The question of euthanasia raises serious moral issues, since it implies that active measures will be taken to terminate human life. The definition of “euthanasia” is taken from Keown (1995) with the term mainly refers to a decision that is concerned with direct interventions or withholding of life-prolonging measures and that choice agrees with a person’s own will. Euthanasia can be mainly classified into voluntary and involuntary ones. As involuntary euthanasia is conducted in the absence of an individual’s consent, it is believed to be a kind of murder. While voluntary euthanasia is with the person’s direct consent, it is still highly controversial and is the focus of discussion in this essay.
In fact, euthanasia is allowed in countries like Holland, Switzerland, Belgium, Oregon of the United States (Chesterman, 1998). In June 1995, in response to legislators urging the legalization of euthanasia in Hong Kong like other countries, the Secretary of Health and Welfare Katherine Fok Lo Shiu-ching stated that, “As euthanasia is an issue with moral, ethical, social and legal implications, there is a need to seek views not only within the medical profession, but also from the community” (Tsang, 1998). Obviously, this issue is not only about the morality of a specific decision of an individual patient, but rather the ethics of having a social policy and practice in the society as a whole. Euthanasia, however, should not be legalized in Hong Kong as a social practice due to the overwhelming evidence of detrimental effects to individuals. Also, this practice may reinforce inequality of health care services in society (Emanuel, 1999).
Reducing pain and suffering is an excuse
Pain and suffering is not a valid reason to approve euthanasia legalization. Actual or anticipated ache and suffering is one of the major causes for those terminally ill patients to ask for euthanasia, preferring die to receive treatments which will only prolong dying. In other words, euthanasia embraces a value of having a positive attitude of reducing suffering during the last journey of a person (Lo, 2002). In Hong Kong, once a young man called Ben Chai, who has been staying in hospital for more than 10 years after an accident, wrote to the Hong Kong Government in 2003 to appeal for the legalization of euthanasia to reduce pain during his medical treatment (Yahoo, 2007). Whether ache and suffering pose a sufficient reason for an individual to opt for euthanasia is, however, still in debate as argued by Dyck (2002). Dyck maintains that with the modern advanced medical system in many countries, the provision of comfort and care are in fact accessible for patients to reduce pain and soreness effectively. Today, medical improvements are made in pain control in Hong Kong. As medical treatments advance, the argument for euthanasia is accordingly weakened.
According to Emanuel in 1999, a survey in America illustrated that 41.6 percent of cancer patients and 44.4 percent of the public thought that discussing euthanasia with their doctors would increase their trust towards the doctors during medical treatment. In turn, patients may get some psychological reassurance when they know that euthanasia is a possible choice if their suffering is too intolerable. Though life to some terminally ill patients is a great trial, other patients sharing similar situation may not be that pessimistic towards life and thereby, the loss of value of life does not justify an individual to choose euthanasia. This is also counter-argued by medical research evidence which illustrates that sometimes patients suffering from depression are able to regain courage to keep on living optimistically (Emanuel, 1999). At the same time, psychological anxiety and distress are also created in patients from the possibility of euthanasia (Emanuel, 1999). As a result, minimizing pain of individual patients both physically and psychologically is not a valid reason to support...
Bibliography: Chesterman, S. (1998). Last right: Euthanasia, the sanctity of life, and the law in the Netherlands and the northern territory of Australia. The International and Comparative Law Quaterly, 47, 362–393.
Dyck, A. J. (2002). Life’s Worth: The Case against Assisted Suicide. Michigan: Eerdmans.
Emanuel, E.J. (1999). Symposium of physician-assisted suicide: What is the great benefit of legalizing euthanasia of physician-assisted suicide. Ethics, 109, 629–642.
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