Euthanasia represents one of the oldest issues in medical ethics.
It is forbidden in the original Hippocratic Oath, and has consistently been opposed by most religious traditions since antiquity – other than, incidentally, abortion, which has only been formally banned by the Catholic Church since the middle of the 19th century. I will limit myself in this article to the issue of assisted death, which seems to me to be one of the most pressing issues of our time.
Most of those issues (for example the danger of the exploitation of vulnerable patients) I believe, can be satisfactorily dealt with by regulation.
The most compelling argument in favour of physician assisted suicide or voluntary active euthanasia is the argument in support of committing suicide in a democracy.
I hope I am treated with compassion and allowed to pass onto the next phase of life’s journey in the manner of my choice.
Assisted death can take the form of physician assisted suicide (PAS).It is, so the argument goes, not inhumane or irreverent to assist such patients – particularly if they clearly and repeatedly so request – to bring their lives to an end.I am personally much more in favour of the pro-PAS and pro-VAE positions, although the arguments against do raise issues that need to be addressed.Intractable terminal suffering robs the victims of most of their dignity.In addition, medical science and practice is currently capable of an unprecedented prolongation of human life.In support of physician assisted suicide or voluntary active euthanasia, the argument is often made that, as people have the right to live with dignity, they also have the right to die with dignity.Some medical conditions are simply so painful and unnecessarily prolonged that the capability of the medical profession to alleviate suffering by means of palliative care is surpassed.Both clearly are observable and describable actions, and both are the direct causes of the patient’s death.There are a number of reasons for the opposition to physician assisted suicide or voluntary active euthanasia.The term “voluntary active euthanasia” suggests that there also is a passive form of euthanasia.It is passive in the sense that nothing is “actively” done to kill the patient, but that nothing is done to deter the process of dying either, and that the termination of life-support which is clearly futile, is permitted.