End of Life

Life is perceived as one of the greatest values in all cultures and societies.

Nonetheless, there are situations such as the cases of terminally ill patients, who experience a great amount of pain, when death seems more beneficial than life in suffering. Euthanasia is the practice of painless killing of a person by the physician directed to stop the suffering of the former. Today, a considerable number of common people share the view that mercy killing is one of the best ways to relieve either themselves or their loved ones from unbearable pain caused either by some illness or injury. Besides, many professional physicians believe that it is one of their principal duties to stop the sufferings of their patients by offering them assisted suicide if no available treatments work. However, in almost all countries in the world euthanasia is illegal due to a range of reasons. Therefore, a close analysis of pros and cons and our opinion essay of euthanasia shows that physician-assisted suicide for terminally ill patients is a preferable alternative to mere waiting of death in agony, which needs to be considered as a humane act of mercy and thus legalized on the global scale.

The question of euthanasia causes the argument on several levels. Firstly, it is important to understand whether patients benefit from the physician-assisted death or not. The opinions of specialists divided. Some believe that even though the value of life is great, it is still not infinite (Goligher et al., 2017). The doctors assert that in some cases, the life of the patient should not be prolonged, especially if the cost of lengthening one’s life entails intolerable suffering. Hence, deciding to choose withdrawing from the life-sustaining therapy can be beneficial even if it causes early death of the patient, who could have still lived for some time. On the other hand, certain physicians claim that it is acceptable to treat physical pain of the individual even if there is a great possibility that the procedure aimed at relieving this pain might shorten life (Goligher et al., 2017). Moreover, for many terminally-ill patients, the motivation to ask for euthanasia is not the physical suffering, but deterioration or loss of their dignity, weakness, loss of control, tiredness, and pointless suffering. If the patients realize that there is no effective treatment of their disease, death becomes the only way to end all this agony. Therefore, euthanasia offers a solution to these issues because the burden of suffering usually outweighs the positive aspects of being alive. In this way, physician-assisted death allows honoring the patient’s reasonable decision to end his or her life.

The opponents of euthanasia stress that even though death can stop one’s physical suffering, it is still not a benefit. Some specialists state that death can be advantageous only if patients are better off dead, but it is almost impossible to determine whether this statement is true for particular individuals (Goligher et al., 2017). Such an approach to understanding death is based primarily on the inability to comprehend the nature of death. Medicine follows the critical evidence standard in the decision-making process. Some people assume that death is just the opposite to existence, and that not to exist is a much better condition than to live in permanent suffering. All humans have a personal belief about the existence or non-existence of life after death. However, these assumptions are not based on any empirical evidence. Science cannot examine the afterlife in order objectively evaluate its nature and qualities. Therefore, certain specialists assert that the absence of evidence from the afterlife does not prove that it actually does not exist (Goligher et al., 2017). Thus, it becomes impossible to confidently claim that death has any benefit over life, even the one full of suffering. Another reason why physicians reject the idea that death is better than life in sufferings is the claim that the process of dying with all its unwanted negative characteristics can offer a number of advantages. For example, it causes existential and spiritual healing, helps establishing personal wholeness as well as closer and more meaningful relations with the patient’s loved ones. Nevertheless, forcefully ending the life might deprive the patient of such a form of healing.

The physician’s role in the death of the patient is also actively discussed. Some believe that causing death of terminally-ill patients is morally acceptable. The supporters of euthanasia assert that the consent of the patient is a key factor that allows distinguishing physician-assisted death from criminal murder (Goligher et al., 2017). The voluntary agreement to be killed changes the essence of the process of patient killing. Therefore, the nature of euthanasia becomes equal to surgeries; hence, people agree to be operated, and it is legal and morally acceptable, even though knife assaults are perceived as crimes. Additionally, physicians are expected to respect the decisions of their patients. Some individuals know they are about to die because their disease is incurable, and eventually the illness would cause them a lot of suffering. It is argued that such patients should be permitted to terminate their life when they want without the need to wait and experience intolerable pain. Thereby, patients should decide themselves on the quantity and quality of their life, and euthanasia must not be presented as a crime in this regard.

