At the time when a patient is undergoing suffering that persists and is incurable, the life of such a person may be terminated through some well-considered measures. Such an approach is termed as euthanasia and takes different forms. For instance, there is passive euthanasia whose application is already in place in various hospitals when curing a person and ending suffering is unachievable. The health personnel is left with the option of reducing pain through the administration of sedatives (Denier, Gastmans, De Bal, & Dierckx, 2010). It also takes the form of stopping treatment and the rising costs where it does not serve to bring about healing to the patient. The other type is non-aggressive euthanasia whose application has not been fully accepted and would entail the removal of life sustenance. Non-aggressive, also known as active euthanasia, is applied when the patient agrees to its implementation or the relatives in case she or he is not in a position to give consent.
Facts about Euthanasia
There are times when euthanasia becomes inevitable given the prevailing conditions that present themselves with the onset of untreatable ailments. At such a time, the patient undergoes anguish and agony, sees no need to live, and gets a strong feeling of the willingness to die. Such a situation may not be alleviated by the medication available even in the present age of medical advancement (Denier et al., 2010). There have been efforts by different stakeholders to make euthanasia a practice that will not amount to a breach of any law if practiced. Its application is only allowed in a few countries while in others it has been outlawed. However, even in places where it is not allowed, euthanasia is known to be practiced behind closed doors amidst views that it is against the law and unacceptable.
The argument around why euthanasia is not fully practiced without fear of implications by the law is the fact that it has to do with the life of a human being and it contemplates on bringing the latter to an end. Those who are not in favor of its application claim that if it is allowed in law, then it means homicide is being validated (Dierickx, Deliens, Cohen, & Chambaere, 2016). However, when euthanasia is approved by a patient, there is a need to offer them a chance to face death with self-esteem by allowing them to live the final stage of life with dignity and devoid of suffering. This is their final desire, which should be granted lest the sick person seeks other ways of ending their life such as committing suicide. Euthanasia is the only avenue that guarantees an end to a patient’s agony and intolerable distress caused by incurable sicknesses. The privilege to live cannot be wished away but a sick person can ask for physician-assisted death since the extent of pain borne is increased by the difficulty to live peaceably while bearing in mind that death is in waiting. There is a build-up of pressure for such a person and no logic for life; this weighs down the patient and the relatives. The tragedy of going through suffering before death and the uncertainty of how to face it can only be reduced by euthanasia.
Relatives to a patient can consent to euthanasia in the event that the sick person is not in a position to, especially at that time when they have exhausted the avenues that would guarantee treatment, but to no avail. Euthanasia may offer a solution also at the point when the hospitals cannot accommodate those who can be treated and survive, and at the same time, they have hospitalized the untreatable ones who are willing to die (Dierickx et al., 2016). Having considered the various justifications for undertaking euthanasia, it is up to various governments of the day to device a law that would seal off any loopholes as the practice is declared legal.
In the world over, there has been a disagreement on the non-aggressive euthanasia and its practice right from the health personnel, sick people, up to the family members. The society trusts that those in the health profession are bound by the obligation of ensuring that patients survive irrespective of their state in terms of their well-being (Dierickx et al., 2016). They hold the view that if the health professionals carry out euthanasia, they act contrary to the code of conduct they have assigned themselves to; of ‘treating and doing no harm.’ They are deemed to have failed to uphold this important aspect of their profession whether they practice the passive or active euthanasia. Others, and more particularly those in support of euthanasia are of the view that if a sick person desires an end to life and the physician declines to grant the request, they are also failing to honor their pledge of ‘ not harming.’ In essence, this refusal is termed as ‘harming’ the patient thus acting against what should be observed by the physician.
Arguments against Euthanasia
Euthanasia is Inhuman
Euthanasia is a topic that has been disputed to a great extent from the moment that medical expertise spectacularly improved. Also referred to as assisted suicide, euthanasia acts a means of terminating the suffering of a patient by making him/her die. Nevertheless, since medical expertise is advancing at a high rate, euthanasia is not required in practice within the healthcare in the modern society. Furthermore, the practice is inhuman over and above being vicious (Dierickx et al., 2016). Most individuals with seemingly incurable illnesses or their family members rush for euthanasia when they feel that they do not want to bear with the experience of pain anymore. One explanation as to why patients and their family members should avoid the choice of euthanasia is the fact that medical expertise is developing at a high rate. In this regard, diseases that may not have been treatable about a decade ago are presently curable. With respect to the current technological advancements in the medical field, diseases that can currently not be treated will possibly find a cure in less than a year’s time. Family members or patients mulling over euthanasia ought to first obtain all facts regarding the underlying research on the illness and think twice prior to arriving at serious decisions.
Euthanasia offers an inhumane approach to dealing with an intricate problem. Some individuals argue that it is cruel to let a person undergo endless pain and suffering. Most of the family members also have a more difficult time addressing the pain and grieving about the suffering of their loved one when judged against the patient himself, and they choose euthanasia as a way of easing their pain in conjunction with that of the patient. However, it is not heartless to let the patient live for as long as it is humanly achievable while trying to address the problem. It is inhuman to terminate the life of a patient only to find the cure for the disease a few days later (Smets et al., 2010). Human life is a gorgeous thing in the entire universe and patients ought to be given the opportunity to enjoy the beauty of life whenever possible.
