Euthanasia often called mercy-killing is an act of intentionally ending a person’s life to relieve them of the physical pain they suffer. It has been a topic of debate for thousands of years now. Many countries have now legalized Euthanasia. It raises many opinions by philosophers, doctors, and the government itself. There have been varying ideas regarding this issue. And it is one of the most visible cases, where a conflict arises between Ethics and Sentiments. Although many countries have adopted Euthanasia and made it legal, many people remain cynical about it.
The word Euthanasia was first used 3000 years ago by the Greek philosophers, the word meant ‘Good Death’. Philosophers like Plato and Sophocles have indirectly written about the idea of Euthanasia. And so, the concept of legally ending a person’s suffering emerged.
Many people remain cynical about it after the Nazis in the early 19th century committed mass euthanasia of over 300,000 people. Hence, people often equate it as something only cruel people like Nazis would do.
Types of Euthanasia
There are two types of Euthanasia, Voluntary and Non-Voluntary. Voluntary means that the patient’s consent for conducting Euthanasia was taken. Non-voluntary doesn’t have the consent of the patient. Further based on how it was carried, Euthanasia was divided into Active and Passive. Active meant killing a person by injecting a drug while Passive meant stopping the life-support the patient was on, which will ultimately kill the person.
There have been many debates regarding the method of allowing euthanasia. For example, is killing a patient more immoral or letting them die more immoral. Some countries only allow passive euthanasia.
Euthanasia Vs Assisted suicide
So, the only difference between these two is the person who carries out the act of killing the person. In euthanasia, law allows a doctor to kill a patient by painless means. Assisted suicide means that the doctor helps the person to end their own life.
Which countries allow Euthanasia?
In 2002, New Zealand became the first country to legalize both euthanasia and assisted suicide. After that many other liberal countries like Belgium, Switzerland, Canada, Australia, etc., legalized euthanasia. Many countries like the UK have legalized assisted dying only for incurable diseases. And in the USA only a few states allow passive euthanasia.
In India, only passive euthanasia became legal and that too only in 2018. Hence active euthanasia is still a punishable offense in India. They brought the first case seeking euthanasia to the Supreme Court in 1973 called the Aruna case. She fell into a permanent vegetative state after being the victim of sexual assault, her friend sought the Supreme Court to allow mercy-killing. The SC appointed a panel to look into the patient’s state. Although the panel said that she can’t be recovered, SC rejected her plea. But gave the landmark judgment of allowing passive euthanasia that too only if the person is in a permanent vegetative state.
Right to live in dignity
As per article 21 of the Indian constitution, the right to life is a fundamental right. This indirectly points to various rights that come along with it. The right of a person to live with dignity is more or less tacit. No one wants to be looked at through the eyes of pity and hopelessness. Hence a life without dignity isn’t life itself. But there is a very thin line between the right to die and the right to die with dignity.
Suicide should never be confused with the act of mercy-killing. Suicide is the act of killing self, it may not always be for physical sufferings. Mercy-killing should not be sought for cases that focus on mental depression. Because then it will be like asking the state permission to commit suicide, which is absurd. We can always work to improve our mental health conditions. And it also doesn’t mean that we should undermine mental health. But when there is nothing that medical science can do to improve the person’s condition, only then should we seek mercy-killing.
Do ethics allow it?
Death by any means is painful and killing someone is even crueler. A doctor who is supposed to be saving lives, can be allowed to commit the cruel act of killing a person? Many people have varied answers to this question. But most people think that if the person is suffering from a terminal illness and there is no way the person can be saved, then it is not immoral. The patient is suffering every single day and is just waiting for death’s sweet kiss to take away the pain. It is more aching for the family who has to witness their loved ones’ torture. Knowing that there is absolutely no way the person can survive, then giving the person a peaceful death seems to be the last gift one can grant them. It is very selfish to wish to continue seeing that person and ignore the amount of pain they have to go through.
But if one thinks about it, medical science is very advanced today. Would it be wrong to just lose hope regarding the attainment of an effective treatment? Or would it be right to wait for miracles to happen? After all, there are no confirmed notions regarding another life. We can only live once. Is it right to lose all hope and accept the ultimate path life has offered? These are some questions that will forever linger in our minds because these are mere assumptions and no one can be sure of it.
Should Euthanasia be legalized?
The answers to this question are very dynamic. All the major religions in the world believe that God is the only creator and destroyer, and hence no human should possess the right to decide when and how a person should die. Religion condemns the act of Euthanasia. So, to many people, it may be a sin to commit acts that challenge a god.
But it seems too harsh to just sit and watch people with no hope of survival, to just lay there and suffer. There should be stringent laws regarding this issue because everyone has a right to live their life with dignity. The law must examine the conditions and validity of the people’s claim to end their lives. And anything that has been opposed by law shouldn’t be practiced.