For the uninitiated, the term euthanasia means intentionally ending a person’s life in order to relieve pain and suffering. Some call it mercy killing, some call it assisted suicide and some even go as far as calling it happy death. While normal suicide is largely looked down upon in the society, mercy killing has some positive points too which starts a moral dilemma, should it be legal or not?
One thing is already established, there should be consent of the person concerned as to what their fate should be. This way euthanasia can be classified into three types:
- Voluntary : When an active consent of the patient is expressed, it is known as voluntary euthanasia. This type is most akin to suicide as the person himself is wishing for death but there could be more to it than what meets the eye. For example, if the person is terminally ill and will die in about 3 months anyway all the while suffering from excruciating pain and taking expensive medication and thus financially burdening his loved ones, should he be spared of his pain and killed now itself?
- Non-voluntary : This is one of the more conflicting types of euthanasia. In this case the explicit consent of the patient is not available. This could be due to the fact that they are in a persistent vegetative state, or the person is severely mentally retarded or in the case of infants and toddlers as they can’t speak for themselves. Here the problem arises due to the fact that it is a relative of the patient that is taking the decision, and the morality of the doctor is also involved.
- Involuntary : In this type, euthanasia is administered on a person who says “no” to euthanasia, or were not asked at all. This is usually always considered murder, but let us take an example of why this type exists in the first place. A soldier has their stomach burst open by a shell burst. They are in great pain and screaming in agony. They beg the army doctor to save their life by any means possible. The doctor knows the soldier will die in 10-15 minutes and that time will be spent in unimaginable pain. As the doctor doesn’t have any painkillers with him, he decides to spare the soldier further pain and shoots them dead. It is murder, yes, but why?
Now that we have explored the territories of why or why not euthanasia should be administered, let us explore the side of how it is administered because that also is a matter of moral and ethical conflict. According to this, there are two types of euthanasia :
- Active : This case occurs when the person administering the act does something deliberately that ends the person’s life.
- Passive : This case occurs when the medical practitioners either don’t do something to keep the patient alive or when they stop doing something that is keeping the patient alive. For example disconnecting the feeding tube, switching off the life support machine etc.
The question is that is there really a difference between killing someone and letting them die? If you remove the life support from a person, you are doing an action that is responsible for the death of the person, so this should come under active euthanasia right? The intention was to kill the person nonetheless. On the other hand, in your defence it can be said that the disease causing the person to require life support systems killed the patient, not you.
After all the debate and arguments, euthanasia continues to be a moral grey area. It is illegal in most countries in most forms and is generally considered manslaughter. Further, surveys among doctors and citizens alike show that people are vastly divided in their sentiment and there seems no particular solution to this dilemma in the near future. In the end, it should depend on the will of the person concerned and the law of the land if such an act should be carried out or not. If indeed it is to be carried out, proper regulations should be set in place to keep in check the abuse of this privilege by greedy relatives, because there is a very fine line of difference between moral and immoral when a topic as sensitive as this is concerned.
What do you think about euthanasia? When is it okay or when is it not? Let me know in the comments section and let us have a discussion on this.