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Euthanasia academic essay

However, there was a period when the Northern Territory permitted euthanasia and physician-assisted suicide under the Rights of Terminally Ill Act The Act came into effect in and made the Northern Territory the first place in the world to legally permit active voluntary euthanasia and physicianassisted suicide. Under this Act, competent terminally ill adults who were aged 18 or over, were able to request a physician to help them in dying. This Act was short-lived however, after the Federal Government overturned it in with the Euthanasia Laws Act There are many arguments that have been put forward for and against euthanasia.

A few of the main arguments for and against euthanasia are outlined below. Advocates of euthanasia argue that a patient has the right to make the decision about when and how they should die, based on the principles of autonomy and self-determination. Furthermore, it is argued that as part of our human rights, there is a right to make our own decisions and a right to a dignified death.

It is said that relieving a patient from their pain and suffering by performing euthanasia will do more good than harm. In line with this view, it is argued that active euthanasia should be permitted just as passive euthanasia is allowed. James Rachels [12] is a well-known proponent of euthanasia who advocates this view. He states that there is no moral difference between killing and letting die, as the intention is usually similar based on a utilitarian argument. He illustrates this argument by making use of two hypothetical scenarios. In the first scenario, Smith anticipates an inheritance should anything happen to his six-year-old cousin, and ventures to drown the child while he takes his bath.

In a similar scenario, Jones stands to inherit a fortune should anything happen to his six-year-old cousin, and upon intending to drown his cousin, he witnesses his cousin drown on his own by accident and lets him die. Letting a patient die from an incurable disease may be seen as allowing the disease to be the natural cause of death without moral culpability.

The Christian view sees life as a gif offerrom God, who ought not to be off ended by the taking of that life. While autonomy is used by advocates for euthanasia, it also features in the argument against euthanasia. Callahan [9] argues that the notion of self-determination requires that the right to lead our own lives is conditioned by the good of the community, and therefore we must consider risk of harm to the common good. It is often argued that pain and suffering experienced by patients can be relieved by administering appropriate palliative care, making euthanasia a futile measure.

If euthanasia were to become an accepted practice, it may give rise to situations that undermine the rights of vulnerable patients. New technology developed through the ages has created unanticipated issues that each society has worked to resolve. There exist several arguments that are presented either in support or against euthanasia.


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Both sides of the argument present views that make it difficult for someone to pick a side due to the validity of the views. Each side appears to have views that make sense on why euthanasia ought to be allowed and why it should not be allowed. Proponents of euthanasia have taken different moral and ethical positions offering arguments to support the practice. Those advocating for euthanasia argue that ending life could be justified in special circumstances only when there exists conclusive evidence that a continuation of life is more painful or harmful to a person compared with dying.

Opponents, on the other hand, argue that ending life, without the will of God, is unethical in the contemporary society because of insufficient practices allowing for a fair and just practice of euthanasia. The beliefs of opponents is primarily based on two considerations that ending life is unethical as it violates; the basic right of a person not to be killed, and the moral principle that life should not be taken deliberately or intentionally.

People, at the critical moment of making end-of-life decisions, at times depend on religious beliefs to assist them confront their fear or provide strength for dealing with this serious challenge.

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Euthanasia Essay

Even some people who earlier had no religious beliefs sometimes turn to religion hoping they can face the issues surfacing during the dying process and at the end of life. Religions help guiding people and offer laws to those facing end-of-life decisions. Just like abortion, Euthanasia is a controversial topic among Christians. There is no general consensus in the modern world about the legality of euthanasia. All of the Churches that took an official position to disallow euthanasia have shown varying levels of certainty and for different reasons.

The Methodist and Baptist Churches agree that both euthanasia and abortion revolve around the similar issues of who has the right, in the end, to take human life. The Church of England has established two key points regarding euthanasia. Secondly, physicians do not have to do everything to keep a human being alive despite the fact that there are apprehensions about quality of life.

A statement issued in the year emphasized that critical decisions regarding life and death of a person should be made with the consensus of everyone involved. It is the duty of the State as well as a Christian duty to protect the weak and most vulnerable in society, specifically those who may regard themselves to be a burden on others. The Roman Catholic Church has candidly stated its position on euthanasia stating that the practice is wrong because all life is sacred and a gift of God.

As such, only God can take the life of a person and humans have no such right. Any act contrary to this intentionally secures the death of a person and is only murder. However, euthanasia cannot be said in totality as unethical. Both active and passive euthanasia can be acceptable in some cases when certain conditions are adhered to.

