Ethical Theories Applied To The Euthanasia Issue

The main meaning and ethical side of euthanasia is that a person dying from an incurable disease can voluntarily die in the presence of doctors and relatives. The patient is aware of the unbearable suffering that he experiences and wants to stop it. Moreover, euthanasia is applicable to animals if their further treatment is ineffective. Euthanasia is divided into types, of which the active and passive methods are the best known. The meaning of passive euthanasia is when a healthcare professional intentionally stops maintenance therapy in a hopeless patient. Active euthanasia is different in that the patient ends his life under the supervision of medical professionals and in the family circle. Death occurs from the introduction of a special drug, from which a person quickly falls asleep without suffering. In today’s medical community, the issue of euthanasia is the cornerstone of bioethics.

In addition, it is necessary to distinguish between voluntary and involuntary euthanasia. Voluntary euthanasia refers to manipulations agreed upon, approved and officially certified by the patient (Stewart, 2009). For example, in many countries, it is common practice to express one’s will in advance and in a legally reliable form in the event of an irreversible coma. Involuntary euthanasia is carried out without the patient’s consent, usually in an unconscious state. It is made based on the decision of relatives, guardians, and other responsible persons.

In most countries, euthanasia is prohibited at the legislative level. It is allowed in several countries, but its use is strictly regulated by law to eliminate errors and abuses. The problem, however, is that the ban on euthanasia does not take into account the complexity of the situations encountered in medical practice. Thus, the problem of euthanasia remains open and is widely discussed by the world community (Thompson, 1999). This complex issue touches upon the fundamental values ​​of society, the medical profession, understanding of life and death, human dignity, the meaning of suffering, and compassion.

The main issue of ethics is to define what is good behavior and what makes the behavior right or wrong. Society exercises control and correction of people’s behavior, seeking to link individuals’ and human communities’ interests to find a “balance” of public and personal good (Banks, 1999). An ethical assessment of actions and relationships is given depending on the orientation towards the achievement of Good or Evil, thus acting as a criterion for moral judgment (Warnock, 1999). Euthanasia is one of the current problems that arose at the end of the twentieth century due to the intervention of science in the usual model of life and morality.

Maintaining life at the stage of dying, carried out with the help of complex technologies, costs society too much. The funds spent on preserving life in hopeless situations would assist more treatable. But this argument is purely pragmatic and has its implications within the practical organization of the health care system. In this regard, it should not be considered when it comes to the moral justification of euthanasia.

Active euthanasia infringes on the idea of ​​the sanctity of human life. The moral law on the impossibility of murder is a normative expression of the very essence of humanistic morality. Thus, it is illogical to demand a moral sanction for actions directed against the fundamental principle of morality itself. Ethics is one of the last barriers to encroachment on human life. If euthanasia is recognized, this barrier is removed, and then a society in which a gap has been made in the absolute ban on murder will be completely different.

Euthanasia is a cornerstone for the entire medical community and has been discussed for a long time. For many people, a worthy life that makes sense is that they experience more pleasure than pain. People experience more positive emotions, which strengthens their confidence in the meaning of their existence. At the same time, when choosing euthanasia, the patient is guided by the dilemma between the complete loss of life and life in the form of constant and painful suffering. (Fontalis et al., 2018). Moreover, life can be considered a blessing as long as a human condition exists in the field of culture, moral relations, and rationality. However, from the point of view of recognizing life as the highest good of mankind, euthanasia cannot be considered as help.

Passive euthanasia is recognized by more countries than active euthanasia. The patient does not want to continue treatment and prefers to die a natural death. In this case, the patient must be of sound mind, and his decision must be justified (Mendz & Kissane, 2020). Of course, a person manages his own life and decides what is best for him, but medicine does not stand still. Every day new drugs appear that slow down the effect of the disease and sometimes wholly defeat it. In addition, medicine knows cases when people defeat incurable diseases.

The doctor’s task is not just to let the patient die but to carefully weigh everything: analyze the situation, and determine the chance for recovery, and improvement. It often happens that it is not always possible to determine how much a person has left. It is essential to preserve the health of the body and the patient’s spirit. Indeed, in this situation, he may be depressed and in despair, and with these words, the medical staff can kill his last hope, and then he may want to resort to euthanasia. Passive euthanasia is always difficult for both the patient and the doctor. As for doctors who aspire to save human lives, watching how life leaves a patient passively is challenging.