The opponents of euthanasia stress that intentional killing of the patient performed by the healthcare professional is unethical because it contradicts the fundamental moral principle of medicine, namely to respect, value and preserve human life. Medicine is based on the idea that every individual has a value, and this value is more important than any other factors or circumstances (Goligher et al., 2017). The deliberate death destroys this value and turns a personality into nobody. Moreover, it is believed that euthanasia undertaken out of respect of the patient’s preferences makes the latter more valuable than human life. If the physician refuses to kill the patient, who thinks that he or she is not worthy of living, such a professional supports the value of the person. However, if the doctor is ready to kill another individual, such a specialist breaks the medical code of ethics because the human value is neglected (Goligher et al., 2017). Thus, for opponents of euthanasia the person is more significant than his or her preferences because only respect of the value of individual’s life can allow further respect of individual preferences. Additionally, trust between the patient and the physician is based on the idea that the doctor will never harm the patient, and healthcare providers will certainly care about the ill out of respect to their personalities and life. Thereby, it is believed that involvement of medical practitioners in the acts of killing might break the patient-physician relations of trust.

On the legislative level, the attitude towards euthanasia is negative in the majority of cases. Even the discussion concerning legalization of euthanasia continues on the global scale, there are only two countries in the world today that acknowledged assisted dying as legal. In 2002, Belgium and the Netherlands passed the laws that made euthanasia legally acceptable. According to the law, physicians are allowed to help patients end their lives if the latter express a wish to die due to unbearable pain or suffering (Guardian Staff, 2014). In the US, the debate over euthanasia lasted for almost two centuries. By the end of the 19th century assisted dying was banned in almost all states, but by the middle of the 20th century the Euthanasia Society of America tried to challenge the prohibition of physician-assisted suicide. In 1976, California became the first state to accept the living wills of patients as legal documents that allow the removal of life-sustaining treatment if the person is terminally-ill (Drum, 2016). Today, physician-assisted suicide is legal in five states, in particular Oregon, California, Washington, Montana, and Vermont. The major powers that currently oppose euthanasia in the USA are the American Medical Association, the Roman Catholic church, and other social organizations such as Not Dead Yet and Right to Life (Ball, 2012). Nonetheless, it is possible to highlight that American population is slowly changing its negative attitude towards euthanasia and starts perceiving it as one of the acceptable ways of death.

In my opinion, it is correct to support euthanasia. I think that the majority of those people, who are against physician-assisted dying never faced the issues encountered by the terminally-ill patients. It is clear that people who has incurably-ill relatives or the loved ones would do anything to relieve them from their suffering because it is already a great pain to watch how the person undergoes unbearable anguish. The legal prohibition to willingly die only adds to the general condition of suffering of both the patient and his/her dearest and nearest. The opponents of euthanasia stress that life should be valued more than any circumstances, and doctors must sustain life under any conditions because it is their primary duty and obligation. Still, I think that limiting the ability of an individual to die before he or she experienced extreme pain caused by some illness is also a crime. Firstly, forcing the person to suffer is inhumane and does not align with the idea that healthcare professionals do everything possible to help the patient. Secondly, everyone has the right to decide how to live and how to die; otherwise, it is the violation of human rights. If the illness is incurable, and it can eventually damage the patient’s conscience or make him/her suffer from unbearable pain, such a patient must have the right to terminate the life when he or she is still in control of the situation. By legalizing euthanasia, people would be able to both die with dignity and remove the burden of making complicated decisions from their relatives and loved ones in some cases. Therefore, I support euthanasia and its legalization not only in the USA, but also on the global scale.

In summary, euthanasia is a beneficial alternative to waiting for death in suffering that allows terminally-ill patients to die painlessly with dignity. Life is the greatest value, which any person can possess. However, at the same time, every individual has the right to decide when and how to end their life. No healthcare professional knows what pain and suffering their patients experience. Sometimes forcing a person to live can be more inhumane and cruel than letting him/her die. Thus, euthanasia allows incurably-ill patients take control over their lives and avoid upcoming sufferings or any other disorders that might make life unbearable and painful for both themselves and their loved ones. Even though physician-assisted suicide is illegal in almost all countries in the world, it is a positive and advantageous practice that can alleviate agony of many people.