Imagine this, your mother has had uncontrollable seizures for the past four years with no cure or way to stop them. You have to watch helplessly as she goes through a minimum of seven seizures a day. She can no longer walk, eat, brush her teeth, or do normal activities as she used to without your help. She tells you that every day she is living in unimaginable pain with no rest. The medications to ease some of the pain costs hundreds of dollars that you have to pay for. Your mother tells you she wants to end her life and finally be at peace without having to wake up every morning and go through each day suffering. Would you agree and consent with her in being put to rest? This act of a physician legally ending a person’s life by a painless means with the consent from the patient and their family is called voluntary euthanasia. There are two different ways that euthanasia can be classified. Euthanasia can be classed as either voluntary euthanasia or involuntary euthanasia. Voluntary euthanasia is when a patient requests and gives consent for a physician to take their life. Involuntary euthanasia is when the patient is unable to give consent for this action (but has previously expressed their want for their life to end) and that decision is then made by someone else. Euthanasia should be legal to anyone who is suffering because of an incurable medical condition or if they are terminally ill, as long as the patient gives consent and has a true understanding of what the procedure is.
To clarify what euthanasia is, according to the National Health Service, euthanasia is “the act of deliberately ending a person’s life to relieve suffering” (“Euthanasia” par. 1). A doctor would be able to intentionally overprescribe a patient’s medication in order for them to slowly end their life, with the consent of the patient of course. This should be legal to those who are suffering from severe medical conditions with no cure or those who are terminally ill. Dr. Michael Irwin states, “I wouldn’t want to be unnecessarily kept alive against my own will” (Irwin par. 3). If someone wants to willingly end their life because of medical reasons they should at least have that option available. Being kept alive against one’s own will, and making them suffer from an incurable medical condition is outrageous because they just want to be at peace. This could bring up the question, what about the doctors doing this, can’t it be seen as murder?
Dr. Marcia Angell says, “It seems to me that, as with opposition based on whether the physician is ‘active,’ the argument that physicians should be only ‘healers’ focuses too much on the physician, and not enough on the patient.” (Angell 2). Focusing on the patient’s needs and wants is more important because it should be the patient’s choice if they want to solve their health problems by passing away peacefully. More emphasis should be directed towards what the patient wants not on how the physician feels. In cases where healing and curing patients is unreachable, doctor’s should find ways to alleviate that suffering patients are experiencing. When it gets to the point when the patient is suffering and there’s no plausible way that the patient could recover and heal, then that is the time that he or she should be able to decide if medically passing away is the right option for them. In the end, if the decision is to voluntarily be put to rest then so be it. The best decision for the patient is the most important and he or she should be able to make that choice. The physician’s role in this can be explained with the help of the Hippocratic oath that will be discussed as well.
The Hippocratic Oath is an oath that has been taken by physicians throughout history and goes like this: I swear to fulfill, to the best of my ability and judgment, this covenant: I will respect the hard-won scientific gains of those physicians in whose steps I walk, and gladly share such knowledge as is mine with those who are to follow. Swearing by this oath could prevent someone from helping a patient with their assisted death but the procedure can always been discussed if it is legal in the state where the patient resides. “There’s people that tell me why are you doing this [advocating for PAS], you’re supposed to cure, you’re supposed to help this person, my answer to that is some people need help dying. To prolong a death in some cases is not helpful, it can be counter productive. My objective is that given the Hippocratic Oath, I’m not going against it” (Irwin par. 4). He is not going against the oath because that is was he works by, also he does everything through his work so there is no chance that his work or job could be jeopardized by thinking about assisting a suicide. This oath where the body of it forbids the killing of a human being and also bans the help in suicide. The family has to constantly have the thought in the back of their head that a loved one is in a great amount of pain. Financially, there are many complications that could arise with keeping a suffering man or woman in a hospital along with their treatment.
For people who have gone through the decision of euthanasia, they would want to acknowledge if he or she has a legal right to do so. “Savings to governments could become a consideration. Drugs for assisted suicide cost about $75 to $100, making them far less expensive than providing medical care. This could fill the void from cutbacks for treatment and care with the ‘treatment’ of death…” (Nordqvist 3) Keeping the patient in the hospital can exceed the cost of the procedure of helping the patient with assisted suicide. Prolonged payments go to waste if the patient is not going to get better or is going to pass soon. This money could be put to a more beneficial use if assisted suicide is allowed. The drugs bought to help the patient with assisted suicide or euthanasia are much less expensive than the treatment to keep them at the point of survival but not truly living. For some families, choosing assisted suicide is the only affordable choice for people who cannot continue to pay. The patient may also feel obligated to choose the route of ending the financial drought of their family if that is what it comes to in order to relieve that burden from their family. The typical procedure of death by euthanasia or assisted suicide is unknown to many individuals in our society today because so little conversation about it is being discussed. However, “Many people worry that if voluntary euthanasia were to become legal, it would not be long before involuntary euthanasia would start to happen…In general form, it says that if we allow something relatively harmless today, we may start a trend that results in something currently unthinkable becoming accepted.” (Irwin par. 9). If the laws and people start practicing and going along with assisted death, either voluntary or involuntary, then soon enough that is what people would turn to first and more often possibly without the necessary reasons and thoughts.
Overall, there has been an overview of several pros of Euthanasia such as the legalization from medical perspectives, the new knowledge of the Hippocratic Oath and who is represented by the oath, and the financial motivations of the participants in the talk of euthanasia. Euthanasia should be legal to anyone who is suffering because of an incurable medical condition or if they are terminally ill, as long as the patient gives consent and has a true understanding of what the procedure is. By making this choice legal, this would provide a better solution to people with terminal illnesses. The importance that people have the choice to go through with assisted death with reason is very significant because it could be a life-changing decision that affects more than just the patient. Having this ability to choose to end one’s own suffering can relieve their own stress along with the stress of their family.
Angell, Marcia. “May Doctors Help You to Die?” Senior Lecturer in Social Medicine, Harvard
Medical School, New York Review of Books, Oct. 11, 2012
“Euthanasia and Assisted Suicide.” NHS Choices, National Health Services, 29 June 2017.
Irwin, Michael. “Euthanasia: The Right to Die Should Be a Matter of Personal Choice.” Mirror,
Irish Mirror, 19 Aug. 2013.
Nordqvist, Christian. “Euthanasia and Assisted Suicide: What Are They and What Do They
Mean?” Medical News Today, MediLexicon International, 17 Dec. 2018,