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Ethical Issues Pertaining to Euthanasia

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Essay title: Ethical Issues Pertaining to Euthanasia


Ethical Issues Pertaining to Euthanasia

Sidrah Fariq


Condemned German:

"But we didn't think it would go that far."

American judge:

"It went that far the very first time you condemned an innocent human being."

(Conversation in the American motion picture "Judgment at Nuremburg")

The paper elaborates on the above argument that held sway after the World War II. It throws light on one of the most controversial ethical dilemmas of today’s time and age, “Euthanasia”. Euthanasia which dates as far back as 1920, doesn’t fail to raise eyebrows when piqued over. With nations like, Luxemburg, Belgium, Netherlands legalizing it while others like United States, England, ripped through amongst its proponents and opponents, debates over euthanasia stand out hot and fiery.

Various arguments are cited, along with the pros and cons as assessed by different segments of the society. While the advocates demand autonomy and support euthanasia on privacy grounds, opponents fear abuse of power and breach of human code of conduct will follow post euthanasia legalization.

An objective overview of the statistics pertaining to euthanasia is also mentioned and a plea for a shift in thought process is appealed for.

Ethical Issues Pertaining to Euthanasia

Euthanasia has oft been juxtaposed with mercy killing. Literally speaking, it means killing a person to alleviate him/her of pain. Mercy killing represents a serious ethical dilemma. Death is an inevitable reality and clauses leading to it are in-numerable. People do not always die well. Euthanasia seems to be a compassionate way of killing people relieving them of the pain and suffering.

The history of euthanasia traces back to 1928 when the book “ Permitting the Destruction of Life not Worthy of Life" was published by Alfred Hoche, M.D., a professor of psychiatry at the University of Freiburg, and Karl Binding, a professor of law from the University of Leipzig.

The book laid the foundations of the Nazi Euthanasia program (1939). The order by Hitler decreed the ‘killing of unworthy people’. It started off from newborns, midwives and stumbled upon disabled and the aged. The United States passed a bill in 1998 to legalize euthanasia in Oregon followed by Netherlands and Belgium in 2000 and 2002 respectively. Very recently, a similar bill in California was shelved as it failed to muster the 41 votes required to pass out of the assembly. **

The irrevocable transition from this world into the next, and the sufferings associated with it, has led to heated debates over legalizing euthanasia. The nature of debate attempts to answer the following ethical questions: Is it right to kill a person on his consent? Does it adhere to moral and religious obligations? The future repercussions? Is it right to put others to death at their own request or at the request of family members? The questions hold important because they shape the culture of our society and the way people deal with life, rituals and death carves the nature of our society.

Over time, euthanasia has shaped into various forms and types:

• Voluntary Euthanasia- When the person who is killed, has requested to be killed.

• Non-Voluntary Euthanasia: When a person is killed without his consent

• Involuntary Euthanasia: When the person is killed against his wishes

• Physician Assisted Suicide: Death due to administration of lethal drugs by oral-ingestion

• Euthanasia by Omission: Intentionally causing death by not providing necessary and ordinary (usual and customary) care or food and water.


According to an opinion poll in the United States, 70% of the citizen supported the clause. "Numerous opinion polls indicate that half the medical profession would like to see assisted dying made a law [sic]. It also appears that about 15 percent of physicians already practice it on justifiable occasions." A careful 1974 British study, which involved extensive interviews and examination of medical records, found that 93 percent of the mentally ill subjects

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