Euthanasia is defined as bringing about the death of a person for their own sake. When thinking about the general negative connotations associated with suicide, you would assume everyone would be totally against the idea of euthanasia, but that is not the case. There are arguments both for and against the controversial topic, but James Rachels and J. Gay Williams give pretty convincing argument as to why it should be considered morally corrupt. James Rachels makes two separate but equally compelling arguments as to why both active and passive transport are unethical.
Active euthanasia is described as the doctor not doing “anything to bring about the patient’s death. The doctor does nothing, and the patient dies of whatever ills already afflict him” (Rachels, 291). This may be considered more morally correct than active euthanasia because technically the doctor “does not kill the patient”, but he/ she is still ultimately signing their patient’s death certificate by stopping treatment. The other form of euthanasia is active, and in this scenario the doctor actually kills his/her own patient by providing them with a lethal injection that would effectively end their life.
In this way, the doctor actually plays a role in their patient’s death. In order for Rachels to show how little difference there truly is between the two types, he talks about a set of cases where a man would obtain a large inheritance if his much younger cousin died. In the first case, the man, who is named Smith, sneaks into his cousin’s bathroom and drowns him, making it look like an accident. In the second case, a man named Jones plans to do the same thing to his cousin, but as he comes into the bathroom to drown the young boy, Jones witnesses his cousin slip and fall, drowning to death.
While Jones did not touch his cousin or technically kill him, he still stood by and watched as he died. In both scenarios, the young boy dies. While in only one case the little boy died from the hands of his cousin, BOTH cousins were to blame in the end. This is a good analogy that puts something as different as euthanasia into perspective. Rachels makes an extremely persuasive case, especially considering the various examples he provided that made euthanasia sound so bad. However, I believe that everyone should have the right to bodily autonomy.
If one day I get diagnosed with incurable cancer, and I only have a few months to live, I want to be able to live those last few months to the fullest rather than be hooked up to machines and prodded with needles. Then, after those blissful few months are over, want to be able to die on my own watch. No one else should have the right to tell me when I can and cannot die, in the end that is up to God and I. I believe that physician assisted suicide should be legal in the United States, but only under very specific terms.
The idea that things could get out of hand when it came to the ethics and decision making behind it, I could see where people may get a little power hungry or decide they want to take it upon themselves to get rid of those they believe are not worthy of living. However, that is only a select few people. The majority of people just want to have some sort of say in their own time clock, especially if they are dying or in severe pain. Nevertheless, not all people feel this way. J.
Gay Williams does not agree with the idea of euthanasia, but he does not necessarily condemn those who do for their beliefs. He recognizes that it “is slowly gaining acceptance within our society”, but he attributes this to “unthinking sympathy and benevolence” (Williams, 319). Williams has three main arguments as to why euthanasia is inherently wrong. These include: the argument from nature, the argument from selfinterest, and the argument from practical effects.
The argument from nature states that “every human being has a natural inclination to continue living” (Williams, 320). There is an innate art of us that tells us to avoid getting hurt in order to stay alive, whether it is avoiding dangerous situations or our body’s natural ability to heal itself after being cut. Williams believes euthanasia goes against this natural process, saying it literally acts “against nature because all the processes of nature are bent towards the end of bodily survival” (Williams, 320). He also brings religion into the argument, saying that if you choose to take your own life then you are going against God, and “the commandment to hold life sacred” (Williams, 320). This leads to destruction of our dignity, because it comes from completion of our goals.
If, as human beings, one of our goals is survival, then you are ultimately failing yourself and harming your dignity by ending your own life. The next argument Williams provides pertains to self-interest. The argument from self-interest states that if we are given a false diagnosis, there is the possibility that we could off ourselves when in reality we are fine. He says that modern nedicine is coming up with new treatments and cures every day, and if you are not patient you may never get to experience these new discoveries and improve their health and overall wellbeing.
Williams also talks about spontaneous recovery, and how “for no apparent reason, a patient simply recovers when those all around him, including his physicians, expected him to die” (Williams, 321). There is no room for this to occur if you simply make the decision to die upon yourself. Williams’ third and final argument is the argument from practical effects. While Williams recognizes that doctors and nurses are “totally committed to saving lives” (Williams, 321), he also believes that physician assisted suicide could corrupt this practice.
Doctors may not try as hard on their cases or decide that some patients are too much work, and convince them that ending their life is the best option. This could ultimately cause the trustworthiness and quality of medical care to decrease. This would work as a kind of snowball effect, and eventually whether or not someone lived would come down to opinion. People would decide whether or not someone was healthy enough or mentally capable enough to live rather than basing is off of facts and charts.
I cannot think of any other reasons that physicians assisting in the death of their patients could be considered unethical, unless you are just against the idea of suicide as a whole. I think this idea would be related back to religious beliefs, however, so it may be comparable to Williams’ first argument. I do not agree with Williams’ stance on euthanasia, and this decision is based almost entirely off of his second argument. I believe this portion of Williams’ argument is directed towards those with a life ending illness, say cancer for example, and are unwilling to go to extreme lengths to fight their diseases.
I know multiple women in my family who have fought breast cancer, and they told me that they would never put their worst enemy through the torture that is chemotherapy. By Williams saying it is inherently wrong for a woman going through absolute hell to end her life on her own accord, he completely loses my respect. No offense, J. , but until you have witnessed firsthand the amount of pain a person goes through when fighting an illness that is literally turning your body against you, you have no right to speak on the subject.
Overall, I believe euthanasia is a necessary component of our everyday lives, because if someone wants to kill themselves, they will do it with or without help. Active euthanasia is the more efficient option because the patient does not have to suffer any longer, whereas passive euthanasia hurts the patient just as much, if not more. In the end, whether you support it or not, our society has a want as well as a need for euthanasia, and I think people need to be willing to see things from someone else’s point of view in order to understand that.