In the issue of active euthanasia, the very essence of the termination of life is added. The practice of euthanasia is the destruction of the very nature of the medical profession. Physicians should not kill as preserving human life is the highest medical practice value (Sareen, 2019). In addition, there is the possibility of its abuse or its unreasonable application to an increasing number of people, including for selfish purposes. Additionally, the legalization of euthanasia will negatively affect the further development of medicine, as it can significantly weaken the desire of physicians to seek new means of treatment or assistance for incurable diseases and conditions. Perhaps for these reasons, active euthanasia, although it sometimes seems the most dignified and merciful way out, is still banned in most countries.

However, several arguments can be made to defend the legalization of active euthanasia. First, the individual must be given the right to self-determination. He should have the right to choose whether to continue life or voluntarily leave it. If a person can no longer suffer due to an incurable disease, the medical staff cannot refuse him. Secondly, the right of a suffering person to relieve the suffering of loved ones should be granted (Jaye et al., 2021). The incurable condition and suffering of the patient also entail the suffering of his relatives and friends who care for him and sympathize with him. In this case, the desire to die can be seen as a desire to save others from hardships.

Moreover, there is a quality of life argument in today’s society. There are situations associated with an incurable disease and excruciating suffering in that life itself loses value for the patient. Thus, the quality of life is reduced to a critical level, followed by a desire to die. Accordingly, medicine is powerless and can allow euthanasia in such a situation. In such extraordinary circumstances, euthanasia is seen not as cruelty or a crime but, on the contrary, as compassion.

There has always been a double attitude toward the deliberately accelerated onset of death. Some say that a doctor in no case can contribute to the departure of a person from life, even if the patient, being of sound mind and memory, asks him about it. The doctor, in their opinion, must be faithful to the Hippocratic Oath given to him, which prohibits any complicity in suicide. They emphasize the importance of human life and are sure that fighting for it in any situation is necessary because there is always the possibility of a cure, even for the most hopeless patients. Others are firmly in the position that the desire to bring back to life a person whose illness has reached its last stage and, accordingly, giving rise to terrible torment cannot be called reasonable and humane.

It occurs that although a person’s right to life and, accordingly, to voluntarily leave it is one of the fundamental human rights that form the whole complex, he cannot use it, even though he will die anyway. Therefore, in many countries, passive euthanasia is gradually being legalized morally by public opinion and, in some countries, by law. Moreover, there is a real possibility that the legalization of euthanasia may contribute to dishonesty in providing medical care to terminally ill patients. The absence of any conditions for the treatment and recovery of the patient may contribute to the patient’s requests for an end to his suffering and help in the onset of a quick death. This is another reason for the need for legal regulation of this issue.

In addition, there is a considerable probability of an erroneous diagnosis because doctors are people, too and can make mistakes. The possibility of healing also depends on the level at which the development of medicine was at the diagnosis (Peaut et al., 2020). It is quite possible that soon the legislators of all countries, realizing the importance of a person’s free choice of using his fundamental rights and respecting them, will allow him to choose life or death. Legislation can enable a person to decide whether to let doctors try to cure him, only artificially support an already death-bound life, or end his suffering by administering some drug that causes quick death.

One of the arguments in favor of euthanasia is the human rights factor in the voluntary desire to die. It is believed that the patient has the right to comprehensive information about his condition, which should be provided in a form accessible to him. Moreover, he may demand that his wishes be respected when making decisions concerning his body. Arguing the admissibility of euthanasia by the fact that such is the conscious will of the patient himself. Therefore, it can be recognized that if the patient were aware of disposing of his life, he would stop it. Thus, medicine acknowledges the right to commit suicide of one’s own free will. However, euthanasia cannot be considered lawful since, in this case, a person goes beyond the boundaries of his competence.

Moreover, indirect confirmation that the euthanasia decision cannot be considered a morally impeccable act can be found in how it was made. In the experience of modern medicine in countries where euthanasia has legally regulated forms, the relevant decisions are made by special ethical committees (Pesut et al., 2020). This includes the attending physician, medical staff and hospital administration representatives, priests, moral philosophers, lawyers, social security workers, etc. The way the decision is made speaks of its urgency. It is extraordinary in at least two respects: adequately comprehended, it is the responsibility of an unbearable burden, hence the need for collective distribution of this burden. Secondly, being a way out of ethically permissible limits, it is fraught with an infinity of abuses, hence the comprehensive representation to block possible abuses more reliably.

