“Euthanasia… is simply to be able to die with dignity at a moment when life is devoid of it.” – Marya Mannes
Murder is a condemn-able act that deserves to be penalized to the full extent of the law in a democracy. The legal definition of murder is the unlawful killing of one human being by another. Suicide, on the other hand, is the deliberate act of taking one’s own life. The majority of democracies consider the two as crimes and the perpetrators are either incarcerated, sent to correctional facilities or executed. These definitions are the key points that are thrown about by the detractors of euthanasia. There seems to be a lot of debate regarding it with certain countries legalizing its practice. Much of the dissent towards the practice stems from misinformation about it and this coupled with moralistic and religious perspectives seem to have made the concept appear quite bleak.
Euthanasia is the painless killing of a patient by the Doctor with the consent of the patient and/or his immediate family. The keywords being “painless” and “consent”. Euthanasia is meted out in either of two ways: passive or active. Passive euthanasia involves taking the patient off life sustaining treatments or when their pain medications are increased to a level that would eventually become toxic. Active euthanasia is when a lethal substance is injected into the patient. In both cases, the alleviation of pain is given paramount importance.
When to Implement?
The sanctity of life can only go as far as to how an individual copes with his/her daily activities. If that individual’s capacity to carry out their daily routines is hindered due to physical or psychological distress and if the underlying cause is not treatable, then they are headed for a life of misery and pain. Take the case of a patient with terminal illness whose days are numbered and the symptoms have progresses beyond medical control. Every breath is an excruciating experience. Also, a good majority may not be able to afford the round the clock healthcare required to keep the terminally ill patient alive. Therefore, for the sake of the patient and those around him, it is logically sound that the patient’s request to end his life is honored. This could be extrapolated to those in vegetative states and extremely severe handicaps.
The same could be said about those suffering from psychological disorders. Those with severe phobias, anxiety and depression that cannot be kept in check by treatment should also be given the option of euthanasia for their mental state could be harmful to others as much as it is to themselves.
The Slippery Slope
One of the main reasons cited by the detractors of euthanasia is that the legalizing it would result in more people wanting to make use of it. This would result in a dilemma of what constitutes as a valid reason for its administration. Drawing out the particulars of it would be a cumbersome task with humanity playing the chief factor of consideration rather than medical principles. The paradox is that it all boils down to an issue of personal choice. The legalizing of euthanasia on those grounds would by default decriminalize suicide and suicide attempts. This could result in a ripple effect that could have severe ramifications on statutory practices.
All in all, the pros of this controversial practice definitely outweighs its cons. If the quality of life declines beyond recovery, keeping the patient alive as long as possible even when there is no medically justified reason or when severe pain is suffered by the patient is just profoundly immoral and a waste of resources. Therefore, legalizing euthanasia, albeit with streamlined regulations, should be a top priority for any democratic government.