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Is mercy killing humane? Do we have the right to assess whether a life is worth living? Should euthanasia be practiced only in the terminally ill people or for the debilitated and mentally ill too? In this write up, we get into the heart of the matter by looking at the pros and cons of euthanasia. The word euthanasia is derived from the Greek language where ‘eu means good’ and ‘thanasia means death’. Euthanasia also known as mercy killing.
It is a way of painlessly terminating the lives of those who are either suffering from an incurable disease or are in immense pain.
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This form of assisted suicide is done with the ‘humane’ motive of easing one’s pain and suffering.
Although doctors are put under oath to not be a part of euthanasia, there are some countries that permit this legally. While the practice has been legalized in countries like Belgium, Switzerland, America (Washington and Oregon) and the Netherlands on certain grounds after family consent, it still continues to be an issue of contention in these countries even today.
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It is a topic that is sure to have a thousand opinions. It is definitely not an issue to be taken lightly. Let’s take a look at the following debate that will help us understand the reasoning for & against mercy killing.
Death with Dignity
Sometimes people mention in their wills, that if they ever get into such a situation where it seems hopeless or too much to bear, that the family should allow him/her to die.
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Here are some pros to this situation’s ethical front.
- An individual should have the liberty to choose induced death if he is suffering from an incurable disease where even the best treatment doesn’t improve his quality of life.
- Legalizing euthanasia would help alleviate suffering in terminally ill patients. It would be inhuman and unfair to make them endure the unbearable pain.
- While killing someone in an attempt to defend ‘self’ is acceptable by law, mercy killing is seen as act that is highly immoral in nature. The motive of euthanasia is to ‘aid-in-dying’ painlessly and thus should be considered positively by the lawmakers.
- A doctor is expected to help treat the sick by prescribing medicines that will relieve the patient’s suffering (at any cost) even if the medications potentially give rise to serious side effects. This means dealing with distress should be the priority even if it affects one’s life expectancy. Euthanasia follows the same theory of dealing with torment in a way that it helps one die peacefully out of possible peril.
- Euthanasia should be a natural extension of patient’s rights allowing him to decide the value of life and death. Maintaining life support system against the patient’s wish is considered unethical by law as well as medical philosophy. If the patient has the right to discontinue treatment, why would he not have the right to shorten his lifetime to escape the anguish? Isn’t the pain of waiting for death more traumatic?
- Family heirs who would misuse euthanasia as a tool for wealth inheritance does not hold true. Reason being, the relatives can withdraw life support leading to early death of the said individual even in the absence of legalized euthanasia. Here they aren’t actively causing death, but passively waiting for it without the patient’s consent. This is passive involuntary euthanasia that is witnessed around us even without legal support.
- Health care expenditure is and will always be a concern for the family irrespective of the euthanasia laws, and only those who can afford a prolonged unproductive treatment will continue to do so. A section of those in support of mercy killing often ask whether it is rational to keep a person – who has no hopes of survival, alive on a support system when our medical infrastructure is already under immense pressure.
- It can thus be inferred that though euthanasia is banned worldwide, passive euthanasia has always been out there and moreover law doesn’t prohibit it. Disrespect and overuse of (passive) euthanasia has always existed and will always be practiced by surrogates with false motives. These are the ones who don’t need a law to take one’s life. The existing legal restrictions leave both the incurable patients as well as pro-euthanasia activists helpless who approve euthanasia as a goodwill gesture for a patient’s dignity.
Respect the Sanctity of Life
Those against this practice most often resort to ethics and morality in their tirade against it. They argue that mercy killing is an unethical practice because killing a person – for whatsoever reason it is, cannot be justified. Here’s giving you the cons of euthanasia and how people deal with the idea of it.
- Mercy killing is morally incorrect and should be forbidden by law. It is homicide and murdering another human cannot be rationalized under any circumstances.
- Human life deserves exceptional security and protection. Advanced medical technology has made it possible to enhance human life span and quality of life. Palliative care and rehabilitation centers are better alternatives to help disabled or patients approaching death live a pain-free and better life.
- Family members would take undue disadvantage if euthanasia was legalized by influencing the patient’s decision into it for personal gains. Also, there is no way you can really be sure if the decision towards assisted suicide is voluntary or forced by others.
- Even doctors cannot firmly predict about the period of death and whether there is a possibility of remission with advanced treatment. So, implementing euthanasia would mean many unlawful deaths that could have well survived later. Legalizing euthanasia would be like empowering law abusers and increasing distrust of patients towards doctors.
- Mercy killing would lead to the ‘slippery slope effect’, which is when those who are unable to voice their desires, are put to death like the senile, or a baby or someone in a coma and so on. It would cause decline in health care and cause victimization of the most vulnerable sections of society. Perhaps, mercy killing would transform itself from the ‘right to die’ to ‘right to kill’?
