The Instigator
Pro (for)
6 Points
The Contender
Con (against)
4 Points

Voluntary euthanasia should be legally available to terminally-ill people in the United States

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Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 3/28/2010 Category: Miscellaneous
Updated: 7 years ago Status: Post Voting Period
Viewed: 9,970 times Debate No: 11570
Debate Rounds (3)
Comments (2)
Votes (2)




As Americans, we pride ourselves on a variety of rights, including freedom of speech, freedom of the press, freedom of religion, freedom of assembly and freedom from cruel and unusual punishment. The Declaration of Independence establishes that one of our inalienable rights is the right to "life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness".

One of these rights is a right to die.

Across the United States, thousands are living with an incurable illness with no hope of recovery. These people are living in unthinkable suffering, knowing that the views of a vocal minority [1] are being imposed on them, enforcing this suffering onto them. Imagine not being able to control bowel movements, or having control of only the portion of the body from the head up. Life would be a living hell.

I would firstly like to address the idea of rights, and how they apply to this case. As I mentioned earlier, the United States citizens, as well as citizens of nearly every other developed country in the world, have express rights. There is no right to impose your views on others - quite the opposite, as imposing your view that somebody should be silenced on somebody is a violation of the principle of freedom of speech, and governmental imposition of religious beliefs on others is a violation of the right of freedom of religion. So why then is it acceptable for a vocal minority to impose their belief that allowing somebody to end their suffering is somehow wrong on everyone else? If we are 'free', why are we not 'free' from the impositions of others in the case of euthanasia?

I would also like to make a point regarding ownership of one's body. The very definition of a slave is a person owned by another person [2]. Slavery has obviously been abolished in the United States for many years, establishing that a person can only be owned by themselves. Generally, you can do what you like with your property, as long as you are not harming anyone else. That's why lawmakers don't usually attempt to prohibit overeating! Euthanasia is usually an attempt to end intolerable suffering that is seriously detrimental to the sufferer's quality of life. If you are in charge of your own life, why should others be able to direct what you do with it, if the only person you will be harming is yourself?

This debate is now open, and anybody can take up the challenge to present an opposing view. After all, you've got that freedom.





I would like to thank my opponent for such an interesting topic and well-thought out points. I hope that this debate will be enlightening to the ourselves as well as all who take the time to read it.

First, I think that it would be a good idea to establish what we are talking about when we use the term "euthanasia". Euthanasia falls into two broad categories, those being:

a) Passive Euthanasia
b) Active Euthanasia

Passive Euthanasia is an alternative name for withdrawal of treatment - when a doctor withholds life-sustaining treatment. [1]

Passive Euthanasia is legal in most jurisdictions, as courts have ruled that sane patients have the right to deny medical treatment even if that would result in their death. My opponent's resolution reads "Voluntary euthanasia should be legally available to terminally-ill people in the United States". Therefore, I am assuming that when my opponent says 'euthanasia' he is talking about a practice that, in the United States, has yet to be legalized. This means that he cannot be referring to passive euthanasia as a patient's right to deny medical treatment is an established principle and thereby "legal".

So, then he must be referring to active euthanasia, which is not legal throughout the United States. Active euthanasia (also referred to as a doctor-assisted suicide in the United States) is when a patient asks their doctor to provide them with drugs that will shorten or end his or her life [1].

With that accomplished, I can move on to challenging my opponent's arguments. My opponent says that we have several rights among them being rights to "life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness". He then claims that the "right to die" is derived from these rights. I, like my opponent, do agree that we have several rights and one of them is the right to bring about an end to our existence, to die. However, this does not make active euthanasia a right.

In order for euthanasia to take place, two parties must be present one being the patient and one being a physician. The physician is the one who will ultimately bring about the patient's end by administering the drugs required to accomplish that end. The patient, if he is in his right mind at that moment, has every right to make such a request. However, the doctor has no legal obligation to grant a patient such "treatment". In fact, if he were to grant such "treatment" than he would be charged with murder and prosecuted under the law.

Doctors are not death specialists, doctors are people who are suppose to help us recover from poor health, not bring about our death. To require a doctor to kill his patients if they requested would be a breach of his rights, as he is being forced into an agreement that may be against his or her wishes (which is similar to slavery).

