What Is Euthanasia And History Philosophy Essay
One of the most debatable topics in today’s society is euthanasia. Euthanasia is a term derived from a Greek word meaning "happy or fortunate in death."It is the practice of putting to death people who have a painful, distressing or incurable disease or disability. It is also known as physician-assisted death, physician-assisted suicide or MERCY KILLING.
According to BBC’s Religion and Ethics (2009), there are two major types of Euthanasia:
It refers to a mutual contract between the physician and the patient where both the parties agree to end the patient’s life. This contract may take place due to a number of reasons:
The patient asking for help with dying.
The patient might not be willing to go through burdensome medical treatment.
The patient simply refuses to eat or drink.
The patient’s only wish is to die.
It refers to a third party taking the patient’s life without the informed consent of the patient. The patient has no say whatsoever. This situation may arise due to reasons such as:
A person is either a baby or an elderly.
A person is in coma and has no chances of recuperating.
A person is mentally troubled to the extent that he/she becomes capable of causing harm to others or himself/herself.
A person is psychologically retarded or brain damaged to a very severe extent.
There are many physical and psychological factors that make an individual opt for euthanasia. Incontinence (the inability to control one’s bowels or involuntary urine), nausea and vomiting, breathlessness, paralysis and difficulty in swallowing are some of the physical factors while on the other hand psychological factors may include depression, fear of loss of control or of dignity, feeling a burden, or dislike of being dependent.
HISTORY OF EUTHANASIA
Euthanasia can be traced back as far as the ancient Greek and Roman civilizations. As per William Benton and Hemingway Benton (1974), these ancient civilizations approved of voluntary euthanasia. Euthanasia was sometimes allowed in these olden civilizations in order to help others die but as time passed and religion’s importance intensified, life started being viewed as sacred deeming euthanasia of any form as a sin.
In the following centuries, many groups have been formed that are for and against euthanasia. In 1935, the first group that was for euthanasia came into existence when a group of doctors in London started a society known as The Voluntary Euthanasia Society under the directions of C. Kellick Millard. Shortly after that, another society was established in United States and even the purpose of this society is to support one’s decision to die and to offer support when one is ready to die.
Living Wills also play a major role when considering the legal aspects of euthanasia. A living will expresses a patient’s thought towards his future medical treatment. They are legal in only some states and allow an individual of making a decision and informing the doctor about their consent of being put on life support.
IS EUTHANASIA ETHICAL? WHY?
According to some researches, some cultures declare voluntary euthanasia to be ethical but only in certain situations. According to them, it is almost a pitiless punishment to make a person wait for their death which may happen in a day or in a month or so. If a patient is suffering from an incurable disease or is in pain and near death, then euthanasia is the only human answer. Individuals have the right to do what they wish with their own body. If a person is in pain and knows that he is going to die, then he should be able to choose if he wants to continue living in agony and die in suffering or if he wishes to die with no pain and die peacefully.
On the other hand involuntary euthanasia cannot be termed as pure and simple murder because it is not the brutal act of killing someone and more importantly, it is administered with the consent of the patient’s family. No one knows better for an individual than the individual himself or his loved ones and therefore involuntary euthanasia is also not a sin.
As per M. Dr. Maisie, the below given reasons can easily justify the act of euthanasia:
The basic aim of euthanasia is "aid in dying" for a person who may otherwise have a painful death and so the law should allow an individual to commit suicide in an attempt of defending oneself from one’s fate.
It is inhuman and unfair to make anyone endure unbearable pain and so legalizing euthanasia can help alleviate suffering.
At a point in life where effective treatment wouldn’t affect ones quality of life, the individual should be given the liberty to choose death as the last option.
Maintaining life support systems is considered unethical by not only the law but also by medical philosophy. Therefore rules which give the patient the right to discontinue treatment, should also give one the right to choose between living and shortening his life to escape intolerable pain.
Health care cost can never stop being a concern for the family members whether euthanasia gets to be legalized or not.
Some people believe that family heirs can misuse the right of euthanasia for wealth inheritance but what they do not take into accord is the fact that the legal system is quite strict when it comes to matters of life and death.
According to BBC’s Religion and Ethics (2009-09-07), some surveys in the US and Netherlands showed that less than a third of the requests put forward for granting the permission to commit euthanasia were because of severe and unbearable pain.
IS EUTHANASIA UNETHICAL? WHY?
When seen from a religious point of view, life is the most valuable gift of God. No matter how many researches attest that euthanasia is ethical and should be made legal, some will never accept it under any circumstances. God is the only entity powerful enough to give or take life and so no individual has the right to decide about the death of his/her own life.
As per M. Dr. Maisie, the following arguments can help us in understanding the reasoning against mercy killing:
Mercy killing is a homicide. It is morally incorrect and should be forbidden by law. Murdering another human being cannot be rationalized under any circumstances.
