By Sarah Afzal

June 20th, 2009.
"You matter because you are you
You matter to the last moment of your life,
and we will do all we can,
not only to help you die peacefully,
but also to live until you die."
- Dame Saunders, founder of Hospice

Euthanasia, or mercy-killing, comes from the Greek words ‘eu’, meaning ‘good’, and ‘thanatos’, meaning ‘death’. Hence, it is defined as the intentional killing by act or omission of a dependent human being for their alleged benefit. For example, if a person is terminally ill, the action of dying willfully, say, by withholding treatment, can be described as euthanasia. If the person allows euthanasia to be carried out on him, then this would be voluntary euthanasia. On the other hand, involuntary euthanasia is when the decision is taken by someone on behalf of another person incapable of doing so.

‘Euthanasia by action’, or active euthanasia, is intentionally causing a person’s death by performing an action, such as by giving a lethal injection. However, when death is caused by deliberately not providing usual and customary care or food and water, then this is known as ‘euthanasia by omission’, or non-active euthanasia.

Currently, some forms of euthanasia are legal in Belgium, Luxembourg, The Netherlands, Switzerland, Thailand, and US States of Oregon and Washington.

Not surprisingly, legalizing euthanasia is a very controversial topic. The reasons given in favor of assisted suicide are:
• It provides a way to relieve severe pain.
Today, advances are constantly being made in the treatment of pain and, as they progress, the case for euthanasia is proportionally weakened. Euthanasia advocates stress the cases of unbearable pain as reasons for euthanasia, but then they soon include a "drugged" state, saying that such a state is not dignified. But there is certainly no measure of “dignity”. There is a "slippery slope" effect that has occurred where euthanasia has been first been legalized for only the terminally ill and later laws are changed to allow it for other people or to be done non-voluntarily.
Nearly all pain can be eliminated and - in those rare cases where it can't be eliminated - it can still be reduced significantly if proper treatment is provided. Killing is not the answer to ease pain. The solution is to mandate better education of health care professionals on these crucial issues, to expand access to health care, and to inform patients about their rights.
• Choosing to live or not to live is a matter of choice, and should be allowed in free market systems and liberal democracies.
However, some people argue that euthanasia is not about giving rights to the person who dies but, instead, is about changing the law and public policy so that doctors, relatives and others can directly and intentionally end another person's life. It can lead to tremendous abuse and exploitation for the most vulnerable people among us.
It might also be considered generally unacceptable because most religions, for example Islam and Catholicism, two of the major religions in the world, forbid it.
• It frees up medical funds to help other people with better chances of recovering.
Patients might, however, be put under psychological pressure to consent to euthanasia rather than be a pressure on their families.
People who support euthanasia often say that it is already considered permissible to take human life under some circumstances such as self defense - but they miss the point that when one kills for self defense they are saving innocent life - either their own or someone else's. With euthanasia no one's life is being saved - life is only taken.


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