In the recent decades there has been quite a bit of talk concerning euthanasia. The proponents of euthanasia say that every person has the right to die. On this point we might all agree, but this is not really at the heart of the issue. The question isn’t whether or not man has the right to die, but rather does man have the right to kill himself? Here, I will do my best to convince you that man doesn’t have that right at all. My purpose is to give you well founded and systematic reasons for why these practices are bad for society and the individual on various levels. Further, my intent is not to persuade you by means of rhetoric, but if I can win you over by reason then I have succeeded.
Euthanasia is defined in the Merriam-Webster’s dictionary as the act or practice of killing or permitting the death of hopelessly sick or injured individuals in a relatively painless way for reasons of mercy. Also, Merriam-Webster’s dictionary defines suicide as the act or an instance of taking one's own life voluntarily and intentionally, especially by a person of years, of discretion, and of sound mind. However, for the purposes of our discussion we will use an expanded definition of euthanasia, which is inclusive of psychological problems as well. The reason being that those who believe euthanasia is a right, believe that the psychologically impaired should have equal access to euthanasia.
Immortalhumans.com says in its online article titled An Overview On Euthanasia; Are We the Master of Our Own Destiny, “In 2002, the Netherlands became the first country to legalize doctor –assisted suicide. Around 20% of the death toll in the country is from euthanasia and it is believed that out of this 12% is involuntary. The consent or acknowledgment of doctor-assisted suicide gave rise to illegal dilemma of falsified proof of death willingness. Imagine the ramifications of legalizing euthanasia. People would live in fear, instead of having doctors willing to treat patients, there would be doctors ready to kill them instead.”
Euthanasia is intended to be a way out for individuals who are faced with often incurable diseases, for the elderly who do not want to die in the due course of time, for those who are suicidal, and the depressed. The argument goes that these individuals have the right to do with their bodies what they please; they have a right to choose whether or not they will continue to live in such painful physical and psychological conditions. In fact, there is a wide array of arguments for doctor assisted euthanasia. This is partly due to the popularity of the issue. I’ll take a moment here to mention some of the pro-euthanasia arguments.
One very popular argument is that if man is allowed to choose how he will live, then it follows that he should be allowed to choose how he shall die. This argument seems reasonable, until we examine it further. Do we get to choose how we live? Are any of you living exactly as you would if you did indeed have the choice? The answer is no, because nature, circumstance, and society work in unison against us to put restrictions on our ability to do exactly what we want, when we want and therefore no one is living as they choose. Man does not have the right to live as he chooses, nature has not provided for that. So, if man does not have the “right” to choose how he will live, then it follows that he does not have the right to choose how he will die either. Therefore, this is a fallacious argument for euthanasia.
Another popular argument for euthanasia and suicide is that which appeals to nature. These people argue based on instances of suicide and euthanasia observed in nature across various species. The argument goes that often enough in nature there are instances where herds leave behind the elderly to die. They also make mention of the suicidal tendencies of various species. The purpose of this argument is to establish that suicide is a natural impulse, and euthanasia is a natural way for a community to deal with the eminent death of its members. They reason that if they can show euthanasia and suicide to be natural impulses then the government does not have the right to make them illegal or regulate them.
The problem with this argument is quite simple. While animals both euthanize and commit suicide, they also have sex with their siblings and parents, lick their anuses, and not only eat each others children, but their own as well; and I might add that they do so with far greater frequency than they do euthanasia and suicide. So, if we are to allow euthanasia and suicide based off of natural evidences, we must first allow cannibalism, murder, and incest. Therefore, this is another fallacious argument.
Another very popular argument is that euthanasia doesn’t hurt anyone. Notice here that this argument is made only for euthanasia. This is in part because to say the same concerning suicide is ridiculous. Many of us know of someone who has committed suicide. Some of us have seen the sad slope into despair and the final self-destruction of our loved ones. No one can say that suicide only hurts the person who commits it.
So, instead the argument is made that “euthanasia” doesn’t hurt anyone else. When this argument for euthanasia is propounded it is coupled with images of the terminally ill, crippled individuals, and aging widows. It is far easier to stomach such an idea when we imagine a person suffering from AIDS in a doctor’s office receiving a painless shot that ends their suffering. It’s easier if we think of a person whose whole body is paralyzed from the neck down, choosing to end their hopeless life. Or the lonely 80 year old widow whose family never visits her; who has passed the last seven years alone without her lifelong husband.
Those scenarios are much easier for us to accept, because they appeal to our sense of mercy, hence the term “mercy killing.” They don’t involve a bloody bed spread that someone shot themselves on; they don’t involve someone vomiting to death while trying to dial 911, because they changed their mind and don’t want to die after all. It’s in a sterile environment, administered by a medical professional, and they just go to “sleep.”
