Theologians and moral activists do not advocate the taking away of a persons’ life. Theologians argue that life starts at conception and can only be ended through natural means. By definition, euthanasia is a term used to denote the ending of the live of a patient. Doctors often ponder over the fate of terminally ill patients who are also experiencing severe pain. The ethical dilemma that confronts medical practitioners is whether the live of such patients should be terminated (Whiting, 2002). In taking away the life of a patient, doctors are guided by the notion of relieving pain. In most circumstances, studies have shown that euthanasia has been carried out with the consent of the patient. This is called voluntary euthanasia. However, it is important to point out that not all cases of euthanasia are voluntary (Odianosen, 2008). Non-voluntary euthanasia occurs where family members decide to end the life a patient who is in a coma, and cannot openly make his or her intentions known (Odianosen, 2008). There are cases where doctor take upon themselves the decision to terminate one’s live. This is referred to as active euthanasia (Odianosen, 2008). Passive euthanasia occurs when doctors allow a patient to die slowly. This happens when the practitioners withdraw medication or treatment (Odianosen, 2008).
Laws on Euthanasia and Methods of Administration
Although it might seem logical to carry out euthanasia, laws in most countries do not allow the practice. For instance, it is illegal to undertake the practice in the countries of the United Kingdom. In the UK, the act is illegal and attracts a penalty of up to 4 years in prison. Nevertheless, polls across Britain show that a majority of British citizens (80%) favor euthanasia (Whiting, 2002). In addition, about 65% of the medical practitioners within the UK wish laws on the practice were passed (Ertelt, 2008). However, the UK, just like most parts of the world, tend to adhere to conservative theological tenets when it comes to the subject of euthanasia. The Church of England has openly opposed the legalization of Euthanasia. The Roman Catholic has also taken a firm stance against such legislation. However, the Netherlands and Belgium allow euthanasia (Ertelt, 2008).
There is no clear law guiding the legalization of euthanasia in many countries (Ertelt, 2008). This is because in countries like Europe and America there are strong controversies on the legalization of the same. Since the laws are not clear, any body caught administering euthanasia is liable for punishment. The argument behind this is that it will lead to the degradation of human life (Ertelt, 2008). Therefore, the effort to change government policies especially the western countries has not yielded much. However, three states in the United States legalize assisted suicide provided one is a resident of these states. These states are Oregon, Washington, and Montana. In Oregon, doctors are allowed to administer drugs that can kill a patient. In Netherlands, the common practice is through injection to induce comatose. This is followed by another injection to stop the heart. Advocates of euthanasia support withdrawal of food and water to speed up death. Terminal Sedation is sometimes combined with the denial of food and water (Life.org, 2011). In carrying out these endeavors, ethical issues often arise. Euthanasia can sound good to administer. Indeed, it is better for one to die than to see a person suffer from excessive pain. However, moral issues compound the problem. The question is whether it is right to take away a persons life.
Case Scenario and Moral Theory
One case to consider is that of Ray Gosling, a respected BBC journalist, who confessed to killing his former lover with a pillow to lessen his pain occasioned by HIV/AIDS (Reuters, 2010). Such extreme and crude methods could have been employed by others to relieve the pain of their loved ones. However, this should not be the case. It might be worrying to imagine that there are people who can go to the extent of smothering their loved ones with pillows or using any other method to end life (Reuters, 2010). It is not clear whether the statement provided by the killer was authentic or whether the victim asked for assistance to die. Indeed, a clear legal framework could greatly help people overcome such dilemmas. It is probably good to follow Kant’s moral argument in response to euthanasia. Kant espoused that people are distinguished from animals by their ability to reason. Since men are rational, they can be relied upon to make judgments that do not contradict the maxims that separate humanity from animals. In his moral theory, Immanuel Kant argues that people should not act in ways that dehumanize others (Odianosen, 2008). Accordingly, it is this through rational thinking that people can be cured from abstract thinking.
In conclusion, the euthanasia debate continues as families and doctors ponder over the right course to take. People are meant to believe that live starts at conception and ends through natural causes. However, the natural causes of death often come with great difficulties and severe pain on the patients. This prompts family members and doctors to seek ways of hastening the inevitability of death. Various ways are used to liberate people from suffering. Other methods are extreme, like the case of the former BBC reporter. Overall, there is a need to look at the issues at hand on a case-to-case basis, and provide a clear guideline on dealing with euthanasia. Despite it being illegal in many countries, it is no wonder that the act continues to thrive. Probably the moral tenet by Immanuel Kant can guide societies in this aspect.
Ertelt, S. (2008). Pope Benedict XVI Urges Catholics to Oppose Euthanasia, Assisted Suicide. Retrieved from http://www.lifenews.com/2008/09/15/bio-2572/
Life.org. (2011). Methods of Euthanasia. Retrieved from http://www.life.org.nz/euthanasia/abouteuthanasia/methods-of-euthanasia/
Odianosen, P. (2008). Immanuel Kant’s Moral Theory as a Response to Euthanasia. Retrieved from http://www.academia.edu/1407390/Immanuel_kants_Moral_theory_as_a_response_to_euthanasia
Reuters. (2010). Euthanasia Claim on TV-BBC Journalist Arrested for Killing Former Lover. Retrieved from http://www.telegraphindia.com/1100218/jsp/foreign/story_12120335.jsp
Wesangula, D. (2013). Does Mercy Killing Have a Place in the Modern Kenyan Society? Retrieved from http://www.nation.co.ke/News/-/1056/883566/-/vrs0au/-/
Whiting, R. (2002). A Natural Right to Die: Twenty-Three Centuries of Debate. Westport, Connecticut: Harvard University Press.
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