Imagine a world where anyone, even the curably ill or depressed, is easily assisted in suicide. Where someone else decides when you’re life is no longer worth living. Where it is a societal expectation to die rather than receive long-term care. Ladies and Gentlemen, this is the world that awaits us if we legalise euthanasia. Euthanasia, or assisted suicide, is defined as the practice or act of ending the life of a terminally ill person, usually by lethal injection. Though there is no exact specification for what ‘terminally ill’ may pertain to.
Who would this definition extend to and who would be eligible to be euthanized? Some laws state that “terminally ill” means that death will occur in a relatively short time. Others are specifically stating within six months or less. Though this definition is futile, as medical experts state it is virtually impossible to predict the life expectancy of each specific patient. As this has been realised, numerous euthanasia activists have increasingly replaced references to ‘terminal illness’ to phrases such as ‘hopelessly ill’, ‘desperately ill’, ‘incurably ill’.
In Thomas E. Joiner’s journal Suicide and Life- Threatening behaviour, an article described the guidelines for assisted suicide to be for those with a hopeless condition. The definition of ‘hopeless condition’ included terminal illness, severe physical or psychological pain, physical or mental debilitation or deterioration, or a quality of life that is no longer acceptable to the individual. In 2009, over 30% of euthanasia cases were carried out without consent in Belgium.
Simultaneously, the number of cases had increased dramatically, specifically 40% greater in 2009 than in 2008. Furthermore, in 77. 9% of these cases the patients had been killed without an explicit request, nor a discussion of euthanasia. It seems extremely likely that, in Belgium, physicians are killing patients on their own cognizance with no regard for legal restraints. Is euthanasia truly a ‘voluntary’ practice, as described in the law? Even the enforcement of laws seems ineffective as they have proven to do little to ensure the safety of vulnerable patients.
How can we ensure that these results will not be replicated in Australia if we follow in Belgium’s footsteps? Could euthanasia be considered a ‘slippery slope to legalised murder’? When analysing medicines primary taboo, as sworn in the Hippocratic Oath, ‘I will neither give a deadly drug to anybody if they asked for it, nor will I make a suggestion to this effect’ it becomes apparent that euthanasia purely contradicts this. Doctor assistance in the death of a patient is antithetical to the moral ethos and the primary goal of medicine.
Their role as healer is fundamentally incompatible with euthanasia. Furthermore, euthanasia rejects the dignity and value of human life. The existing quality-of-human-life ethic would be replaced with a utilitarian and nihilistic death culture and a pessimistic view that the answer to life’s most difficult challenges is the intentional ending of human life. Such a radical shift in morality would fire dangerous consequences. Societal pressure and acceptance of this concept would influence the decisions of those who would originally never contemplate such a decision.
Vulnerable people- the elderly, the ill, the depressed- would feel pressure- real or imagined- to request an early death through euthanasia. The legalisation of euthanasia would be detrimental to the strife for survival of the ill and depressed, to the vulnerable that health-maintenance organisations wish to exterminate, to the medical profession and to the overall value of human life. By legalising euthanasia we are allowing our world to transform into the unthinkable. When will someone else decide when you’re life is no longer worth living?