Argument regarding the will to live and die has raged over the last decade since Dr. Kevorkian was convicted for assisting a lot of people to commit suicide by administering lethal injections (Johnson, 1999). The question regarding how ethical, physical assisted suicide is to the life of human beings is still debated by many. However, in each of those discussions everyone seemed to hit a dead end. After the development of technology and subsequent creation of organized websites, people have frequently discussed about the pros and cons of euthanasia (E. J. Emanuel, Fairclough and L. L. Emanuel, 2000). Such platforms have provided people with the opportunity to interact, learn, connect, and express their beliefs regarding this controversial issue on a global stage. Some believe that the practice of euthanasia should be made legal for the terminally ill patients whereas some question the ethical nature of this activity (Materstvedt, et al., 2003). This sets forth one and only question and that is, should euthanasia be legalized? It is with regards to this question that the researcher will attempt to analyze the ethical issues of euthanasia, inspired from an article published in BBC (“Ethical problems of euthanasia”) (BBC, 2014a), by taking standpoints of several ethical philosophies.
Euthanasia as a topic has not been discussed much by philosophers up until recently when this topic has grabbed the attention of major proportion of the global population. Up until this point, what have been discussed very often are cases related to suicide, which as an action raises similar ethical issues as euthanasia. The moral identicalness between suicide and voluntary euthanasia allows researchers and academic scholars to make a sensible guess about the perceptions of famous philosophers regarding voluntary euthanasia.
Conventional theories have always aimed to identify the appropriate criterion that defines morally correct action. Such theories can be classified into two separate groups: the ones which state that the right action is always the one that provides the best output and the others which state that the right actions are not always the ones that provide the best result (Shultz and Brender?Ilan, 2004). The former theory is consequentialist while the latter is deontological. Consequentialist theories can be further classified into egoistic theories and universalistic theories. While the former sees those consequences that matter morally as involving only consequences for the active person, the latter sees consequences for the ones who are affected (Jacobson, 2008).
The first question that may prompt ones thought process is what defines a good consequence. This question introduced a robust concept called utilitarianism consequences which are referred to as the feeling of simple happiness which is characterized by pleasure of liberty from bodily pain and suffering of various sorts (Mulgan, 2001). The researcher in this case will study the ethical issue of euthanasia by taking standpoints of the ethical or morality of action theories defined above.
Both ideal utilitarian and hedonist theory will argue that voluntary euthanasia is a justified action. The hedonistic utilitarian would state that circumstances may crop up when a person’s life or rather the existence of the body brings more pain when compared to pleasure to not only the person suffering from existence as well as those who are distraught by their pain (Vallentyne, 2006). Maintaining the existence of the sufferer costs many resources which would have otherwise yielded pleasure had it been used in a different manner. The ideal theory of utilitarianism is in complete alignment with the perspective of those people who are in favour of the opportunity of death with stateliness with the help of voluntary euthanasia (Singer, 2003). This is because people who follow the ideal utilitarianism theory have the prowess to counter the known oppositions to this voluntary action.
Nevertheless, people encounter several problems while defending the practice of voluntary euthanasia by following the ideal utilitarianism theory. The first and foremost problem is that this theory tends to over justify voluntary euthanasia (Shaw, 2001). Some might even perceive this theory to be a justification for involuntary euthanasia. The second problem is the standpoint that utilitarian has to take in order to modulate the law in favour of voluntary euthanasia (Singer, 2003). It is appropriate for one to assume that if an action is correct then it should be permitted. However, for a person who follows utilitarianism, an act is only right if it is useful. In other words an action can only be legalized if it yields better results (Vallentyne, 2006).
While some who believe in utilitarianism may think that legalizing voluntary euthanasia will actually do a lot of good to the sociality, a more vigilant utilitarian might think that existence of a law that favours voluntary euthanasia would not yield the best possible results (Vallentyne, 2006). For example, enactment of a law that favours voluntary euthanasia may increase distress as people who are terminally ill would feel like asking for euthanasia even if they do not want to die voluntarily. From the point of view of a cautious utilitarian, a law that does not yield the best result should not be enacted and therefore the individual would always fight in favour of illegalizing voluntary euthanasia (Shaw, 2001).
The deontological theory on ethics was introduced by Immanuel Kant which is also sometimes referred to as the deontological ethical theory (Tännsjö, 2005). The deontological theory states that some or all actions are characterized as being right or wrong just because of the nature of the action and not because of the consequences they produce (Bowen, 2004).