If someone is in an excruciating amount of pain, is it ethical to ‘make’ them live? Or is it ethical to allow a doctor to help them die? Society is much more liberal today than it was in the past, and physician assisted suicide remains a perplexing question, both legally and morally. Is it morally permissible to have a doctor assist in euthanasia when someone is in a lot of pain? I’m not sure.
A utilitarian argument for euthanasia: “Actions,” according to the utilitarian John Stuart Mill, “are right as they tend to promote happiness, wrong as they tend to produce pain or the reverse of happiness.” In the case of a terminally ill patient suffering from severe, untreatable pain, we would see that the happiness of that individual would be maximized by euthanasia and pain minimized. When someone is in that excruciating level of pain from this progressive disease it would make the person unable to enjoy the activities that made their life pleasurable, so there could be no higher intellectual or emotional pleasures to balance the physical pain. If the patient was to choose death, their misery would be reduced. Family members and friends would suffer by watching their loved one suffer through a prolonged illness. If the person was able to choose euthanasia for themselves, it would open up more hospital space and resources for patients with more treatable conditions. (It is important to recognize that utilitarianism requires us to evaluate all possible effects and how they would contribute to or detract from everyone’s happiness.) With the case of voluntary euthanasia, conventional utilitarian justifications against killing do not apply. Euthanasia is not a random action but one, which occurs only at the demand of a suffering patient.
There is also a moral question as to whether active or passive euthanasia should be used?; Active euthanasia being when a patient requests in and passive euthanasia being when a doctor does not treat a patient. I do not know the answer to this. There are also many legal issues that coincide with this issue. If euthanasia was legalized, there are issues of family members trying to convince their family member into it, and therefore receiving the benefits from a will, life insurance, etc. I would hope this wouldn’t happen, but you never know.
What do you think? Is this an ethical option?