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Ethics
Health
Philosophy
Ethical aspects of euthanasia (Greek for "good death"), a physician-assisted suicide of a patient with a goal of ending the suffering from a terminal or incurable illness, were debated since the times of Hippocrates. Since then, although modern medicine made a great deal of progress, euthanasia and its validity as a medical practice still leads to controversies. Should a patient in great suffering be able to end his life with the help of a doctor?

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Arguments supporting this position

Details

Context

The first philosopher to argue that each human being possesses inherent dignity because of being a rational agent in contrast with animals was Cicero in the Ist century BCE. Since then the idea of unique dignity ascribed to human beings shows up in various philosophies, most notably in a moral philosophy of Immanuel Kant, ultimately becoming a foundation of human rights.

The Argument

Many patients suffering from terminal illnesses become incapable of taking care of themselves and have to be reliant on other people or medical apparatus. For many of them, such a situation is irreconcilable with their sense of dignity and deeply humiliating; the legal euthanasia is seen by them as a tool to regain their sense of autonomy. There is nothing dignifying in a suffering without a hope of recovery. Forcing a person to live the remainder of her life being stuck in a hospital bed, with a lack of power over themselves and in humiliating conditions (incontinence, constant pain, feeling themselves to be a burden for people around them) is inhumane and thus voluntary legal euthanasia is the preferable alternative.

Counter arguments

The argument presumes that suffering is in itself undignified and humiliating, which is not necessarily the case; the concept of human dignity can be divorced from the capacity of self-autonomy and self-reliance on the principle of the sanctity of human life. Furthermore, this argument confuses the value of life itself with its quality, which taken to its logical conclusion could be used to justify non-voluntary euthanasia.

Premises

Each human possesses unique to our species dignity, based on self-autonomy and rational reasoning. The terminal illness and resulting suffering limits or outright makes self-autonomy impossible, robbing a person of its dignity. Therefore, the terminally ill patient should be able to regain his sense of dignity by choosing physician-assisted suicide.

Rejecting the premises

Human dignity doesn't need to be dependent on self-reliance or the quality of life and cannot be made relative to the state of one's health.

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This page was last edited on Saturday, 15 Sep 2018 at 16:18 UTC