Why Euthanasia Should Be Legal

Introduction

The issue of euthanasia has gained popularity across the globe due to various social development and legal. It influences human interests such as spirituality and mortality and thus provokes emotions. Euthanasia, also known as physician-assisted suicide, is a debatable concept that has attracted much attention. It is an alternative decision that patients with terminal illnesses make to allow providers to end their lives to alleviate suffering. There are various theories that can be used to address the dilemma that comes with euthanasia. For example, utilitarianism theory posits that an action is morally right when it results in the happiness of the greatest number of people. In addition, deontology supports euthanasia, especially in countries that have legalized the action. Therefore, from the perspective of ethical theories, euthanasia should be legalized because it promotes dignified death.

Description of Euthanasia

Euthanasia is among the issues that have attracted intense debate over time. It refers to the deliberate killing of an individual who is very sick and will die to save them from suffering (Groarke, 2019). Euthanasia has been an issue of concern in human rights discourse because it affects patients’ and healthcare providers‚Äô ethical and legal issues. It brings the question of whether an individual has the right to die voluntarily or not. People who oppose euthanasia believe that due to the sanctity of life, no one has the right to quit human life through any form of interference with active assistance (Groarke, 2019). However, individuals who support euthanasia claim that if patients are suffering, dignified death alleviates them from anguish and distress. Therefore, the contrasting views on euthanasia raise the question of whether it is ethical.

Brief Description of Ethical Perspectives

Utilitarianism

Utilitarianism is a well-known and influential moral theory. It is an ethical theory that focuses on results to determine what is good and bad (Woodard, 2019). Like other forms of consequentialism, its core idea is that the outcomes determine if they are morally justified or immoral. The most ethical decision, based on utilitarianism, is the one that leads to the greatest good for the most significant number of people. Furthermore, it is the only moral framework in which conflict can be justified. However, the most commonly used form of moral reasoning is a problem because it accounts for costs and benefits (Woodard, 2019). Based on this, it can be argued whether euthanasia results in most people’s happiness or not.

Act utilitarianism believes that morally correct action offers maximum happiness for the greatest number of individuals. It assesses an act’s ethicality based on its immediate consequences (Woodard, 2019). It is a theory that claims that an action’s morality is determined by the happiness it generates for most people. An act is right because it provides more benefit or enjoyment. It is the idea that the legitimacy of an activity is decided by its value to the majority of the people and that this behavior is thus ethically correct because it brings more gain or fulfillment (Woodard, 2019). Act utilitarianism seems to believe that the ideal decision offers the most satisfaction to the greatest number of people. As a result, the theory supports actions that result in benefit of more people.

On the other hand, rule utilitarianism maintains that an operation is morally right provided that it complies with the standards which would lead to maximum benefit or enjoyment. It believes that the precision of its laws determines the correctness of action and that the maximum profit or enjoyment is obtained if the correct rule adheres to when making a decision (Woodard, 2019). According to rule utilitarianism, a behavior is morally correct if it complies with the laws that bring the utmost benefit or pleasure. The guidelines, in this case, are intended to help as many people as feasible. As a result, it believes that the correctness of its norms defines the legality of activity but that following the correct standards brings maximum profit and contentment.

Deontology Ethics

Deontology is an ethical system in which rules are used to determine what is right and wrong. Kant believed that ethical behavior should be directed by comprehensive moral standards, such as do not steal (Singh and Mishra, 2018). Deontology merely requires that people follow the rules and fulfill their obligations. This approach is consistent with basic intuition about what is and is not ethical. Unlike consequentialism, which assesses actions based on their effects, deontology does not necessitate a cost-benefit analysis of a situation (Singh and Mishra, 2018). In addition, because individuals have to obey clear guidelines, they should avoid subjectivity and unpredictability.

Virtue Ethics

Virtue ethics is a moral theory that outlines the significance of an individual’s attributes and virtues in evaluating if an action is right or wrong. It is sometimes contrasted with deontology, which promotes moral standards, and relativism, which determines the propriety of an action based on its results (Ahrens and Cloutier, 2019). This indicates that the outcome of activity and regulations should not be used to establish the ethical value of an action. Virtue ethics is an ethical framework that grounds what is right and wrong on what a virtuous agent would do (Ahrens and Cloutier, 2019). Furthermore, it contends that an action is right only if it is what a reasonable person would do in the same scenario. The right thing to do is what a good person would do. A virtuous agent only exhibits virtues and has no character flaws.

