Why Euthanasia Should Not Be Legal in the US

Introduction

The legalization and ethical justifying of euthanasia have been widely discussed for many years. The moral question of whether one has a right to decide who can live and die is an eternal argument for humanity. Some people believe that physician-assisted suicide should be a free choice and be available for everyone. On the other hand, others think that it is unethical and has a significant negative impact on both doctors and society. There are many reasons for not accepting euthanasia as lawful action, such as moral, ethical, and religious, which define human nature and social rules. Changing those laws can have unexpected consequences, and most of them are negative. Therefore, euthanasia should not be legal in the United States.

Main body

There are some countries, which passed the law about the legalization of euthanasia for some groups of patients. For example, Denmark, the Netherlands provide this service for people who have untreatable sicknesses or genetic condition that is inconsistent with life (Lane). These countries prepared the list of health conditions that also include mental illnesses, which would justify the procedure (Shibata 154). However, in these countries, it can be allowed by parents’ agreement if their ward is not capable of making a decision (Lane). Moreover, the procedure can be done on children, and even infants who experience unbearable physical pain (Lane). Other countries, which discuss making euthanasia legal, also debate about the circumstances in which such a procedure can be implemented in healthcare. It is clear that the law for making euthanasia legal must include the free choice of a person who wishes for it.

Not only ethical issues are involved in the matter of making euthanasia legal but also moral and religious. First of all, doctors swear to save the lives of patients and not harm them intentionally (Angelotti). However, ethically, euthanasia contradicts this principle; in this case, it justifies the murder of a patient, whom a doctor vows to protect. Although it could be accepted legally, it is ethically wrong. Moreover, this gives doctors the right to judge in which situation a person is worth saving, which is also ethically and morally wrong since doctors must treat patients regardless of their health state.

On the other hand, there are situations when a patient has an injury that will eventually cause a long and painful death, and the only way doctors could ease the pain of such a patient is to inject a dose of the drug that can be lethal (Angelotti). For example, one such case was described by Levin: an accident happened and caused Jennifer Cowart’s body to be burnt entirely without a chance to recover. Doctors could not give her painkillers because the injuries were too severe, and any drugs would kill her (Levin). According to the law and medical ethics, practitioners could not give the woman any drugs to ease the pain, since it would be lethal for her (Levin). Therefore, Cowart had spent a year suffering from enormous pain and eventually died from an infection (Levin). In this case, some people would argue that it would be morally and ethically justified to stop the woman from suffering.

As the medics are those who perform this procedure, it is crucial to study their opinion on the issue. There are doctors who see it rather challenging to address the suffering of a terminally ill patient as a harmful action since it is actually their obligation. According to Quill, part of any medic’s job “is to help people die better” (“Top 10 Pro & Con Arguments”). Doctors have to be committed to caring for patients and relieving their suffering all the way through their illness to death, even if the medics are those who have to perform physician-assisted suicide.

The opponents of euthanasia consider it ethically wrong since it violates moral and religious values. Almost every religion teaches that people were created in the image of God; therefore, only God can decide who can live and who can die. Moreover, people do not have the moral right to make such a decision (Hicks). However, the supporters of physician-assisted suicide believe that a terminally sick person deserves a right to end his or her life in a humane and companionate way. They also think that an individual who suffers physically and/or mentally does not deserve to be persuaded to experience that pain.

Legalizing euthanasia would give people with incurable diseases and unbearable pain the right to die if they want to. However, in that case, what are the health conditions that qualify for euthanasia? Moreover, would people who suffer from depression or have suicidal thoughts be eligible for the procedure? Making physician-assisted suicide legal would trigger the social fight for justice and equality (Banovic 169). If only some groups of people are given the right to die, from the social point of view, it would be unfair to the rest of them. This is the Pandora box that humanity will have to deal with if euthanasia is legal.

Another critical issue is the difference between euthanasia and suicide. Most cultures and religions consider suicide immoral, and people who commit it are seen as the greatest sinners (Hicks). It does not mean that they deny killing, but rather judge it and argue that it is wrong. They believe that people are God’s creation, and it is not for them to decide when and how to end their lives. Since religion and its traditions are deeply rooted in society, this point of view should be considered as well when debating about legalizing euthanasia.

Furthermore, the supporters of euthanasia legalization mostly focus on the freedom of choice and self-determination. It is, however, important to see this issue more closely. For example, making physician-assisted suicide legal would send a negative message to people with disabilities (Ripamonti). Modern society, in many cases, does not accept disabled people as equal members of the community. Therefore, even if their disability does not cause them pain, it still can qualify them for performing this procedure. Although, even if such a case was justified legally, it would be wrong ethically and morally.

