The definition of Euthanasia as given by the Oxford English Dictionary is: "the
painless killing of a patient suffering from an incurable disease or in an
irreversible coma". It comes from the Greek, literally translating as "a good
Euthanasia is a controversial matter, becoming a bigger issue with high profile cases
like Diane Pretty's, a woman
suffering from Motor Neurone Syndrome who lost her battle to have euthanasia
legalized and died of natural causes in 2002.
Euthanasia is legal in the Netherlands and in the state of Oregon in the U.S.A.
Recently, the government on the Isle of Man has made a much debated decision to
euthanasia. There is a lot of pressure mounting on other governments to follow
suit, with more terminally ill patients expressing the wish to end their lives
legally. The primary reason, they say, is so that they can die with dignity.
I am going to discuss this topic and strive to give the arguments of both sides.
then come to a conclusion based on what I have learnt.
People who are against euthanasia are called "Pro-life"; this is also the view
of Christians who regard euthanasia as a sin. There are other non-Christian
reasons: one of the strongest arguments against euthanasia is the question of
who can decide how advanced a terminal illness is in order for euthanasia to be
For example: the case of American Sidney Cohen, who was diagnosed with cancer and
given three months to live. He asked for euthanasia to be administered. He was
suffering agonizing pain and was bed-ridden, but was refused
euthanasia because it was illegal. Eight months later, he was still living, and
said, "I now know that death is inevitable and since coming under hospice home
care I now enjoy a full life." His fears of an agonizing death had been allayed
and he was now staunchly opposed to euthanasia. The point here is that once
fears are laid to rest and pain relieved, many people change their wish to have
euthanasia administered. Also, it shows that doctors are not always correct in
their diagnoses. Another point that the "Pro-life" lobby try to get across is
that they believe no one dies painfully now, because of hospices and modern drugs,
so euthanasia is not needed.
Other arguments include the fact that many patients feel they are a great burden
on their relatives and are causing them much pain. For these reasons, they might
ask for euthanasia to be administered, when they may not want
to die -- they just do not want to cause their family any more suffering.
Also, someone could pressure a terminally ill person for their own personal or financial gain. For example, an
elderly relative could be manipulated by someone who stood to inherit their
estate. Unscrupulous doctors may want to remove elderly patients from their
lists if they require a lot of care for little financial return. And so
On the other side of this argument are those campaigning for a change in the law
which would legalize euthanasia, including The Voluntary Euthanasia Society.
One of their most publicized arguments, which was used extensively by Diane
Pretty's lawyers, is that if a person was more physically able and did not need
third party assistance to administer euthanasia, they could commit suicide, which
is not necessary illegal on its own. Therefore it is argued that this is
discrimination against people with physically deteriorating illnesses. That,
they say, is in direct violation of
the Human Rights Act, Article 14 which outlaws discrimination.
They feel that the fact that euthanasia is not administered to people
suffering agonizing pain if they wish it is another violation of the Human
Rights Act. Article 3 clearly states that it is everyone;s absolute right not to
be subjected to inhuman or degrading treatment. By not allowing people the
choice end their life, the law condemns them to prolonged suffering and
increasing loss of dignity.
One argument of the "Pro-Life" camp is that we might see mass deaths if
euthanasia became lawful. But those who are campaigning to legalize euthanasia
say that figures such as those from Oregon show the opposite. In Oregon, only 0.1
percent of deaths in the last five years have been as a result of euthanasia.
The "pro-life" argument regarding improvement in pain control through drugs,
hospices etc. only covers those dying in pain. It does not apply to those
suffering debilitating illnesses and physical collapse of their body -- for
example, those suffering from Motor Neurone Syndrome. In these circumstances, the
loss of independence and the breakdown of all bodily functions ensures a slow,
undignified death, understandably some of these patients would welcome
Before I began writing up this discussion, I would have said that I felt that euthanasia was
a viable option for those with terminal illnesses, but now I accept, not the
moral and Christian views which say euthanasia is a sin, but views of people
such as Sidney Cohen. He understood that he was going to die, was relieved of pain, and
began to live a full life for the short while he had left. He was thankful
euthanasia was not an option when he requested it. On the other hand, he was still in physical
control of most of his body, unlike cases such as Diane Pretty's.
She could never live a full life again after her debilitating illness set in on
was totally dependent on others. For this reason I have come to the conclusion
that I would like to see euthanasia legalized. If it was legalized, then I would
strongly recommend that hefty safeguards be put in place, in order to protect the
I think euthanasia should always be the last option, and all medical means should
be exhausted to try to give the patient different options.
Whatever way you look at it, euthanasia is a subject which cannot be ignored. There definitely needs to be a national
-- if not international -- debate on the subject, maybe even a referendum (where
everyone votes on just one issue).
My name is redsky, and I live in Ireland.