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Evaluate the Ethical Arguments For and Against Voluntary Euthanasia

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Introduction

Evaluate the Ethical Arguments For and Against Voluntary Euthanasia Euthanasia is defined as an 'act of killing someone painlessly to relieve his or her suffering'1. It's etymology is derived from the Greek 'eu thanatos' which means a good death. It is a contentious issue that provokes strong arguments for and against changing UK legislation to permit it. The UK currently prohibits active euthanasia. Active euthanasia is an act where the intention is to end or deliberately shorten someone's life. A doctor will administer a drug such as morphine or potassium chloride. Such an act is considered to be murder and a doctor found guilty of this offence faces a long prison sentence. An extremely significant case which played a part in determining whether voluntary active euthanasia is illegal was the case of Dr Cox. His patient Lilian Boyes, who was seventy years old and suffering from severe rheumatoid arthritis, asked him to kill her. She was expected to die within a matter of days, but the pain she was suffering from was unbearable. Out of compassion he gave her a lethal dose of potassium chloride. As there was a possibility that she could have died from other causes due to her condition, he was only charged with attempted murder. Some people may believe that this case was unfair and the fact that Dr Cox was acting out of mercy and compassion should act in favour for him. Even with modern pain control people can still suffer right to the end of life. ...read more.

Middle

Therefore a crippling illness is not enough to take away the intrinsic value of life. They say that ending our own life is rejecting Gods sovereignty over our lives, and the freedom that God gives us should not stretch as far as being able to end our own lives. We do not have the right to die. This does not mean that we cannot allow ourselves to die by refusing harsh and unattractive medical treatment as it is seen as accepting one's fate.7 Roman Catholics believe that we do not have the kind of freedom necessary to take someone's life as we are made by God for the purpose of loving him. John Stuart Mill has views which are strongly against those of the Catholic Church. In his book 'On Liberty' he said that if someone is faced with a decision which does not directly affect others then the person should be given total autonomy. 8 Another reason for Catholics to believe that euthanasia is wrong is because of the fact that it is believed that suffering has a special place in God's plan. This is backed up by the idea that Jesus died on the cross and so if we suffer at the end of life, we are being connected to the suffering that Jesus felt. This doesn't mean that people should go out of their way to seek pain, but it does mean that a positive effect can be had on the individual. ...read more.

Conclusion

The recent incidents involving Dr Harold Shipman could also be repeated if voluntary euthanasia were legalised. He managed to kill dozens of elderly people and got away with it even under the current regulations. Some people believe that voluntary euthanasia may lead to other schemes carried out by the Nazis which involved the involuntary euthanasia of the sick, disabled and the elderly. When the constraints on killing are loosened, undesirable effects must occur. This is called the slippery slope argument. However this is fairly unconvincing as that situation has not occurred in Holland. 13 The final argument against voluntary euthanasia is the idea that it is totally contrary to the initial aim of medicine, to promote the health and life of people. The opposite act is being carried out and medical practitioners are failing at their jobs. These people should not be put in the position where society expects them to take a persons life. 1 'Collins Pocket English Dictionary'. 2 Withdrawal is to stop treatment, withholding is to never give it and both are seen as legally equal. 3 Tony Hope, Julian Savulescu, Judith Hendrick. 'Medical Ethics and Law'. pp157. 4 Campbell, Alistair. Gillet, Grant. Jones, Gareth. 'Medical Ethics-Third Edition'. pp200 5 Alison Davies. 'Briefing notes on voluntary euthanasia/assisted dying.' 6 In fact, the term 'best interest' is easily miss understood as meaning the patients 'wishes'. What it really means is what will preserve their health or prevent them from dying. 7 www.bbc.co.uk/print//religion/ethics/euthanasia/rcatholic.shtml 8 Robert A Bowie, 'Ethical Studies'. pp190. 9 'Declaration on Euthanasia' 1980. 10 www.hospicecare.com/Ethics/fohrdoc.htm 11 www.ves.org.uk 12 Glover, 1977, pp.92-93. 13 'Kusha', 1991, pp302. ?? ?? ?? ?? Sam D'Arcy ...read more.

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