Firstly, I would like to make it clear that ‘assisted suicide’ in this statement is referring to active euthanasia which is performed by a doctor. This may be an injection or a form of medication which are both administered by the doctor to a terminally ill patient with a significantly reduced quality of life. In regards to this statement, we are not referring to passive euthanasia in which medication is withdrawn or a life support machine is switched off. Also, the statement only applies to terminally ill patients. This was a common misunderstanding amongst the debaters so I thought it would be worth clarifying it.
Physician-assisted suicide and euthanasia have been profound ethical issues confronting doctors since the birth of Western medicine, more than 2,000 years ago.”
― Ezekiel Emanuel
Patient’s best interests:
- Legalising euthanasia may cause an ill or disabled people to feel under pressure to end their lives, perhaps because of the cost of the medical treatment needed to keep them alive, or because they do not want to be a ‘burden’ on friends and family.
- Advances in palliative care and mental health treatment mean there is no reason why any person should ever feel that they are suffering intolerably.
- Legalising euthanasia may discourage research into palliative treatments, and possibly prevent cures for people with terminal illnesses being found – this would not be fair towards those who do not want to end their lives.
- Occasionally, doctors may be mistaken about a person’s diagnosis and outlook, and the person may choose euthanasia after being wrongly told that they have a terminal condition.
- The patient’s request for euthanasia could actually be a ‘cry for help’, implying that life is not worth living now but could be worth living if various symptoms or fears were managed.
- A patient could request euthanasia for a passing phase of their disease, but is likely to feel much better in a while.
The Slippery Slope Argument:
- Voluntary euthanasia is the start of a slippery slope that leads to involuntary euthanasia and the killing of people who are thought undesirable.
- If the government starts killing its own citizens it will result in a very dangerous precedent being set.
- Many people believe that only God has the right to end a human life. Euthanasia weakens society’s respect for the sanctity of life
- Some non-religious people may also have similar beliefs based on the view that permitting euthanasia and assisted suicide ‘devalues’ life.
- Legalising euthanasia could lead to significant unintended changes in our healthcare system and society at large that we would later come to regret. Allowing euthanasia undermines the commitment of doctors and nurses to saving lives.
- Asking doctors to abandon their obligation to preserve human life could potentially damage the doctor-patient relationship.
- Hastening death on a regular basis could become a routine administrative task for doctors, leading to a lack of compassion when dealing with elderly, disabled or terminally ill people.
- Euthanasia may become a cost-effective way to treat the terminally ill.
- Asking doctors, nurses or any other healthcare professional to carry out euthanasia or assist in a suicide would be a violation of fundamental medical ethics. in the words of the International Code of Medical Ethics, is: “A physician shall always bear in mind the obligation to respect human life”.