Tuesdays with Morrie. New York: Doubleday, 1997.
Humphry, Derek. Final Exit. 28 May 2001. Euthanasia Research Guidance Organization. 01 Nov. 2001. www.finalexit.org/faqframe.html#3
King James Version. The Bible Library: Ellis Enterprises, Inc. 1990.
MacKinnon, Barbara. Euthanasia, Ethics Theory and Contemporary Issues, second edition. Wadsworth Publishing Co. 1998.
TVES. The Voluntary Euthanasia Society. 02 Nov. 2001.