Doctors are not divine. They cannot predict the period of life or death with utmost surety and so implementing euthanasia would result in many unlawful deaths. Therefore, legalizing euthanasia would be like empowering law abusers and increasing distrust of patients towards doctors.
If the power gets misused, mercy killing would cause a decline in medical care leading to the victimization of a society and eventually it would transform itself from a term meaning "right to die" to "right to kill."
Human life deserves exceptional security and protection. Advanced medical technology has made it possible to enhance human life span and quality of life. Palliative care and rehabilitation centers are better alternatives to help disabled or patients approaching death live a pain-free and better life.
Family members influencing the patient’s decision into euthanasia for personal gains like wealth inheritance is a debatable issue. There is no way one can be really sure if the decision towards assisted suicide is voluntary or forced.
A DIFFERENT PERSPECTIVE ON EUTHANASIA
Jack Kevorkian (aka Dr Death) :
Kevorkian earned the name 'Dr Death' by photographing the eyes of dying patients. Later in his career (starting in 1987) he began to advertise his services as a physician offering 'death counseling'. When terminally ill patients learned that he was helping people to die, more and more people came to him. Despite several failed court cases, Kevorkian helped over 130 people to die.Kevorkian believed that helping people was not enough, and actually killed Thomas Youk, filmed him doing so and showed the film on 60 Minutes. He left the studio in handcuffs, and, defending him unsuccessfully in court, was sentenced to 10-25 years in prison.
HOW CAN PEOPLE EVER COME TO A HAPPY AGREEMENT ABOUT EUTHANASIA?
According to Hashmi, O (July 26, 2003), not everyone can take their life but by reaching some kind of a solution it would be pleasing to most people. Euthanasia usually should not be allowed because it is the taking away of someone’s life, which might not have been desired by the victim. Euthanasia should only be allowed when the person in need asks for it, because it is their life and if they want to die then it should be free to do so.
How people perceive euthanasia is majorly dependent upon their religious believes. Nevertheless, no matter what side of the issue one is on, it must be agreed that this really is a difficult issue and that so the "right" answers simply aren’t obvious. Those who take a view different from others have justifiable concerns and legitimate reasons for their position.
As per the Islamic European Council for Fatwa and Research (ECFR), whether active or passive euthanasia-both forms of mercy killing are all forbidden in Islam. It is against the laws of Islam to kill one self or for others to kill one for whatever reason. The first case is pure and simple suicide while the second one is simply murder.
The council further stated that only the removal of life-support machines for the clinically dead is permissible. According to the council, "The purpose of life-support machines is to help patients in breathing and stimulating their blood cycle but in a way, if they are already medically dead and have lost their sanity due to brain damage, it is illogical to keep these machines running. Not only do these machines cost the hospital a lot of money but they also lessen the amount of money which can be spent on someone more direly in need of treatment.
Islam has crystal-clear views on euthanasia which are as follows:
According to Islamic City (January 2001), we did not create ourselves and so we do not own our bodies. They are handed over to us by Allah so that we can take care of them, nurture them and keep them safe. God is the only giver and taker of life and His laws are not to be violated. Attempting to kill one is a crime in Islam as well as a grave sin. The Qur'an says:
"Do not kill (or destroy) yourselves, for verily Allah has been to you most Merciful" (Qur'an 4:29)
Furthermore, Prophet Mohammad (P.B.U.H) said:
"Whoever kills himself with an iron instrument will be carrying it forever in hell. Whoever takes poison and kills himself will forever keep sipping that poison in hell. Whoever jumps off a mountain and kills himself will forever keep falling down in the depths of hell."
According to BBC’s Religion and Ethics (2009-09-07), Muslims believe that all human life is sacred as it is a precious gift from Allah and so only He gets to choose a person’s life span. Some quotes which are evidence for this Muslim belief are as follows:
Allah decides how long each of us will live:
"When their time comes they cannot delay it for a single hour nor can they bring it forward by a single hour."
"And no person can ever die except by Allah's leave and at an appointed term."
Prophet Mohammad explicitly prohibited euthanasia:
"Amongst the nations before you there was a man who got a wound and growing impatient (with its pain), he took a knife and cut his hand with it and the blood did not stop till he died. Allah said, 'My Slave hurried to bring death upon himself so I have forbidden him (to enter) Paradise.' "
Sahih Bukhari 4.56.669
According to my research, I believe that euthanasia should never be permitted in any of the cases. Life is precious, Life is sacred. That is what we are taught when we are young and that is what we are told when we grow old. As said in Islam that there is no one else than Allah to give or take life. By applying this concept we can go against Islam and that is haram and so my conclusion would be that live the way as you are supposed to rather than getting involved in the things which are not supposed to be known to a human.