Euthanasia, A Big Debate In America

1496 words - 6 pages

There has been much debate in recent American society over the legality and morality of apatients right-to-die. Current legal statue prohibits any form of euthanasia, however, thereare many moral and ethical dilemmas concerning the controversy. For the purposes of thisessay, I will define euthanasia as the implementation of a decision that a person's life willcome to an end before it need stop. In other words, it is a life ending when it wouldotherwise be prolonged. There is an important distinction between voluntary euthanasiawhere the decision to terminate life coincides with the individuals wishes and involuntaryeuthanasia where the individual concerned does not know about the decision and has notapproved it in advance. I will be dealing specifically with the concept of voluntaryeuthanasia, for it seems intuitive that involuntary euthanasia is not only illegal but alsoprofoundly immoral. Opponents arguments against euthanasia which fail to substantiatetheir claims, many proponents arguments highlighted by the right to autonomy, andempirical examples of legalized euthanasia all prove the moral legitimacy of physician-assisted-suicide.Opponents of euthanasia generally point to three main arguments which I willmention only for the purposes of refuting them. First, many cite the Hippocratic oathwhich reads, 'I will give no deadly medicine to anyone if asked, nor suggest any suchcounsel' as a reason to oppose euthanasia. Clearly, the Hippocratic oath does condemnthe practice, however, I do not find this as reason enough to reject the moral permissibilityof euthanasia. If the premise of the oath is flawed (i.e., if it is morally permissible for aphysician to assist in suicide), then a physician should not be prohibited from assisting insuicide simply because of an oath. Indeed, if it is proven (as will be done later in thisessay) that euthanasia is a moral way to end needless suffering, then doctors should beobliged to fulfill their patients requests for early death. The second argument thatopponents of euthanasia cite is based on the Judeo-Christian ethic of human life being theultimate value of existence. This argument is vague at best. At the most well-explainedlevel, it says that human life is intrinsically valuable and should be preserved in everyinstance (because human bodily life is the life of a person) thus euthanasia is wrongbecause it is killing before life would naturally end. This argument is proven unsound intwo ways. First, I believe that human life is distinct from personhood. Many patientsrequesting euthanasia have ceased to be persons because they are terminally ill andincapable of enjoying the gift of existence. Thus many of these individuals ( and certainlythose in a vegetative state with a living will that requests euthanasia) are living lives thatare not intrinsically valuable. Second, I disagree with the notion that life is intrinsicallyvaluable and should be preserved in every instance. I believe that life is valuable...

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