Euthanasia – For Legalizing

Table of Contents

The legality issue of Euthanasia has been a subject of heated debate since long. On the global scene, the Netherlands was the first country to legalize Euthanasia in April 2002, followed a month later by Belgium.

Switzerland legalized the practice in December 2005 (Reuters U.K). In the U.K where public support for legalization of Euthanasia rose from 69% in 1976 to 82% in 2004, it is widely expected that Parliament will soon legalize the practice (

In the U.S, many states have been debating the legality issue of Euthanasia but only Oregon has legalized it since 1997 (Reuters U.K). It is my contention that Euthanasia should be legalized all over the country.


The word ‘Euthanasia’ comes from the Greek word ‘Euthanatos’ meaning ‘good health.’ Euthanasia is defined as the deliberate ending of a person’s life by anther person at the specific request of the former. Euthanasia is not the same as other practices such as Physician-Assisted Suicide, Terminal Sedation or Withholding/Withdrawing Life-Sustaining Treatments.

Physician-Assisted Suicide takes place when a physician, responding to specific request from patients, gives information {for example, a prescription for a fatal dose of sleeping pills}, and/or the means {such as a supply of carbon monoxide gas} of committing suicide to patients so that they can easily hasten their death (Religious

Terminal Sedation occurs in cases where the physician administers sufficient sedatives to cause a terminally ill, competent patient to become unconscious, then permitting the patient to die of starvation, dehydration and the disease which has been contracted (Braddock et al.).

Withholding/Withdrawing Life-Sustaining Treatments takes place where a competent patient refuses to continue taking on-going life-sustaining treatment (Braddock et al.) such as the use of ventilators, dialysis, intravenous fluids and feeding tubes.

There are 3 kinds of Euthanasia. Active Euthanasia takes place when a person is put to death as a direct consequence of a request from him or her.

A famous example is the 1998 case involving Jack Kevorkian who caused the death {by lethal injection} of a patient suffering from ALS {Lou Gehrig’s Disease} who begged for a swift and painless death. Passive Euthanasia occurs when the death of a person is speeded up by changing some type of life-support being administered to him or her, thereby paving the way for nature to take its own course.

Examples of Passive Euthanasia include unplugging a respirator, ceasing administration of medications or not performing CPR {cardio-pulmonary resuscitation} on a person whose heart has ceased functioning. Involuntary Euthanasia involves putting to death persons who have not specifically asked for assistance in dying.

This usually occurs in case of those who have slipped into a Persistent Vegetative State and will in all likelihood never regain consciousness (

There is no respect for autonomy

Taking decisions about the time and method of one’s death is considered very personal and confidential. Persons who are terminally ill patients with deadly diseases like ALS, AIDS, Alzheimer’s or Multiple Sclerosis know they will soon die and simply want to exercise control over the process. They cannot tolerate the loss of personal dignity as they are no longer self-sufficient, but have to constantly depend on others for care (

Secondly, such terminally ill persons do not wish to reduce their financial assets by having to constantly pay massive hospital bills as their death draws nearer; they would prefer to die quickly so that their inheritors of their assets will benefit to a greater degree by way of savings of such heavy hospital expenses.

Heavily underlying these reasons is the inescapable fact that they are living in excessive, chronic pain fully knowing that there is no cure for their ailment and that death is inevitable (

Justice is denied

The Constitution of the country dictates that all persons have the freedom of choice. The freedom of choice in this case refers to the right of all persons – whether in good health, slightly ill or terminally ill – to choose if they want to go on living or if they are restrained so heavily by circumstances such as terminal illness to take the decision that they do not want to continue living and that they would be better off dead.

