To die or not to die? Millions of people around the world suffer from terminal illnesses, and thousands of them are willing to die. Terminal illness is associated with unbearable physical and emotional tortures, due to pain and disability. Not surprisingly, many patients diagnosed at the last stages of cancer and other incurable diseases want to relieve the burden of pain and inconvenience that is imposed on their relatives because of the disease. As the scope of terminal illness continues to grow, more countries legalize euthanasia to make it a legitimate option for the citizens and non-citizens with incurable diseases. Euthanasia should be legal and available to the individuals, who experience unbearable pain, because it prevents unnecessary elongation of physical sufferings and reestablishes patients’ right for independent and autonomous decision making.
Euthanasia has recently become a matter of hot ethical debates, as more countries legalize euthanasia to allow patients with incurable diseases choosing the easiest way to die. However, euthanasia has many advantages and should be legalized, at least because it gives individuals a chance to end their physical and emotional sufferings. With the absence of euthanasia, patients in the last stages of terminal illness face increased uncertainty as to how long they will have to endure the physical and emotional pain caused by their disease. Even the best painkilling drugs are not always helpful (Hooker 26). These drugs cannot secure the individual from the risks of physical and emotional agony, when the power of pain exceeds all possible levels. The pain and sufferings experienced by the patient’s family members and friends are also difficult to imagine. All these could be easily shorted and, eventually, eliminated, with euthanasia that also enables individuals to retain their right to autonomy and independent decision making (Hooker 26).
Euthanasia is closely associated with the patient’s right to autonomy and independent decision making: the decision to apply to euthanasia is always voluntary, and the patient feels empowered to make reasonable decisions regarding his/her future. For this reason, Gorsuch describes assisted suicide and euthanasia in the context of individuals’ rational and harmless choice (96). Today, the American Civil Liberties Union votes for providing legitimate legal support to the terminally ill patients, who seek euthanasia (Gorsuch 96). The decision is justified by the fact that, despite recent advancements in medicine, life for many of such patients has become unbearable (Gorsuch 96). Many of these people want to die, before they lose their objectivity and reason. Unfortunately, not everyone agrees with these points of view.
The most common objection to euthanasia is that it is similar to a legal murder. Statistically, only 34% of Americans support euthanasia for the individuals, who experience unbearable pain, and only 29.3% approve the use of euthanasia for the terminally ill patients, who have no pain but perceive their life as meaningless (Emanuel 142). Another argument is that the right to autonomy in euthanasia is limited to the individuals, who are terminally ill, while those who support and accompany them in their problems are left without any choice (Gorsuch 96). However, it is clear that autonomy cannot be collective, and any individual who decides to end his/her life because of pain will feel much more autonomous and powerful in his/her decisions. At the same time, pro-euthanasia choices should be available only to those, who have medical proofs of their diagnoses and unbearable sufferings. In any case, legalization of euthanasia is a good sign of being a civilized society, where individuals have a legitimate and legal choice even in the most controversial situations.
Euthanasia is a popular topic of ethical debates. Despite the controversy surrounding the topic of euthanasia, it has many advantages and should be legalized. In the broadest sense, euthanasia gives terminally ill patients a chance to end their sufferings and, at the same time, empowers them to make autonomous and reasonable decisions. Opponents of euthanasia compare it to a legal murder, but they should remember that even the best painkillers do not secure a person at the last stages of terminal illness from the risks of falling into an agony. Euthanasia provides a legal opportunity for making a reasonable and conscious choice, before the individual turns into an unconscious being full of pain and sorrow.
- Emanuel, Ezekiel J. “Euthanasia and Physician-Assisted Suicide.” Archives of Internal Medicine, 162 (2002): 142-152. Print.
- Gorsuch, Neil M. The Future of Assisted Suicide and Euthanasia. Princeton University Press, 2009. Print.
- Hooker, Brad. “Rule-Utilitarianism and Euthanasia”, in H. LaFollette (ed.), Ethics in Practice, Blackwell Publishers, 1997, p.22. Print.