Euthanasia Extreme Question Of Moral Judgment

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Imagine you have been diagnosed with a chronic illness with excruciating side effects. You are unable to eat, sleep, or walk without overwhelming pain. The doctors say you have under six months left to live and you know that you will spend that time suffering. You no longer have the desire to live and begin considering euthanasia. But what actually is euthanasia? Is it morally permissible? Who all will be affected by your decision?

Euthanasia is defined as “the painless killing of a patient suffering from an incurable and painful disease or in an irreversible coma.” (Lexico, 2019.) Euthanasia is illegal in many places, and in most places that it has been legalized, it involves many rules and regulations. In this paper, I will argue that James Rachels is correct when saying that euthanasia is sometimes morally permissible depending on the circumstance (The Ethical Life, 252.)

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Euthanasia has become an extreme question of moral judgment as many people fall within three groups: those who are pro-euthanasia, those who are anti-euthanasia, and those who believe that euthanasia is okay under certain circumstances. Each viewpoint has its own arguments and reasons why euthanasia is permissible or impermissible.

Those who are pro-euthanasia tend to hold such arguments: humans have the right to live, so, therefore, they have the right to die, death is a private matter, it does not physically harm others, and overall it can save a great amount of pain, suffering, and money. Those who are anti-euthanasia typically hold arguments that include: euthanasia allows people to disvalue the lives of those who are sick and disabled, voluntary euthanasia may eventually lead to involuntary euthanasia, it may lead to doctors pressuring people into euthanasia, and the regulations of euthanasia may be ineffective. People who believe that it is permissible under certain circumstances may look at such details to determine if they believe it is permissible: how old the person is, their disease or situation if they are of sound mind, and if other options do not relieve the suffering.

I believe that euthanasia is morally permissible in certain situations. The career I am going into as well as my current job, has had a great influence on my opinion. Currently, I work as a certified nurse aide in a nursing and rehabilitation center. During my time as a C.N.A., I have cared for many people when they are nearing the end of their life. Often times the waiting and watching of a patient dying is extremely hard for the family as well as the medical providers. It is hard to predict the exact amount of time the person has left, so families often spend days, weeks, or even months waiting and dreading the moment their loved one will pass. As the patient’s body begins to shut down from the inside, it becomes very obvious on the outside how much pain and suffering they are enduring.

Like many people who also believe euthanasia is sometimes permissible, I focus on the details of the specific situation to determine what I think is right. Often times my opinion is based on a number of things: how old the patient is, if they are in their right mind and can make a sound decision and if there are any other options that could be successful for alleviating the pain. Often times if the person is a child, mentally ill, or depressed I believe their request for euthanasia should not be permitted.

In the United States, euthanasia is not legally permitted but, in some states, physician-assisted suicide is. The distinction between euthanasia and physician-assisted suicide is who delivers the lethal dose or injection. For euthanasia, the doctor is the one to deliver the dose. However, in physician-assisted suicide, the doctor supplies all the lethal products but the patient must be the one to do the final action. For example, the doctor can provide lethal doses of certain pills, but the patient has to be the one to actually pick them up and take them for it to be legal. The requirements in most states for P.A.S. are the patient must be U.S. resident, must be at least 18 years of age, must have six or less months to live, and must have two oral requests from different physicians at least 15-20 days apart. (ProCon, 2019.) In my opinion, such guidelines could be very reasonable and successful for euthanasia as well.

With regards to who will be affected by euthanasia, I think the main person in mind is the patient themselves. The family of course will be affected emotionally, but regardless if their loved one dies today or three months from now, they will have to grieve. In reality, euthanasia may benefit the family to some extent as well regarding their circumstance. If they are there day in and day out watching their loved ones suffer, they will have a huge emotional toll taken out on them and will end up being drained. Also, if they are financially responsible for the loved one, the treatments for an incurable disease and end-of-life care could be extremely expensive and ineffective. It may seem harsh to say, but truthfully family members can benefit from euthanasia as well.

In James Rachels’ proposal, “The Morality of Euthanasia,” he gives an outline of how to determine if euthanasia is morally permissible. His guidelines are as follows:

  1. If an action promotes the best interests of everyone concerned and violates no one’s rights, then that action is morally acceptable.
  2. In at least some cases, active euthanasia promotes the best interests of everyone concerned and violates no one’s rights.
  3. Therefore, in at least some cases, active euthanasia is morally acceptable.” (The Ethical Life, 256.)

