Is euthanasia ethical?
Debate Rounds (5)
In this round, I will only supply Pro arguments and wait for Round 2 to begin refuting my opponent's points.
I affirm: Euthanasia is ethical.
Observation: There is a distinguishable difference between the euthanasia of an animal (often called "putting down" an animal), and euthanasia of a person (as in the death penalty or assisted suicide, etc).
~In this debate, I shall do my best to distinguish between which kind of euthanasia I am talking about.
Point #1: The death penalty (euthanasia of a human) is supported by the majority of Americans. (Source: http://www.gallup.com...)
Point #2: The euthanasia of a person who has committed a horrible crime is just.
~Timothy McVeigh, also known as the Oklahoma City Bomber, detonated a bomb that killed 168 people. He was sentenced to death in 2001. (Source: http://www.telegraph.co.uk...)
~I believe it is highly agreeable that McVeigh's death is justice to families and other people affected by his acts of terror.
Point #3: If the decision is made by the patient, doctor-assisted suicide is ethical.
~If a patient is suffering so much pain that they decide it is more viable to die rather than to live, the assisted suicide is morally justified. (Source: http://www.growthhouse.org...)
Point #4: Euthanasia of an animal with a history of violent, aggressive, and dangerous tendencies is ethical.
~The source provides support for this point. (Source: http://www.vin.com...)
Point #5: The euthanasia of a suffering animal is justified.
~Clarification: For purposes of this round, assume that these suffering animals have no chance of living.
~When an animal has life threatening injuries, I believe it is highly agreeable to end the animal's suffering and misery by euthanasia. (Source: http://www.peta.org...)
I agree that there is a significant difference between euthanasia of an animal and that of a human. In this discussion, I will limit myself to euthanasia of a patient who has decided to end their life through physician assisted suicide, the third point which you mentioned. I hope that we can both agree that for a doctor to perform physician assisted suicide on a patient who does not wish to end his life is unethical, as it amounts to direct murder.
Palliative care is defined as "care given to improve the quality of life of patients who have a serious or life-threatening disease, such as cancer." Its goal is not to cure whatever disease the patient has, but to provide comfort for them and their family in addition to the other treatment they are receiving. [Source: http://www.cancer.gov...]
Palliative care has advanced to the point where it can not only allow patients to die in the comfort of their own home, as well as with relatively little pain. According to the Department of Palliative Care at King's College, "home palliative care increases the chance of dying at home and reduces symptom burden in particular for patients with cancer, without impacting on caregiver grief". [Source: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov...]
From a practical standpoint, euthanasia gives a vast amount of power to doctors in that they have power, not only to heal, as is traditionally their craft, but also to harm. If physician assisted suicide is viewed as acceptable, it leads to a slippery slope in which involuntary euthanasia becomes commonplace. In Holland, a country in which euthanasia has been legalized, 1030 patients were killed without their consent in 1990. Over a thousand people were killed without being consulted as to whether they even wished to die. This is only possible because of the widespread acceptance of euthanasia in Holland. [Source: http://www.euthanasia.com...]
It is immoral for doctors to perform physician assisted suicide for the reasons stated above, but also because it goes directly against what it means to practice medicine. Hiippocrates was a Greek physician known as the "Father of Modern Medicine", and the oath attributed to him says "I will do no harm or injustice to them [the patient]. I will not give a lethal drug to anyone if I am asked, nor will I advise such a plan". [Source: http://www.nlm.nih.gov...] The doctor is not allowed to give a lethal drug even if asked. Furthermore he will not even advise such a plan to a patient. This is what it has traditionally meant to practice medicine, to do no harm. The dictionary defines medicine as "the art or science of restoring or preserving health or due physical condition, as by means of drugs, surgical operations or appliances, or manipulations: often divided into medicine proper, surgery, and obstetrics". Physician assisted suicide does not restore health. Health is defined as "the general condition of the body or mind with reference to soundness and vigor" and the general condition of the body cannot improve if the body is destroyed. When someone's health becomes worse, they are move closer to death. If you bring someone to death, how can their health be improved? [Source: http://dictionary.reference.com...]
(Note - I might start calling my points "contentions" instead of points).
RE: "In this discussion, I will limit myself to euthanasia... through physician assisted suicide..."
First, at the start of this debate, my opponent never supplied any definitions or limits to the scope of this debate. Second, in the world of debate, any "dropped" arguments (points your opponent did not respond to) are arguments that your opponent agrees with. So, with these, I now assume my opponent concedes to my Contention 1, Contention 2, Contention 4, and Contention 5.
