The basic human rights assert that every human being is born with the right to liberty, that liberty includes, amongst others, the ‘right to life’ (Near-Death). Over the years, the question of one’s ‘right to life’ has given birth to the debate on one’s ‘right to die.’ The argument is that one’s ‘right to life’ by inference also means that one also has the right to end his/her life, that since death is a part of life, it means therefore that the right to life equally gives one the right to ‘not have it’ (Near-Death).
This right, it is further argued, is inherent within the laws of one’s right to life, and this debate has for many years persisted (Near-Death). Clearly, the questions surrounding this debate are legal and moral. The purpose of this paper is to explore the issue surrounding this debate. It will look at the facts brought forward in favor and against euthanasia, and in the end, make an informed conclusion.
There have been many arguments in favor of the ‘right to die’; these arguments have been from various perspectives; human rights perspective, practical arguments, and philosophical perspective (BBC). All these arguments explore a person’s human rights, which provide for the exercise of one’s free will; that free will includes one’s right to have control over their body and life (BBC). That control involves deciding when, how and by whose hands one will die, in line with this argument is the idea that all human beings are “independent biological entities” (BBC), and as such, can take decisions on themselves provided that such choices do not endanger the rest of the society. This is consistent with the belief that eventually, death must occur.
This stand has been refuted for a number of reasons; one, from a religious point of view, one’s death is in the hands of God (BBC); but there have also been a number of secular arguments against this perspective. For instance, it is largely argued that a person’s exercise of their rights is limited to their obligations and that a person’s rights are not independent of society. Thus, choosing to die by euthanasia, this argument asserts, is likely to have detrimental effects on other people, such as family members and healthcare personnel. As such, one must balance these consequences on one’s obligations to the society against that of the community at large (BBC).
In line with this is a philosophical and political objection; that a person’s right to autonomy, when viewed against the state, must be balanced against that of the state’s need to make the sanctity of life intrinsic, important, and to have abstract value (BBC). Most arguments in this line have been based on the take that life has in itself value, and thus all humans have the duty to preserve it. But it is worth noting that most anti-euthanasia oppositions do not refute individual right to taking one’s life; instead, the argument is mostly against the implications of legalizing it.
Thus, they argue a person is “morally entitled to be helped or allowed to die, but I doubt whether this moral obligation to facilitate a person’s death is best carried out through established constitutional/institutional right to die” (Velleman). They point out that there’s a moral distinction between decriminalizing an act and encouraging it, in other words, once it is permitted, how is it to be regulated (BBC)?
Those who favor euthanasia foresee possible challenges in regulating it, for example, there is the possibility that some people may implement it for selfish reasons, including putting pressure on vulnerable people to consider the option. However, they argue that regulations do not entirely stop crimes from happening as stealing, for instance, continues to happen in modern societies. Instead, regulations do, in the end, provide crucial limits to people’s actions; through proper regulation, euthanasia should be no different.
In conclusion, the absence of the ‘right to die’ has not stopped people from practicing euthanasia; in some cases, people have traveled outside their countries to have it performed in places where it is legal. On the other hand, legalizing euthanasia carries with it the question of regulation such as deciding when one is considered beyond recovery, what recovery involves and who eventually has the right to make euthanasia decisions.
The idea of a ‘living will’ (Near-Death), which allows people to dictate what should be done in case they fall into such medical conditions, has been provided to solve such a dilemma. But sadly, the ‘right to die’ does not address the case where one is not sick but wishes to commit suicide; if the law denies these people that right, they may as well use human rights to justify their wishes. In the end, whether the law is in place or not; whether it becomes a universally declared human right, is beside the point. The deciding factor is one’s individual wishes and the factors that lead one to such a decision need to be respected which means the decision to take one’s life should certainly be made a right
BBC. “Pro-Euthanasia Arguments.” 2009. Web.
Near-Death. “Do We Have The Right To Die?” 2010. Web.
Velleman, David, J. “Against the Right to Die.” 2007. Web.