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Range of Moral, Ethical and Legal Perspectives of Right to Die Or Euthanasia

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The purpose of this paper is to explore if there are any viable circumstances in which euthanasia should be permitted. Euthanasia is a term as defined by the Oxford dictionary as “the painless killing of a patient suffering from an incurable disease or in an irreversible coma”. It will take into account of the full range of moral, ethical, and legal perspectives. The paper will also consider the implications of recent real-life case examples and the different laws which exist on a global basis. As well as this it will explore the different types and methods of euthanasia. My own opinion is that, in certain circumstances, euthanasia should be accepted.

There are two classifications of euthanasia: Active euthanasia and Passive euthanasia. Active euthanasia is when death is brought about by deliberate intervention, for example, when a person is killed by being given an overdose of painkillers. Passive euthanasia is when death is brought about by omission or simply allowing death to occur. This can be done by withdrawing or withholding treatment: withdrawing might be exemplified by switching off a machine keeping a person alive; withholding would include purposely not carrying out surgery that will extend the length of life of a person. Euthanasia can be further classified as voluntary and involuntary euthanasia. Voluntary euthanasia occurs at the request of the person who dies. Involuntary euthanasia is performed against the will of a patient. Another type of euthanasia is indirect euthanasia which happens when someone provides a treatment that has the side effect of speeding the patient’s death. The term “Assisted suicide” refers to cases where the person who is going to die needs help to kill themselves and asks for it.

Euthanasia splits opinions across moral, ethical and religious boundaries. Most religious views include that it should not be allowed because it clearly goes against the word of God. It is believed that every human being is the creation of God and that this imposes certain limits on us. Our lives exist not for us to do with them as we see fit and only God should and does have this authority. Some Eastern religions believe that we live multiple lives and the quality of each life is determined by how we behave in our previous one. People who follow this believe that ending your life shortly prohibits their end goal of ultimate liberation. An example of a religion that follows this is Buddhism. A further supporting religious argument is that all humans are made by God which makes them special: human life should be protected at all costs.

A significant ethical argument is that euthanasia devalues lives. If euthanasia were to be allowed, it would spread a powerful message that it is better to be dead than sick or disabled. The message that some lives are not worth living will promote death as being more valuable than living -should not happen. A further ethical perspective view is that is puts pressure on the vulnerable. euthanasia existing would give people the potential to put pressure on those who are vulnerable to end their lives. This coercion or persuasion will be near impossible to prevent, which is the essence of the argument itself. A major pressure argument is a financial argument. This argument is that the last few months of a sick person’s life are often the most expensive and euthanasia is an easy way to stop this money being spent: sick people may be pressured to end their lives prematurely in order to save money.

It is moral and ethical to have the right to die in the same way as having the right to live. People live in their own bodies and should have the authority to decide what happens to them and to control outcomes- this includes the right to die. People should be able to determine at what time and how and when he or she will die.

One compelling view for euthanasia is that if an action promotes the best interests of the majority it should be done. This is essentially the utilitarian view of euthanasia. Utilitarianists believe euthanasia should happen if the greatest number of people are happy with the decision for it to be morally and ethically acceptable. A supporting worldview is that euthanasia may be necessary for the fair distribution of health resources. In practice, health resources could be switched from a patient who died through euthanasia at an earlier point for someone who was sick but treatable. The final postulation of euthanasia is that euthanasia happens despite it being illegal in most countries around the world. Legalizing it would bring better regulation and consistency of approach.

Frank Van Den Bleeken was someone who had committed murder and appealed for euthanasia to relieve his “psychological pain”. He argued that the sheer pain and grief of having to live with himself after this murder was unbearable and so he would prefer death to life behind bars for the rest of his life. Critics of his case say it reflects poor mental health services available in Belgium. Ultimately Frank was granted euthanasia and received death. In 2002 Belgium legalized euthanasia and is one of only three countries to allow the practice, the others being the Netherlands and Luxembourg. More countries, including Switzerland and some states of America, allow doctors to assist suicide in certain circumstances.

