My impression is that the idea of euthanasia, if not the practice, is gradually gaining acceptance within our society. People like Jack Kevorkian attribute this to an increasing inclination to devalue human life, but I do not believe that this is the major factor. The acceptance of euthanasia is much more likely to be the result of unthinking sympathy and benevolence. It is an easy step from this very human response to the view that if someone would be better off dead, then it must be right to kill that person. Although I respect the compassion that leads to this conclusion, I believe that this conclusion is wrong. I want to show that euthanasia is wrong. It is inherently wrong, but it is also wrongly judged from the standpoints of self-interest and of practical effects.
Before presenting my arguments, it would be well to define "euthanasia". An essential aspect of euthanasia is that it involve taking a human life. Also, the person whose life is taken must be someone who is believed to be suffering from an incurable disease or injury from which recovery cannot reasonably be expected. Finally the action must be deliberate and intentional. Therefore euthanasia is intentionally taking the life of a presumably hopeless person.
It is important to be clear about the deliberate and intentional aspect of the killing. If a hopeless person is given an injection of the wrong drug by mistake and this causes his/her death, this is wrongful killing but not euthanasia. The killing cannot be the result of an accident. In addition, if the person is given an injection of a drug that is believed to be necessary to treat their disease or better their condition and the person dies as a result, then this is neither wrongful killing nor euthanasia. The intention was to make the patient well, not kill them.
Every human being has a natural inclination to continue living. Our reflexes and responses fit us to fight attackers, flee wild animals, and dodge out of the way of trucks. In our daily lives we exercise caution and care necessary to protect ourselves. Our bodies are similarly structured for survival right down to the molecular level. When we are cut, our capillaries seal shut, our blood clots, and fibrogen is produced to start the process of healing the wound. When we are invaded by bacteria, antibodies are produced to fight against the alien organism, and their remains are swept out of the body by special cells designed for clean-up work.
It is enough I believe to recognize that the organization of the human body and our patterns of behavioral response make the continuation of life a natural goal. By reason alone, then, we can recognize that euthanasia sets us against our own nature. In addition euthanasia does damage to our dignity. Our dignity comes from seeking our ends. When one of our goals is survival, and actions are taken that eliminate that goal, then our natural dignity suffers. Therefore, euthanasia denies our basic human character and requires that we regard ourselves or others as something less than fully human.
The above arguments are, I believe, sufficient to show that euthanasia is inherently wrong. But there are reasons for considering it wrong when judged by standards other than reason. Because death is final and irreversible, euthanasia contains within it the possibility that we will work against our own interest if we practice it or allow it to be practiced on us.
Contemporary medicine has high standards of excellence and has a proven record of accomplishment, but it does not possess perfect and complete knowledge. A mistaken diagnosis is possible, and so is a mistaken prognosis. Consequently, we may believe that we are dying of a disease when as a matter of fact, we may not be. We may think that we have no hope of recovery when, as a matter of fact, our chances are quite good. In such circumstances, if euthanasia were permitted, we would die for no reason. Death is final and the chance of error is too great to approve the practice of euthanasia.
There have been many cases where spontaneous remissions have occurred. For no apparent reason, a patient simply recovers when those around him/her, including physicians, expected the patient to die. Euthanasia would just guarantee their expectations and leave no room for the miraculous recoveries that frequently occur.
Finally, knowing that we can take our own life's at any time (or ask another to take it) we tend to give up, and rely on euthanasia. The will to live is strong in all of us, but it can be weakened by pain and suffering and the feeling of hopelessness. If during a bad time we allow ourselves to be killed, we would never have a chance to reconsider. Recovery from a serious illness requires that we fight for it, and anything that weakens out determination by suggesting that there is an easy way out is ultimately against our own interest. Also, we may be inclined towards euthanasia because of our concern for others. If we see our sickness and suffering as an emotional and financial burden on our family, we may feel that to leave our life is to make their lives easier.
Doctors and nurses, for the most part, are totally committed to saving lives. A life lost for them is almost a personal failure, an insult to their skills and knowledge. Euthanasia as a practice might alter this. It could have a corrupting influence so that in any case that is severe doctors and nurses might not try hard enough to save the patient. They might decide that the patient would simply be "better off dead" and that the steps necessary to help that person would not be carried out. This attitude could then carry over to their dealing with patients less seriously ill. The result would be an overall decline in the quality of medical care.
I hope that I have succeeded in showing why the good will that inclines us to give approval of euthanasia is mislaid. Euthanasia is inherently wrong because it violated the nature and dignity of human beings. But even those who are not convinced by this must be persuaded that the potential personal and social dangers inherent in euthanasia are sufficient to forbid our approving it as a personal practice.
Suffering is surely a terrible thing, and we have a clear duty to comfort those in need and to ease their suffering when we can. But suffering is also a natural part of life with values for the individual and for others that we should not overlook. We may legitimately seek for others and for ourselves and pain-less death. Euthanasia, however, is not just an easeful death. It is a wrongful death. Euthanasia is not just dying. It is killing.
Source: Essay UK - http://www.essay.uk.com/coursework/presiou-life.php