1 Perhaps You Want Active Euthanasia Perhaps You Want Active Euthanasia March 12, 2010 Abstract
2 Perhaps You Want Active Euthanasia Euthanasia is a debatable topic among societies. There are two types of euthanasia: active and passive. Involuntary active euthanasia consists of a “doctor-assisted suicide” without the consent of the patient. On the other hand, voluntary active euthanasia is the “doctor-assisted suicide” with the consent of the patient. Both have been questioned because they are considered unethical by society considering that they violate God’s command and society’s command. Although some oppose both solutions, others argued that it should be legalize in order to allow people to stop suffering. Keywords: euthanasia, involuntary active euthanasia, voluntary active euthanasia, passive euthanasia, utilitarian.
3 Perhaps You Want Active Euthanasia Euthanasia is a debatable theme among societies that had set disputes over the ethical viewpoint, whether it is good or bad. This word is defined in the book Philosophy Questions & Theories to be “the act of killing- or allowing to die – a person or animal suffering an incurable illness or condition”(Paquette, &Gini- Newman, 2003). Euthanasia has two branches. One is passive euthanasia which is defined by James Rachel, author of the book called Passive and Active Euthanasia, “as withdrawing medical treatment with the deliberate intention of causing the patients death.”(Rachels, 1975). An example is stopping the medical treatment. On the other hand, another type is called active euthanasia. J. Pat MilmoeMcCarrick defines this term in his book Active Euthanasia and Assisted Suicide (Scope-Noteno:18) “as taking specific steps to cause the patients death, such as injecting the patient with poison.”(McCarrick, 1992). Active Euthanasia has become a very debatable topic especially when the patient makes the choice voluntarily, where the participant is mentally healthy and is a moral agent, or involuntary, when the patient is not able to distinguish right or wrong do to mental disabilities. Even though it can be considered unethical, voluntary and involuntary active euthanasia should be legalized. Patients should be granted the option of whether living or not, or should have someone else take the decision if they are not capable of choosing. Henry Sidwick, an English utilitarian philosopher, argued that: “Lifes meaning - the outcome of active selection by the individual - is either external (such as "Gods plan") or internal, the outcome of an arbitrary frame of reference, such as having a career goal…only conscious (i.e., intelligent) beings can appreciate values and meanings. So, life is significant to conscious, intelligent, though finite…”(Rebman, 2002). Sidwick suggests that it is human’s autonomy to really choose which the best decision is. People, mentally capable should be given the autonomy to make a choice that will grant a better life for the majority. Involuntary active euthanasia should also be considered legal because it is unjust to let individuals with mental disabilities to suffer society’s exclusion and harm. Peter Singer, a utilitarian philosopher with a senior position at Princeton University, proposes the following idea:
4 Perhaps You Want Active Euthanasia “… euthanizing terminally ill adults and severely disabled newborns. Rather than letting nature run its course and waiting for newborns with extreme disabilities to die, he has proposed that parents and doctors should be allowed to choose to kill them by lethal –but painless- injection… Newborns and mentally ill people don’t have the capability of reasoning and feeling emotions.”(Peter, &Kuhse, 1986). It is also not adequate to suffer or let others suffer only to satisfy other people. Families tend to keep badly ill members just to feel alleviated or emotionally complete. In 2008 Robert Latimer, father of a girl who had a terminal disease, decided to let his daughter die. The man declared to this to the press: “Latimer told police he did it. He said he loved his daughter and could not bear to watch her suffer from a severe form of cerebral palsy. So he placed her in the cab of his Chevy pickup, ran a hose from the exhaust to the cab, climbed into the box of the truck, sat on a tire and watched her die.”(Frayer, 2008). Are you going to be selfish or will you let your beloved die in order to stop him or her from suffering? Involuntary and voluntary active euthanasia should be legal although there are many counter arguments that suggest otherwise. Many philosophers, religious affiliates, and other people oppose this idea of “medical-assisted killing”. Most of the ones against any these ideas usually base their arguments under Saint Thomas Aquinas, an important religious leader, believes. In the English version of the Summa Theologiae the following statement is made by Aquinas: “Since organisms strive to survive - suicide is an unnatural act. Moreover, it adversely affects the community and violates the property rights of God, the imputed owner of ones spirit. Christianity regards the immortal soul as a gift and, in Jewish writings, it is a deposit. Suicide amounts to the abuse or misuse of Gods possessions, temporarily lodged in a corporeal mansion… If suicide is a statement, than society, in this case, is against the freedom of expression. In the case of suicide, free speech dissonantly clashes with the sanctity of a meaningful life. To rid itself of the anxiety brought on by this conflict, society cast suicide as a depraved or even criminal act and its perpetrators are much castigated.”(Aquinas, 2010).
5 Perhaps You Want Active Euthanasia God granted life, but if suicide is committed, then the social contract between God and human is broken. This might be true, yet He also offers autonomy and confer the allowance to make own decision, meaning we can choose whether to live or not. Ronald Dworkin, an American philosopher of law and scholar of constitutional law, also expressed his arguments against euthanasia by using his quote used in the Harvard University Press Conference: “Making someone die in a way that others approve, but he believes a horrifying contradiction of his life, is a devastating, odious form of tyranny.” Dworkin suggests that those who put others to death are nothing more than killers or murders and that people mentally or physically ill should not be given the decision of living or not. Sue Rodriguez, a woman suffering paralysis who ended her life in 1993, counter argued this statement by claiming in her testament that “law against doctor-assisted suicide violates the Charter of Rights and Freedoms because it discriminates against people with disabilities who need help to commit suicide.”(Paquette, &Gini-Newman, 2003). How can it be tyranny if it violates a constitutional law? A third argument is that there are medical treatments available for most diseases that can ensure a painless life, thus most of these treatments are expensive and painful. The counter positions for active euthanasia can effectively set a hard analysis of the theme, yet the arguments in favor are stronger. Involuntary and voluntary active euthanasia are not morally wrong. They are used to liberate a suffering soul and allow them to reach final rest. People should not be exposed to harsh treatments or uncomfortable health conditions, they should be allowed to make a decision whether to live or not. If these are not psychologically able to choose, their relatives or closest person should analyze what could be best for him or her and the society. Active euthanasia is not unethical; it is the way to finally get rid of the pain and any other condition that can make someone suffer.
6 Perhaps You Want Active Euthanasia Bibliography Aquinas, T. (2010). The summa theologiae of saint thomasaquinas: latin-english edition, prima secundae,. London, UK: Createspace. Dworkin, R. (1996). Mass.: harvard university press. Google Books, Retrieved from http://books.google.com/books?id=yeUg- wglsK0C&dq=ronald+dworkin&source=gbs_navlinks_s Frayer, K. (2008).Cbc news in depth: robertlatimer. CBC.ca – Canadian News Sports Entertainment Kids Docs Radio TV, Retrieved from http://www.cbc.ca/news/background/latimer/ McCarrick, J. (1992). Active euthanasia and assisted suicide (scope- noteno:18). Washington DC: Kennedy Inst of Ethics. Paquette, P, &Gini-Newman, L. (2003).Philosophy questions & theories. Canada: National Library of Canada Catalonguing. Peter, S, &Kuhse, H. (1986). Should the Baby live? (studies in bioethics). New York: Oxford University Press, USA. Rachels, J. (1975). Active and passive euthanasia. Waltham: Massachusetts Medical Society. Rebman, R. (2002). Euthanasia and the right to die. Berkeley
7 Perhaps You Want Active Euthanasia Heights: Enslow Publishers.