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Voluntary Euthanasia: Arguments for and Against

Doctors and other medical practitioners supporting euthanasia do so from a particular ethical and theoretical understanding. Physician-assisted suicide can be looked at from the medical practitioner’s side, the patient’s family side, and the patient’s side. The debate surrounding euthanasia is about morality and, sometimes, the feasibility of the practice in line with legal provisions. The Hippocratic Oath forbids abortion and euthanasia, but it might permit the practices under circumstances that need life and death choices (McLachlan, 2010). Support for the practice comes from the understanding that an individual has the final right to decide whether to live or die. Assisted death is an extension of a person’s rights when they are unable to perform the act.

The concerns related to assisted suicide can be related to moral principles that make arguments substantive. Knowledge in ethical principles requires experience and a history of practices that form the basis of ethics. Nurses and other medical practitioners are obliged to help the patient overcome pain (McLachlan, 2010). They may use all the available means of alleviating pain. The health practitioners may actively end the life of the patient, with the patient’s consent, when there are no longer any other means, and they rightfully see the pain as being unbearable. This argument follows the principle of beneficence. The principle of beneficence calls for caregivers to fulfill their duty of contributing positively to a patient’s welfare (Loewy, 2004). The response is compassionate, as it acknowledges medical failure to psycho-spiritual distress and physical symptoms. The important realization is that beneficence is circumstantial. The other means of alleviating suffering must be used up for the principle to qualify. The challenge of beneficence is non-maleficence, where health providers have a duty not to harm; therefore, they should avoid falling into the trap of assisting suicide.

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References

Loewy, R. S. (2004). Hastening death by selective disclosure of treatment options – beneficence or euthanasia by deception. Health Care Analysis, 12(3), 241-250.

McLachlan, H. V. (2010). Assisted suicide and the killing of people? Maybe. Physician-assisted suicide and the killing of patients? No: the rejection of Shaw’s new perspective on euthanasia. Journal of Medical Ethics, 36(5). Web.