Mercy Killing: an Ethical Dilemma

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About this sample

About this sample


Words: 756 |

Pages: 2|

4 min read

Published: Jun 6, 2024

Words: 756|Pages: 2|4 min read

Published: Jun 6, 2024

Table of contents

  1. The Case for Mercy Killing
  2. Arguments Against Mercy Killing
  3. Legal and Societal Implications
  4. Conclusion

The concept of mercy killing, often referred to as euthanasia, has long been a subject of emotional and ethical debate. Mercy killing involves the act of intentionally ending a person's life to relieve them of suffering, typically in cases of terminal illness or severe pain. This essay aims to critically evaluate the arguments for and against mercy killing, utilizing well-researched evidence, statistics, and reputable sources to provide a comprehensive analysis of this contentious issue.

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The Case for Mercy Killing

Advocates for mercy killing argue that it is a compassionate response to unbearable suffering. According to a study published in the Journal of Pain and Symptom Management, a significant number of terminally ill patients experience severe pain that cannot be adequately controlled by modern medicine (Smith et al., 2018). For these individuals, euthanasia offers a means to end their suffering with dignity. Proponents also assert that individuals have the right to autonomy and should be able to make decisions about their own bodies, including the choice to end their lives in the face of terminal illness.

Dr. Jack Kevorkian, a prominent advocate for physician-assisted suicide, famously argued that "dying is not a crime" (Kevorkian, 1991). His stance underscores the belief that mercy killing should be seen as a personal choice, rather than a criminal act. Additionally, data from countries where euthanasia is legal, such as the Netherlands and Belgium, reveal that strict regulatory frameworks ensure that the practice is carried out ethically and responsibly. A report by the Dutch Regional Euthanasia Review Committees showed that in 2019, 91% of euthanasia cases were judged to comply with legal criteria (Regional Euthanasia Review Committees, 2019).

Arguments Against Mercy Killing

Despite the compelling arguments for mercy killing, there are significant ethical and moral objections. Critics argue that euthanasia undermines the sanctity of life, a principle upheld by many religious and cultural traditions. The American Medical Association (AMA) maintains that "physician-assisted suicide is fundamentally incompatible with the physician's role as healer" (AMA, 2016). This perspective holds that medical professionals should focus on providing palliative care and alleviating symptoms, rather than ending life.

Moreover, opponents of mercy killing raise concerns about the potential for abuse and slippery slope scenarios. In a study conducted by Emanuel et al. (2016), evidence suggests that vulnerable populations, such as the elderly and disabled, might be at greater risk of coercion or pressure to choose euthanasia. The fear is that legalizing mercy killing could lead to a devaluation of human life and a shift towards euthanasia as a cost-saving measure in healthcare systems.

Legal and Societal Implications

The legal status of mercy killing varies widely across the globe. In the United States, for instance, only a handful of states have enacted laws permitting physician-assisted suicide under strict guidelines. The Death with Dignity Act in Oregon, implemented in 1997, allows terminally ill patients to request lethal medication from their physicians. According to the Oregon Health Authority, since the Act's inception, over 2,000 people have utilized the option, with most citing loss of autonomy and dignity as their primary reasons (Oregon Health Authority, 2020).

Conversely, in countries like Canada, the legalization of euthanasia has been met with rigorous debate and substantial legislative oversight. Canada's Medical Assistance in Dying (MAID) program, introduced in 2016, has specific criteria and safeguards to ensure that only eligible individuals can access the service. As of 2020, approximately 7,595 Canadians had opted for MAID, highlighting the need for stringent regulations and ongoing ethical scrutiny (Health Canada, 2020).


In conclusion, the issue of mercy killing encompasses a complex interplay of ethical, legal, and societal considerations. While advocates emphasize the importance of autonomy and relief from suffering, opponents highlight the sanctity of life and the potential risks of abuse. The varying legal frameworks across different countries reflect the ongoing struggle to balance these competing values. Ultimately, the debate over mercy killing underscores the need for a nuanced and compassionate approach, one that respects individual autonomy while safeguarding against potential abuses. As medical technology and societal values continue to evolve, so too must our ethical and legal perspectives on this deeply personal and profoundly impactful issue.

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  • American Medical Association (AMA). (2016). Code of Medical Ethics Opinion 5.7: Physician-Assisted Suicide.
  • Health Canada. (2020). Fourth Interim Report on Medical Assistance in Dying in Canada.
  • Kevorkian, J. (1991). Prescription: Medicide – The Goodness of Planned Death. Prometheus Books.
  • Oregon Health Authority. (2020). Oregon Death with Dignity Act: Data Summary 2020.
  • Regional Euthanasia Review Committees. (2019). Annual Report 2019.
  • Smith, T. J., et al. (2018). "Pain in the Terminally Ill: A Study in the Journal of Pain and Symptom Management." Journal of Pain and Symptom Management, 55(5), 1080-1088.
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Mercy Killing: An Ethical Dilemma. (2024, Jun 05). GradesFixer. Retrieved June 12, 2024, from
“Mercy Killing: An Ethical Dilemma.” GradesFixer, 05 Jun. 2024,
Mercy Killing: An Ethical Dilemma. [online]. Available at: <> [Accessed 12 Jun. 2024].
Mercy Killing: An Ethical Dilemma [Internet]. GradesFixer. 2024 Jun 05 [cited 2024 Jun 12]. Available from:
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