The formulation of the problem of euthanasia is a signal that the entire modern culture, together with medicine, is being transformed into some fundamentally new, unparalleled quality. The issue of euthanasia has become an “anthropological” expression of the fact that nature is nowadays “covered” by culture and comes under the control and management of the latter (Saren, 2019). This suggests that modern humans will reach the “anthropological border,” the movement beyond which will inevitably lead to the transformation of certain basic foundations of culture.

Representatives of the Catholic and Orthodox churches categorically reject all forms of euthanasia. In that case, Protestants sometimes advocate euthanasia sanctioned by law, and in Buddhism and Hinduism, where suicide is part of a religious ritual, euthanasia, in principle, cannot be considered a negative phenomenon (Kumar et al., 2021). The problem of euthanasia acts as a growing in modern society, “autonomy of the individual” – the nature of autonomous choice, individual freedom, and attitude towards one’s own life.

However, the question that now confronts society in connection with the legalization of euthanasia is not whether the idea of ​​the highest value of life should give way to other values, such as humanity or mercy, but how this value itself should be understood. The solution to the problem of euthanasia should be bidirectional, involving the simultaneous implementation of both tactical and strategic measures. Tactical measures are concentrated mainly in medicine and are aimed at improving patient care, treatment methods, psychological assistance, raising their social status, etc.

Strategic measures involve radical transformations in social institutions of education, upbringing, and other areas involved in reproducing a person’s rational ability. In this regard, a methodology is required to understand everything that happens in modern culture, the meaning of life, and its definition in all aspects. In addition, the ability to cope with one’s problems and form a system of positive values ​​associated with the installation of a fruitful life can help solve the problem of euthanasia. Moreover, it is necessary to develop responsibility to close people, society, God (for believers), and to oneself.

The consideration and writing of this study seemed interesting since the ethical problem of euthanasia is highly relevant at present. Attitude toward death behavior in the process of dying is an integral part of human life, and it undoubtedly remains within the limits of a morally responsible choice. However, “choosing death” and “behaving worthily in the face of death” is not the same thing. This is often a dispute between people who have experienced the slow, painful death of a loved one and those who know about such cases. It’s the same as feeling pain and knowing that it hurts a lot, which is far from the same thing. In my opinion, death should be natural, and physicians should alleviate the suffering of patients who are doomed to death by available medical means. Still, I cannot say that my opinion will not change when confronted with this problem. Additionally, the attitude towards the end is within the limits of moral choice. To be or not to euthanasia – the decision is made, individually consistent with a conscience.

With some reservations, I believe that the legalization of euthanasia is necessary in the modern world since it ensures the fulfillment of one of the three signs of human rights – their indivisibility. Thus, each person has the right to dispose of his life, and if a person doomed to death by an illness wants to escape from suffering, then medicine and the law must fulfill his will.

Reference List

Banks, S. (1999). Ethical issues in youth work (pp. pp-3). S. Banks (Ed.). London: Routledge.

Fontalis, A., Prousali, E., & Kulkarni, K. (2018). Euthanasia and assisted dying: what is the current position and what are the key arguments informing the debate?. Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine, 111(11), 407-413.

Jaye, C., Lomax-Sawyers, I., Young, J., & Egan, R. (2021). The people speak: social media on euthanasia/assisted dying. Medical humanities, 47(1), 47-55.

Kumar, A., Mehra, A., & Avasthi, A. (2021). Euthanasia: A Debate—For and Against. Journal of Postgraduate Medicine, Education and Research, 55(2), 91-96.

Mendz, G. L., & Kissane, D. W. (2020). Agency, autonomy and euthanasia. Journal of Law, Medicine & Ethics, 48(3), 555-564.

Pesut, B., Greig, M., Thorne, S., Storch, J., Burgess, M., Tishelman, C., Chambaere, K. & Janke, R. (2020). Nursing and euthanasia: A narrative review of the nursing ethics literature. Nursing ethics, 27(1), 152-167.

Sareen, R. (2019). India decides on euthanasia: is the debate over. Health Care Current Reviews, 7(3), 1-3.

Stewart, N. (2009). Ethics. Polity.

Thompson, A. (1999). Critical reasoning in ethics. London: Routledge.

Warnock, M. (2006). An intelligent person’s guide to ethics. London: Duckworth.