The Morality Of Euthenasia Essay Research Paper

The Morality Of Euthenasia Essay, Research Paper

“The third night that I roomed with Jack in our tiny double room, in the solid-tumor ward of the cancer clinic of the National Institute of Health in Maryland, a terrible thought occurred to me. Jack had a melanoma in his belly, a malignant solid tumor that the doctors guessed was the size of a softball. The doctors planned to remove the tumor, but they knew Jack would soon die. The cancer had now spread out of control. Jack, about 28, was in constant pain, and his doctor had prescribed an intravenous shot, a pain killer, and this would control the pain for perhaps two hours or a bit more. Then he would begin to moan, or whimper, very low, as though he didn’t want to wake me. Then he would begin to howl, like a dog. When this happened, he would ring for a nurse, and ask for the pain-killer. The third night of his routine, a terrible thought occurred to me. ‘If Jack were a dog, I thought, what would be done to him?’ The answer was obvious: the pound, and the chloroform. No human being with a spark of pity could let a living thing suffer so, to no good end.” (James Rachel’s The Morality of Euthanasia)

The experience of Stewart Alsop, a respected journalist, who

died in 1975 of a rare form of cancer gave an example on the morality

of euthanasia. Before he died, he wrote movingly of his experiences

with another terminal patient. Although he had not thought much about

euthanasia before, he came to approve of it after sharing a room with

Jack. While growing up, each of us learns a large number of rules of

conduct. Which rules we learn will depend on the kind of society we

live in and the parents and the friends we have. We may learn to be

honest, to be loyal, and to work hard. Sometimes we learn a rule

without understanding its point. In most cases this may work out, for

the rule may be designed to cover ordinary circumstances, but when

faced with unusual situations, we may be in trouble. This situation

is the same with moral rules. Without understanding the rules, we may

come to think of it as a mark of virtue that we will not consider

making exceptions to. We need a way of understanding the morality

against killing. The point is not to preserve every living thing

possible, but to protect the interests of individuals to have the

right of choice to die.

People who oppose euthanasia have argued constantly doctors

have often been known to miscalculate or to make mistakes. Death is

final and irreversible; in some cases doctors have wrongly made

diagnostic errors during a check-up. Patients being told they have

cancer or AIDS, by their doctors’ mistake, have killed themselves to

avoid the pain. Gay-Williams, The Wrongfulness of Euthanasia, stated:

“Contemporary medicine has high standards of excellence and a proven

record of accomplishment, but it does not possess perfect and

complete knowledge. A mistaken diagnosis is possible. We may believe

that we are dying of a disease when, as a matter of fact, we may not

be. . . .” (454)

Williams explains that patients who have been told by their doctors

they have cancer never actually had it. But there have been so few

cases reported that these remarks are often considered to be

speculations. The individual should have been able to continue living

until he felt the need to be confined to a bed. I cannot disagree

with the fact that doctors do make mistakes, but they are more correct

than they are wrong. Let’s say that the patient chooses not to die

but instead takes the medicines his doctor has prescribed for him. In

doing so the patient is choosing for himself. He’s making his own

decisions; he could see other doctors to see if his illness had not

been mistakenly presented. Is it not for the individual to decide

whether she or he wants to live or die?

Those opposing euthanasia have also argued that practicing euthanasia

prevents the development of new cures and rules out unpracticed

methods in saving a life. Gay-Williams says:

“Also, there is always the possibility that an experimental procedure

or a hitherto untried technique will pull us through. We should at

least keep this option open, but euthanasia closes it off.” “They

might decide that the patient would simply be ‘better off dead’ and

take the steps necessary to make that come about. This attitude would

then carry over to their dealings with patients less seriously ill.

The result would be an overall decline in quality of medical care.”


Euthanasia does not have to prevent medical researchers from inventing new cures or trying new methods in saving a life. Having new cures

that are successful will reduce the number of patients wanting to die.

Recent news says medical researchers have now reported on new methods

of treating and curing cancer patients. News such as this would let

those who think they “are better off dead” have confidence and hope

for a life to live.

The common argument in support of euthanasia is one that is

called “The argument of mercy.” Patients sometimes suffer pain that

can hardly be comprehended by those who have not experienced it. The

suffering would be so terrible that people wouldn’t want to read or

think about; and recoil in horror from its description. The argument

for mercy simply states: Euthanasia is morally justified because it

ends suffering. Terminally ill patients are people who will never

attain a personal existence, never experience life as a net value,

and/or never achieve a minimal level of independence. The moral issue

regarding euthanasia is not affected by whether more could have been

done for a patient; but whether euthanasia is allowable if it is the

only alternative to torment. Euthanasia does not refer to Nazi-like

elimination of the sick, old, or unproductive; traditionally

euthanasia means the search for a good death, an easier death for one

who is dying, a death released in some measure from intractable

suffering. If a person prefers and even begs for death as an

alternative to linger on in torment, only to die, then surely it is

not immoral to help this person die sooner.

“Do unto others as you would have them do unto you” is one of

the oldest and most common moral proverbs, which applies to everyone

alike. When people try to decide whether certain actions are morally

correct, they must ask whether they would be willing for everyone to

follow that rule, in similar circumstances. The application of this

to the question of euthanasia is fairly obvious. Each of us is going

to die someday, although people don’t know how or when, and we will

probably have little choice in the matter. But suppose you were given

two choices: to die quietly and painlessly or hope to live and

suffer? A chance to survive a disease so painful that you could only

moan for those few days before death; with family members standing

helplessly by. What would your ideal choice be? I know I would

choose the quick and painless death. Why is euthanasia considered

morally wrong by some people? The principle of self-determination

promotes the ideas of self-governance, freedom of choice, and personal

responsibility for individual decisions and behaviors.

What if Jack were your brother, your husband, or your son;

would you let him suffer or die painlessly? The doctors planed to

remove the tumor, but they knew eventually “nature will take its

course.” Society does not have the right to tell an individual how to

control his own life. If an individual chooses to die, then by all

mean he has that right; the right is paramount. Euthanasia is morally

correct, although this method of relieving pain has been the topic of

great moral debates.


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