My opponent might be thinking that euthanasia is medical treatment, and thus if the patient requests it than the doctor has to provide it under the law. However, he would be mistaken. Death (euthanasia) is not an established medical treatment as it does not do anything to advance the health of the patient in question.

As for my opponent's claims that "forcing" patients to live, even if it is against their wishes, is akin to slavery I would simply have to disagree. No one is preventing these "slaves" from taking their own lives, and they may do so at anytime. A medical profesional is just not allowed to assist them in the matter. If a terminally-ill patient can muster up the strength to commit suicide on his own (e.g. hanging, slashing of the wrists) then he may do so. His "right to death" is not being abridged, as death is still an option to him.

My opponent also speaks of a "vocal minority" of people in the United States that are preventing any type of euthanasia law from passing or even being considered, however it appears that Math needs a lesson in mathematics. When my opponent provided the link to the Gallup website he did not specify which poll he was referring to at the moment. Was he referring to first or second poll. I will assume that he is referring to the second, because after all it is a lot more in-depth and polled 1,200 people as opposed to 475. In this poll only 33% are in favor of euthanasia in all circumstances, while 67% are for some sort of regulations to be put on the practice of euthanasia. So, I do not see where why my opponent refers to them as a "vocal minority".

I would like to thank my opponent for such an interesting topic and hope that we all learn something during the course of this debate.

Debate Round No. 1


Firstly, I would like to thank my opponent for accepting this challenge - such a controversial topic is not easy to debate.

My opponent's argument appears to be centered around one main point: the role of doctors. To prove that his arguments are flawed, I will be using a three-pronged approach:

1. Physicians do not always "bring about the patient's end", as my opponent claims. A device currently on display at the British Museum, the Deliverance Machine, ensured that it would be the patient bringing about their own death - a physician would not even have to be involved.
2. Doctors would not be obliged to administer euthanasia, just as they are not required to perform operations such as neonatal circumcision now.
3. Terminally ill patients are not always able to bring about their own death. For this third point, I will be citing the example of Christian Rossiter, a man from Australia who won the "right to die" in 2009.

Before I refute the major flaws in my opponent's case, I would like to address the results of the Gallup poll that my opponent disputed. My opponent wonders why I refer to those against voluntary euthanasia as a vocal minority. In 2002, a Gallup poll returned results of 72% in favour of voluntary euthanasia, and in a second poll, only 31% said they would oppose voluntary euthanasia in all circumstances, even when a terminally ill patient is experiencing intolerable suffering. From these two polls, it can be assumed that a vast majority of Americans consider voluntary euthanasia acceptable, even if only for some (with an exclusion of say, people suffering from depression).

Back to the issue! The first point I would like to address is the statement made by my opponent that "in order for euthanasia to take place, two parties must be present[,] one being the patient and one being a physician". However, this is not true. From 1995 to 1997, a device called the Deliverance Machine was used by several patients to end their own lives. The device asked the patients three questions, all variations on "do you understand that if you press the 'yes' button, you will die?". The device allowed a patient to die with no involvement from a physician. [1] A similar device involving inhaled gases was invented by founder of Exit International, Dr Philip Nitschke, was invented in 2008. The invention of these devices mean that although a doctor would be involved in giving a device to the patient for use, they would not ultimately be the ones administering a lethal injection.

A second point that my opponent makes is that doctors would legally be required to assist in the patient's suicide, and that this would be an infringement of their rights. This is not so. In some areas, parents may be hard-pressed to find a physician willing to perform a circumcision on their infant child. Doctors are not 'legally required' to perform circumcisions, as it may be against their beliefs to do so. This would also be the situation if euthanasia were to be legalized in the United States. If it is against their beliefs to bring about the death of a patient, they would not be required to do so. This way, it will be possible to keep both patients and doctors happy. Patients will be able to undergo voluntary euthanasia, and doctors would not be legally required to do so - just like circumcisions.

A third point of my opponent's that I would like to address is the belief that terminally ill patients are free to end their own lives if they wish to do so, without the assistance of others. However, this is simply not true for some. To support this point, I would like to use the case of Christian Rossiter, a quadraplegic from Australia, as an example. In 2009, Rossiter won a ruling from his state's Supreme Court allowing him to die, and absolving his carers from any criminal offence for allowing his death. Rossiter was experiencing intolerable suffering. According to him, "I am a prisoner in my own body. I can't move. I can't even wipe the tears from my eyes" [2]. As Rossiter was a quadraplegic, he was not able to commit suicide by "hanging [or] slashing... the wrists" as my opponent claims. Although Rossiter was given the right to refuse food and medical treatment, euthanasia advocate Philip Nitschke claims that euthanasia is more humane than starving to death, as obviously, starving is a very painful process. Euthanasia, however, is a quick and simple process.

