Euthanasia is the process of terminating the life of a person who is experiencing intense pain, suffering or illness (reference). It involves deliberate actions that are taken to end a life, with the primary aim of helping relieve suffering on the side of the patient as well as let them die with dignity. The physician is allowed to use a painless means to end the life of the patient provided the patient, family, and other vital stakeholders have agreed (reference. This issue raises a lot of disturbing moral dilemmas such as in what condition can euthanasia be justified? This essay will address why euthanasia should be legalized to give sufferers the opportunity to decide whether or not to terminate their life and pass on with dignity.
There are three kinds of Euthanasia: voluntary, involuntary, or non-voluntary depending on how it is conducted. Non-voluntary euthanasia happens when the individual cannot consent due to their current state of physical and mental health, the decision is primarily made by the family or the physicians. Involuntary euthanasia can be termed as murder since it happens against the will of the patient.
Euthanasia is not allowed in Australian territories (reference). A person that does the practice is charged with assisting suicide, manslaughter, or murder. Similarly, the state of Victoria allows assisted suicide after the state passed the Assisted Dying Act 2017. However, the Assisted Dying Act of 2017 will start being operational from 19 June 2019, which means that euthanasia is not allowable in all parts of the country. Nevertheless, there have been on-going debates about the topic in different states.
For example, euthanasia had been legalised in the Northern Territory between March 1996 and March 1997 before the intervention of the Australian Government to make it illegal. The attempts to legalise the practice have not stopped, and the debates have gained momentum in Queensland and other states (Reference). Currently, euthanasia is illegal, and offenders can be prosecuted under criminal law. The law concerning euthanasia has drawn attention in public and professionals (Hurst, Mauron, 2013). Arguments against the authorization of active voluntary euthanasia take account of the opinion that such an exercise undermines the role of a doctor as a healer. It is claimed that after a medical doctor takes part in the killing, the trust between a doctor and a patient is undermined. Individuals have put their faith in the doctors to the preservation of life, to caring, to healing (Reference). Furthermore, the role of palliative care has been linked to this argument. Adversaries of euthanasia claim that the introduction of euthanasia will undermine investment and the value and role put on palliative care.
Over the years, Australia has been unable to legalise euthanasia due to the controversies surrounding the issue. Most of the objections are brought about by different stakeholders who have opposing views on this topic. Human right activists, religious groups, the healthcare system, as well as the government are the primary stakeholders as far as legalising euthanasia is concerned. Some of the queries are as follows.
- Is there any moral difference among killing a person and letting them die?
- Is there any right to end the life of a person who is suffering from serious pain?
Such arguments make people give different opinions about the value and meaning of human existence. Some individuals have questioned whether there is any right of a person to make a choice on issues of life and death. For some persons, euthanasia ought not to be legalized because it can be roughly treated and used as a cover for murder (Reference). For others, euthanasia should be legalized because no one should dictate the other how to do with the body. Hence, it is wrong to make an individual live longer than he wants. Supporters of euthanasia argue that making a person live longer against his will amounts to the violation of human rights and personal freedoms.
Several cases exist on this topic, In R v Cox (1992) 12 BMLR 38, Mrs. Boyes had had rheumatic arthritis for a considerable period of time. She had known Dr. Cox for more than 13 years, with the physician promising her that she will not suffer. This was not the case as Dr. Cox made several unsuccessful attempts to control his patient’s pain. It is after this point that Dr. Cox asked Mrs. Boyes the permission to kill her (Did she consent?), which he did by administering an overdose of potassium chloride (“Euthanasia and Assisted Dying,” n.d.). Dr. Cox was later charged with attempted murder. Therefore, if euthanasia was legal Dr. Cox would not have been charged.
Many cases that have involved the Director of Public Prosecution (DPP) provide great evidence about the state of the law on euthanasia in Australia and Queensland State. An example of such legal cases includes the DPP v Nestorowycz  VSC 385 and v Karaca & Price  VSC 190. In DPP v Nestroycz’s  VSC 385, the Nestrowycz’s husband was in a wheelchair due to dementia and diabetes (“Euthanasia and Assisted Dying,” n.d.). The husband had pleaded with the physician to be allowed to go home, but there is no proof that he had asked to die.
The accused attempted suicide after stabbing her husband to death. In this case, Nesterowycz was charged with attempted murder. A similar scenario was with DPP v Karaca & Price  VSC 190 that had happened a year earlier. In this case, Bruce Levin had attempted several murders due to depression. In the end, he asked for the intervention of Robert Karaca and Jarred Price (who were younger) to assist him in committing suicide. Robert Karaca and Jarred Price had agreed to help the victim commit suicide although it did not work. They were sentenced by criminal law for attempted murder, for three years imprisonment each.
The case of R v Justin  NSWSC 568 is of paramount importance as far as voluntary euthanasia is concerned. This case involved the long-term partners (Justin and Wylie) and a friend (Jennings). After suffering from Alzheimer, Wylie attempted suicide on several occasions. He has expressed his desire of visiting Dignitas in Switzerland, an organization that would assist him in committing suicide (“R v Shirley Justins – NSW Caselaw,” n.d.).