I believe that this guideline gives a reasonable view on how to regard euthanasia. Euthanasia as Rachels points out, may not always promote happiness in everyone, it does however eliminate some misery which “is a very strong reason in its favor.” (The Ethical Life, 255.)

There are some situations that I believe euthanasia is not morally permissible. One example is if euthanization began to be forced upon patients for whatever reason. If physicians were to persuade people into euthanasia for various reasons, such as organ donation or because their life had “no value,” I would believe that euthanasia is morally impermissible. If doctors simply began euthanizing patients without any warning or reason, it would also be extremely unacceptable.

In the proposal, “The Survival Lottery,” John Harris gives an example of two patients, one needing a heart transplant and the other needing a lung transplant. (The Ethical Life, 258-266.) His proposition is to assign everyone in society a lottery number, and someone will be chosen at random to be euthanized and donate their organs. Harris’ argument is that saving two or more lives is greater than the death of the donor, so therefore morally permissible. I, however, disagree with Harris. People have the right to life and should be able to choose whether or not they die and donate their organs. This form of forced euthanasia is very much comparable to murder.

Some may argue that euthanasia is too hard to regulate and could eventually give doctors too much power. If euthanasia were to be legalized throughout the United States, there would be laws, regulations, and possibly a committee put in place to help govern the decisions and use of euthanasia. As with any other medical regulation, there will be those who break them and face serious consequences. Medical malpractice can cause physicians to lose their reputation among communities as well as their medical licenses. In any situation, there will be such risks of a bad egg in the batch, but in this situation, I believe it would be highly unlikely.

Overall, I do not think doctors will begin euthanizing people without consent because of one main reason: money. The cost of keeping someone on end-of-life care is much more expensive compared to euthanizing the patient, therefore allowing the doctor to make a greater profit. The average cost of end-of-life care is around $60,000 during the last year of life and may vary based on the type of care given and whether the patient is at home or in a facility. (Health Affairs, 2017.) The cost of a lethal dose in powder form is approximately $400 to $500. (ProCon, n.d.) This may lead to the argument that doctors will begin refusing euthanization, but protocols in place and the need for approval from more than one doctor can help prevent this issue. If euthanization were to be legalized, there would have to be a system of checks and balances to prevent such issues on either side.

In conclusion, euthanasia is morally permissible in certain situations. Euthanasia is a very difficult topic to think about as we often want to keep our loved ones with us as long as we possibly can. However, in some situations, euthanasia is a way to alleviate pain and suffering that cannot be done otherwise. Some forms of euthanasia and reasons for euthanasia create a morally impermissible situation. If euthanasia were to be legalized there would have to be a great deal of rules and regulations put in place to prevent the misuse and refusal of euthanasia.

Resources:

  1. Can Doctors Still Practice After a Medical Malpractice Lawsuit? (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.wkw.com/medical-malpractice/faqs/doctors-lose-license-medical-malpractice-lawsuit/.
  2. French, E. B., EJ, E., Aldridge, Riley, JE, B., Hoover, … Mitchell SL. (2017, July 1). End-Of-Life Medical Spending In Last Twelve Months Of Life Is Lower Than Previously Reported. Retrieved from https://www.healthaffairs.org/doi/full/10.1377/hlthaff.2017.0174.
  3. Harris, John. “The Survival Lottery.” The Ethical Life: Fundamental Readings in Ethics and Moral Problems, edited by Russ Shafer-Landau, Oxford University Press, 2018, pp.258-266.
  4. How Much Do Physician-Assisted Suicide Drugs Cost? (n.d.). Retrieved from https://euthanasia.procon.org/view.answers.php?questionID=002166.
  5. Rachels, James. “The Morality of Euthanasia.” The Ethical Life: Fundamental Readings in Ethics and Moral Problems, edited by Russ Shafer- Landau, Oxford University Press, 2018, pp.252-257.
  6. States with Legal Physician-Assisted Suicide. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://euthanasia.procon.org/view.resource.php?resourceID=000132.
  7. What is the Difference Between Assisted Dying and Euthanasia? (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.worldrtd.net/qanda/what-difference-between-assisted-dying-and-euthanasia.
  8. Writer, A. M. F. S. (n.d.). End-of-life Options – Hospice Costs & Who Pays for Care. Retrieved from https://www.debt.org/medical/hospice-costs/.

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