But this proposition is yet another argument rife with errors of logic. Specifically, this is what is called a ‘pathetic argument’ and is an error of logic. This argument attempts to assert the rightness of itself by appealing to emotions while pointing at the pitiable and pathetic state of the object being argued; in this case a person.
We are compelled to agree with this argument, because it appeals to emotion; not because it corresponds with reason. To quote Socrates,” A system of morality which is based on relative emotional values is a mere illusion, a thoroughly vulgar conception which has nothing sound in it and nothing true.” We are sold on this argument because it makes euthanasia out to be some sort of good for those who are suffering incurable and hopeless physical conditions. However, in the same instance they try to “shoe-horn” in psychological cases as well, for instance the lonely widow scenario. They try to gain the moral superiority by making a claim to mercy.
Further, they are pretending that it is the same species of mercy by lumping all of their scenarios together. Can we truly compare a person with a mangled and paralyzed body to an otherwise healthy elderly person who is simply tired of living? This argument creates a plethora of moral, philosophical and ethical dilemmas and in no way levies an effective argument. For instance, are those who are psychologically impaired with suicidal depression fit to make such choices? No.
The argument that euthanasia doesn’t hurt anyone else is based on the idea that we are all sovereign; that we are independent individuals who have a right to do whatever we want with our bodies. Let’s say that we do legalize euthanasia based on this thesis, what will the second and third order effects be? How far can we take this philosophy and what will it do to society? How will it change our laws, our world view, and our social norms? If we are the masters of our own bodies and immune to government interference concerning what we do with them, then it follows that we should legalize all illegal drugs. We should be able to do heroine, cocaine, ecstasy, crack and LSD. Prostitution should be legalized. Further, the sale of human body parts should no longer be illegal.
Where does this philosophy end? If you open the door, what else must you let in? Why don’t we allow people to do or sell crack? Because it ruins lives, and those lives add up to make communities, which add up to make society. The sale of illegal drugs has an adverse effect on society; that is why people may not do what they want to with their bodies. Similarly, the sale of body parts is illegal because people would be performing operations on each other and thousands of people would die; people might even murder in order to sell off body parts at a high price if they could readily sell it in a free market. We don’t allow prostitution because of the spread of disease, the increase of crime and the moral decay it brings to society.
The idea that a person should be allowed to do whatever they want to their own body is diametrically opposed not only to our laws, but to reason itself. The very idea promotes anarchy. Anarchy is the philosophy of “Do what thou wilt.” This selfish philosophy does injury to society which is a mutual necessity for the individual and the collective.
In the end, all arguments for euthanasia and suicide are either fallacious, subjective, or both. The argument for euthanasia is not built on rational arguments or facts. Further, for the past 2,500 years the physicians and doctors of the West have take then Hippocratic Oath where in it is written: “I will neither give a deadly drug to anybody if asked for it, nor will I make a suggestion to this effect.” The very idea of euthanasia disagrees with the medical arts, and with our common ancestors
To recap, there is a difference between having the right to die and the right to kill oneself. We may choose to not be resuscitated; we may even decline treatment or cure for life threatening diseases. We may choose martyrdom over self-defense, or we may even prefer to be killed instead of killing. These instances differ from euthanasia, because we are not killing ourselves, neither are we hastening the inevitable. Man does indeed have the right to die, but he does not have the right to hasten the inevitable and take his own life, because it is against the natural law. Therefore, no government can make right what is inherently wrong in nature, even if they should legalize it; and if a government cannot make right what is wrong it most certainly should not try and give license to the people to do what is wrong. There is no sufficient evidence to support the right to kill one’s self in nature, in philosophy, in science, in antiquity, or otherwise. If anyone can effectively make the argument for suicide and euthanasia, proving that it is indeed good and beneficial for mankind to practice, then let them make their argument and better mankind.
Otherwise, we must submit to the facts. It is a question of law and not of passions and opinions. To quote John Adams,” Facts are stubborn things; and whatever may be our wishes, our inclinations, or the dictates of our passions, they cannot alter the state of facts and evidences.” We must judge this matter based solely on the evidences produced for and against euthanasia. When our liberty is destroyed through the abuse thereof, we are returned to the tyranny of our passions. We have liberty for a purpose, and not for the sake of itself. Liberty does not give us the right to do whatever we want; liberty and lawlessness are not synonyms. Euthanasia, suicide and all other such practices must remain illegal, because we are a society of laws; laws which extend from and expound on our fundamental rights as human beings.