Euthanasia Arguments for – Ethical

If we are talking about the euthanasia of hurt animals, then euthanasia is not only ethical, it is a cruel necessity. When I became a wildlife carer in Australia, I wanted to save everything. Obviously, I cannot and it has become part of a carer’s job list to make sure that dying animals do not suffer unnecessarily. A wallaby hit by a car and left with a broken hind leg suffers a terrible fate: no longer able to hop, it must drag itself through the bush and either starve to death, or more mercifully in my opinion, be taken by the only real big animal predators here – dingos and feral introduced breeds of dogs. Just as on the plains of Africa, lions and other large predators take the weak and sick and injured. Is it ‘ethical’? That is not really a question in Zoology – it’s a question of survival for the predators too. They have to do what they have to do in order to survive. It is only in humans that the question of ethics arises.

Humans don’t have to kill to survive any more, except abattoir workers and that is an ethical question to be sure. Should we eat meat which requires killing but gives us a good protein source? Or should we all try to be vegetarians for ethical reasons? The cattle farmers of the world would not vote for it because for them it is a matter of survival to be in that business. Where we now draw a more ethical line in the sand is killing humans. We still do it, of course, especially in countries with capital punishment. Any country that goes to war has, in a sense, voted for survival over ethics and sometimes with great justification. The war against Hitler and his like seems justified to me for instance.

It’s not legal any more to just kill people for sport or vengeance or crimes. We have a justice system for that and in countries like Australia, the punishments are non-lethal. We do not allow cannibalism any more even for cultural reasons. Now we save almost everybody with the money to pay for it, yet allow millions more to starve to death. We have the capacity to be reproductively responsible and not flood the earth with plague-proportions of our kind, We have the capacity to feed that population – say about 1-2 billion at most? I think I would prefer less but i would like to see it done by educating the women of the world, giving them opportunities outside the home, giving them access to clean water, good food, adequate housing and medical care including birth control, not by killing people off with starvation and disease.

We have practiced medicine as a science for thousands of years now, for ethical as well as survival reasons. The result of death control without birth control has been an explosion in the human population, six billion now and counting. We live in a paradoxical world where richer people pay money to get pregnant while poor women in Darfur watch their precious babies waste away and die. We live in a world where we can keep people alive who normally would have died long before. Of course it is better to treat diabetics than let them die. They are precious human Beings. So are the babies of Darfur.

This paradoxical world allows children to be born in such numbers in places like India and south east Asia that they are sold into slavery by their parents to feed the rest of the family. Meanwhile in the industrialised nations, we debate whether it is OK to ‘put down’ someone who is a vegetable on an artificial life support system.

Let’s go back to the animals. Its all I can really deal with. I find the roo on the side of the road, a bit dazed but otherwise unhurt except for the dangling back leg. If we tried to put the leg in a cast, it would take six months of agony for the animal till it healed and then the first time it tried to hop the forces on that leg from that heavy body would break it again. Alternatives? leave it to die or go home and get the gun. I have chosen to own a gun licence for that purpose and so in the eyes of the people who voted No in this debate, my next actions are unethical. I aim the gun, pull the trigger and am skilled enough that it only takes one shot.

But I would never do that to a fellow human being, no matter how they were suffering. That is the line for me. Yet I would not stop a person in the final phases of death by cancer to rationally choose to end their lives. Assisted suicide? The waters become so murky now, but I know that for myself, if the time were to come when i was 99 years old, suffering but not yet senile, I would want the option of suicide. It’s self-euthanasia. Now we cross another line: what about the people who are so comatose or demented that they cannot make that decision. Then it becomes a matter of relatives and doctors to discuss the options and make the most ethical decision that they can. It’s also up to the Law to make the limits and protect the helpless.

Its just like abortion. For myself, I had one once and it was an act of desperation at the time. I do not say it was ethical, from one side of the debate it most definitely was not. But in this world where in nature, an estimated 70-80% of pregnancies end naturally anyway and some 20,000 babies and children die every day from preventable causes, I believe in giving each woman the power over her own body and to make her own ethical decision. No one else has the right to make that decision for her, in my opinion. That’s in the first 3-5 months for me… there is another line in the sand. When the baby is getting old enough to survive, then the woman has had long enough to make her decision and should go ahead and give birth to what is now a sentient being and not just a blob of cells. I don’t know where the line is exactly in each case but after six months the mother is safer to go through with it than end it and the baby is old enough to be sentient so its right to survival is not assured but should be assisted where possible, and there are adoption alternatives afterwards.

When I save an animal, I only give it a second chance and its long term fate is still death. So is mine and yours. All living beings that come into this world by being born have to go out by dying. Animals don’t get ethical choices. We do. Do we legislate everything and give people no choice in the name of ethics or do we leave room for grey areas and just try to do the best we can to relieve suffering at the time? In the end each of us will have to make decisions. Most of us, I think, wish to be saved if possible and only ‘put down’ if we have agreed to it ahead of time and participated in the decision. Personally I think I am such a coward I would just suffer the pain rather than pull the trigger or swallow the pills. But if I were in a total veggie state, I wouldn’t mind if the doc gave me a final dose of ‘green dreams’.