The Ethics of Euthanasia

Euthanasia continues to be a highly sensitive issue that still leaves more questions than answers. Euthanasia generally refers to the act of ending life in a painless way for merciful reasons. It has since been called other names- assisted suicide, right to die, death with dignity and many others. It remains controversial in that it involves the taking of life which, as most people generally believe, do not fall in mans’ hands.

Euthanasia By Consent

There are various classifications for euthanasia. One of them is euthanasia by consent wherein such practice may either be conducted with or without consent of the patient. Euthanasia with consent, also known as voluntary euthanasia, is conducted with the full consent of the individual.

Euthanasia without consent or involuntary euthanasia is conducted wherein another individual provides the consent for another person who is seen to be incapable of doing so, such as in cases of incapacity. Involuntary euthanasia remains highly controversial in that there can be issues regarding who may have the authority to provide the final consent by proxy as well as if such decisions may have the explicit approval of the patient in an incapacitated state.

Euthanasia By Means

Euthanasia can be conducted passively, actively or non-actively. Passive euthanasia includes the withholding of medication for treating a terminal illness or providing medication such as to relieve pain but may have side effects of shortening one’s life. Non-active euthanasia covers actions such as withdrawing of life support on patients and remains a controversial issue. Active euthanasia- a practice where patients are given lethal doses of certain substances- is one practice that still remains very highly controversial.

Assisted Suicide

Assisted suicide is a practice wherein a medical professional may provide the medical means for a terminally ill patient to take away life. It can be differentiated from active euthanasia in that assisted suicide merely provides the means, not usually to administer it. In some European countries today, assisted suicide is not considered as an actual suicide and may not result in substantial reductions in people’s insurance claims.

Ethical Or Unethical?

Controversies continue to brew whether euthanasia is an ethical or unethical act. On the point of cutting short a person’s sufferings for which there can be any other recourse is where proponents of euthanasia base their ethical stand. Some believe that choosing to die is a fundamental right that every person should have.

Opponents to euthanasia believe that such acts, if legalized, can be considered walking on very thin ice for many reasons. For example, taking away life based mainly on judgments by doctors can be a cause for frequent misuse of authority. Some opponents to euthanasia deem it unethical simply because it may not be up to the decision of doctors whether a patient needs to live or die. In a similar effect, opponents believe that it can sometimes be a means for people with such authority to play "God". Whether euthanasia is ethical or unethical still remains to be a big question, depending on how one sees each situation or circumstance.