The Ethics of Mercy Killing: A Complex Dilemma

According to the article, Knowledge of the Definition of Euthanasia: Study with Doctors and Caregivers of Alzheimer’s Disease Patients, the dictionary definition of Euthanasia is ‘good death’ which comes from the Greek (eu-thanatos). It was adopted by medicine to accelerate patient death to avoid undue suffering from a disease. Some people also say Euthanasia is mercy killing. Here is a mercy killing essay in which we are going to discuss whether this process is ethical. 

In the journal, Support for Voluntary and Nonvoluntary Euthanasia: What Roles Do Conditions of Suffering and Identity of the Terminally Ill Play, it says that the term Euthanasia is synonymous with the phrase mercy killing and involves either assisting in the commission of suicide or administering painless or merciful death to a patient who is hopelessly ill. Basically, with this information, euthanasia is mostly offered to terminally ill people who have been sick for a very long time. However, a recent trend has been seen that the request for euthanasia is highly placed by the old people who are just tired of life. People who are tired of continuously dealing with depression, being alone, losing mind control and feeling of a burden often demand euthanasia on them. By receiving it, they try to reach out to permanent relief from all sorts of physical and mental pains. Allowing the people who are old and tired of life to get physician-assisted death is not a simple problem. Franklin, who is the author of Should a Legal Option of Physician-Assisted Death Include Those Who Are “Tired of Life”?, states that whether a legal option of physician-assisted death for those tired of life should be permitted is not just a matter of voluntary individual choice: it concerns how we should think about the responsibilities of society for the care of the aging. 

More than social responsibility as a human being, it has been recognized that euthanasia or a mercy killing devalues the dignity of human life. Human life is dignified and very precious, valuable source in the world. Euthanasia can be broadly categorized into two categories. Euthanasia can be either voluntary or nonvoluntary. Voluntary euthanasia occurs when a person clearly indicates his/her wish to die through directives such as verbal statements or living wills. In other words, when the process of Euthanasia is executed with the complete consent of the patient on his/her own, it is known as Voluntary euthanasia. Nonvoluntary euthanasia occurs when one causes the death of a person, supposedly in the interest of that person, even when that person has not asked for euthanasia (e.g., a person who is comatose with little or no prognosis for recovery). That is to say, when the permission of the patient is not entailed in the process of Euthanasia and it is under the consent of guardians, relatives, doctors or the order of courts, it is called Nonvoluntary euthanasia. 

Euthanasia has caused many kinds of moral dilemmas. According to the article, Hospice and Assisted Suicide: The Structure and Process of an Inherent Dilemma, it states that although the autonomy rights of hospice patients are fully respected and the hospice providers take great pride in alleviating symptoms to facilitate patients’ control over their final days, sometimes patients’ freedom of choice to death is limited by the official position regarding value of life. And it is here that the crux of the hospice dilemma appears by creating providers’ crisis of conscience. Many different kinds of questions and concerns have come up to the medical team whether it is ethical to kill someone or just to curb pain of the patient. Many religious people claim that Euthanasia is the unethical way to take a life of a person because human life is a valuable gift from God. Abdi Omar Shuriye who is the author of Ethical And Religious Analysis on Euthanasia, tells that the moral characterization of bringing about someone’s death is incompatible with the values of his or her life. Allowing to be killed or cooperating in the process or even been indifferent about it could be morally interpreted as suicide.  Moral theorists also have disagreed with the distinction between ordinary and extraordinary means of sustaining life. They mention that it is morally justifiable to withhold extraordinary means of life support, but ordinary treatment should go on. 

In religious perspective, Euthanasia violates the religious beliefs of many religious groups. Many religious people pay special attention to the death of human. Most of them argue that God has created every human with a specific purpose, if a single life of a person is intentionally taken by the power of human being, the God’s plan for the person is completely disappeared.  For example, Christianity does not sanction suicide. Christians are of the opinion that mercy killing, or self-inflicted killing is an atheistic act against the dominant tenets of Christianity. Similarly, in Muslim, all forms of mercy killing, passive or active, suicide, or assisted, are prohibited by Islam. In Judaism, despite Judaism’s essential diversity, there is a general trend to emphasize the absolute value of human life. Its dominant cautious attitude towards quality of life judgements is found. Overally, the basic concepts of Christianity, Islam and Judaism are based on that interfering in the process of dying only belongs to God. Religious people disagree with the legalization of euthanasia because of not only breaking down the concept of religion but also the formation of threats towards social stability based on the main religions. 

When some people decide to become a doctor, after graduating from the medical school, they have to take the modernized Hippocratic oath. In the oath, it has highly serious injunction like “do not harm”. It clearly specifies that a physician will neither give a deadly drug to anybody and do not make a suggestion to this effect. Additionally, In the journal, Challenging the Oath of Hippocrates, it says that “I will not give poison to anyone though asked to do so, nor will I suggest such a plan.” The taking of poison was the commonest means of suicide in ancient Greece, and the physician was asked to assist. Through this first ethical commitment, the Hippocratic physician repudiates such an approach to sickness and death. Even though asked to do so, he will not prescribe poison nor ever suggest such a resolution of the dreadful dilemma of chronic and terminal disease. This prohibition makes sure that there are moral standards which outweigh the single physician’s consideration. McDougall also states that it comes as a surprise to many people, not least to physicians, that the oath makes no specific reference among the responsibilities of the doctor to the relief of human suffering. This is intended to underline the Hippocratic opposition to abortion and euthanasia, since modern physicians’ defence lay in a “relief-of-suffering' ethic devoid of a commitment to the sanctity of human life. 

Although intolerable level of suffering makes the patient exhausted and ceased his or her living, on the contrary, suffering offers some moments of opportunity for the patient but also guardians and caregivers to grow more and enlighten themselves. According to the article, Suffering and Spirituality: Analysis of Living Experiences, it mentions about the relationship between individual spirituality and suffering that suffering belongs to the spiritual dimension, the dimension where spiritual interventions are more likely to provide effective palliative care. Healing refers to the personal experience of the disease unlike cure. Whereas cure is possible only occasionally, healing is always achievable, and spirituality may play a central role in this endeavor. In other words, it means that technical cure is able to treat limited area of human body in a physical way. However, spiritual interventions like healing through caregivers or relatives of the patient play a central role for effective palliative care. Additionally, according to the journal, The Virtue of Patience, Spirituality, and Suffering: Integrating Lessons from Positive Psychology, Psychology of Religion, and Christian, it says that as people encounter stressful life events replete with frustration and suffering, they many draw upon their religious global meaning systems to religiously appraise or reappraise their current suffering. Thus, it seems probable that religious meaning-making also facilitates the formation of patience as people are able to more effectively reappraise negative situations.  The suffering brings the highest value to a human being. Through the undue suffering, the patient and all related people are able to look back on their lives and carry their spirits to the noblest point of their character. 

To conclude this mercy killing argumentative essay, taking the life of a human being is an irresponsible act. Because the moment of suffering that the patient experiences for a long time is more likely to be a second chance to change the position in his or her life. Human life is very precious and valuable and it should be highly respected more than any other things in the world. The role of the doctors is to try to constantly cure their patient or at least give him or her pain curbing medicines like the commitment on the Hippocrates Oath. 

10 October 2022
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