Euthanasia - Should Be Your Legal Right

Euthanasia should be your legal right

The purpose of the present paper is to discuss the very complex issue represented by euthanasia. The main argument of the paper is that euthanasia should be a legal right. I will begin by analyzing the definition of the main concept. I will compare my definitional criteria with the ones suggested by others and I will also present a case which meets them as a conclusion.

According to euthanasia.com, a website dedicated entirely to the issue under discussion, euthanasia is the intentional killing by act or omission of a dependent human being for his or her alleged benefit. Just like the definition underlines, the decisive factor is represented by intentionality. If intention is missing, then the act of euthanasia is excluded. Voluntary euthanasia occurs when the person who is killed has requested to be killed. Euthanasia by action occurs when someone intentionally causes a person's death by performing an action such as by giving a lethal injection. On the other hand, euthanasia by omission implies intentionally causing death by not providing necessary and ordinary (usual and customary) care or food or water. In addition, we can speak about assisted suicide when someone provides an individual with the information, guidance and means to take his or her own life with the intention that they will be used for this purpose. When it is a doctor who helps another person to kill themselves, then we are dealing with "physician-assisted suicide." (http://www.euthanasia.com/definitions.html )

The complexity of the moral and ethical implications which euthanasia involves are more than obvious. In order to simplify the discussion we shall pass directly to the present regulation regarding the matter. Quoting from the Canadian Criminal code, we find out that "No person is entitled to consent to death to have death inflicted on him and such consent does not affect the criminal responsibility of any person by whom death may be inflicted on the person by whom consent is given." -article 14 and "everyone who counsels a person to commit suicide or aids or abets a person to commit suicide, whether suicide ensues or not, is guilty of an indictable offense and liable to imprisonment for a term not exceeding fourteen years"- article 241. (http://www.duhaime.org/LegalResources/CriminalLaw/LawArticle-100/Euthanasia-in-Canada.aspx )

Taking a look at these regulations we notice that euthanasia, whether voluntary or by omission falls outside the law. The same is valid for assisted suicide. Section 215 of the same code deals with the circumstances in which a doctor might consider to withdraw medical care and this is where things become more interesting: "..everyone is under a legal duty to provide necessaries of life to a person under his charge if that person is unable, by reason of (…) illness, mental disorder or other cause, to withdraw himself from that charge and is unable to provide himself with te necessaries of life." (http://www.duhaime.org/LegalResources/CriminalLaw/LawArticle-100/Euthanasia-in-Canada.aspx ) This section was created having in mind the responsibility of the physicians, who, after having taken the Hippocratic Oath (" I will never give a deadly drug to anybody if asked for it, nor will I make a suggestion to this effect." http://www.duhaime.org/LegalResources/CriminalLaw/LawArticle-100/Euthanasia-in-Canada.aspx ) are held from withdrawing any type of mechanism through which life is supported. In addition, medics are also compelled to make sure that a patient who faces the risk of suicide is prevented from doing it or harming themselves in a process of this nature. Obviously the physician-assisted suicide also falls outside the contemporary Canadian legislation.

Nevertheless life is a right and not an obligation. In addition, it is fair to assume that every individual is free to dispose of himself according to his preferences, as long as his actions do not negatively impact the rights of the others. Remaining in the judicial area we could now quote the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms stating that "everyone has the right to (…) security of the person and the right not to be deprived thereof" (http://www.duhaime.org/LegalResources/CriminalLaw/LawArticle-100/Euthanasia-in-Canada.aspx ). It must be underlined that Canadian citizens do have "a basic right to refuse medical care and treatment and they have a right to decide what medical treatment they accept or reject, even if the rejection of a life-saving procedures leads to their death." (

4Canada.aspx ) I believe that this section fro the Charter of Rights and Freedoms is a strong departure point which could support the legalization of euthanasia.

Trying to understand why the legislation does not consider euthanasia to be an acceptable practice, we see that its goal is to protect the individual and its dignity. Nevertheless, bearing in mind these coordinates of respect for life and individual dignity, I believe we must remember two things. The first one is that life is a right and not an obligation. The second one concerns the individual's freedom. Just like all the existing documentation suggests it, man ought to be free to do anything he pleases with himself. The limitations of personal freedom intervene to protect the rights of the other fellowmen and euthanasia does not impact these rights in a negative manner.

Some might argue that a person's decision to be killed or to commit suicide affects the members of his family in a negative manner. However, when judging the issue we must underline the circumstances in which euthanasia is usually desired. These circumstances usually involve developed states of illness, or situations which prevent an individual to lead a normal life with chances at being happy. A very powerful ethic question becomes implicit at this point. While life is believed to have an intrinsic value ( hence all the legislation which tries to protect and support it), it is just as true that the life led by a healthy person and life held by let us say, someone who has been in a come for a long while or is facing imminent mental damage- are definitely one and the same thing. In the end the value of life is subjectively determined.

It is true that the legislation tries to protect the individual. There might be hidden interest that members of the family could have in the life of someone. The law prevents schemes of this kind in order to protect the individuals who are in states which no longer allow them to decide for themselves. However, the question of living wills, in which a person could state their will of not being maintained alive once their capacities to decide on their own have gone does not simplify the matter either (legally, wills can be contested).

Let us take a look at the reasons for which it is generally believed that euthanasia ought to be placed outside the law. A first consideration says that life is sacred. In other words, the intrinsic value of life is bigger than the individual's will. In addition, such an act is considered to devalue life. Since life is the supreme good and right, then it results normal for such an approach to be inconceivable. Others argue that hope must never be abandoned, especially taking into consideration the irrevocable character of the decision. The improvement of the palliative care techniques is a supportive argument in this regard. Other voices suggest that medics should not be given such a great power of decision. In addition, euthanasia is against the will of god and against man's best interests. The regulation is also meant to prevent abuse and pressures made against the individual's rights.

While admitting that all the above mentioned concerns are valuable, we must underline their limited truth value. Life may be sacred, but so is its quality. If the quality of life deprives a person of his dignity, how should life be viewed then? Furthermore, the existence of god is a matter of subjective belief. As far…