Tony Nicklinson went to the High Court to fight for being allowed to end his life through the help of a doctor- he died six days after the verdict because he had been starving himself. Nicklinson was paralyzed from the neck down after a stroke seven years earlier. He wanted assurances from the court that anybody who helped him end his life would be free from prosecution. Although the judge acknowledged that his case and that of another paralyzed man, known as Martin, were deeply moving, he said it was for parliament and not the courts to decide if the law should be changed. In a statement issued through his lawyers, he added: ‘I am saddened that the law wants to condemn me to a life of increasing indignity and misery.’ Tony did indeed move the court but was not granted Euthanasia and so took it upon himself to end his own life through starvation. This illustrates the aspect of people causing their own deaths and a supporting viewpoint for better regulation and efficient monitoring of euthanasia. 

Valentina Maureira Riquelme was a Chilean teenager who gained international attention after using social media to ask Chilean President Michele Bachelet to allow her to die by euthanasia. She spread her message through YouTube and the video went viral. The Bachelet was deeply moved but did deny her request. Valentina said that the idea to end her life first began when she heard about the case of Brittany Maynard, a 29-year-old American with terminal brain cancer who died by doctor-assisted suicide the previous year. The young Valentina said she was frustrated by the lack of options and by how the disease had hurt her quality of life. Maureira was diagnosed with cystic fibrosis when she was just six years old. For the next eight years, she fought with the fatal illness. Cystic fibrosis is a genetic disease that attacks by producing a thick mucus that can block air passages or the pancreas, which in turn prevents natural enzymes from breaking down food during digestion. The condition requires strict management, and it greatly decreases the patient’s life expectancy. With such a life-limiting outlook, Valentina’s desire for euthanasia was clear to all. Cystic fibrosis is a terminal illness, but Valentina much preferred a painless death without enduring the indignity of dependency and pain for her loved ones. Fredy Maureira said his daughter was especially moved by a visit from an Argentine family whose children had been stricken by the incurable respiratory illness. He said she was also given hope by meeting a patient who had survived beyond age 20. Euthanasia is not allowed in Chile and thus Valentina could not be granted euthanasia. 

Diane Pretty was a British woman from Luton who became notable after being the focus of a debate about the laws of euthanasia in the United Kingdom during the early part of the 21st century. Diane Pretty had Motor Neurone Disease (MND). She wanted to control the time and manner of her death. She had attempted to change British law as she wanted to end her own life due to the unendurable pain caused by her terminal illness. She stated, ‘I want to have a quick death without suffering, at home surrounded by my family’. The House of Lords rejected Diane’s case. They said that the right to life did not include a right to die. They also said that the right to private life did not include a right to decide when and how to die which is an argument I have previously outlined above. This argument has been adopted in multiple cases across the world and has gained the reputation as the most immediate rebuttal to euthanasia demands. The Court also stated, “that right to life was not determined by the quality of life so could not be interpreted as also giving a right to die.” Despite this, the House of Lords did in fact accept the idea that an individual does have the right to choose how to end their life and that “the ban on assisted suicide in the UK could be justified to protect vulnerable people.” 

Abigail Witchalls was stabbed in Surrey, England in 2005 in the early stages of pregnancy with her second child. This stabbing left her paralyzed from the neck down. This case sparked a huge debate about the moral and ethical arguments about euthanasia Her mother, Baroness Hollins, argued that is this action were to happen it would strongly promote the betrayal of a life with disabilities or illness and say that death is a better option than to live with that. That argument is also one I have highlighted above. Discussing his wife’s future, her husband, Benoit Witchalls, said, ‘People live wonderful lives paralyzed from the neck down. Our expectations have had to change drastically in the last three weeks, but that’s not to say that we’re not still going to live peaceful lives, with a family.’ What was particularly striking about her case was the hope she publicly expressed based on a strong belief in the love of God. She confounded medical opinion when giving birth to her third child in 2010. 

In conclusion, having outlined a range of viewpoints and different case studies I consider that on balance euthanasia should be allowed with the appropriate regulation and control. I believe that there is a justification on the basis that everyone has the right to die, particularly if they are enduring extreme pain or they wish to remove a huge burden on their families. It is their own body and death is a private matter. It could also benefit other patients who need treatment by opening, often limited, medical resources to them. It has been argued that each person has a choice and that no one else, be it a doctor, relative, religious authority, or court should be able to remove this choice. I will leave you with a thought-provoking anonymous quote “death is a private matter and should be decided only by the command of the certain individual who wants it.”  

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Range of Moral, Ethical and Legal Perspectives of Right to Die or Euthanasia. (2022, May 24). GradesFixer. Retrieved June 24, 2022, from
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