RE: "Palliative care has advanced to the point where... patients to die in the comfort of their home."
If we can come to a consensus that autonomy of a terminally-ill patient is important, we should arrive at the conclusion that the Pro is most ethical. Gerrit Kimsma, an Associate Professor in Medical Philosophy elaborates: "Assisting death in no way precludes giving the best palliative care possible but rather integrates compassionate care and respect for the patient's autonomy and ultimately makes death with dignity a real option"" (1).
RE: "If physician assisted suicide is viewed as acceptable, it leads to a slippery slope in which involuntary euthanasia becomes commonplace."
R.G. Frey, DPhil, professor at Bowling Green State University said once that "Especially with regard to taking life, slippery slope arguments have long been a feature of the ethical landscape, used to question the moral permissibility of all kinds of acts... We need the evidence that shows that horrible slope consequences are likely to occur. The mere possibility that such consequences might occur, as noted earlier, does not constitute such evidence" (2).
RE: "Hiippocrates was a Greek physician "says "I will do no harm or injustice to them [the patient]. I will not give a lethal drug to anyone if I am asked, nor will I advise such a plan.""
What Hippocrates suggests is a violation of a person"s autonomy. In the United States, there exists a "right to die." In the case of Vacco vs Quill in 1996, the American Civil Liberties Union ruled "The right of a competent, terminally ill person to avoid excruciating pain and embrace a timely and dignified death" [exercises] this right is as central to personal autonomy and bodily integrity as rights safeguarded by this Court's decisions" [to] the refusal or termination of life-saving medical treatment. In particular, this Court's recent decisions concerning the right to refuse medical treatment and the right to abortion instruct that a mentally competent, terminally ill person has a protected liberty interest in choosing to end intolerable suffering by bringing about his or her own death" (3).
Also, Hippocrates" Oath is an iffy code to abide by. Philip Nitschke, the Director and Founder of Exit International, explains the flaws of Hippocrates: "Over time the Hippocratic Oath has been modified on a number of occasions as some of its tenets became less and less acceptable. References to women not studying medicine and doctors not breaking the skin have been deleted. The much-quoted reference to 'do no harm' is also in need of explanation. Does not doing harm mean that we should prolong a life that the patient sees as a painful burden? Surely, the 'harm' in this instance is done when we prolong the life, and 'doing no harm' means that we should help the patient die. Killing the patient--technically, yes. Is it a good thing--sometimes, yes. Is it consistent with good medical end-of-life care: absolutely yes" (4).
RE: "This is what it has traditionally meant to practice medicine, to do no harm."
This is another violation of a person"s autonomy. If a patient (being lucid and completely autonomous) wants to end the unbearable pain they experience by means of physician-assisted suicide, it should be so. It is unethical to restrict a person"s autonomy.
RE: "Physician assisted suicide does not restore health" If you bring someone to death, how can their health be improved?"
The restoration of health is sometimes an impossibility with a person with a painful, terminal illness. Like I"ve stated throughout this Round, the obstruction of assisted suicide for these types of patients is undeniably unethical.
Voters, in this debate, please consider the winner to be whichever side achieves the most autonomy for the most amount of people. It would be illogical to pick the side that restricts freedoms of people.
1 - Gerrit Kimsma, MD, MA, Associate Professor in Medical Philosophy and Evert van Leeuwen, PhD, Professor in Philosophy and Medical Ethics, wrote in their chapter "Assisted Death in the Netherlands: Physician at the Bedside When Help Is Requested," that appeared in the 2004 book Physician-Assisted Dying: The Case for Palliative Care & Patient Choice
2 - Excerpt from a chapter Frey wrote in a book titled Euthanasia and Physician-Assisted Suicide by Gerald Dworkin
3 - https://www.aclu.org...
4 - From an interview with Nitschke titled "Euthanasia Sets Sail" that appeared in the National Review Online, available at www.nationalreview.com.
http://dictionary.reference.com...]. Nowhere can it be found that the death penalty is "euthanasia of a human". Every definition of euthanasia is related to medicine.
RE: "If we can come to a consensus that autonomy of a terminally-ill patient is important, we should arrive at the conclusion that the Pro is most ethical."
