The Euthanasia Issue

Good afternoon. Ladies and gentlemen, I am here today to put forward the case of Euthanasia. The definition of Euthanasia originally meant: ‘A gentle and easy death,’ but time has altered it to mean: ‘The Act of inducing an easy death.’ Both definitions refer to acts which terminate or shorten life painlessly.

There are five different categories in which euthanasia can be placed, they are:

Voluntary, which is often referred to as assisted suicide. In these cases the sufferer has made it clear that they wish to terminate their life and has requested help for a painless end.

Involuntary Euthanasia is when the patient expresses no wish to die and no consent is given, however the patient is in a state of mind where they are capable of expressing their wishes.

Non-voluntary Euthanasia is when patients can not express a wish to die but it is considered a mercy killing as the sufferer is in a coma, a vegetative state or may have senile dementia.

Passive Euthanasia is widely carried out in the UK and is generally accepted as being legal. The patient is allowed to die by the withdrawal of treatment or nourishment. Hospices support this and help patients to die slowly and painlessly, it is sometimes referred to as a slow overdose.

Active Euthanasia is when the patient takes part in the decision which involves specific actions such as lethal drugs or injections which are intended to cause death.

Arguments about euthanasia often revolve around two beliefs; ‘The right to life,’ and ‘the right to die.’ The first is widely accepted as a human right and moral value as people generally want to live, but how should we act when seriously ill people no longer want to live? Do they have a right to death? Many sufferers wish to commit suicide but do not have they physical strength or the means to do it painlessly. I put it to you, why add to the suffering by denying them help?

Centuries ago most people died quickly, whereas now days they can be treated, cured and kept alive. Codes of conduct for medical practitioners are out dated and I believe can not help with problems in the twentieth century.

The case against most forms of Euthanasia is weak. Most arguments are based upon religious beliefs which say it is not for doctors to play god and decide when people die, only god can give and take away life. How can our laws be based on a faith not shared by all? Some people who do not agree with voluntary euthanasia argue that if legalised it would damage the moral and social foundations or society by removing the principle that man should not kill. I believe that it is immoral to allow others to suffer unnecessarily; therefore it could just as well be argued that it is inhumane to knowingly allow people to be tortured.

Some people argue that legalising voluntary euthanasia will lead to society allowing involuntary euthanasia. Two prominent cases of involuntary euthanasia are Dr Harold Shipman and Hitler’s Nazi regime. Both were cold blooded killing and did not begin with voluntary euthanasia.

The public, including many of you I am sure, can see how the 1967 Abortion Act has created a higher abortion rate, thus the safeguards set were ignored, and you are worried that the same could happen if euthanasia were legalised. I can not guarantee this would not happen but, as in Holland where it is legal, three doctors must examine the patient’s psychological state and agree that they are of sound mind to make the decision, before they are allowed to die. This rule eradicates any chance of mistaken judgement.

I believe that the case in support of Voluntary euthanasia is much stronger than the one against. Humanists believe that people should have the right to choose a painless and dignified end. The right circumstances should include: extreme pain and suffering: helplessness and loss of personal dignity: permanent loss of those things which have made life worth living for the individual. Can you imagine not being able to control you actions? How undignified would you feel? Life would not be worth living. This is the case I put to you.

To the people who argue that no doctor can ‘play god’ I say that all medical interventions are ‘defying gods wishes’ and no law should be based on a religious faith not shared by all.

In 1996 research was carried out, in Australia and in Holland, into the practice of voluntary euthanasia. The results showed that it was five times more common in Australia, where it is illegal, than in Holland where it has been legalised. Does this not show us that when legalised safeguards are followed strictly therefore actually reducing the number of patients taking that option?

Let me set a real life scenario. Say, your mother became terminally ill. Her state worsened slowly and painfully. Daily she begged you to help in ending her life. You knew her painkillers only controlled 95% or her suffering. Still she deteriorated; bound to a wheelchair, practically unable to speak. What quality of life was it? Could you stand by and watch? I know I couldn’t.

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