Euthanasia Essay, Research Paper
By: Matt Jivov
Euthanasia is clearly a deliberate and intentional aspect of a killing. Taking a human life, even with subtle rites and consent of the party involved is barbaric. No one can justly kill another human being. Just as it is wrong for a serial killer to murder, it is wrong for a physician to do so as well, no matter what the motive for doing so may be. Many thinkers, including almost all orthodox Catholics, believe that euthanasia is immoral. They oppose killing patients under any circumstances. Every human being has a natural inclination to continue living. Canadian and most other law forbids any form of homicide, including euthanasia and it is alleged that assisted suicide does eventually accustom a society to violence. It has been claimed that euthanasia brutalizes a society, as mercy killings are seen as a form of socialized violence. In any case killing a human being is immoral and unethical. Life should be valued, not abused, since everyone is only given one chance to live. Because death is final and irreversible, euthanasia contains within it the possibility that mistakes do happen and in fact an incorrect diagnosis is possible. If society condemns patients who are terminally ill and in the end a mistake in the diagnosis is discovered then the suffering and blame would not fall on technology but on society itself. Suffering is surely a terrible thing and society has a clear duty to comfort those in need and to ease their suffering when it can. But suffering is also a natural part of life with values for the individual and for others that we should not overlook. Knowing that a life can be taken at any time will incline people to give up too easily, hence seeking an escape in euthanasia. Killing a human being is not justified under any circumstances, which is why euthanasia should no longer be in practice. Although many countries around the world accept assisted suicide as part of their social norm, the fact remains that any type of murder is illegal in most societies. The American case of It s over Debbie , in which a gynecology resident gave a lethal injection of morphine to a woman with ovarian cancer, questions the legality of any doctor s intents and actions. First, the resident appears to have committed a felony: premeditated murder. Direct intentional homicide is a felony in all American jurisdictions, for which a plea of merciful motive is no excuse. Second, law aside, the physician behaved altogether in a scandalously unprofessional and unethical manner contrary to the policy of the American Medical Association. He did not know the patient: he had never seen her or her family, he did not study her chart, and he did not converse with her or her physician. He took, as an unambiguous command, her only words to him, Let s get this over with. Instead of thinking of ways in which he could ease her suffering, he brought her death. This is no humane and thoughtful physician succumbing with fear and trembling to the pressures and wishes of a patient, for which there was truly no other recourse. This is an impulsive yet cold technician, arrogantly masquerading as a knight of compassion and humanity who should be punished for his actions. When a patient asks for assistance in dying, and the doctor then gives the patient a lethal injection, there is no way of disguising what is happening. The doctor s intention is clear, this is undoubtedly a killing and not an allowing to die. An essential aspect of euthanasia is that it involves taking a human life of a person who is suffering from some disease of injury from which recovery cannot reasonably be expected. The action is deliberate and intentional as stated in section 231(2) of the Canadian Criminal Code: Murder is first degree when it is planned and deliberate. Section 222(1) of the Criminal Code states: A person commits homicide when, directly or indirectly, by any means, he causes the death of a human being. Therefore, when a doctor injects a lethal injection he is doing so deliberately with the intention to cause death to his patient. Nowhere in the Criminal Code does it state that one can use a merciful plea as a defense for murder. People like Dr. Kevorkian of Michigan, who continue masquerading as helpful god to assist terminally ill patient in death, should be incarcerated for breaking the law. If society allows one or two or three people get away with cold-blooded murder, then a sure downfall will follow. Hence, due to the legal aspects, euthanasia should not be part of any society. In a survey conducted for the purpose of this research project, people were asked whether given an opportunity to ease the suffering of their loved ones by mercy killing them, 58% said yes. However it is very interesting to note that when the survey group was asked questions such as whether people that assist in a suicide should be convicted of murder, or whether do they think that assisted suicide has no place in a civilized society, these are the answers that were produced: 83% of the people answered yes to the first question and 89% answered yes to the second question. This, in fact, shows quite a contradiction, because those answers basically mean that part of the same people that would assist in a suicide of their loved one to ease their suffering, also considered euthanasia immoral and unethical, as well as a criminal offence equal to murder.