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If Human Life Has Intrinsic Value Is Euthanasia Always Immoral?

1806 words - 8 pages

The term euthanasia means death without suffering, or a good death. There are four ways to qualify the word euthanasia. Voluntary euthanasia is when a patient makes a conscious decision that his or her life should end, and asks for help in doing so. This is sometimes called assisted suicide. Involuntary euthanasia is when an individual in society makes a positive decision to end the life of someone suffering without consent from the sufferer. Active euthanasia implies some active step, for example the giving of a drug, has been taken to cause the death of a sufferer. Passive euthanasia means no active treatment is given, rather treatment is withheld. Because it arouses questions about the ...view middle of the document...

The option of an assisted death should be there for those who are incurably ill and suffering unbearably. Patients should only consider an assisted death if they have explored all the other options available to them. Palliative care involves treating the pain and other symptoms of patients whose illness is not responding to efforts to cure, such as those with terminal cancer. Its goal is to achieve the best possible quality of life for the patient and their family. Some terminal pain and other distressing symptoms cannot be fully controlled, even with the best care. However, it is the quality of life, rather than pain, that is often the main reason behind a patient's request for help in dying. Why should we force someone to live the last days or weeks of their life in a way, which, to them, is undignified? Voluntary euthanasia is above all, about personal choice and to this extent I believe euthanasia is moral. Physicians must be willing to accept that not all patients can be "cured", but that most can be helped by reducing disability, by relieving pain and suffering, or by allowing people to die with dignity.2Many believe that life is sacred, a gift from God, and must not be deliberately ended. This is a view that must be respected. Other opposition to voluntary euthanasia focuses on the idea of the "slippery slope". This theory states that legalising voluntary euthanasia for those who are incurably ill and ask for help in dying would inevitably lead to other types of euthanasia which I do not believe should be performed such as non-voluntary euthanasia. There is no evidence for such an argument - it is unfounded speculation. The theory states that it would be difficult to stop sliding down and might eventually result in accepting compulsory euthanasia. However it is not always the case that once one sort of practice is accepted we are able to distinguish between a clearly defined case and other more dubious practices. One example of this is noted by Rachels, who shows that while society tolerates killing in self-defence, allowing this practice has not resulted in the wholesale killing of innocent human beings.3 Voluntary euthanasia - helping a patient to die at their own considered request - is a world away from the murder of vulnerable people. Voluntary euthanasia would make sure that incurably ill people who persistently ask for help to die would be able to make sure of a dignified and compassionate death and I believe that up to this extent euthanasia is moral. As Ronald Dworkin, professor of Law at Oxford and New York University, said in 1994: "Of course doctors know the moral difference between helping people who beg to die and killing those who want to live. If anything, ignoring the pain of terminally ill patients pleading for death rather than trying to help them seems more likely to chill a doctor's human instincts".4Some people who do not agree with voluntary euthanasia argue if it was legalised, it would damage the moral and social...

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