One of the essential points to consider in opposing the legalization of euthanasia is the cost of healthcare in the United States. Many people cannot afford it, especially those who have long-term treatment for terminal illnesses (Angelotti). Moreover, the bureaucracy in some medical facilities and their rejection of some ways of treatment caused patients’ death. This issue also includes the under-funding of many programs that are sponsored by the government. At the same time, the cost of medication used for euthanasia is much cheaper. Therefore, patients with serious sicknesses who cannot afford long-term treatment would be able to qualify for euthanasia. However, such patients could also possibly recover if they receive the necessary medical assistance. From this perspective, the legalization of physician-assisted suicide would have significant negative consequences for people and healthcare in general.

Moreover, some societies that make euthanasia legal and determine suicide as a person’s own decision sooner or later may start pressuring ill people and ask them to make the right choice and kill themselves. Unfortunately, some patients want doctors to perform euthanasia not because of suffering or the fear of future pain but due to concerns like becoming a burden on others or losing dignity (“Top 10 Pro & Con Arguments”). Hence, this problem has to be solved before debating about legalizing euthanasia.

If to look at the problem from a non-religious point of view, it is hard to disagree that the right to decide whether to continue living or die should be a matter of personal choice. According to the rules of freedom, as long as a person does not harm anyone else, he or she and all other people are able to choose everything in their lives by themselves. Such decisions start from who one wants to marry and end with the choice of the way and time of death. When people come to the end of their lives, it does not matter whether they are elderly or have a terminal illness. They all should have a choice of what will happen to them.

The freedom of choice and self-determination, which are the main points of those who support euthanasia, is exaggerated in this issue. A patient who signed up for the procedure does not perform it personally, but instead, it is executed by the authorized medical worker (Banovic 175). After the patient puts the signature, every action is done without his or her involvement. Unlike suicide, where one controls one’s actions, euthanasia does not require one even being conscious. Therefore, the freedom of choice and self-determination are dismissed when the decision is made.

There is a possibility of a doctor’s or laboratory mistake that exists and should be considered as well. In many cases, patients receive a false diagnosis or unreliable prognosis (Ripamonti). Moreover, sometimes a mistake occurs in a laboratory, and incorrect analysis results are provided. Such mistakes make a patient assume that he or she has an incurable disease or a progressive decline. The provided documentation and doctor’s expertise would justify euthanasia. However, in reality, these patients’ health conditions are not as severe, moreover, they can recover, live longer, or they would not suffer from pain.

Conclusion

Legalizing physician-assisted suicide would have a negative effect on elderly people as well. Many of them have health conditions due to their age, and thus, they need continuous care (Shibata 158). However, the issue is that their children sometimes cannot provide them with it themselves, and they have no resources to hire a nurse. Therefore, often, elderly people spend the rest of their lives in nursing homes, some of which also do not offer good quality care or even living conditions. Making euthanasia legal would give elderly people false assumptions that it could be an option to not burden their family and to avoid a nursing home.

The arguments stated above support the idea that euthanasia contradicts ethical, moral, and religious beliefs. It also is medically unethical since doctors are supposed to save lives regardless of the state of health. Moreover, the legalization of physical-assisted suicide can have a negative effect on society and healthcare, and it can lead people to falsely assume that they have the right to die rather than to live. Finally, it can cause many bureaucratic mistakes, which would result in healthy people choosing to perform the procedure. Therefore, euthanasia should not be legalized in the United States.

Works Cited

Angelotti, Julia. “Guest View: For Many Reasons, Euthanasia Should Not Be Legalized.” Daily, Local and Breaking News for Kane County, Illinois – Kane County Chronicle. Web.

Banovic, Božidar. “An Ethical Review of Euthanasia and Physician-Assisted Suicide.” Iran J Public Health, vol. 46, no. 2, 2017, pp. 173–179.

Hicks, Madelyn Hsiao-Rei. “Physician-Assisted Suicide: There Are No Best Practices.” Psychiatric Times, 2019. Web.

Levin, Martin. “Physician-Assisted Suicide – Moral, Legal & Ethical Issues.” Levin Papantonio – Personal Injury Lawyers, 2001. Web.

Manninen, B A. “A Case for Justified Non-Voluntary Active Euthanasia: Exploring the Ethics of the Groningen Protocol.” Journal of Medical Ethics, vol. 32, no. 11, 2006, pp. 643–651., doi:10.1136/jme.2005.014845.

Ripamonti, Lidia. “If Assisted Dying Is Legalised, Who Gets to Decide Whose Life Is Worth Living?” The Conversation, 2020. Web.

Shibata, Benjamin. “An Ethical Analysis of Euthanasia and Physician-Assisted Suicide: Rejecting Euthanasia and Accepting Physician Assisted Suicide with Palliative Care.” Journal of Legal Medicine, vol. 37, no. 1-2, 2017, pp. 155–166., doi:10.1080/01947648.2017.1303354.

“Top 10 Pro & Con Arguments. Should Euthanasia or Physician-Assisted Suicide Be Legal?” ProCon.Org, 2018. Web.