Ethics remains a powerful field for examining and studying moral issues, topics, or events in different parts of the world. One of the topics many philosophers, health professionals, and policymakers take seriously is that of euthanasia. Although many countries have specific laws regarding the issue of physician-assisted suicide, it still remains a major concern that requires the application of appropriate ethical principles. This paper gives a brief history and social context of euthanasia in non-terminally ill patients, its moral relevance, and arguments surrounding this evidence-based medical practice.
History and Social Context
Euthanasia is a common practice in different healthcare sectors across the world. Monteverde (2017) defines it as “an evidence-based practice aimed at ending the life of a specific patient in order to relieve suffering and pain” (p. 3). It is usually permitted when the selected individual is suffering from a terminal disease characterized by endless suffering. This kind of medical practice was introduced by a physician called Francis Bacon in the early 17th century (Pozgar, 2016). He used the term “euthanasia” to refer to a painless death that was capable of removing any form of physical pain or suffering (Pozgar, 2016). Between the 17th and 19th centuries, some medical professionals considered the idea as appropriate for various conditions. In 1938, a new society was formed with the aim of lobbying for physician-assisted death (Pozgar, 2016). Switzerland’s decision to legalize euthanasia in the year 1938 informed such as initiative. From the 1960s, many societies and countries have continued to pass laws aimed at making the practice appropriate in healthcare settings.
The social implications and aspects of physician-assisted suicide continue to dominate many debates today. Some groups and stakeholders still believe that euthanasia is relevant since it offers an evidence-based solution to the pain many patients with terminal illnesses have go through. However, it becomes a controversial topic when focusing on the issue of euthanasia in non-terminally ill patients (Pozgar, 2016). This remains the case since it discourages professionals from offering high-quality services. Some people might be forced to die prematurely after electing euthanasia even if they do not have terminal illnesses.
Arguments and Counterarguments
Different countries have laws that permit doctor-assisted suicide even if the targeted patient does not have chronic condition, such as the Netherlands. This is in accordance with the idea of human liberties whereby individuals are allowed to make decisions regarding their health outcomes and experiences (Strinic, 2015). This means that euthanasia can be appropriate for people who are afraid of any form of suffering attributed to conditions that are not terminal in nature. Such beneficiaries will get rid of suffering immediately and ensure that their relatives are at peace.
The utilitarian theory or principle goes further to support euthanasia depending on the final outcome or consequence. According to it, actions are permissible depending on their results or outcomes. For instance, euthanasia should be appropriate and allowed if it ensures that the greatest majority of stakeholders are happy and capable of pursing their objectives (Pozgar, 2016). A sick person who goes through physician-assisted suicide will no longer experience suffering. Similarly, his or her relatives will not have to incur numerous expenses while searching for medical support.
On the other hand, there are specific people and societies that do not allow euthanasia in non-terminally ill people. They argue that such a medical practice does not fulfill the rules of deontological ethics. According to this moral principle, actions will be allowed if they are right and illegalized if they are wrong (Strinic, 2015). Some of those who remain opposed to such an event argue that euthanasia should only be available to persons with chronic conditions. Others indicate that people with non-terminal illnesses are in a position to get timely medical attention and eventually lead high-quality lives.
Some opponents focus on Christian ethics to explain why euthanasia is wrong since it amounts to the termination of life. They argue that life is righteous since it is a gift from God. By allowing this practice, Pozgar (2016) believes that other people suffering from similar diseases might not be able to receive good medical services in the long run. This is possible since more researchers and health researchers might be discouraged from undertaking continuous studies to understand the nature of such medical conditions and present appropriate drugs. From these points, it is evident that euthanasia will remain a major topic of contention among stakeholders for many decades.
The above discussion has identified euthanasia in non-terminally ill patients as a controversial issue that has both opposing and supporting groups. Those against it embrace the concepts of deontological and Christian ethics to explain why it results in sin and discourages professionals from engaging in continuous health research and development (R&D). Those who support it argue that people should be permitted to make their personal decisions regarding their wellbeing and medical experiences. With such issues in place, it is appropriate for the wider society to be involved in order to support the health needs of all people. The wider implication is that the move will ensure that euthanasia is applied appropriately and encourage stakeholders to improve the quality of the global healthcare sector.
Monteverde, S. (2017). Editorial: Nursing and assisted dying: Understanding the sounds of silence. Nursing Ethics, 24(1), 3-8. Web.
Pozgar, G. D. (2016). Legal aspects of health care administration (12th ed.). Burlington, MA: Jones & Bartlett Learning.
Strinic, V. (2015). Arguments in support and against euthanasia. British Journal of Medicine & Medical Research, 9(7), 1-12. Web.