Confronting Physician-Assisted Suicide and Euthanasia
The article written by Susan Wolf urges the readers to reevaluate their views on euthanasia and assisted suicide. Certainly, people should look at this moral dilemma from the perspective of the patients who suffer from a painful and terminal illness.
Yet, they should not forget about their immediate duties towards these patients. Susan Wolf does not provide a definitive answer about the acceptability of assisted suicide, but she believes that it is the moral obligation of a person to make sure that his or her relative is surrounded with love, care, and support. This is the decision that I can uphold; nonetheless, there are specific circumstances that can justify euthanasia from a moral standpoint.
First, at this point, it is rather difficult for me to say how I would have responded to this tragic issue, because I have never had to encounter such situations. Most likely, I would try to ensure that my relative or beloved person gets every form of care that can be provided by medical professionals. Moreover, it would have been my duty to offer this person moral support.
Yet, I understand that there are some challenges that one can face in such situations. Susan Wolf shows that sometimes even medical professionals can be callous toward patients and their relatives. For instance, the author was told that her father had to leave hospital even though he could hardly eat or walk (Wolf, 2008, p. 24). I also have to admit that such a tragic moment may result in fear, anxiety, or even nervous breakdown.
In such circumstances, it might be difficult for me to collect myself without showing any signs of depression. Despite these challenges, I would do my best to support the person whom I love.
In my view, this is best moral choice that can be made in a situation like that; otherwise I would feel qualms of consciousness for abandoning a relative or a beloved person at the time when he or she needed my support most. It would be difficult for me to live with this feeling.
There is another aspect of this dilemma. Susan Wolf says that she refused her father when he asked for “a fast death” (Wolf, 2008, p. 24). In part, she justifies this decision by arguing that medical workers did everything to ease his pain. Moreover, she says that he “died loved and loving” meaning that she stayed with him until the end (Wolf 2008, 26).
I would also not support the idea of assisted suicide provided that that there was at least some way of relieving the pain of a person who is close to me. Additionally, the idea of euthanasia is not acceptable for me because it implies that I abandoned this person. I do admit that my choice is not motivated by sense of duty, but by the willingness to appease my conscience. Still, I think that my behavior would have been similar to that one of Susan Wolf.
However, some arguments provided by this author can be debated. First, one has to take into account that a person, who has a terminal illness, may not tell others about his or her sufferings. Susan Wolf’s father might have been unwilling to distress his daughter knowing that she was also undergoing a terrible ordeal. The author says that attending to her father’s needs was her moral duty (Wolf 2008, 26).
She views this moral dilemma from the perspective of deontological ethics emphasizes moral obligations of a person (Mosser, 2010). Nonetheless, one can also argue that our duty is to relieve the sufferings of people who are dear to us. Hence, it is possible to assume that euthanasia can be an ethically acceptable option. In some circumstances, it can be an act of mercy that everyone deserves.
Furthermore, one should not forget that in some cases, a family may not be able to afford medication and treatment. Susan Wolf acknowledges that her children stayed with her husband, in other words, she had a person who she could rely on (Wolf, 2008, p. 25).
Yet, a single parent may find it extremely difficult to tear between the needs of a dying relative and the needs of children. So, in this case, one cannot speak about moral callousness, more likely such a situation represents physical impossibility to act out of duty. Thus, one has to remember that there are circumstances that prevent people from acting like the author did.
Overall, the article by Susan Wolf poses many thought-provoking questions to a reader, and almost every answer to them can be debated. Overall, I support her willingness and readiness to stay with her father.
I also believe that it is a moral obligation to support our family members during trying times, even if there is virtually no hope for recovery. However, I also believe that relieving the sufferings of a dear person can also be an act of love. Such cases illustrate that there is no universal rule for evaluating moral aspects of euthanasia, and this issue is surely open to debate.
Mosser, K. (2010). A Concise Introduction to Philosophy. San Diego: Bridgepoint Education.
Wolf, S. (2008). Confronting physician-assisted suicide and euthanasia: my father’s death. Hastings Center Report, 38(5), 23-26.
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