Euthanasia is an act of mercy killing of a person to end the pain and anguish terminal state. The word ‘euthanasia’ was first used by old Greeks and represents the pain-free calm natural death of old age in peaceful surrounding. Euthanasia can be divided in few types, based on the nature of the act. Voluntary euthanasia is ending someone’s life upon their own request.
Involuntary euthanasia is an act where the choice of mercy by death is not made by person suffering due to their legal or medical inability, like small children or mentally incapacitated person.
Passive euthanasia is a term for ceasing with the treatment or medication that is keeping a person alive. Euthanasia is often related to assisted suicide. This is an act of ending someone’s life based on his/her instructions or by means provided by the person. The motive, same as with euthanasia is to ease the pain by ending one’s life.
Hippocratic Oath is a vow taken by doctors through whom they pledge to guard and sustain life with all their skill and knowledge. It also forbids providing the patient the means or assisting in his death.
Euthanasia is illegal in most countries worldwide and considered an act of murder by law. There are very few states and countries that allow euthanasia like Oregon, Columbia, Switzerland and Netherlands.
The first attempts to legalize euthanasia started near the end of 19th century in Germany and US. The active advocacy first appeared in Germany after First World War since 1920s, and was continued throughout the world to this day. In 1938 the announcement of the first national euthanasia society appeared in New York Times. Their first euthanasia law proposal included babies born with defects and was announced in 1939. After World War II the Holocaust left the world in shock. Among numerous war and Holocaust casualties were over 200,000 disabled people who included infants and mentally ill people, killed by German doctors. It was not before 1980s that euthanasia groups started making any progress.
Euthanasia remains an ongoing debate to this day.
Pros and Cons
Pro euthanasia arguments call it a choice to die and a civil right. It is seen as not much different than excessive pain control that occasionally results in unintentional ending a life of a person suffering extreme pain. The worry of euthanasia abuse is well acknowledged. Euthanasia advocates state that certain protective guidelines will shield the vulnerable and prevent abuse while allowing the patients in need to choose a peaceful and dignified way out. Proponents believe that euthanasia opponents are mainly rooted in religion and therefore deem the laws outlawing the practice unconstitutional.
Con euthanasia arguments claim that making euthanasia legal will open the door for legal killing and will eventually escalate to allowing killing of elderly and disabled people. They deem the proposed euthanasia guidelines meaningless. They stress the fact that euthanasia may escalate due to the fact that the drugs used for mercy of death are incomparably cheaper than the life sustaining and pain suppressing treatments. They also argue that 44 million Americans do not have health insurance and that the medical establishment will see euthanasia cost effective in their case which gives huge window of opportunity for discriminatory euthanasia abuse. The euthanasia opposition are seeking more morally acceptable solution that includes proper medical care to aid suffering and terminally ill people.