Euthanasia


Michael Wilson
FYSM 136-01
9/15/96
Professor Lee

A long time ago, culture was universal and permanent. There was one set
of beliefs, ideals, and norms, and these were the standard for all human beings
in all places and all times. We, however, live in the modern world. Our ethics
are not an inheritance of the past, completed and ready for universal
application. We are in the situation of having to form our own beliefs and
meanings of life. This struggle is now obvious in the contemporary discussions
of euthanasia.
Of the controversial discussions involving euthanasia, the question of
legalization is an often argued one. Whether euthanasia ought to be illegal is
different from the question of whether it is immoral. Some people believe that
even if euthanasia is immoral, it still should not be prohibited by law, since
if a patient wants to die, that is strictly a personal affair, regardless of how
foolish or immoral the desire might be. [Rachels, 56] My position is almost
identical. I believe there are some instances in which euthanasia is immoral,
but I believe it should unquestionably be legal. In the following paragraphs, I
will display the position of the opposition to the legality of euthanasia as
well as the position of the supporters. I shall attempt to prove that, yes,
euthanasia should be legal. There is a strong opposition against the
legalization of euthanasia. The main argument against the legality of
euthanasia is sometimes known as the slippery slope argument. People argue that
if euthanasia was legally permitted, it would lead to a general decline in the
respect for human life. It is professed that we would kill people in the
beginning simply to put them out of extreme agony. This is the ideal. But the
opposition states that the killing of people wouldn\'t stop here. The killing
could perhaps escalate to mass murder of innocent victims. When would the
killing stop? This is what scares the opponent. The opponents argue that once
something is accepted, we have no right to deny other similar practices. This
is when doctors and patients would start taking advantage of the new law.
Therefore, the first step should not be taken.
I disagree with this notion and believe that there would hardly be any
abuse of the new law. I have formed three reasons why euthanasia ought to be
legal. First, history tells us that mercy killers have generally been let off
easy in court. In the case of Hans Florian, a man who shot his elderly wife to
death because she had lost her mind to Alzheimer\'s disease, the grand jury
refused to indict him. His argument was that he shot her because he feared that
he might die first and then she would be left alone [Rachels, 57]. As in this
case and numerous others, the killers are usually let off easy because of
sympathetic jury members or judges. For this reason, euthanasia should be legal,
for it goes along with current attitudes in the courtroom. Secondly, the
constitution states that were are all allotted our certain unalienable rights to
"life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness." Since we have this right to life,
it is our right to decide what we want to do with our lives, and no one else\'s
right to tell us what to do. The third proponent to my reasoning is something
called Mill\'s Principle. This principle states that people should be free to
live their lives as they themselves think best, as long as they are not doing
harm to others [Merkov, 21]. Also, this principle only applies to people who
are competent and can make rational decisions. For if one is not in their
right frame of mind, they could make an ill-fated decision on their life.
Euthanasia should be legalized because it is inhumane to allow people to
continue suffering when they request release by rapid and painless termination
of life. Patients frequently suffer agony from pain that is uncontrollable.
Administration of death is the only effective release from suffering in these
situations.
If a person is in excruciating pain day and night, or if they are living
vegetables in a permanent and unrelenting comatose with no hope for life,
shouldn\'t they be allowed to end their lives legally. In ending the patient\'s
life, you put an end not only to their agony, but the agony of their families
and friends who must watch them suffer. None of this would be possible without
the legalization of euthanasia. Moreover, it would put less pressure on family
members knowing that the act was committed legally.