Legality of Euthanasia As One of the Greatest Debates of Nowadays
The legality of euthanasia still remains one of the greatest debates until today. Euthanasia is the practice of taking one’s life in order to stop everlasting pain (Oxford Dictionaries). Euthanasia can also be referred to as ‘mercy killing’, ‘lethal injection’ or ‘assisted suicide’. The two main forms of euthanasia are active and passive euthanasia. During active euthanasia, the patient is directly involved in the process in which the patient is purposely given an overdose of painkillers or any injections that would lead to the death of the patient. Passive euthanasia is when an action that can keep the patient alive (with help) is not done. For example, turning off a life support machine or giving painkillers that purposely speed up the patient’s death.
A reason for someone to commit an act of euthanasia is because the cost of long-lasting treatment is extremely expensive. Some patients who are less fortunate than others are forced to give up treatment as the financial status of patients and their family limits their access to medical equipment that is difficult to reach and expensive to afford. In this essay, I will be exploring the moral justification of euthanasia and the international views on the subject, according to religion and law.
Global Perspective (India)
On March 9, 2018, the withdrawal of life support or life-saving equipment’s from patients in a permanent vegetative state has been legalized by law. The Indian government’s decision was made based on a case of Aruna Shanbaug, who was left in a permanent vegetative state for 42 years and eventually passed away from severe pneumonia in 2015. A medical board consisting of three reputable doctors reported that Aruna was not at all brain dead and still responsive which is why there was no need of euthanasia at that time.
On the 37th year of Aruna’s bedrest, Pinky Virani, a human rights activist, petitioned for Aruna’s right to be euthanized. Virani didn’t campaign for a mercy killing, but for a legal end to Aruna being forcibly fed and she took the case to India’s Supreme Court. The petition was declined, along with several other requests from families who are in a similar situation with Aruna. However, because of the many petitions filed by the citizens, euthanasia was brought into consideration by the Indian government and finally decided that passive euthanasia should be legalized to help people like Aruna.
Before the legality of euthanasia in India, it was considered a very sensitive topic. The oath that all doctors are required to take by law states that “I will give no deadly medicine to anyone even if they ask for it, nor suggest or prescribe anything likely”. The execution of any form of euthanasia by a doctor would contradict this oath. Some people are also concerned that vegetative patients would be pressured once euthanasia is legalized. They also worry that it would be used for the wrong reasons such as to lift off a burden from a family, not because they truly want to stop their loved ones’ everlasting pain.
Global Perspective (Nigeria)
Euthanasia in Nigeria, as well as all other countries across Africa, is illegal. However, most African countries have no regulations on palliative care, except for Kenya, Nigeria, Zambia and Botswana. Palliative care refers to the long-term care of terminally ill patients. Euthanasia is illegal in Nigeria because of various reasons.
Euthanasia is considered a serious crime under the Penal code of Nigeria. The killing of a human being by another is a crime under homicide. The laws do not change when dealing with a killing that is carried out with the assistance of a physician or a request of a patient or the patient’s family. A person who does any act which speeds up the death of another person is considered to have killed that other person (Nigerian Criminal Code Section 311) and the maximum consequence of doing so is life imprisonment.
Not only is the execution of euthanasia a crime under the Penal code but also a violation to the doctor’s oath. According to the Nigerian Medical Association (NWA), it is against a doctor’s oath to take someone’s life even if it means to save them. The NMA president, Doctor Mike Ogirima, said that physician-assisted suicide and euthanasia contradicts the African cultural beliefs and values. This may be because the doctors in Nigeria are highly religious and strongly believe in spiritual healing.
A meeting held by the World Medical Association (WMA) has rejected euthanasia and physician-assisted suicide (PAS) as available alternatives for terminally ill patients in Africa and because Nigeria imposes such laws and believes that the oath of a doctor and/or physician shall not be broken, euthanasia in Nigeria is a crime, therefore ruled illegal by the Supreme Court of Nigeria.