Euthanasia Devalues Human Life
Euthanasia, mercy killing, is normally undertaken by physicians to patients who have terminal illnesses. Though euthanasia is carried out by doctors in some circumstances and is lawful in a few nations, it should be illegalized and ought not to be done as it undervalues human life and may be easily abused. Doctors are supposed to treat and not to kill a patient. In line with a wide pool of studies, euthanasia should not be practiced as its continued administration may gradually create a notion that death is more estimable than being ill. On this note, progressively more patients could opt for euthanasia over treatment attributable to the thoughts that death is the most preferred solution to illness. The supporters of euthanasia claim that it is part of self-protection. The same manner in which a fighter who is severely wounded in battle may die if not treated urgently, patients prefer euthanasia to stop their suffering, which might result in a more painful death (Smets et al., 2010). Nonetheless, in the cases of self-protection and treating a fighter, the outcome is saving the life of a person, which is not the case in euthanasia where life is terminated. Euthanasia makes life appear cheap as it creates the notion that taking a person’s life is acceptable.
Although euthanasia is undertaken with the consent of the patient and their family members, studies establish that some patients and families may prefer to have it due to the emotional problems they could be facing (Smets et al., 2010). For instance, if a patient is in deep pain from an illness and the health professional presents or recommends the idea of euthanasia, the patient will not have a choice but to demand it. Such a person might have just chosen euthanasia owing to the suffering and the thoughts that treatment will not be successful.
Involuntary euthanasia, which is done without the approval of the patient, is tantamount to murder. If euthanasia were to be legalized, some family members with ill motives could call for its application or advise the patient to demand it as an easy way of murdering the patient for their selfish gains. To prevent such forms of abuse, health professionals ought to just focus on saving the life of the patients with no option of ending it with intent (Smets et al., 2010). Even where no cure is forthcoming, and euthanasia seems to be the best way out, doctors should strive to find the most successful treatment approach as a way of valuing life. It is only God who should have the authority to terminate life at will. Every person, whether ill or not, has the right to live and death should not be approved as a solution to any problem whatsoever. There is still a chance of getting solutions to any health problem as long as the patient is alive.
Arguments for Euthanasia
Euthanasia Ends Suffering
In every free society, people ought to be allowed to make their choices regarding their time of death if they have terminal illnesses. On the other hand, if the patient is in a coma for a long time, involuntary euthanasia should be practiced if the family members feel that it is the best alternative left (Karlsson, Milberg, & Strang, 2012). Illegalizing euthanasia is a means of prohibiting people from deciding their fate by forcing continued pain and suffering both to the patient and the members of the family (Tamayo-Velázquez, Simón-Lorda, & Cruz-Piqueras, 2012). Euthanasia ought to be policed but practiced where the situation demands as it offers a means of ending suffering in occurrences where the patient could have died in greater pain anyway. If people are permitted to lawfully refute treatment, which could eventually result in the loss of life, it is only fair to practice euthanasia under the request of terminally ill patients and their family members as a means of stopping intolerable pain and suffering even if the outcome is death.
Rather than legalizing euthanasia, the government and other stakeholders in the health sector should push for the improvement of patient outcomes and nursing practices, which entails the provision and administration of efficient healthcare services to for quality care. In the modern world, a significant part of the population does not access healthcare facilities thus far due to various challenges (Tamayo-Velázquez et al., 2012). Geographical alienation, illiteracy, religious convictions, poverty, and cultural beliefs encompass a few of such challenges. Moreover, patients should be educated against euthanasia as many of them prefer it instead of treatment, which might work effectively, for being ill-informed.
Despite the few demerits of practicing euthanasia, in all the circumstances, the choice to go on with life or not should entirely be left to the discretion of the patient or the family members. Health professionals are in a continuous struggle with the fact that the choice to terminate life lies with the patient while at the same time gearing towards practicing as per the requirements of their code of conduct. This leaves them to operate under the confines of what regulates their profession while at the same time putting into consideration the power of discretion vested on the patient as pertaining to their choice of how and when to face death.
Denier, Y., Gastmans, C., De Bal, N., & Dierckx, B. (2010). Communication in nursing care for patients requesting euthanasia: A qualitative study. Journal of clinical nursing, 19(23‐24), 3372-3380.
Dierickx, S., Deliens, L., Cohen, J., & Chambaere, K. (2016). Euthanasia in Belgium: Trends in reported cases between 2003 and 2013. Canadian Medical Association Journal, 188(16), E407-E414.
Karlsson, M., Milberg, A., & Strang, P. (2012). Dying cancer patients’ own opinions on euthanasia: an expression of autonomy? A qualitative study. Palliative medicine, 26(1), 34-42.
Smets, T., Cohen, J., Bilsen, J., Van Wesemael, Y., Rurup, M. L., & Deliens, L. (2010). The labelling and reporting of euthanasia by Belgian physicians: A study of hypothetical cases. The European Journal of Public Health, 22(1), 19-26.
Tamayo-Velázquez, M. I., Simón-Lorda, P., & Cruz-Piqueras, M. (2012). Euthanasia and physician-assisted suicide: Knowledge, attitudes and experiences of nurses in Andalusia (Spain). Nursing ethics, 19(5), 677-691.