Finally, my opponent claims that I think euthanasia is a medical treatment. As medical treatment has the aim of 'fixing' a health problem, euthanasia cannot be a medical treatment, as it does not bring about the removal of a cancer from the body, for example. Euthanasia is a means to escape the effects of the medical problem, yes, but it does not ultimately heal it.

To begin Round 2 of this debate, I would like to remind readers of the three reasons I have discussed that render my opponent's points moot. Firstly, a physician does not have to be present during the death itself. Devices such as the Deliverance Machine allow a patient to initiate the euthanizing process themselves. Secondly, doctors would not be required to agree to euthanizing a patient, just as they are not required to perform circumcisions. Finally, do not forget the unfortunate case of Christian Rossiter from Australia. Although anti-euthanasia advocates such as my opponent may claim that people are free to commit suicide if they wish, some are not able to, and to put themselves out of suffering, request that they are euthanized for their own benefit.






I would like to thank my opponent for his response.

Firstly, I would like to address the issue about such devices as the "Deliverence Machine". I suppose my opponent has accepted the definitions I put forth in Round 1, as he has did not challenge them. The definition of active euthanasia (which is what we are talking about) is when a patient asks their doctor to provide them with drugs that will shorten or end his or her life. Therefore, deliverence machines are not (by definition) euthanasia as no doctor is administring durgs that would shorten the life of a patient. The deliverence machine, and other devices like it, fall outside the parameters of this debate.

I'd next like to ask my opponent about the Gallup poll he provided. Two polls are desribed in the article my opponent provided. He cites the first poll, in which 72% of respondents responsed 'yes' when asked a question about doctor assisted suicide. However, that poll:
**Results were based on telephone interviews with 475 national adults, aged 18 and older, conducted May 6-9, 2002. For results based on the total sample of national adults, one can say with 95% confidence that the maximum margin of sampling error is �5%.

Polling 475 people over the telephone with a 5% margin of error is a pathetic excuse for a poll.

In the second poll:
**Results were based on telephone interviews with 1,200 national adults, aged 18 and older, conducted May 1997. For results based on the total sample of national adults, one can say with 95% confidence that the maximum margin of sampling error is �3%.
This poll revealed a three-way split in those who were polled. This poll was a lot more in-depth, as it allowed people to answer with more than just a 'yes' or 'no', polled 1,200 adults as opposed to 475, and had a MoE of only 3%.

These two polls seem to prove two different things. The better one saying that euthanasia is an issue with has evenly split the population. My opponent is cherry-picking his evidence in hope of building a stronger case, unfortunatley the numbers just aren't there.

I would next like to contend my claim that some people are incapable of killing themselves, and thus euthanasia should be an option for them. Firstly, people with physical handicapps (like quadraplegics) could simply starve to death or refuse life-saving medical treatment, which would kill them. They still have a way to die without resorting to euthanasia. Now this may sound inhumane, but I believe that this course of action in the long run upholds the santicy of life and results in less harm to society than starving quadraplegics would. If society allows intentional killing to take place, the value of ALL life is diminshed. Secondly, if we accept my opponent's arguments then his resoulution is still not affirmed, as he has only proved that people with physical handicapps which make it difficult for them to kill themselves should be able to end their lives with a doctor-assisted suicide, not every single terminally ill patient.

I now have some questions for my opponents, they are not rhetorical and I would like for him to address them in the last round.

1) If euthanasia is legalized, why should it only be an option for terminally-ill patients? Why couldn't a perfectly person walk into a medical clinic and say "Hey Doc, I want you to kill me"? Does he have the right to die too?
2) Do you believe that intentionally killing diminshes the value of human life?
3) Do you believe that terminally-ill patients have the mental capacity to make such decisions regarding their mortatilty?
Debate Round No. 2


This will be my final chance to put forward argument on this matter; before I begin, I would like to thank my opponent for the chance to debate such an interesting topic.

