Britannica defines euthanasia as the “practice of painlessly putting to death persons suffering from painful and incurable disease or incapacitating physical disorder or allowing them to die by withholding treatment or withdrawing artificial life-support measures” (Encyclopedia Britannica). Some describe it as “mercy killing”. Euthanasia is illegal in most of the world, and in forty-seven out of fifty U.S. states. Why is it illegal? One may say that every person has their own right to die, especially when their life has been overcome by pain. Perhaps this is true, but is it immoral to give doctors power over life and death? It is wrong to ask a person who was trained to save lives to end one, and horrible to give sick people the power to end their own lives. For these reasons euthanasia should remain illegal and become illegal where it is lawful.
Proponents of legalizing euthanasia argue that certain terminally ill people who do not have a chance of recovery have a right to “die with dignity” (DREDF). They forget to realize many other factors play into the decision to end one’s life. Financial pressures and depression will cloud the minds of those faced with the choice of assisted suicide. Occasionally, people who are told they have months to live make a full recovery. Some of these people live for at least a few more years and are even happy for parts of that time. What if those people ended their chance for a future by deciding to be euthanized? In a perfect world those who truly were terminally ill would be able to make a decision based only on their sickness and the amount of pain they are in. However our world is far from perfect.
If euthanasia was legalized, it would become unclear when it is acceptable to use it. Keeping it as a last resort for people with no hope sounds like a good idea, but it would lead to euthanasia becoming more acceptable for people who have other options. When in a period of pain and suffering, a person may say or want irrational things. If not in their right mind, one may lose the will to live. Even in situations where hope of survival and recovery is not lost, some people would ask for euthanasia. Maybe when first legalized, they would be declined their request. Eventually though someone who had other options would be given the go ahead. One doctor would make a mistake based off his sympathy. This would give other people a case to point to and use as an argument for their own euthanasia requests. Ending one’s life should not be seen as a solution. If euthanasia were legalized, that’s exactly what it would become for some sick people.
Another major issue with euthanasia legality is giving one man the power over life and death. There are many dilemmas we face when deciding who should administer the dose of death. One is giving men power they might abuse. Jack Kevorkian was a proponent of assisted suicide who took many people’s lives. He claimed to be doing it to help them; however it was more to gain publicity for the issue of Euthanasia. A New York Times article on Jack reads “When the Detroit Free Press investigated his ‘practice’ in 1997, it found that 60 percent of those he assisted weren’t actually terminally ill” ( Douthat). Human corruption is too widespread to legalize this kind of death (Bio.com).
Giving men this type of power creates another issue. Whoever ends up taking the life will have to deal with the guilt. They will have to deal with the family members who perhaps did not want their mother, father or sibling to end their own life. This person may even face legal problems and lawsuits, especially if they make a mistake. Now we must ask, should it be the doctor? The doctor has spent all of his or her life learning and perfecting the art of preventing sickness and saving lives. It is immoral to even consider asking doctors to have to take a person’s life. A person could specialize in the field of euthanasia, although I do not imagine many people aspire to become executioners. Then there is the mess of dealing with the mixed emotions that may or may not afflict the person who administers the dose. What if after a few years, or maybe over a lifetime, the person’s philosophies change? They may no longer agree with taking lives, and become unable to live with themselves because of what they have done. This kind of guilt can become overwhelming, and no one should have to deal with it.
The doctors who put people to death will not be the only people facing guilt issues. If euthanasia were a legal option, many terminally ill patients would feel guilty not choosing death. They may feel as if they are a burden to their family, or maybe they do not want to leave behind huge medical bills. This is no choice sick people need to be making. No human should be made to feel guilty for wanting to live. Other people may feel forced by their own healthcare plans. In Oregon (where assisted suicide has been legalized), some patient’s healthcare plans cover euthanasia, but do not cover their own treatment plans! This ridiculous obscenity can easily push people towards euthanasia so as not to leave their family with tremendous debt. Healthcare plans in Oregon are inadvertently pushing patients toward assisted suicide, and this would also happen if euthanasia became legal elsewhere. If a terminally ill and depressed person decides to be put to death instead of becoming a “burden” to their families, their choice should not be considered voluntary. That person would have been forced into deciding to lose their own life by financial and personal relationship issues. (DREDF)
Ultimately, the many moral issues with euthanasia are clearly good reason to keep it illegal. Too much guilt and depression would come from taking the power of life and death into our own hands. Death for the terminally ill would become a gateway to death for any who choose. The power of life and death should not be given to doctors. Euthanasia should remain illegal indefinitely.
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