Informative essay on euthanasia

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Abstract

Different groups and individuals have diverse viewpoints with regard to euthanasia, a view that is largely shaped on the ethical, religious, moral or professional standpoints. Over the past decades, euthanasia has grown to become an issue that has generated debates in medical, legal and ethical studies. The pertinence of the euthanasia issue is manifested in the discourse of human rights with regards to the relationship between the healthcare providers and the patients.

This paper explores a consortium of secondary sources in discussing the diverse issues and opinions in its bid to find answers of the questions surrounding the euthanasia debate. With more specificity, the paper will review literature that attempts to discuss the ethical and legal debates of either type of euthanasia. Through the rational focus on the arguments brought forth by the supporters and the opponents of euthanasia, the paper will prove that the diverse opinions about euthanasia are significant pointers to the need for more regulatory and legislative responses with the aim of safeguarding the professional and ethical obligations that govern the relationship between healthcare providers and their patient populations.

Introduction

Euthanasia is an old concept used in medical field to insinuate gentle or peaceful death. In other quarters, euthanasia has been referred to as assisted suicide, as it is considered a deliberate act of ending the life of a person in order to relieve that person of the suffering accruing from pain. In the modern day, many patients struggle with different illnesses, with some such as terminal cancer exposing them to overwhelming muscle and body tissue pains. The decision by a doctor to give such patient an overdose of muscle relaxants is referred to as euthanasia, as this ends the patient’s life.

As Levy, Azar, Huberfeld, Siegel and Strous (2012) explain, euthanasia exhibits all characteristics of an activity that speeds up the death of an individual. However, these deliberations have to be based on the existence of a terminal medical condition, as will be explained in this paper. The growing number of studies aimed at demystifying the pros and cons of euthanasia categorize euthanasia as among the current debatable issues that present many glaring questions. The stakeholders involved in this debate have further heightened the contention as the frequent encounter of ethical issues against the human approach to enjoying life present more courses for debate. In exploring the constructs of the debate surrounding euthanasia, it is important to consider the diverse viewpoints from which the supporters and opponents develop their opinions.

Literature review

In a study conducted by Strinic (2015) to ascertain the prevalence of euthanasia around the world, it was established that the concept of euthanasia remains largely dependent on the social, cultural and religious values that define a community. On a similar note, Pereira (2011) observed that across the world, glaring ambiguities and controversies cloud the regulations and laws surrounding the handling of human health, further referring to the scientific progress and technological innovation infiltrated in the healthcare provision industries.

In a bid to explain how euthanasia is administered, Quaghebeur, Dierckx de Casterle and Gastmans (2011) identified two main types of euthanasia. Active euthanasia refers to the deliberate intervention of ending an individual’s life. Active euthanasia can be conducted through injecting a person with a dose of fatal substance. On the other hand, passive euthanasia refers to the withdrawal of treatment, hence leading to the death of a person. Such treatment should be aimed at maintaining the life of a person. By withholding this form of treatment, passive euthanasia is demonstrated in the event that the person dies. For instance, a person suffering from HIV may be a victim of passive euthanasia if antiretroviral medications are withheld.

The classifications of euthanasia, however, vary depending on the decisions of the stakeholders involved, as Sulmasy, Travaline, Mitchell and Ely (2016) write. In circumstances where a person makes a conscious decision that leads him or her to ask for death, voluntary euthanasia is exercised. The individual’s consent is significant in facilitating voluntary euthanasia, unlike is the case when it concerns non-voluntary euthanasia.

Under this euthanasia classification, a person’s decision-making incapacitation is taken over by another person, who makes the decision on their behalf. Therefore, as Strinic (2015) narrates, non-voluntary euthanasia refers to an assisted decision to end the life of a person who is unable to give consent. On the other hand, other people are killed contrary to their expressed wishes, devoid of their consent. This is classified as involuntary euthanasia.

In as much as studies have established the types and categories of euthanasia, the debates surrounding the application of euthanasia in medical care continue to generate controversy. While looking at some of the arguments in favor of euthanasia, Naga and Maryyan (2013) observed that the compassion argument is the main reason why certain groups and individuals support euthanasia. As for the compassion argument, supporters hold the belief that euthanasia gives people the chance to end their lives with dignity. According to this argument, continued suffering exposes people to undignified death, which to the supporters of euthanasia is not only unkind but also inhumane.

The right to choice is among the leading arguments in support of euthanasia. Supporters of euthanasia believe that that a person’s right to make decisions and choices should be respected regardless of their condition. This standpoint, which Levy, Azar, Huberfeld, Siegel and Strous (2012) referred to as the autonomy argument, gives every patient the liberty to decide whether to continue living. Similarly, having considered the sufferings of many people that have ended up in painful deaths, supporters of euthanasia argue that the process is safeguarded by the legislative and regulatory constructs of the government.

On the other hand, Naga and Maryyan (2013) elucidate, technological and scientific advancements have made it easier for people to access advanced treatments. Along with this argument, the opponents of euthanasia claim that there are alternative types of care that can be explored rather than killing the patients. Besides, opponents argue that the there are several care options to administer in order to minimize the pain endured by a patient.