By not legalizing Euthanasia, terminally ill patients are denied the right to court speedier death by taking matters into their own hands. For some of them, death does not come as speedily as they wish, with the result that they have only one option left – death (Braddock et al.). By denying them the right to escape a life of pain that will anyway end in nothing by death, the State is denying terminally ill persons their Constitutional right

Sympathy for the suffering of others

Some illnesses, besides causing intense physical suffering, also cause unbearable psychological burdens to patients (Braddock et al.). A classic example is AIDS. Sufferers of this disease endure horrific suffering as the disease progresses. Their bodily resistance steadily deteriorates, weakness sets in and they literally wither away to death.

Their physical anguish is accompanied by extreme mental suffering as they know that even with the best treatment, their burden of physical and metal suffering will at the most be slight, and that too temporarily, relieved but the onset of death is inevitable.

If these patients may request Euthanasia hasten death, do their loved ones not have the moral duty to end their physical and metal suffering? The key word in this scenario is ‘inevitability.’

The persons who have been entrusted by the patient to administer Euthanasia knows that death is inevitable, therefore, if such death is allowed to come in earlier than scheduled, it is a matter of showing sympathy for the suffering of the patient. In this context, Euthanasia is seen as a compassionate reaction to intense suffering.

Individual liberty vs. State interest

There is no doubt that the State has a strong interest in preserving the life of its citizens. It is understandable and widely expected as a sign of a well-run State because such interest stems from the responsibility entrusted to the State.

Therefore when the State takes precautionary measures to safeguard its citizens such as apprehending thieves and muggers, or interning drug dealers and human smugglers, or punishing rapists and wife batterers, or sentencing serial killers to life imprisonment or capital punishment, these actions are viewed as signs of a government correctly doing the job that it was elected to do.

However, when it turns into a matter of private {as opposed to the above various forms of public safeguards}, the intensity of such State interest does not match the interest of terminally ill individuals who opt for death to end life. This lopsided {against the State} level of interest, if strengthened by prohibition by the State, is seen as an infringement on the personal liberty of the individual (Braddock et al.).

The voice of the U.S. public

Perhaps the greatest U.S President of all time, Abraham Lincoln, described democracy as a rule “by the people, of the people and for the people.” It therefore follows that in this great democracy called the United States of America, it is the voice of the people that is paramount.

It also therefore follows that the voice of the people in case of legalizing Euthanasia should be treated with the greatest of importance. The voice of the people states that Euthanasia should be legalized.

While almost all the U.S states may have been intimated by the 1997 U.S Supreme Court landmark ruling against Euthanasia, the U.S public certainly has not been similarly affected. A 2005 Harris Poll involving 1,010 adults in the U.S discovered that as many as 64% of them disagreed with the 1997 Supreme Court ruling.

It was therefore not surprising that the same poll also found that 70% of them were in favor of legalizing Euthanasia. The greatest support was reserved for Involuntary Euthanasia with an overwhelming 72% of respondents declaring that they would go to the extent of expressly authorizing the administration of Euthanasia against themselves in their last wills and testaments (Taylor).


In addition to the above cited arguments, hard facts show that the most potent argument against legalizing Euthanasia {that it will increase the number of deaths of terminally ill persons} has been soundly refuted. Data from areas that have legalized Euthanasia do not show any marked changes as a result of this action. A good example is the U.S state of Oregon.

Ever since the passing of the Death with Dignity Act, the number of Euthanasia cases has hardly registered any noticeable change as compared to data of previous years. But what did change however, in Oregon as well as all those nations that have legalized Euthanasia, is the great relief that was made available to terminally ill patients – much needed relief that was cruelly denied to them before such legalization.

Their relief has been well articulated by Professor Torbjorn Tannsjo: “They [terminally ill patients] would know that, if, when their turn comes, and things turn out to be terrible, they have a way out” (


Braddock C.H. & Tonelli M.R. “Physician-Assisted Suicide.” University of Washington. 2008.

“.” 2005.

“.” 2002.

“.” Reuters U.K. 2007.

Taylor, H. “Poll: U.S Adults Favor Euthanasia & Physician Assisted Suicide.” Death with Dignity National Center. 2005.


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