Euthanasia


Euthanasia is one of the most acute and uncomfortable
contemporary problems in medical ethics. Is Euthanasia Ethical?
The case for euthanasia rests on one main fundamental moral
principle: mercy. It is not a new issue; euthanasia has been
discussed-and practised-in both Eastern and Western cultures from
the earliest historical times to the present. But because of
medicine\'s new technological capacities to extend life, the
problem is much more p Euthanasia is a way of granting mercy-both
by direct killing and by letting the person die. This principle
of mercy establishes two component duties:

1. the duty not to cause further pain or suffering; and
2. the duty to act to end pain or suffering already occurring.

Under the first of these, for a physician or other caregiver to
extend mercy to a suffering patient may mean to refrain from
procedures that cause further suffering-provided, of course, that
the treatment offers the patient no overriding benefits. The ph s
performed even though a patient\'s survival is highly unlikely;
although patients in arrest are unconscious at the time of
resuscitation, it can be a brutal procedure, and if the patient
regains consciousness, its aftermath can involve considerable
pain. In many such cases, the patient will die whether or not the
treatments are performed. In some cases, however, the principle
of mercy may also demand withholding treatment that could
extend the patient\'s life if the treatment is itself painful or
discomfort. The principle of mercy may also demand letting die
in a still stronger sense. Under its second component, the
principle asserts a duty to act to end suffering that
is already occurring. Medicine already honours this duty through
its various techniques. Ending the pain, though with it the
life, may be accomplished through what is usually called "passive
euthanasia", withholding or withdrawing treatment that could
prolong life. In the most indirect of these cases, the patient is
simply not given treatme The second component of the mercy
principle may also demand the easing of pain by means more direct
than mere allowing to die; it may require killing. This usually
is called "active euthanasia.
In passive euthanasia, treatment is withheld that could su
cesses and waits for eventual death to ensue; rather. it is one
that brings the pain- and the patient\'s life- to an end now. If
there are also grounds on which it is merciful not to prolong
life, then there are grounds on which it is merciful to terminat
Pain is a thing of the medical past, and euthanasia is no longer
necessary, though it may have been, to relieve pain. Given modern
medical technology and recent remarkable advances in pain
management, the sufferings of the morally wounded and dying can
It is flatly incorrect to say that all pain, including pain in
terminal illness, is or can be controlled. Some people still die
in unspeakable agony. With superlative care, many kinds of pain
can indeed be reduced in many patients, and adequate control ncy
may mean an agonizing final few hours. Even a patient receiving
the most advanced and sympathetic medical attention may still
experience episodes of pain, perhaps altering with
consciousness, as his or her condition deteriorates and the
physician att In all of these cases, of course, the patient can
be sedated into unconsciousness; this does indeed end the pain.
But in respect of the patient\'s experience, this is tantamount to
causing death: the patient has no further conscious experience
and thus