Living is more valuable than dying and threatening to diminish the value of life is dangerous. Euthanasia, also called mercy killing, is the practice of doctors intentionally ending a terminally ill patient’s life in what is purportedly a gentle and dignified manner. The term originated in ancient Greek and means “easy death. ” Doctors perform euthanasia by administering lethal drugs or by withholding treatment that would prolong the patient’s life.
Physician-assisted suicide is also a form of euthanasia, but the difference between the two methods is that in euthanasia, doctors end the patient’s life with lethal injections, whereas, in physician-assisted suicide, patients kill themselves with a lethal amount of drugs prescribed by the doctors. Physicians practiced euthanasia long before the debate on its ethicality emerged. Many argue that patients have the right to choose when to terminate their lives when they become critically ill and in pain, suffering, or before they are in a vegetative state.
Although supporters assert that euthanasia promotes patients’ choice, it should not be legalized. The patient’s state of mind is unsound therefore their decision to choose euthanasia is unreliable. Also, family members and the entire medical conglomerate can abuse the practice. A patient’s mental, physical, and emotional health must be stable in order for them to make a sound decision about ending their lives. When an imbalance exists in any of these, the probability of a sound decision becomes uncertain.
Receiving a terminal diagnosis will devastate any person causing them to become vulnerable and irrational, which hinders their ability to reason clearly. As a result, the patient lacks the mental stability needed to request euthanasia. Pain seems to have the same effect on decision making as well. Fenwick, Chaboyer, and St. John’s research found that pain causes an individual to respond with reactive and crisis-driven approaches to their problems which results in impulsive decision-making and risk taking behavior (58).
For instance, countless pregnant women decide to have a natural birth without anesthesia. When presented with the unbearable amount of labor pain, many change their minds and opt for anesthetic drugs, despite the risks associated with them. In the same way, pain from severe illnesses can cause the patient to rashly request euthanasia. On the other hand, once the health care professionals provide pain relief and holistic hospice care takes over, some come to appreciate their life that remains.
Guilt, when associated with becoming a burden to family members, also plays a role in clouding the patient’s judgment. When their illness leads to their family members having to care for them, often times the patient can feel like an inconvenience, and this may cause feelings of guilt. This can add pressure on the elderly, making “the right to die” become a duty to die. If presented with the opportunity, legalizing euthanasia would open doors for patients like this to end their lives.
Patients with the fear of burdening their family members will not have the option to end their lives if euthanasia remains illegal. Furthermore, family members or designated caretakers can abuse euthanasia if it becomes legal. It is nearly impossible for the patient to rely on another person to make the best decision that they would have made for themselves, particularly when it involves personal interests such as profiting from a will. If there is something to gain, the family members’ motives seem questionable.
If the patient falls ill, then there lies a possibility that their heirs will hope for the patient’s death so that they could receive their inheritance. The inability to confirm whether the family actually has the patient’s best interest in mind supports the argument that any form of euthanasia is unethical. Moreover, some families may not have the opportunity to drop everything in order to take on the responsibility of their sick loved one. This causes added stress to the family and can lead to the desire to resolve the issue by forcing the idea of euthanasia on to the loved one.
Also, health care costs for terminally ill patients, including nursing homes, prescription drugs, and home health care deserves consideration. According to Time. com, one in every four Medicare dollars spent goes to the five percent of beneficiaries in the last year of their life. The result of this is often overwhelming debt for the families of terminally ill patients, with the care of a single patient costing approximately $39,000 exceeding the financial assets for many households. When the patient is uninsured or denied coverage from an insurance company, the family inherits the costs.
In cases like these, legalizing euthanasia would present it as a viable solution, and in their distress, the family members may selfishly consider it to alleviate the financial burden the patient may bring. One of the problems in the debate on euthanasia involves the influence of the entire medical field and the possibility of recovery. Doctors take an oath to preserve lives to the best of their ability. Their main purpose should involve providing hope to the patient because the medical field founds itself on the certainty of the patients intended recovery.
Also, diagnoses and prognoses are not always accurate. Incorrect diagnoses or prognoses could lead to unnecessary deaths in some patients. If euthanasia is legalized, this would completely obliterate the possibility of a patient recovering which raises the question of why euthanasia and assisted suicides are even an option. According to Oljana Hoxhai, the answer is cost control. She claims that “[h]ealth insurance companies would benefit greatly from euthanasia if it would spread widely. Tools used for death by euthanasia cost about $ 40, while to cure a disease it can be used even $ 40,000” (Hoxhaj 282).
Health insurers and hospital managers find euthanasia far cheaper than extended medical care. Legalizing euthanasia gives improper power to doctors, insurance companies, and the health care system, which they can easily abuse which ultimately affects everyone’s health care. For instance, according to CNN, “In 2008, cancer patient Barbara Wagner was prescribed a chemotherapy treatment by her doctor, but Oregon’s state-run health plan sent a letter which denied coverage of this chemo, yet offered to cover other “treatments,” including assisted suicide.
Unfortunately, Wagner is not the only one to receive this letter, Fox News reports that “Oregon doesn’t cover life-prolonging treatment unless there is better than a 5 percent chance it will help the patients live for five more years but it covers doctorassisted suicide, defining it as a means of providing comfort, no different from hospice care or pain medication. ” The health care system needs the law to restrain the temptation to speed up dying for the terminally ill and incapacitated patients just because of cost effectiveness.
The forefront of legalizing euthanasia portrays it as advocacy of a patient’s right to choose; however, there is an underlying danger that medical entities will use euthanasia to control health care costs, with the patient’s needs and wishes taking second place. On November 1, 2014, Brittany Maynard chose to end her life by euthanasia. She was a 29-year-old woman with terminal brain cancer who moved to Oregon (since euthanasia is legal in only five states, Oregon being one of them) so she could take advantage of the state’s death with dignity law.
Her story gained publicity in 2014 when she became a spokesperson for euthanasia. Euthanasia advocates promote her story because her story illustrates “dying with dignity”; one of the chief reasons why they believe it should be legalized. When doctors diagnosed Maynard, they told her she had grade 4 Glioblastoma, which causes seizures, blindness, inability to speak, memory loss, and paralysis. The doctors also told her that she had six months left to live and the fear of these in that manner made her choose to “die in dignity”.
In spite of this, when Maynard died, she had outlived her doctor’s April 2014 prognosis that she had had six months to live. As a result, this raises the question as to the reliability of doctors’ prognoses on patient life expectancy. Supporters also argue that euthanasia promotes the patient’s right to choose. They claim that patients should have the opportunity to choose when their lives should end, allowing the patient the option to avoid what they consider an undignified death.
With the legalization of euthanasia, patients are able to end their lives before their illness leads to suffering and incapacitation. Although this seems like a legitimate argument, legalizing euthanasia would actually introduce involuntary euthanasia as a result of its cost effectiveness, giving doctors an opportunity to euthanize ill or disabled patients against their will. Legalizing euthanasia makes it dangerous for vulnerable people labeled as a burden to society due to their physical, mental or financial state. In conclusion, the risks of abusing euthanasia prove it should not be legal.
There are many factors that affect the patient’s’ mindset such as pain, which makes their choice for euthanasia questionable. There is no way to confirm whether the designated family members choose euthanasia for the patient’s’ best interest and medical entities have much to gain from legalizing euthanasia without fully exercising other options available to the patient. Since the possibility of any of these occurring exists, legalizing euthanasia would not benefit our country because innocent lives may be in the balance.