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Euthanasia Is A Long Debated Topic In Field Of Medical Science

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Explain How Euthanasia Is A Long Debated Topic In Field Of Medical Science?




The term Euthanasia has been derived from Greek word “euthanatos” meaning easy death. It is the process of ending a person’s life deliberately to relieve the patient from his/her sufferings. Euthanasia is a long debated topic in the field of medical science presently.  In most cases the concerned person consciously takes decision of ending their life but often there are cases where a person is incapable of taking such a decision or making a request of ending their life. In many countries the practice of euthanasia is against the laws and may lead to imprisonment (Emanuel et al. 2016). Several ethical and moral questions surround the concept of euthanasia. Is it morally correct to end a life of a terminally ill patient suffering from severe pain; is there a moral difference between killing a person and letting someone die in full awareness; and what are the ideally defined situations where euthanasia can be justified? These questions are still being debated by several professionals relating to this field and are yet to be completely solved.

Euthanasia can be classified into several ways: Active Euthanasia and Passive Euthanasia; Voluntary, Non-voluntary and Involuntary Euthanasia. The demarcation between such classifications is crucial in medical ethics. In active euthanasia a person deliberately causes death to a patient, whereas in passive euthanasia they are just allowed to die by withdrawing or withholding treatment. A general notion is that at least in some cases passive euthanasia is permissible but it is never permissible to practice active euthanasia. Author James Rachels (2007) argues that letting a person die is no less a crime than killing a person deliberately (Rachels 2007). He argues that active and passive euthanasia does not make a moral difference in them. People find passive euthanasia relatively acceptable as because there is a perception that in passive euthanasia the doctor does nothing. But surprisingly he does one thing that is letting the patient die which in itself is an action according to the author and hence cannot be considered morally less incorrect compared to active euthanasia. On the contrary Steinbock argues against the idea put forward by Rachels. Steinbock argues that Rachels misinterpreted the cessation of life prolonging treatment with passive euthanasia and based his argument upon that belief. He states that the two cannot be equated and hence no distinction between active and passive euthanasia has been promoted by the American Medical Association (Steinbock 1979). He further argues that a person is entitled to have the right to refuse treatment even when treatment is necessary to prolong life. A competent adult has the right to refuse treatment and it has been compared with right to privacy and right to bodily self-determination. Whatever be the purpose for which this right is utilized one can employ it nonetheless.


In the debate of the ethics of euthanasia some argue that assisted suicide or euthanasia are criminal offenses both on medical and ethical grounds; others suggest that it is legitimate in certain rare and exceptional cases but the professional standards must not be compromised to authorize such practices (Steck et al. 2013); still others advocate that both assisted suicide and euthanasia must be considered morally and legally acceptable in cases of terminally ill patients when the burden of life overcomes the burden of death. Several arguments can be put forward against the practice of euthanasia. Some of them are that euthanasia undermines the sanctity of life on a social perspective, it may lead to an biased idea that some life are worthless compared to others, voluntary euthanasia in some form leads to involuntary euthanasia which may be wrongly used to get rid of unwanted person’s life, it may not be of the person’s best interest and it affects the rights of people in general and not just those of the patient. Researchers argue that efficient palliative care may discard the need of euthanasia (Ten Have and Welie 2014). Moreover, it is almost impossible to regulate euthanasia by legal means and patient’s become vulnerable to inappropriate pressurization to end their own life and finally it hands over too much power to control the life of a patient. Some argue that euthanasia is strictly against the will of God and sufferings may be a necessary part of one’s life. On the contrary pro euthanasia arguments state that people have explicit right to decide the outcome of their lives in special scenarios, death is a private matter till no other human life is directly affected by the death, allowing terminally ill patients to die not only relieves them from their unbearable pain for nothing but also frees up scarce heath resources and finally some philosophers put forward the argument of death not being a bad thing but a natural part of life (Gaylin, 1974).

In conclusion, the idea of euthanasia has been debates for centuries and researchers are yet to reach a concrete settlement regarding it legal, social and ethical perspective. Further arguments and scientific studies are welcome in this field to draw unanimous conclusions.



Emanuel, E.J., Onwuteaka-Philipsen, B.D., Urwin, J.W. and Cohen, J., 2016. Attitudes and practices of euthanasia and physician-assisted suicide in the United States, Canada, and Europe. Jama, 316(1), pp.79-90.

Gaylin, W., 1974. Harvesting the dead. Harpers, 249(1492), pp.23-30.

Rachels, J., 2007. Active and passive euthanasia. Bioethics: An Introduction to the History, Methods, and Practice, pp.64-69.

Steck, N., Egger, M., Maessen, M., Reisch, T. and Zwahlen, M., 2013. Euthanasia and assisted suicide in selected European countries and US states: systematic literature review. Medical care, 51(10), pp.938-944.

Steinbock, B., 1979. The intentional termination of life.

Ten Have, H. and Welie, J.V., 2014. Palliative sedation versus euthanasia: an ethical assessment. Journal of pain and symptom management, 47(1), pp.123-136


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