Debate: Should euthanasia be legalized?

Rebecca Barkdoll, Opinion Editor

Round 1

Side 1: Despite the fact that this issue never really seems to fade from public discussion, euthanasia of humans is a horrible idea. Not just because it leads to someone’s death, but because of the moral and legal issues that could come of this practice if it were allowed. For one thing, it would contradict the Hippocratic oath to do no harm. Yes, some may argue that this would mean less suffering for those patients who are euthanized, but that in itself is a slippery slope. Chemotherapy might very well be more uncomfortable than euthanasia, but if the patient has a good chance at recovering, would we really end their life because it’s less suffering to die than to go through chemo? No, we wouldn’t. Yet, for procedures where that line between suffering with a positive outcome and suffering without one is more uncertain, where would we draw the line? Also, if euthanasia were a legitimate medical option, then in all likelihood, insurance companies would prefer that to other, more extensive, expensive and long-term treatments. This would mean long-term chemo, long-term physical therapy, long-term nursing care and extensive surgeries could all be considered superfluous medical procedures when insurance companies compare them to euthanasia. Next thing we’d know, there wouldn’t be funds for treatment if someone got cancer or was in a horrible accident. Their only option would be death, a quick one, but death nonetheless.

Side 2: Although terms like abortion and euthanasia seem like bad ideas for Bible-thumpers who consider all life to be sacred, making it illegal, however, takes away free will. People have the right to make their own decisions, whether to abort a child or whether to end a person’s pain and suffering. Cancer patients during their terminal stages have a five percent chance of survival via chemotherapy. Surely they wouldn’t want to go through months of torment, social stigma and pain for such low odds. Also, insurance companies provide both the options to continue treatment as well as euthanasia. They have no rights to decide euthanasia for the patients, it’s strictly the patient’s and their family’s decision. Also, euthanasia should only be considered if all medical efforts have failed and the patient is no closer to getting better. If it takes a miracle for the patient to survive, ultimately it’s for the patient and their family’s decision whether they should suffer until the miracle happens and not the government’s.

Round 2

Side 1: In theory, the idea of free will keeping this practice in check sounds good, but in reality, that is unlikely to be the case. Pulling the plug for those in comas or vegetative states because they can’t make the choice themselves is only the beginning of what could happen if euthanasia were allowed. For example, what about disabled people or the elderly? They are much more vulnerable to abuse, partially because many of them are reliant on caretakers and can’t afford to leave them despite mistreatment. If a disabled person were badly mistreated and needed hospital care, what would stop their abuser, who is probably their medical proxy, from getting rid of them altogether? Nothing, if the choice could be argued as less painful to the abused party. Not to mention, economic and social issues means that minority groups are less likely to be able to afford healthcare and medical expenses. So, unless they chose to suffer through their health issues—something not always possible to do—they, more than the majority, would probably have to turn to euthanasia. If this became the case, we would find ourselves with a form of genocide, and that is something no moral society should ever endorse.

Side 2: Of course, there are cases where the patient may not be able to exhibit free will. Patients in a coma and permanent vegetative states such as paralysis where they won’t be able to rationally respond to questions and make any decisions are hard to deal with. In these cases, there is a dilemma of whether euthanasia is murder. However, would the patient want to lie in a hospital bed hooked up to machines for the rest of their life? No one deserves to be dishonored this way. Patient-centered arguments are hard to come by in these cases which would lead to the family members deciding to pull the plug for monetary, emotional and therapeutic reasons. If euthanasia is illegal, then they would run out of money which would stop treatment. Continuous care needs to be given, without which they would suffer and die painfully, causing grief to the entire family. And if there is abuse in the family, it would even lead to hatred towards the patient. With assisted death, at least the families of the deceased have closure and they can move on with their lives.

Side 2 argued by Vinay Pratapa