The subjects of assisted suicide, and organ donation are frequently considered to be controversial, and to entail serious medical and ethical dilemmas. Despite this controversy, however, it is possible to argue that both of these practices are immensely beneficial, and that they should both be legal and, under proper conditions, actively encouraged. In order to demonstrate this, it is only necessary to consider the real moral and ethical advantages of the practices.
Some of the most common criticisms of euthanasia include that it is fundamentally immoral to take the life of another person, and that, were the practice to become wide-spread and entirely legal, it would mean that individuals would be likely to end their lives before it is entirely necessary for them to do so. As such, it is considered to be a practice that disrespects human life. Both of these arguments may be refuted, however, if one considers the testimony of terminally ill people who actively seek euthanasia as a way both of ending their suffering, and of enabling them to spend as much time as possible with their loved ones. Kevin Drum, an individual suffering from terminal cancer, writes that, rather than manifesting a disrespect for life, the practice of controlled euthanasia would actually enable him to enjoy what life was left to him. This would be the case as knowing he could end his life when he wanted would free him from the anxiety that he may reach a point at which he is no longer able to maintan his own autonomy (Drum, 2015). Indeed, he suggests that to be terminally ill without the option of euthanasia is to feel he has “to die before I want to out of fear that I’ll lose the capacity to control my own destiny if I wait too long” (Drum, ibid). As such, rather than separating people from their families or disrespecting human life, euthanasia has the advantage of respecting the autonomy of individual people, while actively enabling people to live longer than they would were the option of euthanasia to be unavailable.
Like euthanasia, certain individuals argue that organ donation is an unnatural process and that it may even be understood to be disrespectful to those who have died. Indeed, certain people are horrified by the suggestion that a deceased person’s organs may be placed in the body of another for the purpose of saving their life. Despite this, it is possible to argue that organ donation is once again a practice which respects life and which can give meaning to death. Not only is the practice of organ donation known to be crucial for enabling individuals with serious organ damage to survive their conditions, but relatives of those who donate organs frequently report that they have found a degree of comfort in the fact that the death of a loved one has enabled someone else to live (Kirby, 2016). This feeling of comfort may even be related to the deceased themselves, as terminally ill individuals who agree to donate organs have reported finding comfort in the fact that their own death will not be in vain. Far from feeling that organ donation has meant that their loved one is violated or disrespected, knowing that this death has been helpful is recognized as being useful within the process of mourning, especially considering that organ donation is something that only occurs given the explicit prior consent of the donor.
In conclusion, therefore, it is clear that both euthanasia and organ donation have undeniable advantages, both in terms of the functioning of the provision of healthcare, and also in terms of the way in which individuals and their relatives are able to confront and to understand death and mourning. As such, far from disrespecting the idea of life, both practices may be understood to support and to affirm it.
- Drum, Kevin. (2015). “My Right to Die.” Mother Jones. Web. 21St Feb, 2016.
- Kirby, J. (2016). Organ donation after assisted death: Is it more or less ethically-problematic than donation after circulatory death? Medicine, Health Care, and Philosophy, 19(4), 629-635.