Social Contract Theory

Social contract theory is one of the ethical perspectives used to determine right from wrong. According to this concept, individuals live in a society under an agreement’s parameters that establish legal and ethical ground rules (Ahrens and Cloutier, 2019). The beginning point of this thesis is that governments influence societies. This ethical viewpoint holds that individuals who live under a social contract can conduct morally because they wish to, rather than because of a heavenly power force. It contends that people establish communities through voluntary transactions maintained by the government and establish standards for behavior and social interaction.

The Rights Approach

According to the right-based concept, the best ethical action safeguards the ethical rights of people who have been affected by the action. It highlights the concept that all people have the right to dignity (Thapa and Singh, 2019). The rights developed by society are upheld and given the highest priority in rights-based ethical frameworks. Rights are considered ethically right and valid because a large population supports them. Based on this, people and systems are supposed to take care of the rights of others as defined by society. For example, it is wrong to kill a person because everyone has a right to life. Therefore, an individual has no right to take an individual’s life because it goes against the established rights.

Discussion of Euthanasia Using the Ethical Theories

Utilitarianism Theory in Regards to Euthanasia

From a utilitarian perspective, euthanasia can be considered right when it benefits many people. It is supposed to lead to total human happiness and not just that of the patient (Woodard, 2019). The proponents of euthanasia can argue that it leads to many people’s happiness, including the patient, healthcare provider, family, relatives, and society. For example, it can be argued that it saves the patient from suffering and the financial burden that comes from hospital bills. This indicates that euthanasia saves the family from spending more resources during end-of-life care. In addition, society or even the government is not required to spend additional money on an individual who is on the verge of death. Therefore, more people are likely to benefit from euthanasia.

Moreover, euthanasia eliminates the psychological pain that comes with the reality that death is near and having a patient with a terminal illness. According to act utilitarianism, an action is right when it results in most people’s benefits (Woodard, 2019). There is always increased stress when a family member is sick, especially when the illness cannot be treated. For healthcare providers, emotional and psychological stress comes with helping a patient with a terminal illness. For this reason, euthanasia is integral because it saves most people from the constant psychological trauma that comes with watching an individual suffer in pain and anguish. As a result, the use of euthanasia can be termed legal because it alleviates emotional suffering in most people.

Using utilitarianism theory, a morally right action should lead to many people’s happiness. On the other hand, the opponents of euthanasia can also argue that the overall effect on society is likely to decrease happiness (Woodard, 2019). Although death is inevitable, there is always loss and suffering that it brings. People usually celebrate life and derive happiness by being able to see someone recover from sickness. Based on this, there is a possibility that euthanasia is more likely to lead to most people’s unhappiness due to the demise of a loved one, a friend, a son, a daughter, and many more. The pain that comes with death can determine the correctness of action because many people will be grieved.

Using this utilitarianism theory to determine the ethicality of euthanasia comes with some challenges. It is challenging to measure the happiness of people objectively. To determine the outcome of euthanasia, there is a need to speak with the families, relatives, carers, friends, and community members who have interacted with the patient (Woodard, 2019). The feedback from the interviewees should define whether euthanasia results in happiness or not. For purposes of reliability and eligibility, the decision should not be made based on perception. For example, it will be important to know if the family and others were suffering before euthanasia and whether it has significantly helped the people around the patient.

Both rule utilitarianism and act utilitarianism have compelling arguments. In terms of rule utilitarianism, a genuine belief offered by the theory encourages individuals to make moral judgments based on rules. However, before making a decision, act utilitarianism evaluates all factors of the issue (Woodard, 2019). This is achieved by optimizing the use of all people involved, which is good because they are not trying to optimize their utility. As a result, in the case of physician-assisted suicide, instead of making a choice solely based on the patient’s view, the providers would evaluate all parties involved prior to making an agreement with the patient.