- Also, all the religions believe euthanasia to be an act of murder, with no one’s right to end life or be the judge of what happens next. Apart from these reasons, there are certain aspects where there is a greater possibility of euthanasia being messed up with.
- How would one assess whether a disorder of mental nature qualifies mercy killing? What if one’s pain threshold is below optimum and the patient perceives the circumstances to be not worthy of living? How would one know whether the wish to die is the result of an unbalanced thought process or a logical decision in mentally-ill patients? What if the individual chooses assisted suicide as an option and the family wouldn’t agree?
Yes, it may seem sad to see the one we love suffer, but at the end of the day, can we take matters into our own hands and decide to end another life? Well, it’s hard to say!
Ethical questions include whether the principle of autonomy extends to the right to die, or whether a physician's commitments to support life override (or not) their duty of care if their patient asks to die 1-4.What is one argument that active euthanasia? ›
Advocates of active euthanasia typically argue that killing the patients in question is not worse than letting them die. Advocates of voluntary euthanasia often claim that patients should have the right to do what they want with their own lives.What are the advantages of euthanasia debate? ›
- People have an explicit right to die.
- A separate right to die is not necessary, because our other human rights imply the right to die.
- Death is a private matter and if there is no harm to others, the state and other people have no right to interfere (a libertarian argument)
Those who oppose euthanasia often argue that palliative care offers sufficient possibilities to relieve (unbearable) suffering at the end of life. Continuous deep sedation—the administration of sedating drugs until death—can, for instance, be used as an option of last resort.What are the 4 pillars of ethics and euthanasia? ›
Four cardinal principles form the basis for the ethical consideration of practice: autonomy, beneficence, nonmaleficence, and justice. Respect for autonomy is essential to the care of dying patients.What is a major argument against legalizing euthanasia? ›
Other utilitarian arguments against legalization of euthanasia are that human life will slowly be devalued, a factor that could lead to additional unforseen societal consequences, and that use of euthanasia will cause physicians to ignore other methods of relieving pain and suffering in dying patients.Is euthanasia cruel? ›
To be truly humane, the method used must not only be pain-free, but stress-free for the animal. Not only can gas chambers cause physical pain for ill, injured, old and young animals (the majority of animals facing euthanasia in shelters), they cause stress in 100% of animals forced into a chamber.What is the euthanasia mercy argument? ›
In the euthanasia debate, the argument from mercy holds that if someone is in unbearable pain and is hopelessly ill or injured, then mercy dictates that inflicting death may be morally justified.What are the pros of euthanasia in animals? ›
Animal euthanasia is the humane and compassionate process of ending an animal's life in a way that minimizes pain and suffering. It is often the best option for pet owners facing the difficult decision to end their pet's life due to terminal illness, severe injuries, or other health issues.How does euthanasia work? ›
Euthanasia is most often accomplished for pets by injection of a death-inducing drug. Your veterinarian may administer a tranquilizer first to relax your pet. Following injection of the euthanasia drug, your pet will immediately become deeply and irreversibly unconscious as the drug stops brain function.
The euthanasia solution is usually a barbiturate- the same class of drugs used for general anesthesia. At a much higher dose, this solution provides not only the same effects as general anesthesia (loss of consciousness, loss of pain sensation), but suppresses the cardiovascular and respiratory systems.What are the best practices of euthanasia? ›
- One of the most humane methods of euthanasia is the administration of a barbiturate overdose either by the intravenous, intraperitoneal or intracardiac routes.
- Injections by the intraperitoneal route work much more slowly than the intravenous route, but are easier for an operator working alone.
He is experiencing chronic pain that cannot be controlled with medication (your veterinarian can help you determine if your pet is in pain). He has frequent vomiting or diarrhea that is causing dehydration and/or significant weight loss. He has stopped eating or will only eat if you force feed him.What are the arguments against end of life care? ›
Lay Summary: Presented here are four non-religious, reasonable arguments against physician-assisted suicide and euthanasia: (1) “it offends me,” suicide devalues human life; (2) slippery slope, the limits on euthanasia gradually erode; (3) “pain can be alleviated,” palliative care and modern therapeutics more and more ...What are the moral issues of end of life? ›
During EOL care, ethical dilemmas may arise from situations such as communication breakdowns, patient autonomy being compromised, ineffective symptom management, non-beneficial care, and shared decision making.What is the main issue in end of life decisions? ›
The most important ethical problem faced by emergency physicians in end-of-life care is making ethical decisions on issues such as whether to perform resuscitation and continue life-sustaining treatment in cases where the patients are not competent to make decisions.What is the moral dilemma of euthanasia? ›
Euthanasia raises a number of agonising moral dilemmas: is it ever right to end the life of a terminally ill patient who is undergoing severe pain and suffering? under what circumstances can euthanasia be justifiable, if at all? is there a moral difference between killing someone and letting them die?What is the principle of dignity in euthanasia? ›
The dying must know that, for their physicians, they never lose their human dignity and that they continue to possess all their value and esteem: their lives always retain a full measure of meaning and dignity.What are the four 4 basic rules of ethics? ›
The Fundamental Principles of Ethics. Beneficence, nonmaleficence, autonomy, and justice constitute the 4 principles of ethics. The first 2 can be traced back to the time of Hippocrates “to help and do no harm,” while the latter 2 evolved later.Which of the following is not an argument made against legalizing active euthanasia? ›
Which of the following is NOT an argument made against legalizing active euthanasia? It is too expensive.