National Perspective (Indonesia)
Active and passive euthanasia are illegal under the Indonesian law. In 1985, there was a meeting consisting of medical and legal experts along with Islamic jurists talking about euthanasia. The Indonesian Health Minister, Achmad Sujudi, said that euthanasia will never be accepted in the country. The chairman of the IDI (Ikatan Dokter Indonesia) stated that “Euthanasia or ‘murder without suffering’ has not been accepted in the values and norms developed in Indonesian society so far. Even until today, euthanasia is not in accordance with the ethics adopted by the nation.”
The Indonesian Article 344 Criminal Code states that “Whoever eliminates the life of another person at the request of the person himself, which he mentions with a real and immerse, sentenced to jail as forever twelve years.’ According to an article written by Andi Sofyan, a professor on Legal Science, every person, especially a doctor could be prosecuted criminally if he/she performs euthanasia at the request of patients and families concerned, because the act is a criminal act.
In a Muslim perspective, birth and death are the right of God so no one in this world has the authority to prolong or shorten his/her own life or another person’s life. Doctors can be considered sinful and can be seen resisting the will of God. The hopelessness that results in people’s wish to die is not pleasing in God’s eyes. Not to mention that the medical perspective of euthanasia is that it violates the code of ethics for a doctor, which is to save a life and not to take one’s life. (Dr. Agus Hermanto, A professor with a Master’s degree on Islamic Law)
Courses of action
A possible course of action that supports the legalization of euthanasia is petitioning against governments to legalize euthanasia. People who will be a part of this petition could be people who have wanted to euthanize themselves or a family member, but couldn’t because euthanasia is illegal in their country. People who support euthanasia in general can be a part of this petition as well. This can be done by signing a piece of document that states that this person wants euthanasia to be legal in their country. A petition could be effective because it is evidence that the citizens of the country want Euthanasia to be legalized. A drawback of this could be that it is time consuming and could require financial support to reach a large percentage of a country’s population. These petitions have been successful and effective as evidenced by the India example.
In Australia, there has been several online petitions to legalize euthanasia, such as one made by change.org. However, there are also petitions voting against it. The Catholic Education Office have submitted a document to Victorian schools asking for help to convince these politicians not to agree to the petitions, however, according to an opinion poll by Roy Morgan Research in 2017, it shows that up to 85% of the community were in favor of giving terminally-ill people the right to assisted death. It was reported that Victoria has legalized euthanasia as of November 2017, but the law will not come into effect until mid-2019’s. It is not clear whether these petitions have greatly contributed to the legalization of euthanasia in Victoria, but it has impacted the measures taken by the Victorian government.
For those who oppose euthanasia, a possible course of action could be investing in palliative care. This would be a good alternative for people who do not think euthanasia is okay. This could be effective because the people who do not think it’s fine to euthanize people could still help a person or family by investing money for their care. A drawback of this action could be that palliative care is extremely expensive as it refers to the medical expenses for as long as the person lives.
Personally, I believe that euthanasia should be legal, though there are some factors that goes against my belief. Many people oppose euthanasia because they believe that euthanasia shortens the lifespan of terminally ill patients who have a possibility of recovering. However, statistics from a Dutch survey that was conducted in 1991 proves otherwise. It was proven that 86% of euthanasia cases only shortened the life of a patient by a maximum of 1 week and a minimum of a few hours.
A source I read written by Dave Anderson mentioned that “People has the right to die” and “People have the explicit right to choose.” Although he is not an expert in the field, and may not be a reliable source, I think many people agree with his opinions. It is true that a doctor’s job requires them to do anything that’ll keep a patient alive but what if the only way to “save” that person’s life means to kill the person? The concept of free will shall not be forgotten and I believe that the society, nor the government has the right to dictate how people live their lives. “We’re citizens, not subjects. We have the right to criticize government without fear,” said Chelsea E. Manning, a transgender American soldier.
Controversially speaking, being born and raised in a Catholic family has taught me that a life is very precious and that such a privilege shouldn’t be taken away since the only person who has the authority to do so is God – which is why God’s creations don’t have the right to kill him/herself or others. I also believe that the greatest sin of all is murder and I do consider euthanasia as murder but I think this type of ‘murder’ is for a good cause. Although these factors go against my belief, I still think that euthanasia should be legalized.