Euthanasia is one ethical topic that has attracted many arguments. From a utilitarian perspective, euthanasia is motivated by the principle of providing an individual with the opportunity to have a good death in their own time since it will make them happy than the suffering caused by the sickness, loss of dignity, and the thought of expecting a slow and painful death. An individual who decides on euthanasia must have thought about both agony and death. Utilitarianism entails promoting human happiness, not just on the victim’s part. The people who oppose euthanasia believe that the bad consequences on those close to the patient exceed the benefits to the patient.

Deontology Ethics in Regards to Euthanasia

Firstly, deontology is based on the perception that as rational individuals, people do not just do things; they make a choice. According to Kant, individuals act on maxims whenever they make a decision (Singh and Mishra, 2018). Using this reasoning, euthanasia can be considered morally right because it is a product of an individual’s choice. For the action to be conducted, a patient must make a decision and keep close family members informed. Euthanasia is the outcome of a person’s choice and mental capability. Patients who are nearing the end of their lives become unhappy and gloomy. As a result, many believe there is no prospect of returning to life. In this case, they will choose euthanasia. They believe they want to endure the anguish no matter the repercussions.

Secondly, according to Kant, morality is a set of rules, laws, and standards that are the same for everyone and apply to all. The rules and principles can be determined by a government, religious beliefs and other authorities in the society (Singh and Mishra, 2018). For example, euthanasia is illegal in England and Wales. This is an indication that conducting any form of assisted euthanasia is considered murder or manslaughter. The common law has made the action illegal and no one has a right to take their own life or be assisted to do so at any time. On the other hand, some jurisdictions, such as the US, have allowed each state to determine whether euthanasia is good or bad. Some states have permitted the action, while others have not embraced it in their system. Therefore, through deontology, euthanasia is wrong when it goes against the rules and right when it adheres to the rules.

Apart from the government, religious beliefs have also played an integral role in forming rules and principles that guide their followers. According to the Roman Catholic Church, euthanasia is a serious breach of God’s law because it is the purposeful and morally wrong killing of a human person (Grove, Lovell and Best, 2022). Therefore, based on Roman Catholic Church, euthanasia is unethical. It has always preached the unchanging and absolute value of the commandment, such as killing people is a sin. Reasoning is accomplished by examining the laws and principles established by God to define activities. Likewise, Muslims oppose euthanasia since they think human life is holy and should be treasured.

However, in ancient India, monks promoted renunciation of the body for eternal rewards and blessings in the pursuit of God. In cases where a sick individual is in unbearable suffering, making a death demand is encouraged (Grove, Lovell and Best, 2022). The right to sue for death stems from the freedom to choose one’s path. Everyone has the right to self-determination and the freedom to choose their lifestyle. Similarly, it is urged that everyone have the right to end one’s life when life becomes so stressful that it is easier to die than to live. As a result, death will provide him with respite from an incurable illness and a horrible life.

Thirdly, Kant contended that individuals who view euthanasia as the most appropriate solution for their situation violate their logic in order to serve something else, such as suffering and pain. He also believes that a person’s reason is worth more than everything else (Singh and Mishra, 2018). This indicates that euthanasia does not respect an individual’s rationality and that people who engage in such actions do not regard it as their aim. However, this does not address circumstances in which someone seeks euthanasia because they are about to lose their reasoning powers or cases in which someone has no reasonable faculties. Therefore, euthanasia is morally wrong because it reduces their worth as human beings.

Depending on Kant’s obligations, it would appear that he would believe that there is no justification for euthanasia. His obligations to others and oneself appear to indicate that killing is wrong regardless of the circumstances; hence, Kant would never approve of euthanasia (Singh and Mishra, 2018). However, by fulfilling the duty of beneficence, the physician would be bringing satisfaction to the patient who wishes to die. However, this contradicts deontological concepts of perfect responsibilities to others and perfect duties to self that are never to be breached according to Kant’s conviction in the moral law. For example, a healthcare provider is supposed to make sure that their roles are perfectly inclined towards improving the quality of life.

