Should a dying patient have the right to require doctors to end his life? Should a doctor be protected from lawsuits if he assistes his patients to kill themselves as required? Those pro-euthanasia supporters will give a definite answer “Yes”, but they overlook the potential threat behind this “assisted suicide”.
Euthanasia, also called “mercy killing”, is one of the most controversial issues in nowaday society. Many people approve such a quiet and easy way of death and argue that euthanasia should be legalized. But in fact, euthanasia is in conflict with most religions and will bring tremendous negative influences to the whole society. Therefore it should never be legalized. The main reasons can be listed as follows.
Point 1: euthanasia violates the religious beliefs of many nations and the legitimation of euthanasia will probably provoke opposition of those devout religious people. The matter of death constitutes one of the most important things that religions deal with. Almost every faith pays special attention to death. According to most religions, all human life is sacred, and is worth protecting. In Qur’an, the holy book of Islam, it is clearly stated that “when their time comes they cannot delay it for a single hour nor can they bring it forward by a single hour”, that is to say the length of one’s life is destined, we can never do anything to interfere with it. Only Allah has the right to end it. Similarly, life is a gift from God, according to Christianity. It is wrong to meddle in the process of dying, whether in form of murder, suicide or euthanasia, since the right to decide death belongs to God alone. In addition, the Jewish tradition also regards human life with supreme moral values and forbids doing anything that might shorten life.
Almost all religions object to euthanasia, so the legitimation of euthanasia will undoutedly pose challenges to religions. What would that lead to then? The rules of religions are destroyed and people will be puzzled and then lose their belief in religions. The devout religious people may feel offended and try to get rid of those pro-euthanasia ones who originally were part of them. The religious schools gradually break down and without the restriction of religion in a society, there is sure to be a sharp increase in the crime rate. The social stability will be under threat.
We must die some day, but our religions tell us that we are not allowed to arrange our death. The legitimation of euthanasia replaces the role of God with some earthly human beings. Considering the great shock it will cause to religions, “the power to play with people’s lives should not be handed out under a legal or medical disguise.” (Hassan, 2008, p. 25)
Point 2: the legitimation of euthanasia can easily be abused, by the doctors, relatives of the patient, even the government. If someone is going to inherit one million dollars when his aunty dies, and when he is offered an opportunity to give her a lethal injection, might the heir not find it alluring? In another case, a doctor makes a mistake in an operation which results in the death of the patient. Might he ascribe the medical accident to the patient’s will of euthanasia? If euthanasia is made legal, we have to face the fact that someone with evil intention will be glad to take advantage of this legal loophole, especially those persons around the patient. For the family members, when it comes to financial considerations, it is quite possible for the family to resort to euthanasia, in order to get rid of the big burden–the patient. For the relevant doctors, they are provided with a reasonable excuse to cover up their potential medical mistakes. And as Pidd (2009) stated, those who could have died well in excellent nursing and care will die unwillingly because they are forced to do so.
Additionally, a government usually needs to allocate funds to look after the dying patients. And medical welfare cost always takes up a high percentage in a country”s payout. Once euthanasia becomes legal, the government can reduce the paying for treatment and care simply by replacing them with euthanasia. Is it likely to happen? No one can tell but such risk does exist and will weaken many other public services which are aimed at caring for the dying patient, or others like services offered in homes for the aged (the government can also replace the services for old people with euthanasia).
For one thing, it is sure that legalizing euthanasia will make it appearl to all citizens and imply an irresponsible way to deal with the dying patients. People becomes indifferent to the elderly and ” the right to death ” will probably become “the duty to death”. (Frey, 1998, p. 107)
Point 3: the legitimation of euthanasia will weaken a patient’s will to fight with diseases. It is a fact but seldom known by the public that euthanasia is unnecessary in many cases. According to David (1992),
“the failure to adequately treat the pain and other symptoms experienced by the terminally ill patient is confused with a lack of choice and dignity in the dying process. And the poor education and training in pain and symptom management received by health-care professionals often results in uncontrolled symptoms, during which time a patient may request euthanasia. Despite this situation, however, terminal patients rarely ask for euthanasia or assisted suicide.” (p.69-70)
When patients lack necessary knowledge about the pain or disease, they tend to exaggerate their illness and relate them to death. As a result, they require euthanasia because of they can not bear the pain rather than they are not strong enough to beat the disease. It is a tragedy for someone who takes euthanasia as they could have lived a longer time as long as they sick with it.
“where there is life, there is hope”. Euthanasia is totally against this saying. It denies the willpower of human nature, denies hopes in life, and even denies the worthwhile existence of human being. Life is more valuable because of hardship. After one’s struggle with death, he becomes tougher and tougher. But euthanasia takes this opportunity away. Instead, it offers those mentally impotent persons an escape from physical discomfort, from the potential power of their will, from a truly meaningful life. It deprives many people of the opportunity to rise from the ashes, like the phoenix, and should therefore be forbiddened.
Objection: some pro-euthanasia people hold that euthanasia represents the freedom of one’s will and saves his dignity when he dies. Euthanasia is the symbol of democracy. It is not true. Euthanasia seems to guarantee a dignified death, but it in fact exposes the impotence of man’s character: he is unable to confront himself with the fact and lacks strong confidence to change his fate. Besides, euthanasia gives someone the right to kill another and others the excuse to free them from the dying patients. Because of it, the patients “were sufferers, they were helpless, they were hopeless, they were burdens.” (Ervin, 2002, para. 5) In some degree, it questions the values of humanity. From the human angle, euthanasia should apply only to people who are so valueless that they don’t deserve a life, but how can there be someone like this? Since the legalization of euthanasia will raise serious moral and social issues, the legitimation of it will surely result in tremendous catastrophic consequences in society.
In conclusion, euthanasia is virtually an act helping people die. It promotes abuse, gives doctors the right to murder and is contradictory to religious beliefs. Besides, like Rayfield (2010) said, there are much more better choices except euthanasia if we want to create a society focusing on compassion and care and helping dying people. The legalization of euthanasia hinder the development of truly sympathy to the care of the dying and can arise many