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May 18, 2022 | Dr.Amna Zubair

Euthanasia: Should it be Justified?

It is often assumed that death would end their constant suffering and bring them peace. In medical scenarios, if a doctor attempts to end a patient’s pain and suffering by inducing death, it is referred to as euthanasia. 

There are different types of euthanasia, and the terms for these procedures are often used interchangeably. Euthanasia has been a matter of dispute for many decades. Some people and medical practitioners support this idea, while others find it equivalent to killing a patient. It is a matter of moral conduct and involves various other factors that can affect the life of both the patient and their doctor. In the United States, the practice of euthanasia has been made illegal in all of its 50 states. 

Before proceeding to the argument over euthanasia, it is necessary to understand its different types. In general, euthanasia can be of four types: active, passive, indirect, and physician-assisted.

Active Euthanasia: When a physician administers a lethal drug to a patient upon their consent to end their suffering, it is referred to as active euthanasia. This is the most commonly understood form of euthanasia. 

Passive Euthanasia: When a physician withholds treatment measures to allow the patient to die, it is referred to as passive euthanasia. If it is done upon patients’ consent, it is called voluntary passive euthanasia. If done without consent because the patient was unconscious or unable to give consent, it is called non-voluntary euthanasia. If done without consent, even if the patient was willing to continue treatment, it is called involuntary euthanasia. 

Indirect Euthanasia: If a physician prescribes painkillers that may induce death in a suffering or terminally ill patient, it is called indirect euthanasia. The physician does not directly inject a drug into the patient’s body. 

Physician-Assisted Suicide (PAS): If a physician provides medical aid or drugs to induce death upon a patient’s request, but the patient themselves performs the final act, it is referred to as physician-assisted suicide. 

Passive euthanasia has been declared illegal all around the world. Instead of stopping treatment, it is suggested to provide analgesia and necessary support to the patient even if they are terminally ill. The debates on active euthanasia and physician-assisted suicide are still under discussion. 

The basic issue of euthanasia arises when patients want to end their consistent pain and suffering by a peaceful death. This can also occur if a doctor or physician wishes to relieve their patient’s suffering permanently. Many people support the argument of euthanasia by saying that every person should have a right over their death. If a person is going through unbearable pain, an illness that cannot be cured, or is already close to the end, some people suggest that it is better to induce death than let them live and suffer more. The topic of euthanasia challenges the moral codes of a doctor. Because the primary duty of a doctor is considered ‘to heal’ and euthanasia goes against that code of conduct. 

In the United States, active and passive euthanasia have been declared illegal. The argument to support it as an unlawful practice is that it would cause more harm than benefit in the long term. American Medical Association (AMA) states that euthanasia should be prohibited and instead better measures should be taken to improve the life quality of a patient. 

However, physician-assisted suicide (PAS) is legal in a few states of America, including Washington D.C., California, Colorado, Oregon, Vermont, New Mexico, Maine, New Jersey, and Hawaii. It is still a topic of dispute across many states, and the current laws regarding euthanasia and PAS may change over time. 

All in all, it comes down to the personal preference of a patient on the matter of death. If a physician abides by the law and refuses to induce death directly or indirectly, the patient may attempt to die on their own. The moral and ethical obligation of a physician also plays a significant role in this situation. Countries like Switzerland, Netherlands, Belgium, etc., where euthanasia is legal under specific circumstances. However, it is still a conflicted issue in many countries and is said to be illegal, including the United States. 

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Dr.Amna Zubair

Dr.Amna Zubair is a general dentist (BDS, RDS) and medical content writer. She has also gained a diploma in Modern Applied Pscychology (MAP). She is a healthcare enthusiast and likes writing on topics from multiple fields of medicine, including dentistry, psychology, and general health.