Although euthanasia is a topic that is sensitive and personal for many people, I would like to debate the position that euthanasia is morally wrong and should not be legal.
I look forward to a good debate and I hope we both enjoy it.
Another strong argument in favor of euthanasia says that it ends human suffering, giving the person a dignified death. While this is a compelling argument- we all want people to have a dignified and peaceful end- it also neglects the view of the whole person. If we see ourselves or others only as an illness or suffering we fail to see all the goodness, beauty and dignity of every person. Suffering does not diminish our dignity. Every human being is more than just his physical health. We cannot reduce him to his physical condition to make a judgement about his worth. If we make the decision to end our own lives to end the pain we forget that there is more to life than pain. By our example we can build virtue and strong character, but we can also witness to others. I personally have a friend whose father suffered from a very painful cancer with a taxing treatment. His strength in the face of suffering and the sacrifices he made for his family did far more for his family and others than ending his life ever could have. He truly died with dignity because he made the most of his time and did not let his suffering define or limit him. There is value in all our suffering, just as there is value in every life. This does not give us the right to end our lives.
Now, if a person wants to die, what right do we have to deny him? for one thing, even if he asks for it, euthanasia is still the deliberate killing of an innocent person, which is always wrong. In addition, the United States Constitution protects the right to "life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness". It does not protect the right to death. Some people could argue that the right to death could be an extension of the right to life (we have autonomy and should be able to choose our end) or that it falls under the pursuit of happiness. If the act does not harm society how can we claim the right to prohibit the person's free choice? To begin with, I would like to assert that the act does harm society. A good case study is the Netherlands. Since legalizing physician assisted suicide, their numbers of euthanasia cases each year have risen dramatically, which would be expected. But it doesn't stop there. An average of three elderly people per day are subjected to involuntary or nonvoluntary euthanasia in the Netherlands (http://www.patientsrightscouncil.org...). This means that their doctors killed them without their consent or knowledge. While this might seem like an extreme example, it is the effect of the devaluation of human life that accompanies euthanasia. Another negative effect on society is the loss of any life. Society as a whole suffers when any of its members die, but especially when they die because of an attitude of indifference or disrespect toward life, which sometimes accompanies the choice for euthanasia. The choice to end one"s life also affects family. It is difficult to watch a loved one suffer, but knowing that you helped end their life might be more difficult still. The best way to love someone is to support him through his suffering. People may want to end their suffering for the sake of their families, either to end their financial or emotional burdens. I understand that there is a tremendous pressure to make these decisions and that the vast majority of them are made out of love. Here we have to examine what love is and how we can live it out with a suffering family member. Is death truly what is best for the person? I would argue that we can love them best by giving them a good life rather than a good death. When we love someone we want what is best for them, so the question is whether committing suicide (or physician assisted suicide) is what is best for the person. Taking an innocent life, including your own, is a grave evil. From this point we can conclude that killing yourself, which is an evil act, is not what is best for the person.
In addition, most people who attempt suicide (as opposed to euthanasia) are seeking an end to their problems more than actual death. Often ending their lives seems like the only or the best way to end their problems. Studies done by the American Journal of Psychiatry have shown that only 3% of patients who attempted suicide and received treatment committed suicide within the 5 years following treatment. This is strong evidence that death is not the best solution to life's problems, nor the solution that most people really want. If we make euthanasia legal we are providing an easy means to end any pain people are experiencing without encouraging them to seek a solution to their problems.
Since the beginning of recorded history, human beings have feared death. People have had traditions for millennia that are meant to ease the passing from this life. Ancient Greeks placed coins on the eyes of the dead to allow them passage into the underworld. Egyptian royalty were mummified and buried with wealth to ensure a safe afterlife where they would be happy and well provided for. The Japanese emperor Qin Shi Huang Di was buried with thousands of terracotta warriors to accompany him in the afterlife. We have always had traditions to make the idea of death easier to bear. We have rituals and beliefs, and all this is because we have a natural fear of death. This fear speaks to an innate human understanding that life is good and death is unnatural. This is not to say that I believe we should fear death. My point is that we should not urge people from life. Our innate response to death as something undesirable should tell us that life is beautiful and should be valued.
