Distinguish between voluntary and involuntary euthanasia. Is either ever justified?
Euthanasia, is a gentle or easy death as defined now in our dictionaries, or the killing of people who cannot be cured and in great pain. The killing was done for the sake of the people killed to keep them away from more suffering. Euthanasia is separated into three types. These are voluntary, non-voluntary, and involuntary euthanasia. This essay will look at the meaning of voluntary and involuntary euthanasia and try to justify these actions.
First it is important to establish that killing and letting die is the same. For this the utilitarian approach is very effective. Given that in this approach the consequences is how an action is evaluated or measured we can say that in both cases(killing and letting die) the consequence is the same. Therefore killing and letting die has no difference what so ever. Voluntary euthanasia is when a person understands the difference between life and death and he chooses death. The person?s consent for his life to end makes all the difference in the justification. In Classical utilitarianism an action is judged by the pain and suffering after the action felt by the people who are directly affected by it(Singer, p.194). This makes voluntary euthanasia go either way. Given that killing is wrong if a person dies people who know him or her would be in sorrow and feel sad for his passing. Another way classical utilitarianism could go is that people would feel sympathetic to his situation. If the person who wants to be euthanized is really in great pain the people around that person would be afraid. If their time came when they are in the suffering person?s place they wouldn?t want to be denied euthanasia. Preference utilitarianism shows a much more advance justification. Here a person?s wants and desires are highly valued(Singer, p.194). Through the principle of equal consideration of interests the person?s preference or interests are weighed and protected. As we respect a person desire to live we must consider and respect his or her wishes to die. If we do not we would have overridden his or her interests and ignored his or her preferences. Another approach is the rights based approach. In the rights based approach it is believed that person?s have a right to life(Singer, p.194). This means an absolute prohibition on killing a person against his own wishes. They also believe that all individuals have an equal intrinsic value. If a person has a right to life it is under his decision if he or she wants to waive his right to live. If he or she does we must euthanize them. The Principle of Autonomy offers a more authoritative justification. A rational and self conscious being, or a person, has autonomy over himself therefor making a person?s preferences well respected(Singer, p.194). If a person has autonomy over himself then his or her welfare is in his or her own hands and if he or she wants to be euthanized we have to respect that.
Another approach similar to classical utilitarianism is Sidney Hook?s. Similar in a way that they both look at how a person?s relatives are a factor in euthanasia. He states that a person suffering and slowly deteriorating on a death bed needs a lot of attention(Hook, p.239). This attention and care giving comes from the people around him and his relatives. This people who care for him or her feel sad, hopeless and miserable because the family sees how he deteriorates. This affect on the people around can?t be good.
By the show of arguments clearly voluntary euthanasia is morally right but when we apply it to the real world the problems that arise outweigh the benefits. If we do decide to implement the legality of voluntary euthanasia we would have to deal with questions that we have no clear answer to. How do we know that the person who wants to die made a free decision to die? He could be influenced by the pain, his family, or other factors. Each person?s pain threshold is different giving us no standards to base the execution of voluntary euthanasia. Some people could only take small amounts of pain and misery and some could take a truck load it really depends upon the person?s own perception of his limit. What if the patient is influenced by his family in some way then that will totally invalidate the purpose of implementation. Implementing voluntary euthanasia is like opening a can of worms.
Involuntary euthanasia is when the person being killed understands the difference between life and death and chooses life or she wasn?t aware of the choice. Justifying involuntary euthanasia is very hard because genuine cases of this type of euthanasia is very rare. According to the fact that killing and letting die are the same, all the other approaches, such as preference utilitarian, rights based approach, and the autonomous approach, cannot be used to justify this type of euthanasia because there is no consent of the person wanting to die. The only justification for involuntary euthanasia is if the person being killed doesn?t know that his or her future is full of great pain and suffering that there is no choice but to kill that person. The question is that humans can determine if their illness will ger worst of not. This might apply to chimpanzees. If ever a chimpanzee gets ill and his or her illness will get worst as time passes by then involuntary euthanasia might apply. The chimp doesn?t know that his or her condition will get worst compared to present conditions. At this time it would me morally right to involuntarily euthanize the chimp. Another argument that could be presented is if we change the base of the arguments for the other approaches.
What if we use Jonathan Bennett?s view that killing and letting somebody die? Bennett mentions in her book killing is very different from letting somebody die. First he states that he is separating himself from the moral authority stating that ?It would always be wrong to kill an innocent human being, unless there are very powerful reasons for doing so(Bennett, p.111).? He states that in instances that you let somebody die due to malicious reasons you are killing. Also he states that the number of options matters in determining if an act is letting die somebody die or killing. He states that in killing there are always lots of ways to kill but only one is mentioned. In letting die there is only one possible way of killing. From his statements that if there is no malicious motivation it is not killing then involuntary euthanasia will be justified. It is justified if there is only one way to kill the patient and if you are acting under concern, compassion or other non-malicious way.
My opinion doesn?t agree with Bennett. The prefference utilitarian approach to me is the most consistent of all the approaches. Classical utilitarian is too close to being an absolutism. The rights based approach is applicable but my concern is where do these rights come from. The autonomous approach might lead to genocide because one group of people could have more autonomy than the other. Then they could do whatever they want with the inferior groups. In preference utilitarian every interest is considered especially the person being euthanized. It is truly their decision. On the other hand if I am asked if either voluntary and involuntary euthanasia is justified I would have to say no. Voluntary euthanasia was well supported but the fact is that it still is hard to put into practice. Problems with the competency of the decision made by the person being euthanized. Was he influenced by the pain, family or any other factors that might construe his logical reasoning? Involuntary euthanasia is quite hard to justify due to the fact that it happens rarely. It also basically disregards the patients ability to decide for himself. Its practice may lead to genocide or at least taking a life without consent which is too much power on a person?s hand. Voluntary euthanasia does still have hope if the time comes when a physician knows more of what you feel than that of what you really physically, emotionally, and psychologically feel. Then and only then could they implement Voluntary euthanasia.