The purpose of this paper is to consider and critically analyse the arguments, both legal and moral, in regard to legalising euthanasia, engaging with the ethical theory of deontology. This paper will provide an outline of the definition of euthanasia and associated terms, such as passive and active, involuntary and voluntary, as well as define and demonstrate deontological theory with regard to the topic. It will be demonstrated that the consequences of proposed euthanasia laws, though they have not come to pass, have certainly caused the debate of ethical and legal issues and thus, it is proposed that euthanasia should not yet be legalised. This argument will be supported with examples from Oregon’s Death with Dignity Act, as well as incorporate statistics found in a study of end-of-life decisions in six European countries published in 2003. This supporting evidence will assist in demonstrating that if the practice becomes legal without control measures and adequate safeguards in place, it will become easy for accidental deaths to occur, thus making euthanasia a legally and morally wrong option.
Ethical Concepts and Legal Definitions
Prior to outlining the right or wrong of legalising euthanasia, it is imperative to firstly discuss the concepts and definitions. Euthanasia is largely defined as the deliberate omission of treatment with the intention of hastening or ending a life, in order to relieve unmanageable pain and suffering (Sanders and Chaloner 2007, 42). There are subdivisions to this definition; passive and active. Active euthanasia is the deliberate intervention to end a person’s life through means such as a lethal drug, whereas passive is the notion that it is permissible to withhold treatment from a patient and allow the individual to die (Garrard and Wilkinson 2005, 64). Involuntary euthanasia is the termination of life made by another who is not the person in question, whereas voluntary is where the person requests to be euthanized.
Normative ethics is the study of ethical action that investigates moral obligations and actions, including consequentialism and utilitarianism. Of primary relevance to the question of legalising euthanasia is the ethical theory of deontology, a subset of normative ethics, Deontology is also known as duty-based ethics. and is concerned with the fact that acts are either right or wrong, and people have a duty to act accordingly, regardless of both negative and positive consequences (Quadrelli, 2014).
Arguments using Ethical Theory
Deontology is about the nature of duty without regard to the good that it might produce, as outlined by the Stanford Encyclopaedia of Philosophy (2012). The majority of arguments with regard to euthanasia is against the its proposed legalisation. The fact that euthanasia has only been legalised in The Netherlands, Belgium and Oregon shows it is not widely accepted and there is much controversy (Chapple et al. 2003). In the review of the...