I don"t support prolonging people"s suffering. We do not have to provide extraordinary care, but we cannot deliberately kill anyone. It is moral to let a person die, but not to kill him. Medicine is meant to heal, not to kill.
It is actually dehumanizing to end our lives early. It gives people the "choice" to decide when they die rather than encouraging them to make good choices with how they live. Autonomy means living by our choices, not dying by them. Literally defined, it means "independence or freedom, as of the will or one's actions". The irony here is that if we freely choose to die we are no longer free and no longer making choices.
I am not insensitive to the fact that many people know others who have committed suicide or physician-assisted-suicide. I certainly don't mean to disrespect or insult anybody. I know that euthanasia is a personal and sensitive topic, but it is one that must be addressed. I am opposed to euthanasia out of respect for every human person.
Euthanasia doesn't create any extra deaths, all life ends in death, euthanasia just determines the time and manner of an inevitable death. While life as a whole may be good not every moment of life is good. If a patient and their doctor understand that a condition will make the remainder of the patient's life undesirable to live then euthanasia can serve as a purpose of preventing suffering that would diminish the overall quality of the person's life. By eliminating a period of suffering at the end of a life it can cause the life as a whole to be more valuable than if the last suffering stage were to be lived, much like cutting off a small portion of mold from a wheel of cheese can improve the value of the cheese. If a person makes an informed decision to die peacefully the State shouldn't have any business compelling them to suffer the remainder of life.
There is also an economic benefit of euthanasia. There is a limited supply of resources and money in the world, every use of finite resources must be compared to other uses. Euthanasia can come at a smaller cost than living and can free up resources to put to other uses. The end of life can be very costly and if a patient decides to end their life in order to pass more money to their surviving family or save their family from some expenses no one ought to have a right to force them to live. Euthanasia can save the money of the patient, their family, and society as a whole.
It is cruel to force a person to suffer. Some conditions will cause certain suffering that may only be alleviated with death. Preventing a person's only escape from suffering is dooming a person to a fate that they may wish to avoid. By prohibiting euthanasia the State would be condemning some of the population to terrible suffering. A prohibition on euthanasia is cruel.
Euthanasia is consistent with liberty, freedom, autonomy, and choice. A prohibition on euthanasia restricts a person's choices by removing an option. People ought to be free to do anything except force harm to come to someone else. Informed and consensual euthanasia does not force anyone to be hurt thus shouldn't be illegal. Conversely a prohibition on euthanasia is forcing a person to live, if that life is painful then the prohibition is forcing harm. People should have the choice to live and die how they wish, as long as they are leaving other people free to do the same.
Some people will opt for euthanasia whether it is legal or not. Having a legal option makes it so a person can easily seek out a professional to end their lives in the most humane and dignified way possible. It'd also prevent some very difficult situations for families or doctors that are petitioned by a suffering member to help them end their life; it'd put people at risk of criminal punishment if they compassionately obeyed the persons request to help them die peacefully. Some family members could feel guilt after the fact if they personally administered death to a loved one at their request, but if euthanasia was legal then a doctor could administer the death potentially saving the family member from feelings of guilt. If family still felt guilty they could seek counseling after the fact, but were euthanasia illegal they might not get counseling out of fear of admitting a crime or the stigma attached to their act.
It is true that everyone dies eventually, but if we use that as our argument we can easily use it to justify other actions. It could rationalize dowry deaths in India, genocide, infant abandonment and countless other barbaric practices. Yes, everyone dies. That does not give us the right to dictate when that happens.