Firstly, I would like to deal with the argument put forward by my opponent that the Gallup poll which returned a result in favour of voluntary euthanasia "is a pathetic excuse for a poll". Perhaps my opponent would feel more comfortable if I used results from state government-run ballots as evidence (no federal ballot has yet occurred). In 1997, 60% of Oregonian voters endorsed a law which allowed "terminally-ill adults to obtain lethal prescription". [1] In 2008, 57.82% of Washington voters approved a measure "allowing certain terminally-ill competent adults to obtain lethal prescriptions". [2] Returning to the issue of privately-run polls, I find it surprising that my opponent would resort to the argument that the poll 'wasn't run properly' to rebut the results. Several other privately-run polls have returned results in favour of legalising euthanasia, and I doubt my opponent would dare to claim that every single one of these polls had major flaws in their operation. I will cite a few of these polls here. A piece of 1996 text reports that approximately two-thirds of poll respondents are in favour of legalising euthanasia in at least some circumstances (terminally-ill patient experiencing pain, etc.). [3] A 2006 journal claims that "Americans have consistently favored the freedom to end one's life when the perceived quality of life has significantly diminished..." [4] In another Gallup poll, this one surveying 1,003 adult Americans, found that 71% support euthanasia in the case of terminally-ill patients. [5]. So, my opponent may challenge the validity of one poll, but he would not dare to challenge the validity of the several polls I have cited here. Public opinion is clearly in favour of legalising euthanasia, and law-makers should act to reflect the opinions of the public.

My opponent claims that "people with physical handicapps [sic]... could simply starve to death...". It takes the average person four to six weeks to starve to death. [6] The symptoms of starvation include diarrhea, rashes, hallucinations, insomnia, [7] vomiting, impaired immunity (such that other diseases may be acquired, furthering the suffering for the patient) [8], hypothermia, depression, anxiety and heart attack. [9] This places the patient in an even more undignified position than previously. If diarrhea or vomiting occurs, the quadriplegic patient would not be able to clean the waste off their body. Imagine experiencing this for over a month. Life would be even more hellish than previously. In contrast, if euthanasia was legalised, such a terminally-ill patient would be able to receive an injection and pass away almost instantly in a peaceful state, without waiting for over a month to relieve themselves from the pain.

To conclude my case, I would like to address the questions that my opponent posed to me in the previous round. Firstly, we are not debating whether a healthy person has the "right to die". I would like to remind my opponent of the inclusion of the term "terminally-ill" in the debate topic. However, if I were to address this point briefly, I would direct my opponent to his argument in Round 1 of this debate, where he stated that if a person could "muster up the strength to commit suicide on his own (e.g. hanging, slashing of the wrists) then he may do so. His "right to death" is not being abridged, as death is still an option to him." The difference with terminally-ill patients is that they are often not able to commit suicide by their own accord due to factors such as immobility, age, etc. To address the second question posed by my opponent, no, I do not believe that relieving a terminally-ill patient of their pain by allowing them to pass away devalues human life. Killing somebody who wishes to continue living is another situation altogether. However, somebody who no longer wishes to live should be able to have their wishes respected. In response my opponent's third question, I would like to make clear what a terminal illness is. It appears that my opponent may be under the impression that a terminal illness is always accompanied by some kind of mental impairment from the wording of their third question. In most cases, a terminal illness does not affect the mental capacity of the patient at all. In instances such as cancer, the brain continues to function as usual. Just like a terminally-ill patient has the mental capacity to write a will or even vote, they have the mental capacity to exercise their right to die.

Finally, I would like my opponent to consider the words of Bob Dent, a 66-year-old prostate cancer sufferer from Australia who died under a short-lived euthanasia law there in 1996. 'If I were to keep a pet animal in the same condition I am in, I would be prosecuted. If you disagree with voluntary euthanasia, then don't use it, but don't deny the right to me to use it.' [10]

As this will be my last chance to argue on this topic during this debate, I would like to thank my opponent for such worthy opposition and wish him well in his future endeavours.













Republican95 forfeited this round.
Debate Round No. 3
2 comments have been posted on this debate. Showing 1 through 2 records.
Posted by Kinesis 7 years ago
Hmm...I think there are serious problems with the legalisation of Euthanasia. I might take this.
Posted by abard124 7 years ago
Right to live, right to die.
2 votes have been placed for this debate. Showing 1 through 2 records.
Vote Placed by BellumQuodPacis 7 years ago
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Vote Placed by twin 7 years ago
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