Which of the following statements is consistent with all forms of euthanasia? The patient is diagnosed with an incurable disease or severe disability. Which of the following statements are true regarding the definition of brain death? A person can still have a heartbeat after the higher portions of the brain have died.What is the slippery slope of euthanasia? ›
As applied to the euthanasia debate, the slippery slope argument claims that the acceptance of certain practices, such as physician-assisted suicide or voluntary euthanasia, will invariably lead to the acceptance or practice of concepts which are currently deemed unacceptable, such as non-voluntary or involuntary ...Do people feel pain during euthanasia? ›
Although most patients do have a pain‐free death, however, a few do not. Sometimes analgesia is insufficient without side effects such as sedation, nausea and confusion.Can euthanasia be reversed? ›
None of the injections cause any pain or discomfort and the entire process is very peaceful. The last injection containing an overdose of anesthesia cannot be reversed, so pet euthanasia is final.Is it OK to cry during euthanasia? ›
Laugh and cry at the same time. Surround yourselves with all his/her favorite toys and beds and blankets. It's ok to cry, and it's also ok to celebrate! I love when people tell me they took their dog to the beach or napped in the sun with their cat right before coming in to the hospital.What is the strongest argument against mercy death? ›
The main arguments against mercy death is the possibility of finding cures.What is the argument on dignity in dying? ›
People die with dignity because of their personal qualities, their virtues, whatever the circumstances in which they die: indignity is suffered; dignity is earned. It follows that a dignified death will be something earned. Someone who lives a good life, lives virtuously, will die in that way.Is it moral to euthanize animals? ›
As with humans, the only time animal euthanasia is justified is if the animal is suffering as the result of a debilitating disease with little hope of full recovery.Why is it OK to euthanize a pet? ›
A veterinarian may recommend euthanasia, which is a humane death, when other options to reduce pain and distress are no longer helpful. Euthanasia may be recommended when you least expect it, such as if your pet is diagnosed with a terminal illness or if they've been in a debilitating accident.Why choose in home euthanasia? ›
The primary benefit of in-home euthanasia is that it is less stressful for you and your pet. Having a veterinarian come to your home means your pet won't have to deal with unfamiliar scents, sights, and sounds during their final moments.
How long does the euthanasia process take? The typical in-home euthanasia appointment generally takes about an hour. However, the length of the appointment will depend upon your pet's response to the sedation medication. Every animal, just as every human, responds differently to sedative drugs.How long does a euthanasia take? ›
The patient needs to be unconscious, so anesthesia is required. Death occurs in approximately two minutes. The liver is right up against the diaphragm and takes up half of the caudal ribcage space.What happens to the brain during euthanasia? ›
Loss of cortical electrical activity occurred during or within 52 seconds after the infusion of euthanasia solution. Cessation of brainstem function as evidenced by a lack of brainstem reflexes and disappearance of the BAER happened subsequently.What happens to euthanized animals? ›
Remains. Many pet owners choose to have their pets cremated or buried after the pet is euthanized, and there are pet funeral homes that specialize in animal burial or cremation. Otherwise, the animal facility will often freeze the body and subsequently send it to the local landfill.How many animals are euthanized each year? ›
Euthanized animal statistics
On average, 1.5 million shelter animals are euthanized every year in the United States. Shelters around the country euthanize an estimated 670,000 dogs and 860,000 cats each year. 45% of all cats who enter shelters are eventually euthanized.
