Right to Die: Legalized Euthonasia (Assisted Suicide)
It is problematic to find an article about assisted suicide or euthanasia that is written in the neutral form, analyzing the argumentation of both sides of the debate. The positions of the authors are quite radical: they vary from total unacceptability of assisted suicide and euthanasia to complete acceptance of these practices both from the moral and judicial viewpoints.
There is always some unclear space left in the discussion of the ethical side of the right to die and the participants of the discussion try to persuade the readers that their perspective is the only one. The detailed analysis of the reasons why it is permitted to give people the right to die or not is important in creating the legal basis for the issue in the countries where it is still a question of discussions.
Assisted suicide and euthanasia are legally accepted practices only in a small number of countries. It is permitted in the Netherlands, in Luxemburg, in Switzerland, in Belgium and in several states of the US like Washington, Vermont, Oregon and Montana. Multiple laws and jurisdictions were created to control the process of euthanasia and assisted suicide in order to prevent the misuse and abuse of these practices. According to the laws, the prevention measures consist of obligatory reporting of all cases of euthanasia, written consent of the patient, who is psychologically sane at the moment of signing the documents, the decision about euthanasia should be made by two doctors and the procedure should be conducted only by a physician.
In the current essay, two opposing viewpoints concerning the problem of euthanasia and assisted suicide will be analyzed. The first article that gives evidences that are against the legalized euthanasia by Pereira (2011) gives much data to support the idea that such practice gives people only an illusion of control over their lives. In reality the number of violation of the laws is enormous. The second article investigates into the ethical part of the problem and researches the values and the increasing acceptance of euthanasia in Europe (Köneke, 2014). The article that opposes the legalization of euthanasia seems to create a more argumentative argument, because it relies on the real factual data of mistakes in assisted suicide and euthanasia. The second article has a more theoretical character and is based more on ethical assumptions and sociological research of the possible perspectives, that do not have rpactical evidences until they are applied.
Pereira (2011) in the article Legalizing euthanasia or assisted suicide: the illusion of safeguards and controls provides proofs that the laws about assisted suicide and euthanasia are violated or entirely ignored quite often. The author writes that nearly 900 patients undergo euthanasia without their written consent. More than a half of the cases are not reported. The main problem, according to Pereira (2011) is that the ethical constraints that regulate the social opinion concerning this issue have changed during the last years. It was initially considered that assisted suicide and euthanasia are the terminal option that should be available only for incurably ill people, whose life brings them more sufferings than quick death. The reality has changed ad nowadays euthanasia can be applied even for the elderly people with dementia, children and even newborns. Such change in the ethical norms and in the understanding of the value of life place a big number of patients at the group of risk. It does not seem a tragedy when people learn that 1 person out of 5 undergoes euthanasia without his/her explicit consent. It is often considered that those people told their position when they were able to do it. The violation of all possible laws and ethical norms is evident in such cases. In addition, Pereira (2011) mentions that there are many cases when the patients who did not give explicit consent for ending their life received the life ending drugs from the nurses, not physicians. In the majority of cases the physicians were not even present during euthanasia.
Despite the shocking statistics and descriptions of the medical abuses, the article has numerous logical fallacies. First of all, the argument is based more on the emotional component than on the logical one. Pereira (2011) shifts from one theme to another without making conclusions out of every passage. The violation of the rules by nurses is combined with the descriptions of the overall ethical situation in the contemporary society. The main emphasis of the article is made on the claims that euthanasia was initially considered the last opportunity only for terminally ill people and now it is applied even to chronically ill. It used to be the way out only for physical illnesses and now it is normal to pass away when the person is mentally ill. It was a means of stopping unbearable sufferings, but now it is normal to do it for an elderly person who is simply tired of living.
Pereira (2011) makes a lot of statements that are not supported by scientific sources. However, the emotional component of the article is entirely fulfilled: the idea that legalized euthanasia gives only the illusion of control over the person’s life, because in reality the ethical chaos is penetrating the minds of more and more people.
Köneke (2014) in the article Trust increases euthanasia acceptance: a multilevel analysis using the European Values Study investigates into the attitudes of different layers of the European society concerning the question of euthanasia. The author argues with the main argument that the opposite side of the discussion uses, the so-called slippery slope argument. It is thought that the legalization of assisted suicide and euthanasia will certainly lead to violation of the law and hundreds of involuntary deaths.
The argument proposed by Köneke (2014) is based on the fact that the trust of people to the medical care system increases and people feel more confident in the hospitals. It becomes absurd for them to think that their physician will assist to their involuntary suicide, because it is against human nature and such behavior is more characteristic to a serial killer than to a doctor. The author pays attention to the fact that the legislative requirements concerning euthanasia are rather strict and it is not possible to assist someone’s suicide emotionally and quickly. Such operation requires a written consent of the patient, the consent of his/her relatives, and a colloquium of two physicians. It is unlikely that those patients who have even a minor chance to be cured will be given a morbid doze of drugs.
This article does not have many logical fallacies, but it does not pay deserved attention to the issue that the ethical side of the question has changed greatly during the recent years. As Pereira (2011) asserts, more and more people receive the right for assisted suicide, and it is possible to assume that the aim of contemporary medical care is not to cure, but to help people die without pain. Such tendency is controversial and the changes in the wide spread understanding of the problem of euthanasia and assisted suicide support the idea that the society is degrading in ethical aspect. That is why the viewpoint of Pereira (2011) seem to be more foregrounded than the one of Köneke (2014).
Köneke, V. (2014). Trust increases euthanasia acceptance: a multilevel analysis using the European Values Study. BMC Medical Ethics, 15, 86.
Pereira, J. (2011). Legalizing euthanasia or assisted suicide: the illusion of safeguards and controls. Current Oncology, 18(2), e38–e45.