The Ongoing Historical Debate Of Euthanasia
The word euthanasia originates from two Greek words, meaning “good death”. In the most natural state, euthanasia defines a death positively sought after for mankind, in the act of dying and ultimately death. Unfortunately, the term historically and currently leads to debate and manipulation to insinuate a criminal act. World civilizations must remember the crimes of the past, and fear misplaced power as currently occurring in Darfur, however, the horror of genocide does not belong in the euthanasia debate. The arguments originate from cultural, religious and social values and dictate as well as interfere with the ability to experience a “good death”. For decades, the world has been experiencing a battle between the advocates and opponents of legalizing euthanasia. While the Euthanasia Act released November 2011 by the Royal Dutch Medical Association outlined new guidelines, there are histories and past cases that need to be studied to fully understand possible implications. The legalization of assisted suicide has increased debate regarding a slippery slope effect due to a turbulent history and the misguided dogma that it will lead to involuntary euthanasia. Historically, the ongoing controversy regarding the slippery slope effect and its pertinence to those who are curable, have surrounded euthanasia placing the experience of dying with dignity, for the terminally ill in jeopardy. An article titled, The Unleashing of the Destruction of Life Devoid of Value, categorizes people who are to be eliminated. The book written by two Germans in 1920, Carl Binding, a doctor of jurisprudence and philosophy, and Alfred Hoche, a medical doctor, labeled burdensome people as “incurable idiots, mere caricatures of true men whose death create no vacuum.” The book and its contentions are later exemplified, by both the defense and offense, as the origin for condoning the genocidal Holocaust of Nazi Germany in the late 1940’s. Consequently, Nazi Germany proclaimed that the origins of humane euthanasia began prior to Nazi terrorism. Advancements in knowledge and strict guidelines have increased since the early 1900’s; therefore history will not repeat itself, and the original intent of euthanasia can be realized devoid of a slippery slope effect.
Slippery Slope arguments have been on the forefront in the euthanasia decriminalization debate since the 1930’s. In the 1930’s, a prophesized slippery slope included the potential for a lack of medical advances to discover a cure for incurable diseases. The medical doctor pledges the Hippocratic Oath to protect and prolong life, but also to relieve suffering. Slippery slope controversies are based on the supposition that despite the fact the law mandates restrictions, parameters will be blurred based upon human nature. The concerns should be navigated and acknowledged, but not dictate the fear of change.
Controversies surround the act of dying. Currently, medical development in technology has been increasingly successful in the treatment to prolong life and perpetually relieve pain. The question arises concerning the patient’s rights in making life-sustaining decisions. Public support of painless euthanasia for the terminally ill has increased dramatically. A survey conducted by Blendon and colleagues illustrated that 34 percent in 1950 were in favor, 53 percent in 1973 and 63 percent in 1991. The contemporary issue of assisted suicide exposes deep historical roots by Plato, Aristotle and Pythagoras. The philosophers maintained favor of merciful death, yet condemned murder and suicide.
While Plato, Aristotle and Pythagoras historically acknowledged support of euthanasia in the advent of a painful terminal disease, all condemned suicide for other reasons. A branch of Ancient Greece, the Stoics and Roman Philosophy, also accepted euthanasia when pain from a terminal illness became intolerable. However, the initial reign of Christianity in the Roman...
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