Scholars, such as Napier (2014), likened euthanasia to giving medical professionals the powers to terminate life. In his argument, the author vividly explains how doctors can misuse this power by killing without the request of the patient, with reference to the 1990s trends in Netherlands where over 1,000 patients were killed without their consent or request. Despite the fact that governments have laid bare the stipulations for euthanasia, Strinic (2015) warned that it is virtually impossible to control euthanasia, since minimal clinical reports have been made to document physician-assisted suicide, despite their legality in several jurisdictions.

The ethical arguments of euthanasia are based mainly on the constructs of practicality, human rights, ethicality and philosophy. According to the libertarian argument, euthanasia is an ethical practice that circles around the privacy of an individual. In this argument, death is considered a private matter. Basing their argument on privacy, Sulmasy, Travaline, Mitchell and Ely (2016) explained that the libertarian argument considers euthanasia as a practice that is not harmful to others. In addition, this ethical standpoint sees no need and rights for external interference.

The utilitarian argument for euthanasia considers the happiness and benefit that the society stands to gain from a decision. According to McCarthy and Gastmans (2014), utilitarianism considers an act ethical only if it provides extra human happiness. Along with this argument, the happiness of the patient is weighed against that of the society, which constitutes the friends, family and medical staff. The continued stay of a patient in hospital drains finances from the family and friends. Similarly, the pain subjected to the patient causes psychological strain to the family and friends. Euthanasia is considered ethical as it ends the mystery of the patient, just as much as it relieves the family and friends of the financial, emotional and psychological burdens.

On the other hand, euthanasia is considered unethical based on the constructs of human rights. According to Łagosz (2014), a society is deemed ethical if it exercises respect for the sanctity of life, which is protected by religion and medical profession. Therefore, euthanasia delinks the respect that the society accords to the sanctity of life.

Equality is one of the leading factors that generate harmony within societies, as Napier (2014) writes. In the face of an ethical society, each person should be treated with equality in order to uphold harmony. However, euthanasia casts aspersions on the worthlessness of other lives, such as those of the sick or disabled. Therefore, this argument claims that euthanasia is an agent of discrimination, which goes against the ethicality of an act.

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There have been several developments surrounding the regulations and legislations of euthanasia. The Netherlands was the first country to legalize euthanasia in 2002, thereby imposing strict conditions that stipulate its application in situations that the patient is proven to be in unbearable pain accruing from incurable disease (Pereira, 2011). In the US, five states followed the Oregon initiative by allowing doctors to terminate the lives of terminally ill patients. Despite this, euthanasia is still illegal in the US, as it remains widely controversial.

Conclusion

In this discussion, euthanasia has been cast as an emotional, practical and ethical debate. Along this study, the broad history of euthanasia has been used to paint a picture of the significance of the topic. In conclusion, the diverse opinions surrounding euthanasia have been highlighted using the social, financial, emotional and ethical considerations.

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  1. Łagosz, M. (2014). Philosophy of Life. Few Arguments against Euthanasia. Dialogue And Universalism, 24(2), 105-113. http://dx.doi.org/10.5840/du201424231
  2. Levy, T., Azar, S., Huberfeld, R., Siegel, A., & Strous, R. (2012). ATTITUDES TOWARDS EUTHANASIA AND ASSISTED SUICIDE: A COMPARISON BETWEEN PSYCHIATRISTS AND OTHER PHYSICIANS. Bioethics, 27(7), 402-408. http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/j.1467-8519.2012.01968.x
  3. McCarthy, J. & Gastmans, C. (2014). Moral distress: A review of the argument-based nursing ethics literature. Nursing Ethics, 22(1), 131-152. http://dx.doi.org/10.1177/0969733014557139
  4. Naga, B. & Maryyan, M. (2013). Legal and Ethical Issues of Euthanasia : Argumentative Essay. Middle East Journal Of Nursing, 7(5), 31-39. http://dx.doi.org/10.5742/mejn.2013.75330
  5. Napier, S. (2014). St. Ambrose, Euthanasia, and Antisenescence Arguments: Death as a Good?. Logos: A Journal Of Catholic Thought And Culture, 17(2), 39-57. http://dx.doi.org/10.1353/log.2014.0019
  6. Pereira, J. (2011). Legalizing euthanasia or assisted suicide: the illusion of safeguards and controls.Current Oncology, 18(2). http://dx.doi.org/10.3747/co.v18i2.883
  7. Quaghebeur, T., Dierckx de Casterle, B., & Gastmans, C. (2011). Nursing and Euthanasia: a Review of Argument-Based Ethics Literature. Nursing Ethics, 16(4), 466-486. http://dx.doi.org/10.1177/0969733009104610
  8. Strinic, V. (2015). Arguments in Support and Against Euthanasia. British Journal Of Medicine And Medical Research, 9(7), 1-12. http://dx.doi.org/10.9734/bjmmr/2015/19151
  9. Sulmasy, D., Travaline, J., Mitchell, L., & Ely, E. (2016). Non-faith-based arguments against physician-assisted suicide and euthanasia. The Linacre Quarterly, 83(3), 246-257. http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/00243639.2016.1201375
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