To end my research, I would like to conclude that Euthanasia is ever morally justified because people should have the free will to choose the way they want to live their lives. Abraham Lincoln once said, “Those who deny freedom to others deserve it not for themselves.”
- Anderson, D. (2015). Top 10 Reasons Euthanasia Should be Illegal. [online] ListLand.com. Available at: https://www.listland.com/top-10-reasons-euthanasia-should-be-illegal/ [Accessed 22 Jan. 2019].
- Anderson, D. (2014). Top 10 Reasons Euthanasia Should Be Legal Everywhere. [online] ListLand.com. Available at: https://www.listland.com/top-10-reasons-euthanasia-should-be-legal-everywhere/ [Accessed 22 Jan. 2019].
- Aulia, A. (2015). Your letters: Euthanasia shouldn’t be legalized. [online] The Jakarta Post. Available at: https://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2015/07/01/your-letters-euthanasia-shouldn-t-be-legalized.html [Accessed 30 Nov. 2018].
- Bbc.co.uk. (2014). BBC – Ethics – Euthanasia: Forms of euthanasia. [online] Available at: http://www.bbc.co.uk/ethics/euthanasia/overview/forms.shtml [Accessed 7 Sep. 2018].
- Dwdnsw.org.au. (2017). Dying with Dignity | Latest poll shows 85% of Australians support assisted dying. [online] Available at: https://dwdnsw.org.au/85-of-australians-support-assisted-dying/ [Accessed 29 Jan. 2019].
- Hariyadi, M. (2004). Euthanasia? The government should instead provide medical treatment to the poor, the Church says. [online] Asianews.it. Available at: http://www.asianews.it/news-en/Euthanasia-The-government-should-instead-provide-medical-treatment-to-the-poor,-the-Church-says-1629.html [Accessed 16 Nov. 2018].
- Hermanto, A. (2017). Euthanasia from The Perspective of Normative Law And its Application in Indonesia. HUNAFA: Jurnal Studia Islamika, [online] 14(2), pp.275-300. Available at: http://oaji.net/articles/2017/1163-1516588550.pdf [Accessed 30 Nov. 2018].
- The Economic Times. (2018). Euthanasia: The Aruna Shanbaug case which changed euthanasia laws in India. [online] Available at: https://economictimes.indiatimes.com/news/politics-and-nation/the-aruna-shanbaug-case-which-changed-euthanasia-laws-in-india/a-landmark-verdict/slideshow/63231071.cms [Accessed 8 Sep. 2018].
- Know Your Rights Nigeria. (n.d.). Is Euthanasia or mercy killing allowed in Nigeria? – Know Your Rights Nigeria. [online] Available at: https://knowyourrightsnigeria.com/is-euthanasia-or-mercy-killing-allowed-in-nigeria/ [Accessed 16 Oct. 2018].
- Madon, V. (2011). Stop the misuse of euthanasia in India. [online] Gulfnews.com. Available at: https://gulfnews.com/opinion/op-eds/stop-the-misuse-of-euthanasia-in-india-1.853421 [Accessed 22 Sep. 2018].
- Magnier, M. (2011). India’s Supreme Court lays out euthanasia guidelines. [online] Articles.latimes.com. Available at: http://articles.latimes.com/2011/mar/08/world/la-fg-india-euthanasia-20110308 [Accessed 14 Sep. 2018].
- Mehta, D., Anand, P. and Rao, S. (2018). Is active euthanasia the next step? [online] The Hindu. Available at: https://www.thehindu.com/opinion/op-ed/is-active-euthanasia-the-next-step/article23263826.ece [Accessed 19 Sep. 2018].
- Okafor, J. (2018). Nigeria: No Mercy Killing for Terminally Ill Patients, Africa’s Doctors Resolve. [online] allAfrica.com. Available at: https://allafrica.com/stories/201802050638.html [Accessed 6 Oct. 2018].
- Okafor, J. (2018). Africa takes stance on mercy killing – Daily Trust. [online] Daily Trust. Available at: https://www.dailytrust.com.ng/africa-takes-stance-on-mercy-killing.html [Accessed 10 Oct. 2018].