Saying we should make euthanasia legal because people would do it anyway is a little like saying we should make drugs legal. People do them anyway. Legalizing drugs would give people a legal and possibly healthier way to do what they want, but the end is the same. Legal or not, euthanasia kills people. Euthanasia is illegal because murder is illegal. I am not comparing people who help a family member seeking physician-assisted-suicide to murderers, but the end result is the same: an innocent person loses his life. The family might feel guilt, but the act is the deliberate killing of someone you love, so guilt might be a natural response. Either way, counseling should certainly be available. It is possible that having a doctor kill your loved one could alleviate the guilt you might feel. I personally would still think about the fact that I consented to and facilitated their death. Technically, the person would be killing himself, taking barbiturates. In that sense, the doctor is not doing anything, but both the doctor and I would have facilitated my loved one’s death. Euthanasia is the taking of a person’s life and should not be legal.
No one ever said that every moment of life is good. That wouldn’t be rational. But the life in itself is good. We should respect people, absolutely, but we need to do that by actually respecting who they are and not wanting to end their time on earth. Real compassion will love people no matter their condition and encourage them that they are loved and precious, regardless of the pain or condition they are in.
Suffering at the end does not change the good of a person’s whole life. We all suffer sometimes, albeit some far more than others. That suffering does not make us less than we are. If anything, it provides the best opportunities to grow. We can’t live pain-free lives. Suffering is a part of life and one that we have to face.
There is the metaphor of the cheese. This view reduces the view of the person to the value of an object. If part of someone’s life is unpleasant we should cut it away. We don’t get to cherry-pick the nice moments in life. Life is life, sometimes good and sometimes bad, but always valuable and to be respected.
We should never make people suffer, but we should not kill them either. There are other options. There are choices between the two extremes of physician-assisted suicide and a forced prolonging of painful life. Medicine is meant to heal, and death is not healing. It is true that death will alleviate physical suffering, but the person won’t be alive to appreciate that. In ending their suffering, you end everything else about them.
The state has a duty to protect the best interest of the people. Death is never a better scenario than life. Life can be painful and ugly, and sometimes we hate it, but that does not make it bad and it does not make death a better option.
If we support euthanasia it is a little like supporting teen suicide. If you’re in a lot of pain and you don’t see a point to living, why not end it? The State arguably has no right to prevent your death, but we don’t often hear people supporting that teenagers go and kill themselves if they feel like it. That is because all problems are temporary (even, in a sense, terminal illnesses) and human life is more valuable than anything else in the world. Our illnesses don’t define us. Even dying and in pain, you are not your suffering. You are a unique human being with dignity that cannot be diminished or taken away. This dignity can, however, be violated. Killing a person violates his dignity. Some people argue that we have no right to force someone to live. The reality is that we have no right to take his life.
Economically, it does make sense that ending a sick person’s life saves money. The problem with this money-saving mentality is that we are no longer looking at people as human beings. We start to see them as numbers, costs and liabilities. The overall mentality becomes one of practicality. If the person does not perform a function or directly benefit society, we should get rid of him. As a classic example, getting rid of the sick and elderly was one of the first moves of the Nazi party at the beginning of the Shoah. It can be easy enough for a culture to slip into a mentality of use. This sounds extreme, but is it? When terminal illness is a declaration of a person’s diminished value, logically he would receive second-rate health care, if any. Under this mentality, people are objects, not rational and inherently valuable beings. We can’t see people this way. The idea that people are measured by what they produce is what leads to eugenic policies that seek to eliminate the weak and less-than-perfect.
Granted, most individuals and families who want euthanasia are not thinking, “Great, I can get rid of my useless relative and save money.” Most people have good intentions. Unfortunately, a utilitarian outlook is the natural consequence of a mindset based on euthanasia, one that estimates a person’s worth and his quality of life based on accidents of his life, not based on his nature.
On the opposite side of the argument, providing treatment can advance medicine, create more jobs, and preserve the greatest resource we have: people.
