Is Euthanasia right or wrong?

Mar 13, 2009

In Ethics class, we are studying certain ethical debates. For example, we have covered the Death Penalty, media censorship, etc. But the newest thing is euthanasia. Simply, euthanasia is defined as "assisted killing." It is meant for people who are suffering a great deal who may be better off dying because of the severity of that suffering.

There are two main arguments in the debate about euthanasia:

The first is the opponent side of the debate. Basically, these people say that the reason we are given life is to live it and that if God wanted us to die, then he would take our lives. It is murder to kill oneself or be killed using medicine because the suffering is too great. They think that if you are alive in this suffering then there is probably some reason for it.

The second is the proponent side of things. These people say that every person receives dignity and self-worth, and those slowly wasting away are being denied that dignity and self-worth. If someone is only half-conscious and salivating all over themselves, then people shouldn't have to live that way if they don't want to.

Looking at it from the law point of view, you need to know two key terms - active euthanasia and passive euthanasia.

-Greek: easy death. The act or practice of painlessly terminating the life of a person or animal. As applied to animals, it is sometimes referred to as "humane disposal." N.J.S.A. 45: 16-14. As applied to persons, it is accepted in some cultures but in the United States it may be treated as criminal, subjecting those responsible to prosecution under the homicide statutes. Two types of euthanasia exist.


Active euthanasia refers to the act of putting to death. Also known as "mercy killing," it involves the termination of life as painlessly as possible such as by an injection of lethal medications. Courts are struggling with this area of law which is also known as "assisted suicide." For the rights of the terminally ill, see 95 Uniform Laws Annotated 609 (1987).


Passive euthanasia involves withholding artificial life support, such as breathing or feeding tubes. It is often called the "right to die."

An exception to prosecution has been developed in some jurisdictions in which the termination of the life of an incurably ill patient is no longer treated as criminal if done by a guardian or immediate family member after consultation with an ethics committee of a hospital, and if accomplished by the negative means of withdrawing life-support systems or extraordinary medical care rather than by some affirmative act. 355 A. 2d 647.

Most religions are against euthanasia because it goes against the belief that God is in control and that it is his job to control our destinies. Christianity does not support such measures as "mercy killing" or "assister killing" as they're so aptly name.

There have been some important court cases in the Supreme Court that have also debated the issue of euthanasia.

Washington v. Glucksberg (1997) and Vacco v. Quill (1997) rejected claims that terminally ill, competent patients had a constitutional right to the assistance of a physician in ending their lives. The plaintiffs were challenging state laws that barred doctors from prescribing lethal doses of medication for such patients. In the third case, Cruzan v. Director, Missouri Department of Health (1990), a patient was maintained on life support machinery in a persistent vegetative state and was incompetent to make decisions about her own treatment. The Court held that the state could prohibit the withdrawal of life support, absent “clear and convincing” evidence that this patient, if competent, would have decided to terminate treatment.

For some justices, constitutional liberty protects a person's right to make life's most important, intimate decisions free from state interference. Decisions about the timing of one's death, like decisions about contraception and abortion, would qualify. For other justices, liberty does not extend that far. These justices tend to identify liberty with traditional American legal practice—and the right to die hardly qualifies as a traditional legal right.

Probably the most famous person dealing with this issue is Dr. Ted Kevorkian, known as "Doctor Death". He has been put in jail for his assisted killings of terminally ill patients. There was even one incident where he was filming the death of the person he is helping to kill.

A retired pathologist, Dr. Kevorkian, or "Dr. Death" to his detractors, made headlines in the 1990s by assisting over 130 people to commit suicide. The author of Prescription: Medicide, Dr. Kevorkian made his reputation challenging a 1993 Michigan law prohibiting physician-assisted suicide. Backed by the American Civil Liberties Union, Kevorkian argued that the law, which had been expressly written to outlaw his practice of active euthanasia, denied individuals the right to choose how and when they died. However, Kevorkian's legal stance suffered when it was revealed that many of his patients' diseases were not terminal and were unverified. Unrepentant, the seventy-year-old physician continued his practice until a Michigan court sentenced him in 1999 to ten to twenty-five years in prison for the second-degree murder of Thomas Youk, a patient with Lou Gehrig's disease. Ultimately, Kevorkian's arrogance proved to be his downfall; the airing of Youk's suicide on the television program 60 Minutes infuriated the court, as did his participation in another assisted suicide while released on bail.

There is also a case going on in Italy right now, about a girl who has been brain dameded for seventeen years. Finally, her father got the legalities of the situation under control and they finally pulled the plug. She was a beautiful woman and then BAM! Just like that, the next (almost) decade of her life and she's living it in a hospital bed. I think if it was me, I would want to be put out of my suffering because there is no may I would want to lay in a bed for as long as I am old.


I'm learning more about

Submitted by 12makridise on Fri, 2009-05-08 04:39.

I'm learning more about euthanasia right now, and I'm wondering about: how society has abused science and discovery in order to control the life span of human beings? Is that going to lead to manipulation or protection? As I was reading, the article titled "Is euthanasia right or wrong?" there was one quote that I very much liked and it was: "Most religions are against euthanasia because it goes against the belief that God is in control and that it is his job to control our destinies. Christianity does not support such measures as "mercy killing" or "assister killing" as they're so aptly name." I chose this quote because of the fact that it sheds new light on the idea of euthanazing an individual, it doesn't become only part of ethics and morality, but it branches outwards extending beyond what's known, and what is believed to be right. 

Here is something I interpreted and researched about my topic of euthansia. This is based on my opinion and there are a few points I wanted to share and express: 

Rising to the surface of discussion, were a variety of reasons all directed toward the benefit of euthanasia. Some argue that every individual has the right to die, that euthanasia should be acceptable when the patient is falling down the slippery slope of inevitable death and that voluntary euthanasia cannot become involuntary. All statements are based on a false foundation of idealistic principles and thoughts. Voluntary euthanasia (when the patient asks to die) has been found to be influenced by emotional and psychological elements of the suffering human and is not brought about based on the intensity of physical pain. Most terminally ill individuals, give up on life, fall into depression and dive deeper into a pit of hopelessness which as a result makes them request the choice of euthanasia. Legalizing euthanasia will make those patients feel even more vulnerable, as well as threatened. It would construct the idea that their lives are burdens blocking the progress of society and thus would make them request euthanasia for entirely wrong reasons. Legalizing euthanasia would also mean that there would be an easier solution to end pain, for those who are poor and do not have enough money to support their families in hospitals. It would be looked upon as an easy and cheaper alternative, which would mean that doctors and government would benefit if someone chose the “treatment” of death. Research has indicated that poor families aren’t given access to the right means for an easier approach to relieve the pain of a victim.


This would make more financially disabled people chose to embark on the downward road towards euthanasia. Most people also ask, “will safeguards prevent the abuse and the occurrence of involuntary euthanasia?” Dutch studies have indicated the exact opposite of what pro-activists choose to acknowledge. Data showed that during the year 1995 only “41% of euthanasia cases were recorded”, and based on the law every single case has to be reported. Such cases could be considered non-voluntary, and there were “one thousand cases in which life ending treatment was given without the request of the patient” (“Questions and Answers on Euthanasia” 5). Legalizing the use of euthanasia would not only enforce the needless and unethical deaths of millions (based on the confusion between physical and emotional pain). It will give doctors, physicians and the government financial benefits, leading to the rise of a corrupt system and to the deprivation of advantages for those who are desperately suffering.