/ (ˈjuːθəˌnaɪz) / verb. (tr) to kill (a person or animal) painlessly, esp to relieve suffering from an incurable illness.What is the most humane way to euthanize? ›
While the destruction of brain tissue with the penetrating captive bolt may be sufficient to result in death, operators are strongly advised to ensure death by exsanguination, pithing or the injection of a chemical substance such as KCl to ensure death.How to talk about euthanasia? ›
Be direct and clear and use the terms “death” and “died”. Allow your child to be part of the conversation, appropriate to their age and development, surrounding their pet's illness, treatment, and quality of life. Allow your child to be a part of the decision-making conversation for euthanasia.What is the main ingredient in most euthanasia solutions? ›
A non-sterile solution containing two active ingredients, pentobarbital sodium and phenytoin sodium, for humane, painless and rapid euthanasia in dogs.What is behavioral euthanasia? ›
Behavioral euthanasia is the term used for humanely ending a dog's life because of severe behavioral issues. This is not usually related to physical health, and it's not about nuisance behavior like pulling on leash or jumping on guests.
It's advisable to bring your surviving dog to your other pet's euthanasia at home. However, there are instances where it would be better for them not to be present during another dog's euthanasia. Pet is disruptive: Some pets, especially younger ones, may still need to be trained to be still and respectful.Should a child be present during euthanasia? ›
Some children want to be present during euthanasia and most will be very curious about the process. Tously says you should answer their questions. As for allowing the child to be present, some veterinarians are firmly against it; others say it depends on the child's age and maturity.Why is end-of-life care so important? ›
End of life care improves the quality of life for a patient by helping them manage their symptoms such as pain, sickness or emotional distress. Patients are cared for through each stage of their illness by specialist nurses and doctors.What are end of life decisions? ›
A care plan summarizes a person's health conditions, medications, health care providers, emergency contacts, end-of-life care wishes, such as advance directives, and other decisions. A care plan may also include your loved one's wishes after they die, such as funeral arrangements and what will be done with their body.What are the ethical decisions making euthanasia? ›
For euthanasia, this means that the pet owner's interests always come before those of the pet; the pet owner has the right to end the pet's life so long as its death is painless.How does situation ethics apply to euthanasia? ›
There are a number of ethical theories that can be applied to the topic of euthanasia. One of these is the theory of situation ethics was put forward by Joseph Fletcher in the 1960s. This theory argues that it is our Christian duty to do the most loving thing in complex moral dilemmas.What are ethical concerns? ›
What is an ethical issue? Ethical issues are defined as situations that occur as a result of a moral conflict that must be addressed. Thus, ethical issues tend to interfere with a society's principles.What are the ethical issues of restraint? ›
Restraints increase a person's vulnerability to neglect, harm, and exploitation and are associated with significant physical harm and devastating psychologic consequences.What factors are associated with euthanasia? ›
Psychiatric disorders, dementia, and/or an accumulation of health problems were negatively associated with both requesting and receiving euthanasia.What is an example of an ethical dilemma? ›
An ethical dilemma is a paradox that comes up when there are two or more options, but neither of them are the best ethical or moral option. False accounting, sexual harassment, data privacy, nepotism, discrimination—these are just some of the ethical dilemmas that happen in today's workplace.
Religious opponents of euthanasia believe that life is given by God, and only God should decide when to end it. Other opponents fear that if euthanasia was made legal, the laws regulating it would be abused, and people would be killed who didn't really want to die.What is a dilemma of morality in euthanasia problem? ›
Euthanasia raises a number of agonising moral dilemmas: is it ever right to end the life of a terminally ill patient who is undergoing severe pain and suffering? under what circumstances can euthanasia be justifiable, if at all? is there a moral difference between killing someone and letting them die?What are the strengths of situation ethics? ›
The Natural law critique that situation ethics leads to antinomianism. Strength: situation ethics is perpetually relevant and flexible, allowing for the situation to be taken into account. It allows Christian ethics to adapt to the new ethical situations and issues created by modern society and technology.What is the doctrine of double effect euthanasia? ›
This doctrine says that if doing something morally good has a morally bad side-effect it's ethically OK to do it providing the bad side-effect wasn't intended. This is true even if you foresaw that the bad effect would probably happen.What are the four 4 ethical issues? ›
The most widely known is the one introduced by Beauchamp and Childress. This framework approaches ethical issues in the context of four moral principles: respect for autonomy, beneficence, nonmaleficence, and justice (see table 1).What are the 4 basic ethical concerns? ›
There are four main principles of ethics: autonomy, beneficence, justice, and non-maleficence.What are the five 5 main threats to ethical behavior? ›
Many threats fall into the following categories: self-interest • self-review • advocacy • familiarity • intimidation.What are the 12 ethical issues? ›
Business ethics is an evolving topic. Generally, there are about 12 ethical principles: honesty, fairness, leadership, integrity, compassion, respect, responsibility, loyalty, law-abiding, transparency, and environmental concerns.What are the six ethical issues? ›
These principles include voluntary participation, informed consent, anonymity, confidentiality, potential for harm, and results communication.