Kantian deontology, like utilitarianism, is criticized by some as having some flaws. The opponents posit that this ethical system typically focuses on the individual and community to the point where society is often nonexistent. Everyone is different and has a different life, but Kant does not believe in this concept. Kant says that regardless of one’s circumstances, everyone should reach the same deduction about murder and suicide (Singh and Mishra, 2018). This suggests that individuals can come to the same decision about euthanasia. This clarity is frequently misunderstood by some since it ignores the role of the social experience in which this problem may arise.

Some people believe that euthanasia should be conducted if they ever find themselves in a condition that they presently perceive as terrible and with no hope of rehabilitation. Their best line of action is to discuss the situation with their family doctor and create a written directive that addresses those circumstances. In addition, such arrangements specify the precise circumstances under which the patients involved would choose to be euthanized. Euthanasia is a request to the physician and must express the patient’s intentions in an unambiguous manner. The patient requesting euthanasia is supposed to be in a bad situation health-wise and with unending pain that cannot be managed.

Virtue Ethics in Regards to Euthanasia

Euthanasia is the intentional killing of a patient out of kindness and compassion. It is a situation in which an individual or an animal is put to death without suffering if they have an incurable sickness that is excruciatingly unpleasant to them at the moment (Groarke, 2019). As a result, a medical practitioner breaks all professional ethics norms by ending a patient’s life to relieve pain and suffering, which is viewed as an act of mercy. On the other hand, virtue ethics is a different approach to ethics that emphasizes an individual’s character as the key part of ethical thought and places less focus on the repercussions or rules governing the conduct (Ahrens and Cloutier, 2019). This is an indication that the morality of euthanasia is determined by looking at the values of the healthcare provider.

Physician-assisted suicide is also regarded as ethical in terms of Aristotle‚Äôs ethical theory of virtue ethics. This notion supports the premise that a person‚Äôs morality and qualities can be shown via their actions. The emphasis here is on the purpose of bringing peace and comfort rather than the outcome of death. In terms of physician-assisted suicide, this view would accept it as long as the physician performs it to relieve suffering and preserve patient autonomy (Groarke, 2019). When this type of death occurs, the virtues of compassion and mercy are displayed. For example, mercy or compassion is shown when the provider agrees to help end a patient’s life during end-of-life care.

In terms of euthanasia, the correctness is based on the virtues of the healthcare provider conducting the operation. If a provider is virtuous and has acquired attributes such as truthfulness, compassion, bravery, and integrity, they can utilize mercy to help understand the patient’s sorrow (Ahrens and Cloutier, 2019). These qualities empower physicians to make judgments and take action to help their patients. In addition, some providers view helping in the death of a patient under circumstances in which they could no longer live to be a courteous, compassionate, and helpful response to a patient’s distress. Therefore, the virtues of an individual determine the morality of euthanasia.

However, other physicians may share these qualities while believing that euthanasia is wrong. It is difficult to draw conclusions about whether or not this theory feels that physician-assisted suicide is acceptable because it heavily depends on the particular person and how they pursue their virtues (Ahrens and Cloutier, 2019). It is not clear whether euthanasia is wrong or not. What is clear from the theory is that the virtues of an individual determine the morality of an action. As a result, this means that if a virtuous physician performs euthanasia, the action is right, while it is wrong when an unvirtuous provider undertakes the process.

In support of virtue ethics, one can observe that theories such as utilitarianism and deontology fail to address the reality that people often consider an individual’s character and motivation rather than their actions. Another objection is that virtue ethics does not just adhere to a set of concepts but instead discovers what is ethically right through human experience. Furthermore, it has rules to adhere to, giving individuals a little more liberty in their decision-making under this concept. Theoretically, the physician must use the virtues they have studied in order to serve the person at hand. Therefore, virtue ethics theory presents a view that a person’s virtues are an important aspect of consideration when determining the morality of euthanasia.

The Rights Approach to Euthanasia

The right-based approach is crucial in determining whether euthanasia is right or wrong. This perspective focuses on the already established rights to influence decision-making (Thapa and Singh, 2019). The first right that supports euthanasia is the right to freedom from discrimination. In this view, an individual can argue that the ban on provider-assisted suicide violates the rights to non-discrimination of patients. As human being, an individual has the right to liberty, and they are not supposed to be differentiated due to their situation. Instead, they are supposed to be heard and their decision respected by a healthcare provider. For example, a patient in hospice care has the freedom from discrimination. Therefore, the right to liberty from any form of bias supports the morality of euthanasia.

