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This page presents both perspectives on the controversial topics of euthanasia and assisted suicide, discussing key arguments for and against these practices. It is important to note that the views expressed here do not reflect those of NHS Choices or the Department of Health.
There are two primary arguments in favor of euthanasia and assisted suicide: the ethical argument, which asserts individuals' autonomy over their own bodies and lives while minimizing harm to others, and the pragmatic argument calling for regulation of euthanasia given its prevalence.
This discussion will primarily examine the pragmatic argument, particularly with respect to passive euthanasia.
The pragmatic argument suggests that practices such as issuing a 'do not attempt cardiopulmonary resuscitation' (DNACPR) order and palliative sedation can be seen as forms of euthanasia. DNACPR involves withholding life-saving treatment, while palliative sedation is also a controversial practice.
Palliative sedation is a technique employed to relieve severe pain when conventional therapies are not successful, often administered to patients with terminal burns.
While the main objective is not to speed up death, there is a chance of reducing the patient's lifespan through the administration of sedatives.
There is a debate surrounding whether palliative sedation could be seen as a type of active euthanasia, sparking discussions about the legalization and regulation of these procedures. It should be emphasized that not all medical professionals share these contentious views on DNACPR and palliative sedation. To learn more about options other than euthanasia, consider looking into arguments opposing euthanasia and assisted suicide.
Four main types of arguments are commonly used by individuals who oppose euthanasia and assisted suicide.
The religious argument, the slippery slope argument, the medical ethics argument, and an alternative argument all address different concerns regarding euthanasia. The religious perspective believes only God can end a human life, while the slippery slope argument warns of unintended consequences. The medical ethics argument focuses on healthcare professionals' involvement in euthanasia as a violation of ethical standards. An alternative viewpoint emphasizes the importance of providing effective end-of-life treatments to prevent unnecessary suffering.
Therefore, euthanasia is not viewed as a valid medical intervention, indicating that the physician in charge of the patient's care has not met their responsibilities. These ideas will be examined more closely in upcoming sections.
The general religious view is that human life is considered sacred as it is believed to be created by God. According to this belief, only God has the power to decide when a human life should come to an end, making euthanasia or assisted suicide go against God's wishes and seen as sinful. This viewpoint is commonly shared among adherents of Christianity, Judaism, and Islam.
Some Hindu and Buddhist scholars believe that euthanasia and assisted suicides may be morally acceptable in certain cases, although not all followers share this view. The "slippery slope" argument underscores the complexity of this issue within these religions.
The slippery slope argument cautions that implementing euthanasia in healthcare services, and therefore by the government, could establish a risky precedent. There is apprehension that a society allowing voluntary euthanasia may eventually rationalize non-voluntary and involuntary euthanasia too. Additionally, legalizing voluntary euthanasia might lead to unexpected consequences such as ill individuals feeling compelled to seek euthanasia in order to relieve the strain on their loved ones.
Legalizing euthanasia may obstruct the advancement of palliative care and inhibit the investigation of potential treatments for individuals with terminal illnesses. Patients may choose euthanasia due to inaccurate diagnoses or medical prognoses, which could be influenced by a lack of comprehension about their health condition. These ethical dilemmas are at the core of discussions regarding euthanasia.
The argument related to medical ethics, like the 'slippery slope' argument, proposes that the legalization of euthanasia would go against a crucial medical ethical principle. This principle, as defined by the International Code of Medical Ethics, mandates that 'A doctor must always bear in mind the obligation of preserving human life from conception'. Requiring doctors to disregard this obligation could harm the doctor-patient relationship. Making death a common occurrence may turn it into a regular administrative duty for doctors, resulting in a lack of empathy when caring for elderly, disabled, or terminally ill individuals.
Alternatively, individuals with intricate health requirements or serious disabilities might develop a lack of trust in their doctor's actions and motives. They might believe that their doctor would prefer to 'end their life' rather than handle a difficult and challenging case.
The counter argument suggests that with improvements in palliative care and mental health services, no individual should experience unbearable suffering, whether it is physical, mental, or both. With appropriate care and support, individuals should be able to have a peaceful and dignified end of life.
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