But what about people who are suffering or don’t want to degenerate? It’s a tragedy that people think ending their life is better than living it. Pain does not make us any less human. Often the most inspiring people are ones who overcome the worst suffering (Douglas Mawson, Helen Keller and countless others). People should not have to die to be happy. We all want to be loved. We want to die in the company of people who care about us, happy and with dignity. The people who love us want what is best for us, but death is not better than life.
As far as autonomy, death is a decision that we appear to have control over. The reality is that there is a lot in life we have no control over. We don’t choose when we are born or what we look like, what kind of economic standing we are born into or who are family are. We often don’t control when we might lose a job or lose a family member. Death is a decision that most people never make. In a sense, the corresponding event to life (or birth) is death. We don’t choose it, but we make the most of it. Real autonomy is making the choices we can make and exercising our free will. Autonomy does not extend to decisions that we don’t have control over.
We can’t and don’t give people everything they want. It is not our duty to give people everything they want. Medical professionals don’t let patients decide everything about their treatment. Most people are not trained in medicine. There are some decisions they cannot make. Not making euthanasia legal does not take away a choice a person had, it simply prevents him from making a choice he never had to begin with. Medical professionals should not let people choose when they die, just as they would not let a patient diagnose himself or prescribe his own treatment. Medicine is not meant to give people what they want. Like setting a broken leg, sometimes treatment is painful. You wouldn’t tell a child, “This is going to hurt for a long time. If you’re not okay with the pain, you can choose whether you want treatment or you want to end the pain.” No. The doctor would tell the child that the treatment is for his own well being and heal him to the best of his abilities.
The same logic applies for terminal illnesses.
It is not powerful to die. It takes strength to live. To put it bluntly, autonomy in death does not leave the person free and empowered. It leaves him dead.
You argue that deliberately killing an innocent person is morally wrong. I admit that it usually is, but there are some instances where it is not morally wrong. Whether it is wrong or not depends on consent; it is wrong to murder, but not always to kill. It is the violation of a victim's will to live that makes murder wrong, but if a person doesn't will to live then their life isn't being forcibly taken so it is not morally wrong. It is the act of violating a person that makes rape wrong, similarly it is the act of violation that makes murder wrong, but euthanasia is a death without violation.
I agree that we shouldn't define a person by their illness or suffering and we shouldn't make a judgement about their worth. No one has a right to make a decision to euthanize another person, only informed and consensual euthanize ought to be permissible. The Dutch abuse that you mentioned is horrific and involuntary euthanasia should be persecuted. Everyone should learn from their example and safeguards should be developed to prevent it from happening.
Your statistics about suicide are not relevant. Although somewhat related it is still a distinctly different matter than euthanasia. Furthermore people seeking euthanasia would need a doctor's permission and that doctor could refer the patient to help if (s)he thought the patient could live a fulfilling rest of their life with treatment.
You gave multiple historical examples of different societies fearing death. You claim this is an expression of people's innate understanding that life is good and death is bad. Euthanasia doesn't cause any extra deaths, so even if death is bad euthanasia wouldn't be creating any more badness. But I disagree that our fear of death is because of any innate understanding of morality, it is just a primal evolutionary trait; life has to value life or it wouldn't bother to keep living and protect itself and its species.
I do appreciate the irony of using choice or autonomy to chose an action that prevents future choice. I argue that we shouldn't try to maximize the amounts or choices a person makes or the time they stay free, what we should be doing is preventing an outside force from taking away the choice, freedom, or autonomy of a person. It is ironic but not a contradiction.
You said there is no intrinsic dignity. Okay. Then how would you define the value of an individual? Is it how he sees himself? Is it how society values him? Maybe it"s how much he can produce. Is it how physically or mentally capable he is? If so, does that mean that we can determine a person"s worth to be gone once those faculties are gone? If a fulfilling life is determined by a doctor, as you mentioned, then maybe worth is determined by the doctor. Or is it determined by the family paying the medical bills or the state providing insurance? The issue with no subjective dignity is that is can be twisted and people can be disposed of or written off with no real basis and no real consideration for their personhood.
