29 Aug 2022


Euthanasia: The Pros and Cons of Assisted Suicide

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Academic level: College

Paper type: Term Paper

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Taking away the life of a person by killing them on the grounds of the emotion of mercy has become common in the current society. The thought of a terminally-ill patient’s desire to be a peaceful gateway to life evokes human emotion of mercy to relieve the patient from his or her suffering. In addition, it invites the term “mercy killing” which is commonly referred to as euthanasia. The term combines two contradictory words which have caused the most complex issues in relation to its ethics, morality, legality as well as humanity and society. The questions about euthanasia are not based on whether killing is right, but on the moral, ethical and legal aspects of the mercy associated with it (Battin, 2015). Moreover, it is unimaginably difficult to choose between death and life regardless of the fact that life is no longer worth living because of terminal illness. As such, euthanasia remains a prime issue due to its relationship to life and death of the suffering terminally ill patient as well as choosing between the two is a dilemma for the patient, the physician, and the family. The practice should therefore not be legalized on both moral and ethical backgrounds. This paper expounds on the concept of euthanasia and presents some pro-euthanasia and anti-euthanasia arguments before explaining why the practice should not be legalized.

What is Euthanasia? 

The degree to which an individual can be involved in accelerating the death of a terminally ill person varies and it is crucial to understand the terms to distinguish the degree. Euthanasia is a term that is often related to physician-assisted suicide and the Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines it as “the act or practice of killing for reasons of mercy.” Euthanasia, as it is known today, is either passive or active. In passive euthanasia, the life-saving measures are intentionally withdrawn or withheld to allow the terminally ill person to die of natural causes. For instance, a daughter electing to take her father off life-support machines, which results in his death is an example of passive euthanasia (Somerville, 2014). On the other hand, active euthanasia takes places when a person causes the demise of a terminally ill patient. For instance, an individual who gives another individual a lethal injection to accelerate their death with the goal of relieving them of their suffering will be carrying out an active euthanasia. Although this practice is currently illegal in almost every society, numerous medical professionals have claimed that it is frequently performed in secrecy (Battin, 2015). It is a highly controversial practice whose critiques argue that in most instances the patients are not informed of what is being done to them or are coerced into accepting the act.

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Assistant suicide takes occurs in an instant where a dying individual who wishes to hasten death asks for assistance in undertaking the act. As such, there exists a difference between assisted suicide and euthanasia. In the former, the terminally ill individual wishes to die and has precisely explicitly asked for assistance which comes from a doctor and not a friend or a family member (Somerville, 2014). On the other hand, in euthanasia, the dying terminally ill individuals may or may not be aware of what is being done to them as well as may or may not have asked to die.

The Controversy over Legalization 

The concept of keeping a person alive even if it is extremely uncomfortable has gradually changed over the years with the notion that the right to die, mercy killing, or euthanasia exists stipulating that the wishes of a terminally ill patient must be honored (Somerville, 2014). More often than not, mercy killing is requested for terminally ill patients in instances where further treatments are futile. It is not easy to accept that if an individual is suffering from unbearable pain as a result of a terminal illness then his or her life can be ended peacefully. However, it is extremely difficult to pay no attention to the reality of their suffering from such enduring pain (Battin, 2015). As such, the questions as to whether such an individual should be allowed to die naturally despite the unbearable suffering or as a mean of relieving them of the pain, euthanasia should be undertaken arises. Currently, there is no absolute rejection or acceptance of euthanasia in different societies across the globe. This is why euthanasia continues to be an issue of controversy. It is exceedingly difficult to sustain the two terms that define euthanasia, that is, ‘mercy killing’ together from a social and legal perspective (Dees et al., 2010). Thus, resulting in varying approaches by which people on the opposite sides of the controversy either accept or reject mercy killing. It is crucial to look at arguments of both the anti-euthanasia and pro-euthanasia views to understand the controversy of legalizing the practice.

Arguments for Legalizing Euthanasia.

Right to life and personal liberty 

In most societies, everyone is guaranteed their right to life as well as to personal liberty. In regard to human life, the right to life guarantees more than animal existence – everything that makes life dignified and worth living. However, an individual in the constant vegetative state cannot exercise the right of ‘dignified life’ neither can such an individual enforce this right (Dees et al., 2010). As such, the proponents of euthanasia argue that the right to life should be interpreted in a way that allows a terminally ill patients dignified death – ultimately relieving them of pain and the people take care of them. In the United States, the right to privacy has been established to be a determining factor in the case of euthanasia. In most societies, invasion of bodily privacy is taken in cognizance. The call of bodily invasion lies with the patient, a situation which is applicable to a doctor-patient relationship. The patient is entitled to decide at what point the doctor should not invade his or her body. If the doctor violates this direction, he or she commits a civil wrong which will invoke tort action for bodily trespass damages. As such, euthanasia should be permitted to avoid violating the right to privacy (Somerville, 2014). In addition, the right to autonomy guarantees a person complete control over their body. The proponents of euthanasia argue that since the government has permitted the donation of body organs despite the imminent risks, it should also allow people the right to self-determination from releasing themselves from unbearable pain and suffering of terminal illness.

Lack of Medical Facilities 

With the shortage of medical facilities, particularly in developing countries, there is increasing pressure to take care of patients who are likely to recover. This pressure favors euthanasia as proponents argue that the doctors choose patients who may be saved over the ones beyond recovery, as the latter will still die.

