The concept of Euthanasia
Discuss about the Encyclopedia of Global Bioethics Law.
Euthanasia is considered as a deliberate act that results in death caused by one person with the primary intention of terminating life of another person with a view to relieve that person from his or her sufferings. Euthanasia, which is also known as physician-assisted or assisted suicide or mercy killing, includes refusals of treatment, which includes life-support treatment or artificial nutrition and hydration. There have been several arguments with respect to the legalization of euthanasia worldwide where some construe euthanasia as practice of terminating the life of a person without causing any further pain to such person. One the other hand, some considers the practice as a sin on religious ground. This essay discusses about the contrasting opinions regarding legalization of Euthanasia in two such countries UK and Luxembourg. The essay concludes with the impact of euthanasia on the society focusing on the difference in culture, morals and values of both the countries.
In the United Kingdom, mercy killing there is no specific legislation that governs euthanasia instead circumstances that are described as euthanasia is often treated as manslaughter or murder in the UK. According to the Suicide Act of 1961, the practice of euthanasia is an offence amounting to criminal liability of the person assisting a person to terminate his/her life. The person liable for committing such offence shall be imposed a maximum penalty of life imprisonment in jail and for the commission of assisted suicide; the offender shall be imposed 14 years of imprisonment.
There is an important distinction between passive and active euthanasia in UK. Since the Bland ruling of 1993, ‘assisted suicides’ which refers to the removal of life-saving care are not considered unlawful in the UK, but, active euthanasia which refers to any conduct that puts end to the life of another person, even without the consent of such person. The only alternatives available for terminally ill patients in the UK are hospice care or refusal of treatment, which is applicable to patients suffering from mental disorder.
On the other hand, doctor assisted suicide or euthanasia is legal in a number of European countries such as Luxembourg. Luxembourg is the third European country that has legalized euthanasia on 16 March 2009 and has selected to adopt euthanasia clinics where the aged may decided to terminate their lives. However, In February 2008, the Luxembourg Chamber of Deputies adopted the Law on the Right to Die with Dignity. The law encompasses both doctor-assisted suicides and euthanasia but a person who performs euthanasia or provide assistance in suicide must establish the presence of the following conditions.
Legalization of Euthanasia in the United Kingdom
Firstly, the patient was statutorily competent while requesting for such assistance, in case the patient is 16 or below 18 years, has obtained consent of their parents. Secondly, the request is voluntary and the patient is suffering from an incurable medical condition resulting in unbearable physical or mental pain. The Law establishes a National Commission of Control and Evaluation to examine the implementation of the law. Luxembourg faced a constitutional crisis as the monarch of the country, Grand-Duke Henry, refused to sign the Euthanasia Bill into law on religious grounds. However, a significant change in the Luxembourgish Constitution was undertaken, which excluded signature of the head of the state for implementation any act of legislation.
The primary factors that have influenced people in UK not to legalize euthanasia are the utilitarian role of governance and the inability of the government to control the violation of people taking life of other persons. Euthanasia weakens the respect for the sanctity of life and acceptance of euthanasia shall imply that the lives of the disabled are worth less than the lives of normal persons. Voluntary euthanasia often leads to involuntary euthanasia and results in killing of people with physical and mental disability. From the religious perspectives, legalization of euthanasia shall be contrary to the will of God according to which committing, abetting or aiding suicide is a sin.
In Luxembourg, Jean Huss, a member of parliament of the Green Party and the co-sponsor of the Euthanasia Bill had argued against non-legalization of euthanasia. He stated that conditions incorporated in the Die with Dignity law, shall permit euthanasia for people, who are terminally ill and with incurable disease that is making them suffer unbearable mental and physical pain. Further, consent of such persons shall be mandatory along with the compulsory consent of two doctors and expert panels.
The purpose of the Euthanasia Bill is not to terminate or kill somebody and neither for the doctors and parents. It is for the patients and only consent of the patient shall be final decision to put an end to his/her sufferings. The central argument against euthanasia is that it might compel the old and disabled to terminate their life. However, the drafters of the Bill assure that right to die shall be applicable to those who shall use the option of euthanasia and not on others. Besides, Human Rights Act 1998, depriving a person to release oneself from unbearable sufferings shall amount to degrading and inhuman treatment.
Passive and Active Euthanasia in the UK
From the above discussion, it can be inferred that the impact of legalizing euthanasia shall take into consideration of the impact it has on societal, governmental, institutional level as well apart from individual level. It is important to consider effect of legalizing the practice of mercy killing but also the impact such legislation would have on the society, values and societal institutions. The arguments in favor of legalizing euthanasia in Luxembourg is appropriate as it is based on the fact that despite the application of all possible measures to relieve the patient from his/her sufferings, the patient decides to terminate his/her life due to the unbearable pain, he/she should be entitled to be relieved from such unbearable pain.
While researching on this essay topic, I have not only gained sufficient knowledge about the concept of euthanasia and the legal impact of euthanasia on the society, its values and the societal institutions but also enhanced my skills in researching and writing an essay topic. The topic on euthanasia has enabled me to understand the difference in aspects in both the countries, UK and Luxembourg. United Kingdom considers the practice of mercy killing as manslaughter or murder, thus, amounting to criminal offence under the Suicide Act 1961. However, researches revealed there are various differences in perspectives towards the legalization of euthanasia in Luxembourg.
While preparing this essay, I have been able to outline the structure in the introduction part of the essay and proceed with the entire essay according to the structure of the essay plan. This essay was structured in a way that it explained the concept of euthanasia in the introduction and the impact of the practice of mercy killing in the United Kingdom and Luxembourg. As per the essay structure, the viewpoints on legalizations of euthanasia in both the countries have been explained elaborately. After conducting further extensive research about the factors, that had influenced the United Kingdom not to favor legalization of the practice of mercy killing and the influencing factors that have led to the legalization of euthanasia in Luxembourg, I have briefly stated the same. I could mention them briefly due to the restricted word count that was allotted to complete the essay.
However, although there is a difference between both the countries with respect to their legalization of euthanasia, the arguments that do not favor its legalization are similar. The central argument against euthanasia is that it would affect aged persons who shall be compelled to terminate their life. However, the Euthanasia Bill states that right to die shall have an impact on those who shall use the option of euthanasia and not on others. Researching on such arguments explains that people not favoring the legalization base their arguments primarily on religious and moral grounds. I have learnt that member of Churches and other people who do not favor euthanasia are of the opinion that God is the ultimate creator and only He has the right to put an end to a life. Any other person who attempts to take away the lives of other persons is sinners and is acting against morality and societal institutions.
Thus, this essay paper has not only enabled me to enhance my writing and research skills but it has helped me gain a much wider knowledge about euthanasia. This experience shall help me use my writing and research skills as a legal executive while drafting and dealing with cases related to euthanasia in future, thus, giving a boost to my career.
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