Those in favour of euthanasia argue that a civilized society should allow people to die in dignity and without pain, and should allow others to help them do so if they cannot manage it on their own.
They say that our bodies are our own, and we should be allowed to do what we want with them. So it's wrong to make anyone live longer than they want. In fact making people go on living when they don't want to violates their personal freedom and human rights. It's immoral; they say it to force people to continue living in suffering and pain.
They say that as suicide is not a crime, so euthanasia should not be a crime either.
The Legal Position
Euthanasia is illegal in most countries, although doctors do sometimes carry out euthanasia even where it is illegal.
Euthanasia is illegal in Britain. To kill another person deliberately is murder or manslaughter, even if the other person asks you to kill them. Anyone doing so could potentially face 14 years in prison.
Those in favour of euthanasia think that there is no reason why euthanasia can't be controlled by proper regulation, but they acknowledge that some problems will remain.
For example, it will be difficult to deal with people who want to implement euthanasia for selfish reasons or pressurise vulnerable patients into dying.
This is little different from the position with any crime. The law prohibits theft, but that doesn't stop bad people stealing things. Medical resources
Euthanasia may be necessary for the fair distribution of health resources
In most countries there is a shortage of health resources.
As a result, some people who are ill and could be cured are not able to get speedy access to the facilities they need for treatment.
At the same time health resources are being used on people who cannot be cured, and who, for their own reasons, would prefer not to continue living.
Allowing such people to commit euthanasia would not only let them have what they want, it would free valuable resources to treat people who want to live.
Abuse of this would be prevented by only allowing the person who wanted to die to initiate the process, and by regulations that rigorously prevented abuse.
Others will object because they believe that such a proposal is wide-open to abuse, and would ultimately lead to involuntary euthanasia because of shortage of health resources.
Euthanasia happens anyway
Euthanasia happens - better to make it legal and regulate it properly
People say things like "we can't control drugs so we'd better legalise them", or "if we don't make abortion legal so that people can have it done in hospital, people will die from backstreet abortions".
A utilitarian argument for euthanasia
Justifying euthanasia is a question of showing that allowing people to have a good death, at a time of their own choosing, will make them happier than the pain from their illness, the loss of dignity and the distress of anticipating a slow, painful death. Someone who wants euthanasia will have already made this comparison for themselves.
Opponents can also argue that the net effect on the whole of society will be a decrease in happiness. The only way to approach this would be to look at countries where euthanasia is legal. However, as no two countries are alike, it seems impossible to extricate the happiness or unhappiness resulting from legal assisted suicide, from any happiness or unhappiness from other sources.
People have the right to die
Human beings have the right to die when and how they want to
Many people think that each person has the right to control his or her body and life and so should be able to determine at what time, in what way and by whose hand he or she will die.
Behind this lies the idea that human beings should be as free as possible - and that unnecessary restraints on human rights are a bad thing.
And behind that lies the idea that human beings are independent biological entities, with the right to take and carry out decisions about themselves, providing the greater good of society doesn't prohibit this. Allied to this is a firm belief that death is the end.
Euthanasia weakens society's respect for the sanctity of life
Accepting euthanasia accepts that some lives (those of the disabled or sick) are worth less than others
Voluntary euthanasia is the start of a slippery slope that leads to involuntary euthanasia and the killing of people who are thought undesirable
Euthanasia might not be in a person's best interests
Euthanasia affects other people's rights, not just those of the patient
Proper palliative care makes euthanasia unnecessary
There's no way of properly regulating euthanasia
Allowing euthanasia will lead to less good care for the terminally ill
Allowing euthanasia undermines the committment of doctors and nurses to saving lives
Euthanasia may become a cost-effective way to treat the terminally ill
Allowing euthanasia will discourage the search for new cures and treatments for the terminally ill
Euthanasia undermines the motivation to provide good care for the dying, and good pain relief
Euthanasia gives too much power to doctors
Euthanasia exposes vulnerable people to pressure to end their lives
Moral pressure on elderly relatives by selfish families
Moral pressure to free up medical resources
Patients who are abandoned by their families may feel euthanasia is the only solution Sanctity of life
This argument says that euthanasia is bad because of the sanctity of human life.
There are four main reasons why people think we shouldn't kill human beings:
All human beings are to be valued, irrespective of age, sex, race, religion, social status or their potential for achievement
Human life is a basic good as opposed to an instrumental good, a good in itself rather than as a means to an end
Human life is sacred because it's a gift from God
Therefore the deliberate taking of human life should be prohibited except in self-defense
A slippery slope argument
Many people worry that if voluntary euthanasia were to become legal, it would not be long before involuntary euthanasia would start to happen. Proper palliative care
Palliative care is physical, emotional and spiritual care for a dying person when cure is not possible. It includes compassion and support for family and friends.
Competent palliative care may well be enough to prevent a person feeling any need to contemplate euthanasia.
Palliative care and euthanasia
Good palliative care is the alternative to euthanasia. If it was available to every patient, it would certainly reduce the desire for death to be brought about sooner.
But providing palliative care can be very hard work, both physically and psychologically. Ending a patient's life by injection is quicker and easier and cheaper. This may tempt people away from palliative care. Legalizing euthanasia may reduce the availability of palliative care
Some fear that the introduction of euthanasia will reduce the availability of palliative care in the community, because health systems will want to choose the most cost effective ways of dealing with dying patients.
Medical decision-makers already face difficult moral dilemmas in choosing between competing demands for their limited funds. So making euthanasia easier could exacerbate the slippery slope, pushing people towards euthanasia who may not otherwise choose it.
Pressure on the vulnerable
This is another of those arguments that says that euthanasia should not be allowed because it will be abused.
The fear is that if euthanasia is allowed, vulnerable people will be put under pressure to end their lives. It would be difficult, and possibly impossible, to stop people using persuasion or coercion to get people to request euthanasia when they don't really want it.