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Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 4/6/2015 Category: Health
Updated: 3 years ago Status: Post Voting Period
Viewed: 796 times Debate No: 72993
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Hello, Harper
As you pointed out in one of your comments concerning euthanasia, "It shouldn't be the job of the doctor, since medical professionals swear an oath to protect life". Indeed, since doctors" or any medical professional"s duty is to maintain or restore human health, they take an oath in order to uphold specific ethical standards. The most famous one is the Hippocratic Oath that is historically taken by physicians. Most people tend to think that the essence of this oath is embraced by the "do no harm" principle. From this point of view, euthanasia is "harm" and, thus, a wicked deed that can be construed as breaking the oath. Nevertheless, on the other hand, this principle is quite constraining: some medical practices (vaccines, for instance) actually imply "doing harm" to a patient toward successful recovery from a disease or preventing him or her from getting one in the first place. This logic is actually embodied in one of the ancient versions of the Hippocratic Oath: ""and I will take care that they suffer no hurt or damage." Does this contradict the very idea of euthanasia, which is to put people"s sufferings from terminal illnesses to an end? I do not share this opinion. In contrast, I am absolutely sure that easing the pain of these people might even be considered as a duty of medical professionals, since they swear to remove the excruciating pain of their patients.


First off, I'd like to thank sixth_SENse for challenging me to this debate; best of luck to you.

Euthanasia: “the act of putting to death painlessly or allowing to die, as by withholding extreme medical measures, a person or animal suffering from an incurable, especially a painful, disease or condition.” [1]

To make things clear, euthanasia is different from physician assisted suicide (which is not being debated here) in that euthanasia is directly performed by the physician, whereas in physician assisted suicide the role of the physician is more indirect in that he/she only provides the means for death. [2]

The point of contention here, as far as Pro’s introductory argument goes, is whether or not the practice of euthanasia violates the Hippocratic Oath. Of course, one cannot pass judgement on a document that he/she has not read, so here is a copy of the classical Hippocratic Oath for all to read:

“I swear by Apollo Physician and Asclepius and Hygieia and Panaceia and all the gods and goddesses, making them my witnesses, that I will fulfil according to my ability and judgment this oath and this covenant:

To hold him who has taught me this art as equal to my parents and to live my life in partnership with him, and if he is in need of money to give him a share of mine, and to regard his offspring as equal to my brothers in male lineage and to teach them this art - if they desire to learn it - without fee and covenant; to give a share of precepts and oral instruction and all the other learning to my sons and to the sons of him who has instructed me and to pupils who have signed the covenant and have taken an oath according to the medical law, but no one else.

I will apply dietetic measures for the benefit of the sick according to my ability and judgment; I will keep them from harm and injustice.

I will neither give a deadly drug to anybody who asked for it, nor will I make a suggestion to this effect. Similarly I will not give to a woman an abortive remedy. In purity and holiness I will guard my life and my art.

I will not use the knife, not even on sufferers from stone, but will withdraw in favor of such men as are engaged in this work.

Whatever houses I may visit, I will come for the benefit of the sick, remaining free of all intentional injustice, of all mischief and in particular of sexual relations with both female and male persons, be they free or slaves.

What I may see or hear in the course of the treatment or even outside of the treatment in regard to the life of men, which on no account one must spread abroad, I will keep to myself, holding such things shameful to be spoken about.

If I fulfil this oath and do not violate it, may it be granted to me to enjoy life and art, being honored with fame among all men for all time to come; if I transgress it and swear falsely, may the opposite of all this be my lot.” [3]

Argument Directly from Oath
The entire oath was provided for informational purposes; however, the topic of interest is directly addressed in this single quote from the document, “I will neither give a deadly drug to anybody who asked for it, nor will I make a suggestion to this effect”. Obviously, the effect of a physician administering a “deadly drug” will be death, so this statement can be said to be talking about euthanasia, which is the act of intentionally putting a patient to death. Because the Hippocratic Oath requires the oath taker to swear against intentionally putting a patient to death, one can safely conclude that euthanasia is a direct violation of the Hippocratic Oath.

Suffering and Harm
Judgement on whether a specific practice/thing causes harm or not should be done by weighing the costs against the results. For example, intense exercise causes muscle soreness that can last for a couple days. If one were to only look at the pain an individual experiences after exercising, he/she would wrongly conclude that exercise is harmful and should thus be avoided. However, if one were to look at the matter holistically, and weigh the health benefits of exercise and the consequences of a sedentary lifestyle against the pain felt after exercising, he/she would see that exercise is on the whole beneficial to the individual.

Therefore, when the Hippocratic Oath commands the health care provider (physician in this case) to do no harm to the patient, what it is asking from the physician is to avoid that which is on the whole harmful and to do that which is on the whole beneficial to the patient.

So, a drug may give the patient certain side effects and a vaccination may cause some pain from the injection, but in both cases the benefits outweigh the pain or suffering that may have been endured (given that the drug or vaccination was successful, of course).

Does Euthanasia Harm the Patient?
Now the question could become whether or not euthanasia is on the whole harmful or beneficial. It has already been established that one can only determine whether or not something is beneficial by weighing the costs with the results.

In this specific case, the cost is life itself and the result is that the suffering one endured is now over. Passing any sort of judgement on this particular topic requires one to determine how harmful death is in comparison to suffering from illness, since euthanasia results in the death of the patient. This requires us to look at the nature of suffering and death.

What is suffering? Suffering is a state of going through pain and hardship. Suffering can be internal and external, physical and psychological. As far as we know, there is no reason for human suffering, no divine plan behind it all, or any reward for having endured it. It is simply meaningless pain.

What is death? Death is the complete and permanent termination of a life. As far as we know, there is no afterlife or paradise that comes after dying. Just like suffering, there is no reason for it. Death results in an individual no longer existing, and there is no available method of undoing it or completely preventing it. Further, it is possibly the ultimate form of injustice. Why? Because justice concerns what is fair and for an individual to be born into this world a completely helpless and innocent infant and to go through a life filled with meaningless suffering only to be given the death penalty is completely unfair. All other forms of suffering (illness, homelessness, war, etc.) could all be happily endured if it were not for the fact that in the end, death will erase all personal progress and triumph over suffering. So suicide does not solve any problem of suffering, rather it only compounds it with its inherent injustice. It is for this reason that euthanasia is more harmful to the person receiving the treatment than the illness itself.

Not only does euthanasia directly contradict the Hippocratic Oath, it is also a form of harm since it results in death, which is (as we have established) the ultimate form of injustice. So even if one were to disregard the Hippocratic Oath completely, it is still a form of medical malpractice since doctors/physicians are ethically bound to avoid intentionally causing harm to their patients. If the patient him/herself still desires euthanasia, it should be done for them by a professional who is not bound by medical law.





Debate Round No. 1


sixth_SENse forfeited this round.


Since Pro forfieted his round and failed to rebut the case I presented, this is an automatic Con win. Thanks anyway for the debate offer, sith_SENse.
Debate Round No. 2
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Vote Placed by Skepticalone 3 years ago
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Reasons for voting decision: FF by Pro. Conduct to Con.
Vote Placed by dsjpk5 3 years ago
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Reasons for voting decision: Pro ff a round.