Basic Arguments About Euthanasia

Beliefs about Euthanasia: Both Sides of the Euthanasia Controversy

Basic Arguments and Viewpoints
Regardless of whether or not a person is in favour of, or opposed to euthanasia, all people would agree that they would want a dignified death for themselves and their loved ones. The problem starts when people cannot agree as to the definition of 'dignity.'

Euthanasia advocates argue that not allowing euthanasia is to deny humans the right to die. Opponents to euthanasia argue that it is not a human right.

Following is a list of the different reason why pro and anti-euthanasia advocates espouse their respective views.

Basic Arguments in favour of Euthanasia

Rights: Human beings have the right to decide when and how to die.

Mercy: It is cruel and inhumane to refuse someone the right to die, when they are suffering intolerable and unstoppable pain, or distress.

The Libertarian Argument: Euthanasia should be allowed when it is in the best interests of all involved and does not violate anyone's rights.

Resources: Euthanasia may provide a cost-effective way of dealing with dying people. Where health resources are scarce, not considering euthanasia might deprive society of the resources needed to help people with curable illnesses.

Universality: I would like to be allowed a good death myself, so I must allow one for everyone else who wants one.

Inevitability: Euthanasia happens anyway, so it's better to have it out in the open so that it can be properly regulated and carried out.

Death is not always bad: If death is not a bad thing, then making it come sooner isn't a bad thing.

Morally Equivalent: This is a highly technical argument, and it's only relevant to people who accept that passive euthanasia is sometimes right. The argument says that there is no real difference between passive and active euthanasia, and so if we accept one, we should accept the other.

Basic Arguments against Euthanasia

Fear: Patients are vulnerable and fearful about the potential pain and deterioration ahead. Their judgement may be impaired. Once their symptoms are relieved and holistic hospice care takes over, they come to value whatever life is left to them.

Patients denied final stage of growth: Those involved in hospice work often see healing of family relationships and rediscovery of mutual love. Words are spoken that help sustain those left behind.

Undermines medical excellence: As the Dutch experience reveals, euthanasia doctors tend to be uninterested in palliative care. It is easier for doctors to administer euthanasia, than learn techniques for caring for the dying.

Hard cases make bad laws: Euthanasia is usually promoted by those who have had a loved one die in agony, without the benefits of good palliative care. The answer is not to change the law, but rather improve standards of care.

Personal autonomy important, but never absolute: A person's decision to end their life can have profound, often lifelong effects on the lives of others. There may be guilt, anger and bitterness felt by those left behind.

Legalisation will numb public conscience: The law is a powerful educator of public conscience. People cease to have strong feelings once a practice becomes legal and widely accepted. The Nazi euthanasia programme revealed the desensitising of those involved.

Violates accepted codes of medical ethics: the Hippocratic Oath, the World Medical Association in its1992 Statement of Marbella, more recently the NZ Medical Association, condemned euthanasia as unethical.

Gives improper power to doctors: Voluntary euthanasia gives power which can be too easily abused. Doctors need the law to restrain the temptation to speed up dying for the terminally ill and awkward patients.

Voluntary euthanasia always becomes involuntary: The 1990 Remmelink Report commissioned by the Dutch government confirms the inevitable slide into flouting legal safeguards.

Pressure on the elderly: The "right to die" can become a duty to die. Old people can be made to feel a burden on their families. Health insurers and hospital managers find euthanasia far cheaper than extended medical care.

On August 12, 2003 at a University of Sydney debate, on the topic Euthanasia, Yes or No, were opponents Dr Philip Nitschke and Catholic bishop Reverend Professor Anthony Fisher, both graduates of the University of Sydney.

Read the transcripts here...

New Zealander Professor Emeritus David Richmond is a practising physician in Geriatric Medicine. He was the inaugural Professor of Geriatric Medicine in the University of Auckland, and Assistant Dean in the Auckland Faculty of Medicine.

Professor Richmond is opposed to legalising euthanasia and gives his reasons here...