The other argument in favor of euthanasia is that the decision to end one’s life is vital to human dignity, individual liberty, and safety, all of which are protected by several international human rights treaties. With this view, provider-assisted suicide ensures that individuals have a dignified death. This is considered a more respectful and dignified way for terminally ill patients to die. For example, rather than wait to die a painful death with constant pain and use family resources, an individual can decide to go for euthanasia. Although the right to liberty and security of a person is given a limited meaning and has thus far been restricted to freedom from concepts of personal autonomy may influence the future evolution of human law.

Social Contract Theory On Euthanasia

The social contract idea is an ideology that claims that morality is a system of norms guiding behavior that rational people would accept if others accepted them as well. As a result of changes in societal norms, there has been a significant shift in the medical community and the general public’s acceptance of euthanasia (Ahrens and Cloutier, 2019). This is considered a viable option for terminally ill patients and people who are thought to be dying. A social contract ethicist would be opposed to euthanasia, arguing that it undermines medical treatment and violates the social contract that the medical profession has with society.

The social contract concept is based on a person’s social connection. Hobbes argues that humanity has a single fundamental right: the natural right to liberty (Ahrens and Cloutier, 2019). However, once an individual gets the contract, the rights of self are no longer eligible because the government has complete control over everybody’s life. This indicates that the policies that affect the operations in society, such as euthanasia, are established by the government and other authorities. According to the theory of justice, all individuals have equal and fair rights. Everyone has equal rights because it is what people would consent to influence their operations. Therefore, society can create laws that are supposed to be used by everyone.

On the other hand, the people who believe that the right to euthanasia is wrong may object to the existence of such freedom in the social contract. To enter the social compact, opponents may vote to outlaw euthanasia. This shows that society has the ability to set rules that prevent provider-assisted suicide. The theory could be applied here because Hobbes argues that everyone has the right to life (Ahrens and Cloutier, 2019). In addition, euthanasia is the opposite of this right because it precludes people from the ability to self-preserve. As a result, euthanasia should not be included in the social contract because it would infringe on any individual’s natural right to life.

Conclusion

Euthanasia should be legalized because it alleviates stress and human suffering and promotes human rights, such as the right to a dignified death. During end-of-life care, a patient may instruct a healthcare provider to assist in ending their life, especially when they are experiencing extreme pain. Despite contrasting views from ethical theories about provider-assisted suicide, it should be recognized as a right. Drawing from utilitarianism, euthanasia is right because it leads to the happiness of the greatest number of people. For example, apart from ending a patient’s pain, it saves the families, friends, governments and other agencies from spending resources during end-of-life care. In addition, according to deontologists, adherence to the rules established by the government determines the correctness of euthanasia. There are countries that have legalized provider-assisted suicide, while there are some that have not. Therefore, although euthanasia has become a controversial issue due to different reasons, it should be legalized for its benefits.

Reference List

Ahrens, A.H. and Cloutier, D. (2019) ‚ÄėActing for good reasons: Integrating virtue theory and social cognitive theory,‚Äô Social and Personality Psychology Compass, 13(4).

Groarke, L. (2019) ‚ÄėConsistent Liberalism does not Require Active Euthanasia,‚Äô The Heythrop Journal, 60(6), pp.895-909.

Grove, G., Lovell, M. and Best, M. (2022) ‚ÄėPerspectives of major world religions regarding euthanasia and assisted suicide: a comparative analysis,‚Äô Journal of religion and health, pp.1-25.

Singh, A.K. and Mishra, N.K. (2018) ‚ÄėEthical Theory & Business,‚Äô International Journal of Humanities and Social Development Research, 2(1), pp.97-113.

Thapa, B.K. and Singh, A.R. (2019) TVET Approaches: A Diagnosis through the Lens of Human Capital, Right Based and Capability Approach. Journal of Training and Development, 4, pp.12-23.

Woodard, C. (2019) Taking utilitarianism seriously. Oxford University Press.

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