Ethical Euthanasia – Ethical

Before attempting to answer the question, it should be clarified exactly what “ethical” means.

Merriam-Webster defines ethical as: involving or expressing moral approval or disapproval; conforming to accepted standards of conduct. Other definitions include references to right and wrong; moral choice; philosophy; and professional behaviour.

Therefore the question can be restated: “Is euthanasia moral or immoral? Is it right or wrong? Does it conform to accepted social and professional standards or not? What moral choice does it evidence? What philosophy does it support?”

It becomes more complicated to answer then, because who decides what is moral, and right, and acceptable? Even in today’s supposedly modern and civilised world, with globalisation a fact rather than a prediction, there are still huge differences in cultures. So answering that “society” decides, prompts the question “which society?”

What we call Islam extremists are called devout followers of God in their own society. We condemn animal sacrifice as barbaric and unChristian yet it is widely practiced in India and Africa. Our parents frowned upon, and our grandparents emphatically condemned, pregnancy before marriage as morally wrong, yet in African society it is a prerequisite to prove a woman’s fertility before a man will marry her. Who is right? Who is wrong?

If we decide that euthanasia is unethical, surely war is even more unethical? If killing one is wrong, killing many can only be more wrongAnd yet war is not only supported, but glorified every day under the pretext of patriotism..

There is a difference between war and euthanasia, you say.

Back to Merriam-Webster: euthanasia is the act or practice of killing or permitting the death of hopelessly sick or injured individuals (as persons or domestic animals) in a relatively painless way for reasons of mercy.

Ah – mercy. Compassion. Is that not the real issue here?

Euthanasia is not the random killing of individuals (like war, although the military will tell you they plan their killing very precisely – even worse). It is not killing because medical care has become too expensive, or because the sufferer is a burden, or only because the sufferer has requested it.

It is (or is supposed to be) ceasing to keep an individual alive who would have died already had it not been for the “wonders” of modern medical science. It is preventing the extension of excruciating suffering that can only end in death in any case. It is a concern for the spirit, as much as for the body.

Should we not ask the whole question in another way? Is it obscene and a defiance of nature, or God, to keep flesh alive at any cost?

Arguments against euthanasia inevitably invoke the statement that humans should not try to play God. I agree that we should let God decide. But is it not also playing God to keep an individual alive by artificial means when there is no spark of life except that which is medically created?

It is quite different when that person is fighting, is clinging to life, is wanting to live! That is not, I think, the situation we are debating. And do not forget, we cry at funerals for ourselves, not for the deceased. We cry because WE are deprived of their love, their companionship, their talents, even their foibles. Should we let our own selfishness prolong a person’s suffering, prevent them from dying a natural, even dignified death, at their appointed time? We can call it love, but think carefully exactly what love means and how somebody who loves is putting the OTHER person first in everything, and always, is it not?