This argument is flawed in that it automatically assumes that if one agrees that autonomy is important, we will automatically agree with pro because pro is the only side which respects autonomy at all. This is simply not true. In Round 2, I stated "I hope that we can both agree that for a doctor to perform physician assisted suicide on a patient who does not wish to end his life is unethical, as it amounts to direct murder." I clearly do not agree with Pro because I am arguing against his case. However, I clearly agree that patient autonomy is important, because, otherwise, the patient's wishes should not matter if I oppose patient autonomy as Pro has suggested in his argument. This argument also suggests that autonomy of the patient is absolutely the most important thing in medicine. I defined medicine in Round 2: "the art or science of restoring or preserving health or due physical condition, as by means of drugs, surgical operations or appliances, or manipulations: often divided into medicine proper, surgery, and obstetrics". Nowhere in there does it say that medicine's purpose is to respect patient autonomy. Finally, autonomy is defined as: "independence or freedom, as of the will or one's actions". To respect autonomy would therefore mean that you would respect one's free will. Anyone would agree that one's free will is destroyed at the moment of death, as one's ability to choose is no longer present. To "respect the patient's autonomy" is to preserve, not their choice, but their ability to choose. By Pro's argument, we should not use prisons, because criminals have exercised their autonomy by killing or raping someone. By imprisoning them, we take away their opportunity.
RE: "It's [the Hippocratic Oath] tenets became less and less acceptable"
These tenets that Nitschke uses to justify killing of patients is the acceptability women in the medical field and the breaking of skin as part of medicine. In regards to women, the gradual acceptance of them in the medical field was not due to the fact that women being doctors ceased to be morally problematic, it was a change in customs and society. Nitschke uses a societal change to justify a moral change. In regards to breaking skin, the medical community learned that it was sometimes more beneficial to break the skin in order to heal the patient, which is the primary purpose of medicine, than to keep the skin intact. Take appendicitis, infection of the appendix. In Hippocrates' time, to remove the appendix was still more beneficial to the patient from a medical standpoint than to leave it. However, it would not have been viewed as acceptable by doctors in his time because of a lack of scientific knowledge. Once more, Nitschke uses a lack of medical knowledge to justify a moral change.
RE: "There exists in the United States a 'right to die'"
Pro mischaracterizes the ACLU's opinion in Vacco v. Quill. The ACLU being an organization and not a member of the Supreme Court, it cannot rule. Instead, it gave the Supreme Court an amicus curiae brief from which that quote was drawn. In June 1997, the Supreme Court ruled in Washington v. Glucksberg"The history of the law's treatment of assisted suicide in this country has been and continues to be one of the rejection of nearly all efforts to permit it. That being the case, our decisions lead us to conclude that the asserted 'right' to assistance in committing suicide is not a fundamental liberty interest protected by the Due Process Clause." There is no constitutional "right to die" in the United States.
RE: "The restoration of health is sometimes an impossibility with a person with a painful, terminal illness."
When I was a small child, I learned that some candy is better than no candy. Every time. The same is true of health. To have some health, that is, to be ill, is better than to have no health, that is, to be dead.
RE: "most autonomy for the most amount of people"
Pro focuses solely on the patient's autonomy. However, what happens when the patient's autonomy conflicts with the doctor's? Why should the doctor's autonomy be compromised? Many argue that to avoid this issue of conscientious objection in regards to abortion, one simply does not enter that field. However, " there is no branch of medicine where one can entirely avoid issues of death and dying" [Source: http://www.cmf.org.uk...]. The physician's autonomy is compromised for the sake of the patient's. It would appear that Pro would also favor anarchy. What is government but a system put in place to restrict us? To achieve the most autonomy for the most amount of people would be to live in a state without government. Without government, there are no restrictions on our autonomy, and we would clearly be in the best possible place. Or thus Pro would argue.
Also, Dick Sobsey, a professor in the University of Alberta's Developmental Disabilities Centre, says that "While advocates of assisted suicide suggest that this would provide people with autonomy and personal control, in many cases, people with illnesses and disabilities would have these decisions made for them and imposed on them." [Source:http://www.broadreachtraining.com...]. Is patient autonomy being respected? Sobsey finishes with an astonishing statistic: in Holland in 1994, "more people are "assisted to die" without any explicit request (N = 1000) than those who request assisted suicide (N = 400)". More people's autonomy is being ignored than respected.
Nobody wants to die. What patients want is not death, it is an end to their suffering. Because palliative medicine has advanced to the point where virtually any pain can be blocked out, any patient who has a terminal illness can have their suffering relieved. As a popular facebook page says: "Suicide doesn't end the pain. It simply passes it on to those you love".
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