for this Peter Singer is your main man, check out some of his essays and books.
Anyway you can read part of an essay I wrote on the matter if you want. it's not that well written cause it was a day before effort haha
There are several types of euthanasia. Non-voluntary euthanasia occurs when the subject has never had the capacity to live or die. An example of this is a severely disabled infant or someone who has been severely intellectually handicapped from birth. Also included in non-voluntary cases are those who have had the ability to make a choice on euthanasia, but did not have any preference, and are now not capable of making such a choice.
Voluntary euthanasia occurs at the request of the person to be killed. Often voluntary euthanasia is very similar to assisted suicide – this is the type of euthanasia most advocates are campaigning for legislation of.
The third type of euthanasia is involuntary euthanasia. This is different to non-voluntary euthanasia and the two should not be confused. Involuntary euthanasia occurs when the person killed is able to consent to their death, but for some reason doesn’t. This could be because the person in question wasn’t asked, or because the person was asked but chose to continue to live. Singer states:
“Killing someone who has not consented to being killed can properly be regarded as euthanasia only when the motive of killing is the desire to prevent unbearable suffering on the part of the person killed. It is, of course, odd that anyone acting from this motive should disregard the wishes of the person for whose sake the action is done”
It does indeed seem strange that someone would kill someone who would, and can consent to being killed, without first seeking consent. It would seem that in most cases there would be some other motive.
As well as the three types of euthanasia there are two forms that euthanasia may take. Euthanasia may either be passive or active. Active euthanasia involves a deliberate action in order to kill the person suffering. Someone being sedated and then being administered a fatal dose of a poison, for example, would be active euthanasia. Also included in this category are things such as suicide tablets and other methods of invoking euthanasia. Passive euthanasia on the other hand involves a deliberate lack of action. For example, an elderly rest home patient may be restricted to bed and in a very poor state. They may get an infection, which is treatable, and for a healthy person would be treated. With the consent of the patient’s family a decision may be made not to treat the infection, and thus allow the patient to die a natural death from natural causes, which in other circumstances would have been preventable.
For the purposes of this essay only voluntary euthanasia will be considered.
Peter Singer poses a strong argument for voluntary euthanasia. He begins by stating that “death is a benefit for the one killed.” This utilitarian statement is based on act utilitarianism. If the happiness gained from the death were greater than the combined unhappiness, then an artificial death would be acceptable.
A classical utilitarian objection to killing is that killing will spread fear and insecurity. Singer explains that this would not apply in the case of voluntary euthanasia because the individual to die would be willing and give their full consent to their death. For this reason no one should hold a fear of feel insecure about their own death, because if one did not wish to die, they would simply not give consent. This argument is valid, although there is a possibility that elderly citizens may feel pressured to end their life simply because there is an option of euthanasia available. If an elderly citizen were to suffer some medical condition that made them unable to look after themselves, thus requiring then to be moved to a rest home, they may feel that they should choose to end their life instead of consuming their families inheritance. Singer responds to this scenario by stating that it is merely a technicality to be resolved in euthanasia legislation and that the guidelines developed in the Netherlands provide a good example of how to overcome this issue. The guidelines state euthanasia is only acceptable if:
- It is carried out by a physician.
- The patient has explicitly requested euthanasia in a manner that leaves no doubt of the patient’s desire to die.
- The patient’s decision is well informed, free and durable.
- The patient has an irreversible condition causing protracted physical of mental suffering that the patient finds unbearable.
- There is no reasonable alternative (reasonable from the patient’s point of view) to alleviate the patient’s suffering.
- The doctor has consulted another independent professional who agrees with his or her judgment.
With guidelines such as these it seems hard to imagine a situation where one would be pressured into euthanasia. It would be expected that doctors and other health professionals would always act ethically and strictly obey the guidelines, without letting external influences mar their decision.
From a human rights perspective, there are many strong arguments against euthanasia. These negative arguments outweigh the rights of liberty and the concept of self-ownership. Self-ownership as a concept would allow one to choose euthanasia. This is because one is the owner of their body and should therefore be free to do with it as he or she pleases. The right to liberty also should allow the freedom to choose euthanasia, however if euthanasia was legal people may fear that in the future, with further liberalisation that they may be killed against their will. Thus freedoms for one group begin to cause license for another group.
A Human Rights perspective provides a much stronger argument against euthanasia than for. A fundamental right is the right to life. Article 3 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights states: “Everyone has the right to life, liberty and security of person.” Rights are inalienable and cannot be surrendered or given up. As the right to life is perhaps the most important right, it cannot be denied in pursuit of a right to liberty. The International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights further emphasises this in article six. The first statement in article 6 is:
“Every human being has the inherent right to life. This right shall be protected by law. No one shall be arbitrarily deprived of his life.” The fact that it explicitly states “inherent” right to life makes it clear that this is a fundamental right. Dinstein proposes that “…the term “inherent” suggests that the framers of the ICCPR regarded the right to life as part of international customary law.” That law protects the “right to life” further emphasises that this right may not be given up.
Although active euthanasia from a human rights perspective if wrong, it may be possible to allow passive euthanasia. For medical professionals passive euthanasia poses an ethical dilemma. If an elderly patient is in palliative care and receives treatment to cure an infection then the doctor had fulfilled his moral obligation to sustain life. However if the patient did not receive the treatment then they would eventually die as a result. For a doctor this would amount to negligence. However a patient also has a right to accept or deny medical treatment. If the patient is capable of making logical decisions then they are able to make a choice to not receive treatment and thus allow passive euthanasia to occur.
To conclude, Singer provides the most adequate argument for euthanasia. He covers many points and addresses many of the questions raised about euthanasia. He explains in a clear and concise way his reasoning on the matter. The human rights perspective does not satisfactorily provide a reason to allow euthanasia, other than passive euthanasia. Ultimately Human Rights provide a reason as to why euthanasia should remain unlawful.
Kiwi /\ Iwi
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