A Case for Active Euthanasia

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Death is deeply personal, generally feared, and wholly inescapable, but medical technology now can prolong our biological existence virtually indefinitely, and, with these advances, comes the question of whether we should pursue the extension of life in all cases.  Most people would agree that, under certain circumstances, it would be preferable to cease our hold on life.  Nearly everyone can agree that there are situations when terminally ill patients have the right to call for a halt to life-extending treatments, and that their physicians will have the moral obligation to comply.  What appears to be quite difficult for us as a society to come to terms with is the thought that someone would actively intervene in the "natural" process of the death of another human being.  Why is it tolerable, even desirable, to intervene in the "natural" process of death when it results in extending life, but intolerable and morally abhorrent when we act to speed the patient to his or her unavoidable death?

In this paper I am going to argue that active euthanasia should become legal in certain circumstances. To do this I will argue that, in the situation of terminal illness, active euthanasia allows for the patient to end the suffering and should therefore be permissible. Secondly, I will examine a case where someone has survived a life-changing accident and wishes they had given a choice to live or die.

Perhaps the most important issue at hand is the patient's right, willingness, and desire to die. For the most part, any random, healthy individual would most likely be unable to imagine or comprehend the type of pain and anguish that a terminal illness will cause. Therefore, the decision to live or die under the presence of certain, and probably painful, death should be left in the hands of the individual that is suffering. Taking its name from a Greek term meaning "the good or easy death," euthanasia should represent exactly that. The decision to live or die does not belong to anyone but to the person whose life it is. According to Kantian ethics, autonomy is based on the human capacity to direct one’s life according to rational principles. Autonomy is where people are considered as being ends in themselves in that they have the capacity to determine their own destiny and must be respected. Having one's entire life slowly drained from oneself is frequently considered the most excruciating of tortures. Yet somehow the right to bring peace to oneself through a slightly unconventional method is repeatedly denied. It has been assumed since the dawn of the medical profession that the doctor's place is a healer, as the ones to cure all illnesses. A physician is seen as the one who is supposed to maintain and prolong ones health, as best as they can until no more can be done. This means that, if all treatment fails, the physician should be allowed to assist in avoiding the unnecessary agony. James Rachels’ article, called “Active and Passive Euthanasia,” uses the equivalence thesis. He believes that killing and letting die are equally as bad, that there is no real moral difference in certain circumstances. He distinguishes killing as active euthanasia and letting die as passive. I am going to argue that, in most cases, passive and active euthanasia are equally as “bad,” and sometimes passive is more morally wrong than active euthanasia. Rachels argues that there may be times when active euthanasia is more merciful than passive. This is often in cases with incurable cancer or disease that, if you were to stop the treatment, the patient would die within a few days.

I am going to argue that active euthanasia can be more merciful by giving an example of an incurable disease. Imagine that an elderly woman is diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease. The doctor tells her that although it is incurable, there is medicine that can help lessen the symptoms. Imagine that when it is first starts, things like relaxing, reading a book, and sitting still...
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