Many people see more than one kind of dignity. One kind of dignity is seen as the accompaniment to life. As long as there is life, there is dignity (physical life, not perceived life). Some dignity seems to be conferred on people (honors awarded, respect given) and in that sense, dignity is subjective. It is something conferred on somebody by society or another individual. So maybe dignity is too vague. There is something that is the same for every human being. We have physical senses, but beyond that we have the ability to think and reason, to abstract concepts and put them in context of the world we live in. We have the ability to choose, a power that no other creature has. If we all share those things then we must also share the value that goes along with those things. If they are a part of us, all of us, then we can"t determine one person to have lost that value when he still has his nature but determine another to still have value because he also has his nature. The point is that there is something in every human being that no one and no circumstances can take away. We can only take away from someone what we have given him. We did not give him his worth, we cannot take it away and so we have no right to treat him differently in his new circumstances.
Christians believe that man has an inherent dignity because he is made in the image of God. Regardless of whether you agree, a similar argument can be used. We are all made (not necessarily by God) in the image of something (even if that something is Plato"s ideal human being). We all share traits that make us human. Put simply, we all share human nature and our nature as human beings is what makes us valuable. Therefore, anyone that has human nature shares that dignity with every other human being. If we measure worth -and I mean inherent worth, not monetary worth to society- by this system, then anyone who is human is valuable and his life is precious.
Responsibly taking care of life is something that follows from our intellect. We know that life is good, so we should respect it and protect it. You mentioned something interesting- that life is inclined to protect life. I completely agree, and I think that"s actually a strong argument against euthanasia. We should protect life, not take it.
In order to mean anything, dignity (or value or worth, however you want to define it) has to have an objective standard by which to judge it. There is no objective standard that can be applied to subjective attributes. We can't have a system that claims to be just or
If dignity is subjective then I can give it to or take it from whomever I want. If dignity is decided only by the individual then it has no meaning. I can think I"m the greatest person on earth and live without regard for other people, but that doesn"t make me more valuable than anybody else.
As you mentioned, sometimes a person can no longer add to the joy of the world " so the world should get rid of him? Individuals are not meant to bring pleasure to society. People are not there for us to use as we would use money or material resources. The problem with the economics argument is exactly that- maximizing a person"s worth. We are not supposed to maximize people"s usefulness. We are supposed to love them, not use them. We are supposed to see them as valuable, not as discardable tools with a peak profit and an expiration date. One of the issues with making euthanasia legal is that people will be far more inclined to end their lives. They might feel a financial burden to help their family and pass on money. They might be emotionally burdened with the knowledge that their family is suffering with them. Their doctors might offer euthanasia as a way to escape a painful and undignified end. With that pressure, even though euthanasia would be voluntary, it might be more than a person"s own desire influencing him to make that decision.
It can be hard to see the value of life when we suffer, but that doesn"t mean there is no value anymore. It"s better for people to be remembered how they were than to be killed for how they might be. There are innumerable cases of people who suffered heroically and saw equal value to their lives with illness (sometimes even greater value). There are also people who see suffering as the end to their happiness, dignity and life. Both cannot be true. Life is not purely what we determine it to be. Something has to be objective. This doesn"t mean that people can"t see the world in different ways or that everything about suffering has to be seen as good, but it does mean that some things are not a matter of debate. Life is life. There are different qualities of life, but they do not change the value of the person. If they did, an unwanted child born to a poor family in rural China would have less dignity than a loved child born to wealthy parents in England. We can"t stop seeing human beings as human beings.