* Although human suffering in its multiple dimensions is a factor of life, which causes great pain and anguish, it must not be used as a reason for justifying the direct taking of human life. From an ethical point of view there is no justification for euthanasia. This conclusion is based on the principle integral to the Catholic moral tradition of the sanctity of life, which states that every person s life must be reverenced because of its personal dignity and value. God must always be understood as the Creator and Sustainer of life. Norman St. John Stevas situates this principle well: The value of human life for the Christian in the first century A.D., as today, rested not on its development of the superior sentience but on the unique character of the union of a body and soul both desired for eternal life. The right to life thus has a philosophical foundation Respect for the lives of others *because of their eternal destiny is the essence of the Christian teaching. It should be clear that every individual has a goal in life to continue living. Our natural reflexes and responses fit us to fight attackers, flee wild animals and dodge out of the way of trucks. In the daily lives, people exercise the caution and care necessary to protect themselves and the bodies are similarly structured for survival. When one is cut, the blood clots, and fibrogen is produced to start the process of healing the wound. When one is sick, antibodies are produced to fight against the alien organisms. Hence, euthanasia does violence to this natural goal of survival. It is literally acting against nature because all the processes of nature are bent towards the end of bodily survival. It is enough to recognize that the human behavioral responses make the continuation of life a natural goal. By reason alone then, euthanasia sets people against their own nature, and in doing so it does violence to one s dignity, which comes from seeking our ends. When one of the goals in life is survival and actions are taken to eliminate that goal, then the dignity suffers. Unlike animals, human beings are conscious through reason of their nature and their ends. Thus, euthanasia denies basic human character and requires that people regard themselves or others as something less than fully human. Central to both Catholic and Protestant theology on the question of euthanasia, is the conviction that God is Lord of Life and Death. This conviction is another way of affirming that the ultimate value and sanctity of human life comes from God. This conviction implies that no one can ever claim total mastery over one s own or another s life. In other words, life is God s loan to people; not only because life is grounded in God but also because God has given people life as a value to be held in trust and to be used according to his will. Saint Thomas Acquinas thus taught: That a person has dominion over himself is because he is endowed with free choice. Thanks to that free choice a man is at liberty to dispose of himself with respect to those things in this life which are subject to his freedom. But the passage from this life to a happier one is not one of those things, for one s passage from this life is subject to the will and power of God. Since life is a gift from God then the primary responsibility of each human being is to honour God in one s living. A decision to take one s life thus appears to be a denial that one belongs to God. It should also be noted that God does not abandon people in times of suffering. Pain may seem unbearable, life might seem no longer worth living, suffering may appear beyond relief, but suffering calls upon people to trust God even in the valley of the shadow of death. As John Paul II affirms, Christ has taught men to do good by His suffering and to do good to those who suffer No institution can by itself replace the human heart, human compassion, human love or human initiative, when it is a question of dealing with the suffering of another. It calls on people to let God, and not suffering, determine the agenda of their life and their death. Therefore, being contrary to the Christian teachings, euthanasia should no longer be allowed to continue. Euthanasia is not acceptable as it accustoms society to violence. Most doctors and nurses are totally committed to saving lives. A life lost is for them, almost a personal failure, and an insult to their skills and knowledge. Euthanasia as a practice might alter this. It could have corrupting influence so that in any case doctors and nurses might not try hard enough to save the patient. They might decide that the patient would simply be better off dead and take the steps necessary to make that come about. This attitude could also carry over to their dealings with all patients less seriously ill. The result would be an overall decline in the quality of medical care. The most powerful objection to the legislation of euthanasia is that once society begins to allow some people too kill others, it will begin sliding down a slippery slope that leads to killings of a kind that no one wants. It will start with strict controls designed to ensure that euthanasia is only carried out after a patient in an unbearable condition has repeatedly requested it, but it shall gradually slide to euthanasia for people who are not capable of requesting it, or for people who are not suffering unbearably, but whose continued life puts a burden on their families. In the end we will end up with a state that, like Nazi Germany, kills all those whom it considers to be unworthy of life. It is the slippery slope argument that helped to persuade the Supreme Court of Canada to rule against Sue Rodriguez. Although Rodriguez argued that assisted suicide is contrary to the Canadian Charter of Rights, which has in it a clause guaranteeing equal protection and benefit of the law to all, and ruling out discrimination on the grounds of disability, in the view of the judges a prohibition on assisted suicide was reasonable and justified by the need to protect life, and particularly the lives of vulnerable members of society. Therefore, people should recognize euthanasia as harm done to society. To conclude, euthanasia should not exist in any society, as no person in the world has a right to murder another human being. Euthanasia is an ethical posture, which gives up on life support. It is not death itself but the dying process that frightens individuals, which is why many turn to death when suffering. The appeal for release is certainly understandable, but killing the patient, even when done with the kindest of motives, is not the moral way to address the problem. We may legitimately seek for others and for ourselves an easeful death. Euthanasia, however, is not just an easeful death, but it is a wrongful death and it is not just dying, but in fact killing.