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Explain religious and ethical arguments in favour of euthanasia essay

Second Year Medicine University of New South Wales Nargus is passionate about writing on topics that are relevant to the practice of medicine and aims to incorporate medical journalism in her future career as a doctor.

Introduction The topic of euthanasia is one that is shrouded with much ethical debate and ambiguity.


Various types of euthanasia are recognised, with active voluntary euthanasia, assisted suicide and physicianassisted suicide eliciting the most controversy. Euthanasia is currently illegal in all Australian states, refl ecting the status quo of most countries, although, there are a handful of countries and states where acts of euthanasia are legally permitted under certain conditions.

Furthermore, it is said that good palliative care can provide relief from suffering to patients and unlike euthanasia, should be the answer in modern medicine. This article will define several terms relating to euthanasia in order to frame the key arguments used by proponents and opponents of euthanasia.

It will also outline the legal situation of euthanasia in Australia and countries abroad. Various types of euthanasia are recognised.

  • This debate cuts across complex and dynamic aspects such as, legal, ethical, human rights, health, religious, economic, spiritual, social and cultural aspects of the civilised society;
  • Some examples are listed below:

In Australia and most countries around the world, this practice is not considered as euthanasia at all. The main difference between active voluntary euthanasia and assisted suicide is that in assisted suicide and physician-assisted suicide, the patient performs the killing act.

Euthanasia: Right to life vs right to die

The doctrine of double effect excuses the death of the patient that may result, as a secondary effect, from an action taken with the primary intention of alleviating pain. However, there was a period when the Northern Territory permitted euthanasia and physician-assisted suicide under the Rights of Terminally Ill Act 1995. The Act came into effect in 1996 and made the Northern Territory the first place in the world to legally permit active voluntary euthanasia and physicianassisted suicide.

Under this Act, competent terminally ill adults who were aged 18 or over, were able to request a physician to help them in dying. This Act was short-lived however, after the Federal Government overturned it in 1997 with the Euthanasia Laws Act 1997. Arguments for and against euthanasia There are many arguments that have been put forward for and against euthanasia.

Anti-euthanasia arguments

A few of the main arguments for and against euthanasia are outlined below. For Rights-based argument Advocates of euthanasia argue that a patient has the right to make the decision about when and how they should die, based on the principles of autonomy and self-determination.

  1. For example, an atheist may recognise that there are dangers in allowing euthanasia the slippery slope argument , but they might argue that an individual's right to direct their own life outweighs other good arguments. Chochinov and colleagues found that fleeting or occasional thoughts of a desire for death were common in a study of people who were terminally ill, but few patients expressed a genuine desire for death.
  2. Commercialisation of health care. Law Commission report no.
  3. Major psychiatric disorders in suicide and suicide attempters; pp.
  4. Those who oppose this argument say that properly drafted legislation can draw a firm barrier across the slippery slope. People with different beliefs may agree with many of these arguments.

Furthermore, it is argued that as part of our human rights, there is a right to make our own decisions and a right to a dignified death. In line with this view, it is argued that active euthanasia should be permitted just as passive euthanasia is allowed.

The ethics of euthanasia

James Rachels [12] is a well-known proponent of euthanasia who advocates this view. He states that there is no moral difference between killing and letting die, as the intention is usually similar based on a utilitarian argument. He illustrates this argument by making use of two hypothetical scenarios.

Explain religious and ethical arguments in favour of Euthanasia

In the first scenario, Smith anticipates an inheritance should anything happen to his six-year-old cousin, and ventures to drown the child while he takes his bath. In a similar scenario, Jones stands to inherit a fortune should anything happen to his six-year-old cousin, and upon intending to drown his cousin, he witnesses his cousin drown on his own by accident and lets him die. Letting a patient die from an incurable disease may be seen as allowing the disease to be the natural cause of death without moral culpability.

The many arguments that have been put forward for and against euthanasia, and the handful that have been outlined provide only a glimpse into the ethical debate and controversy surrounding the topic of euthanasia.

  1. There are four main reasons why people think we shouldn't kill human beings.
  2. This argument says that euthanasia is bad because of the sanctity of human life. Competent palliative care may well be enough to prevent a person feeling any need to contemplate euthanasia.
  3. To do that is not to respect our inherent worth. In India abetment of suicide and attempt to suicide are both criminal offences.