We need to respect every person, no matter his circumstances. Killing him does not respect him, but loving and caring for him does. Even if someone wants to die, nobody has any business taking a human life, with consent or without. We aren"t taking a person"s free will, even if it is seen as a denial of his choice. We can"t make decisions about some things, like when we are born and when we die. Those things aren"t in our control. But how we live is. Just because we are physically capable of something doesn"t necessarily mean we should do it.
We don"t have a right to die, we have a right to live. Death is, in a sense, a forfeiture of all rights. Rights correspond to duties. Therefore, if a person has the right to die, I have the duty to kill him if he requests it. Rights are also directed toward the good of a person. Death is never in the best interest of a person. It is never better than life. We can and should find meaning in suffering and make the most of our lives.
We need to respect people for the intrinsic dignity that accompanies human nature. This means loving and caring for them despite illness. Care involves making a person better, not killing him. Again, this doesn"t mean we have to keep people alive against their will. It simply means we can"t kill them. Removing one option does not take away a person"s autonomy. The person still has choices and a free will. He can act on his own choices. People are beautiful and life is a gift (regardless of whether you believe in a god). We need to respect people"s life rather than seeing suffering as the end of goodness. We need to love people, not encourage them to die. Euthanasia, the taking of a human being"s life, violates the dignity that accompanies human nature. Because of this, it is morally wrong and should not be legal.
Thank you for a great debate. I enjoyed seeing your side of the issue.
The prohibition of euthanasia is actually a forcible violation of liberty and is immoral. It is a restriction of freedom, it removes a choice. It is the State telling a person and that they aren't allowed to make a decision regarding their own body and life. Banning euthanasia implies that a person doesn't own themselves and are instead owned by society or the state; it is a violation of liberty, choice, body, and life. Not only is euthanasia not morally wrong, prohibiting it is wrong.
Euthanasia can prevent suffering. A person may decide that a condition will create too much pain or negatively impact some other part of their life too much for their life to be worth living anymore. By having an option of euthanasia they may choose to prevent that last part of their life. Their life as a whole could be better off even if it is ended early. Instead of the end of their life being horrible and degrading the overall quality of their whole life euthanasia can give a person a way to avoid the suffering at the end and preserve the quality of their life until the end. Prohibiting euthanasia is dooming some people to horrible suffering that they wish to avoid. No one should decide that someone else's life is worth living, but nor should anyone force someone to keep living; consensual euthanasia isn't deciding for someone else or forcing them to do anything, it is just an option that they may freely choose if they determine it to be their best choice.
There are additional negative outcomes that can arise when people choose euthanasia in violation of a prohibition. I'm not arguing that it ought to be legal because people will do it anyway, I'm arguing that an additional reason why it should be legal is that when people do it illegally there are more negative things that come from it than if it were done legally; this is a similar to the argument that women would suffer additional risks of injury and infection from an illegal abortion than a legal abortion. One negative that accompanies only illegal instances of euthanasia is the quality of the death, since it would be a black market operation there wouldn't be the same medical standards to ensure the most painless death. Doctors that have worked hard for their licences wouldn't be likely to risk their livelihoods by performing an illegal procedure so people may choose to instead end their own life themselves or seek out a criminal to help them. If a family member chose to help and felt guilty afterwards they might not get counseling to help because they'd be afraid of persecution or negative stigma. This is similar to an argument to legalize drugs and if I was debating that I'd use the same sort of argument.
I want to respect your conclusion as your summary and your last word in support of you case, however since you asked a couple direct questions of me in your conclusion (about how a person gets their value and if society can discard them if they are not valuable) I will just very briefly answer them. A person's worth is determined by how that person and other people value them. We should not get rid of them if society deems them no longer valuable, a person owns themselves and euthanasia should be their own choice. A person's value is determined by society and themselves, but a person's choice is only their own.
Thank you for this debate. It was a pleasure to debate you and although I didn't change my mind of the subject, I have acquired a greater understanding of and appreciation for your side. This is only my third debate on the site, but this has been my favorite by far, thanks for the experience and best of luck in the voting phase!