As can be seen, Wylie had a clear objective of terminating his life due to his condition. The organization rejected his application on the ground that he did not have the capacity of deciding to end his life. It is at this point that Justin and Jennings intervened, by sourcing a drug that could help Wylie commit suicide. Nembutal is illegal in Australia and had to be sourced from Mexico (“R v Shirley Justins – NSW Caselaw,” n.d.). Wylie was sentenced for two and a half years with a non-parole period of 22 months. Jennings decided to take his life before even he was convicted, and this is another case that demonstrates the sensitivity of the topic of suicide.
In all Australian states assisting suicide is a crime (I thought Victoria legalized it?). When a doctor complies with a patient’s request to end his life, the doctor would be exposed to criminal liability. Within the states of Australia, an individual who commits an act that causes the death of another, with the intention to cause death, is responsible for the death. The law clearly states that an individual who has aided another’s death can’t escape liability by virtue of compassionate motive or other explanatory situations.
Nevertheless, there are no cases of prosecuted doctors in Australia for assisting the suicide of their patients (Bartels, Otlowski, 2010). However, in 1995, the Queensland Parliament passed the criminal code Act 1995 which absolve an individual of criminal responsibility for providing medical treatment where such provision is provided in good faith. The only person who was convicted under Queensland’s laws against euthanasia is Merin Nielsen. However, he was freed later.
The number one argument against euthanasia is that it tends to compromise the ability of society to value human life. Moreover, murdering people does not meet the demands of palliative care since other non-controversial strategies have already been put in place. Also, legalizing euthanasia is likely to create a loophole for poor healthcare delivery.
For instance, legalizing voluntary euthanasia can easily lead to cases of non-voluntary and involuntary euthanasia. This happens when the physicians and other healthcare professional find an easy way of terminating people’s life at the expense of fighting to restore their good health. It is also argued that physicians will also be reluctant in going an extra mile to cure a person.
Arguments in support of legalizing active voluntary euthanasia include transparency and legitimacy.
Moreover, the proponents of euthanasia cite personal autonomy and the right to choose. Supporters argue that the decision to end one’s life is a personal choice. Therefore, every person should respect the other’s right to choose. For some people, euthanasia should be legalized because no one should dictate the other how to do with the body. Hence, it is wrong to make an individual live longer than he wants. Supporters of euthanasia argue that making a person live longer against his, will amounts to a violation of human rights and personal freedoms.
Proponents of active voluntary euthanasia argue that no individual should be forced to suffer and those who relieve a person’s suffering by euthanasia act humanely. Given that it is acceptable for autonomous refusal of treatment and the use of palliative medications that can inescapably quicken the death of a patient, then to deny the request for active voluntary euthanasia is moral cowardice. If patients are permitted to refuse treatment, even if it means they would die, then they are supposed to be allowed to get assisted for death.
Opponents of active voluntary euthanasia reject the idea that killing a person is morally the same as enabling them to die and argue against the legislation of euthanasia.
However, the law is a blunt tool and lacks compassion, sensitivity, and finesse to handle death and that law shouldn’t intervene at the bedside. As well, medical knowledge is limited and can’t predict the nature of a person’s life. Medical practitioners can make wrong diagnoses or fail perfectly to predict a person’s prognosis and that even the sickest patient can recover.
Nevertheless, euthanasia is irreversible. Furthermore, adversaries claim that there is a moral difference between letting die and killing. It is actually morally unacceptable to intervene and intentionally kill a person but, it is not unlawful to allow a patient to die. In my opinion, active voluntary euthanasia should be legalized. In point of fact, euthanasia is not supposed to be limited only to individuals who are dying but to all individuals who feel they don’t want to live due to the poor quality of life. People should be allowed to terminate their lives when and how they wish. As well, those who want to assist them should be free from professional, moral, or legal sanctions. We live in a democratic society of great moral, religious, and cultural pluralism where personal rights are respected.
Therefore, people are supposed to have moral authority over their own lives and are supposed to be allowed to end their lives when they wish. Individual’s dignity should be respected. Euthanasia should be legalized because no one should dictate the other how to do with his own body. Hence, it is wrong to make an individual live longer than he wants. Supporters of euthanasia argue that making a person live longer against his will amounts to a violation of human rights and personal freedoms.
In conclusion, issues like active voluntary euthanasia address the issues experienced in a society when highlighting uniqueness and uncertainties of human life. Proponents of euthanasia argue that no one should dictate the other how to do with the body. Hence, it is wrong to make an individual live longer than he wants. Supporters of euthanasia argue that making a person live longer against his will amounts to the violation of human rights and personal freedoms.
Despite the current legal state about euthanasia, the debate and calls against or for euthanasia have always been ongoing. There are several bills under discussion by the parliament about legalising euthanasia. In this essay, I have proved as to why euthanasia should be legalized to give sufferers the opportunity to decide whether or not to terminate their life and pass on with dignity.