- Onyedika-Ugoeze, N. (2018). Nigeria, five others reject physician-assisted suicide, euthanasia | The Guardian Nigeria News – Nigeria and World News. [online] The Guardian Nigeria News – Nigeria and World News. Available at: https://guardian.ng/features/nigeria-five-others-reject-physician-assisted-suicide-euthanasia/ [Accessed 17 Oct. 2018].
- The Wire. (2018). Passive Euthanasia Now a Legal Reality in India. [online] Available at: https://thewire.in/health/passive-euthanasia-now-a-legal-reality-in-india [Accessed 8 Sep. 2018].
- Plumber, M. (2015). Why Supreme Court rejected plea to end Aruna Shanbaug’s life. [online] DNA India. Available at: https://www.dnaindia.com/mumbai/report-why-supreme-court-rejected-plea-to-end-aruna-shanbaug-s-life-2087014 [Accessed 8 Sep. 2017].
- Roy, A. (2018). Active euthanasia still illegal. [online] Telegraphindia.com. Available at: https://www.telegraphindia.com/india/active-euthanasia-still-illegal/cid/1338102 [Accessed 12 Sep. 2018].
- Rumawi, A. (2016). “Euthanasia, Dapatkah Dilakukan di Indonesia?”. [online] Gama Cendekia. Available at: https://gc.ukm.ugm.ac.id/2016/05/euthanasiadapatkah-dilakukan-di-indonesia/ [Accessed 27 Nov. 2018].
- Sharma, N. (2018). How will India accept passive euthanasia? [online] https://www.livemint.com. Available at: https://www.livemint.com/Science/Whfhef9I34eZ8iAXWaHVqK/How-will-India-accept-passive-euthanasia.html [Accessed 9 Sep. 2018].
- Sofyan, A. (n.d.). Euthanasia: Concept and Rule of Law in Indonesia. [online] Iiste.org. Available at: https://www.iiste.org/Journals/index.php/JLPG/article/view/35570/36589 [Accessed 20 Nov. 2018].
- The Economic Times. (2018). Supreme Court verdict on euthanasia could be misused, says KCBC. [online] Available at: https://economictimes.indiatimes.com/news/politics-and-nation/supreme-court-verdict-on-euthanasia-could-be-misused-says-kcbc/articleshow/63235016.cms [Accessed 24 Sep. 2018].
- Uche, L. (n.d.). Euthanasia: The Need for A Better Interpretation of The Hippocratic Oath. [online] Nials.edu.ng. Available at: http://nials.edu.ng/index.php/2015-12-10-16-05-04/seminar/281-euthanasia-the-need-for-a-better-interpretation-of-the-hippocratic-oath [Accessed 17 Oct. 2018].
- Vaidyanathan, A. and Tikku, A. (2017). Middle-Class Families Treat Elderly Like Burden: Judge on Living Will. [online] NDTV.com. Available at: https://www.ndtv.com/india-news/a-will-to-die-can-be-misused-families-treat-elderly-like-burden-supreme-court-judge-1761193 [Accessed 23 Sep. 2018].
- Venkatesan, J. (2016). Supreme Court disallows friend’s plea for mercy killing of vegetative Aruna. [online] The Hindu. Available at: https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/Supreme-Court-disallows-friends-plea-for-mercy-killing-of-vegetative-Aruna/article14939164.ece [Accessed 13 Sep. 2018].
- The Juggernauts Mind. (2017). EUTHANASIA IN NIGERIA: AFFIRMATIVE OR NEGATIVE? [online] Available at: https://juggernautsmind.wordpress.com/2017/03/07/%E2%80%8Beuthanasia-in-nigeria-affirmative-or-negative/ [Accessed 16 Oct. 2018].
- United Church of God. (n.d.). What Is the Christian Perspective on Euthanasia or Assisted Suicide? [online] Available at: https://www.ucg.org/bible-study-tools/bible-questions-and-answers/what-is-the-christian-perspective-on-euthanasia-or-assisted-suicide [Accessed 29 Oct. 2018].