Death Penalty versus Euthanasia 

The proponents of euthanasia also argue that I the society has sanctioned the death penalty, then it should not illegalize euthanasia (Somerville, 2014). In both instances, the life of the individual is brought to an end. In the case of the death penalty, the individual is killed for his wrong deeds while in euthanasia the person is killed to relieve himself or herself from worthless painful life.

Euthanasia is letting Die – Not Killing 

The advocates also use the motive of euthanasia to propose that it is not killing but simply letting die (Dees et al., 2010). The motive of undertaking the practice is to help and not to cause harm. As such, it is different from murder.

Arguments against Euthanasia Legalization 

It is unarguable that euthanasia amounts to a deliberate act to bring the life of a terminally ill patient to an end. Even though pro-lifers object the unnecessary prolonging of a patient’s life via artificial means, they criticize active measure such as the use of lethal injections and medications to end the natural span of human life (Somerville, 2014). To the opponents of this practice, euthanasia amounts to a license to kill a terminally ill patient (Battin, 2015). They compare it to murder by terming it as a right to kill rather than a right to die. Moreover, they argue granting medical practitioners the blatant power to carry out active euthanasia will result in its gross abuse given the corruption as well as malpractices embedded in the medical profession. The following are some of the objections they raise towards legalizing euthanasia.

Euthanasia weakens the Doctor-Patient Relationship 

Allowing doctors to carry out euthanasia is a definite setback to the sensitive and trustworthy relationship between a terminally ill patient and the doctors. The reason as to why the public entertains a fiduciary relationship with doctors is because they believe the doctors are dedicated to preserve as well as heal them as stipulated in the Hippocratic Oath (Battin, 2015). This oath commands the doctors to never kill a patient irrespective of whether they request it or not. Legalizing euthanasia will not only involve the medical profession in a killing process but also turn doctors into ‘legalized terminators’ (Somerville, 2014). In addition, legalizing euthanasia will empower physicians over patients making them into victims as well as their vulnerability will not be adequately guarded.

Right to die means Duty to Kill 

Each right bears a corresponding responsibility. Legalizing euthanasia will automatically invite its corollary which is the duty to kill (Dees et al., 2010). In such a case, the right to die will force the state to enforce it through the court system. As such, a patient will be able to sue a doctor for violating their right by failing to kill him or her.

Misuse of the Right of Euthanasia 

Just like other institutions, the medical profession is susceptible to corruption and malpractices. Legalizing euthanasia will not only put the lives of the terminally ill patients at risk, but also the lives of the old aged and destitute people who are currently considered as a burden in the current society that has no social system to support them (Somerville, 2014). As such, there is a risk of people exploiting this law to meet their selfish interests. For instance, greedy individuals might kill their predecessors with the assistance of a doctor in order to acquire ancestral property.

Mercy Killing and Distinct Penalty are Different Concepts 

The death penalty is usually given to hardened criminals who pose critical threats to the maintenance of law and order in the society. As such, it is a punishment. On the contrary, euthanasia does not amount to a punishment because a terminally ill patients pose no threats to the society like hardened criminals (Somerville, 2014).

The ambiguity of the term “Terminally ill” 

It is often pointed out hat the legislation associated with euthanasia is ambiguous and vague terms that permit the provisions to be misused (Somerville, 2014). For instance, the term ‘terminally ill’ is not constrained to a fixed definition. In addition, the medical fraternity has disputed opinions when it comes to deciding who is terminally ill, as such, the category could encompass a wider range of patients.

Why Euthanasia should not be Legalized 

Irrespective of what the proponents of mercy killing state, the practice is against the morality and public policy. Human life is sanctity and euthanasia deface the precious human life. In addition, euthanasia violates public policy regarding preservation of the life of a human being (Somerville, 2014). By terminating the life of a terminally ill patient in an unnatural manner, the doctor not only violates the Hippocratic Oath but also commits a wrong. Therefore, doctors should never be allowed to play the rod of God. Moreover, medical ethics calls for caring, nursing as well as curing and not terminating a patient’s life (Battin, 2015). Unlike in the past decades, medical advancements have made it possible to treat the previous terminal illness. As such, rather than preparing an individual to cut short his life prematurely, it is better to encourage the person to lead the rest of their life with patience and courage. In addition, the decision to request for euthanasia does not primarily lie with the patient. The family members also play a crucial role in arriving at this kind of a decision. Psychologically, the patient is subjected to enormous pressure in taking such a decision. Therefore, the patients are meant to feel that their lives are a burden to the society (Dees et al., 2010). Based on these moral and ethical backgrounds, euthanasia should not be legalized.


Battin, M. P. (2015). Physician-Assisted Suicide: Safe, Legal, Rare? In  Physician-Assisted Suicide  (pp. 63-72). Routledge.

Somerville, M. (2014).  Death talk: the case against euthanasia and physician-assisted suicide . McGill-Queen's Press-MQUP.

Dees, M., Vernooij‐Dassen, M., Dekkers, W., & Van Weel, C. (2010). The unbearable suffering of patients with a request for euthanasia or physician‐assisted suicide: an integrative review.  Psycho‐Oncology 19 (4), 339-352.

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