Doing good could endanger their dignity Childress, Therefore the primary concern is that the persons are respected in their dignity; dignity is the base for autonomy, or in other words, dignity is expressed in the form of autonomy. Thus making life shorter is a necessary means of making it better as a whole Velleman, The first implication focuses on the source, the second on the object of autonomy.

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Neither implication holds. Autonomy simply means that a person chooses and acts freely and rationally out of her own life plan, however ill-defined. Childress, , p. We do not have any better alternative to autonomy in Western societies but we have diverse societal and cultural contexts in which autonomy is realized.

Autonomy is regarded as not only for one of the primary values in Western societies but also for one of their fundamental rights. Autonomy is certainly not a univocal concept in philosophy, having two main and significantly diverse expositions in European thinking. However beyond the Western hermeneutics of autonomy, different presumptions could be identified in other cultures.

The individual, not state institutions, has to decide in which way to die. Autonomy in euthanasia debates presupposes the following structure of argument: If an action does not violate the moral rights of another individual and promotes the good of the person concerned, then that action is morally good.

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Since euthanasia does not violate the moral rights of others and promotes the good of the persons concerned of everyone involved euthanasia is morally good. Thus euthanasia is not only an action which could or should be tolerated, it is much more so an action which has to be performed, promoted and protected. The sense of autonomy comes from the notion of positive freedom. Velleman, The next condition of autonomy is the freedom to choose between several options for an action.

The patient moral agent has a preference for performing the elected act preference autonomy. From this point of view euthanasia is a preferred autonomous choice, for instance the patient prefers euthanasia to palliative care and to suffering. The principle of autonomy as a basic faculty of self-determination presupposes that every moral agent is an autonomous agent.

To be autonomous agents is a precondition for the defence and protection of self-interests. Therewithal the principle of autonomy presupposes more than that an individual is an autonomous agent, but also a rational agent able of decision making and of moral action. The autonomy argument assumes that the individual is fully capable of autonomy.


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In summary autonomy presupposes capacities such as understanding, reasoning, deliberateness, freedom of choice and self-governance. The question of whether the person asked to provide euthanasia has therefore a duty to conduct euthanasia will be discussed later.

Pro-euthanasia arguments

Preference autonomy has been introduced as one of the conditions for autonomy. However many authors argue that preference autonomy is a necessary but not sufficient condition for an autonomous action, emphasizing the relevance of preference building. The preference is very much influenced by society, by its dominant morality and by societal expectations, and by the stage of psychological and moral development of the concrete person.

So preference autonomy could easily mislead the real and authentic preference of the person asking for euthanasia.

In euthanasia debates the autonomy argument is used as a non-idealist moral requirement, rather one based on real situations. With regard to some of the psychological concepts of personal development J.


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Piaget, E. Erikson, L. In relation to developmental psychology, autonomy can also be understood gradualistically: autonomy is something what we progressively acquire, develop and lose. Thus any claim of autonomy autonomous choice is valid only if the person concerned patient still posses the necessary degree of autonomy.

Euthanasia: Right to life vs right to die

In some clinical situations such as a terminal or pre-terminal stage, there is a high probability that the person does not possess full autonomy; the question which has to be clarified is whether there exists a dispositional or substantial autonomy. There are at least two main objections to the autonomy argument.

The first objection, departing from the fact that not all persons in all situations have full autonomy, concludes that at a normative level with regard to life and death not everyone can be presumed able to make such an autonomous choice some persons may have the full capacity of autonomy but on the policy level it is not feasible to distinguish full and partial autonomy and to discriminate persons, therefore the more practical conduct is to repudiate the autonomy argument as such.

The second objection, departing from the fact that someone who is dying or in the pre terminal stage of disease and life is not a fully autonomous agent, invalidates the autonomy argument for a dying person. The counter-objection to the objection which states that true autonomy of a dying person is not possible at all or rarely possible is the following: Even if the choices of many persons asking for euthanasia are psychologically and socially shaped and conditioned, they must be respected as real choices.

Battin, The other objection to the autonomy argument states that one cannot impose on another person a duty to do what the other person does not subjectively agree with or what is objectively morally wrong, even if the choice of the requesting person was made freely and rationally. The counter-objection bases itself on the lack of sufficient proof that euthanasia as such is morally wrong and on the presumption that a well thought out decision done in accordance with the values, preferences and conscience of the person concerned, though being possibly wrong, is the best one can do and therefore it morally obliges the person concerned to act accordingly.

Another counter-objection is based on the presumption that no one is obliged to do what the other person requests, especially in cases when there is a conflict in moral assessment regarding the requested action.