Euthanasia as an ethical alternative to living a life of suffering essay example

Tony Nicklinson suffers from locked in syndrome as a result of a stroke, he is unable to communicate verbally or physically, and he is completely paralyzed from the neck down, he is literally a prisoner in his own body.
The fifty-eight year old was denied the right to die by the high court. Nicklinson states that all these things can be endured. What he finds impossible to live with is knowing that unlike most people he has no way out. His struggle is not one of empathy, he seeks purely justice. Every human is an individual one-size-fits-all solution, which opponents advocate, is not the answer.
“ It is astonishing that in 1969 we could put a man on the Moon yet in 2012 we still cannot devise adequate rules governing assisted dying.”
Tony Nicklinson (2012)
The case went further than previous challenges to the law in England and Wales on assisted suicide and murder. Nicklinson said he was devastated by the courts decision to deny his right to die but that he would appeal.
” Although I didn’t want to raise my hopes, it happened anyway because a fantastic amount of work went into my case and I thought that if the court saw me as I am, utterly miserable with my life, powerless to do anything about it because of my disability then the judges would accept my reasoning that I do not want to carry on and should be able to have a dignified death.
It’s amazing that we have no decision when it comes to what happens in our own lives. If you want it to be over to avoid suffering that should be your choice, not someone else’s.
I am saddened that the law wants to condemn me to a life of increasing indignity and misery.” Tony Nicklinson (2012)
Lord Justice Toulson explainined his decision, he said he was deeply moved but; ” A decision to allow their claims would have consequences far beyond the present cases. To do as Tony wants, the court would be making a major change in the law. It is not for the court to decide whether the law about assisted dying should be changed and, if so, what safeguards should be put in placeUnder our system of government these are matters for Parliament to decide.”
In religious cultures suffering is seen as a sort of trial by god, you suffer and then are better for it, so you’re supposed to stick it out, because you deserve it. When we talk about quality of life philosophically we’re talking about measuring pleasure over suffering i. e. Am I experiencing more pleasure than pain in my life as a justification for staying alive. Through that you could determine whether life was worth living or not.
On the other hand religion sees suffering as part of quality of life, suffering in the religious community is supposed to make you a better person, it’s something to overcome but how can someone like Tony Nicklinson overcome effectively not having a body because someone believes that their god has done that to him for a reason?
How can others define your quality of life? How can you say ‘ I want to die’ and someone else basically say ‘ well you can’t because it’s a sin’? Logically speaking in religion you’d be transported from one hell to another but if you believe in a benevolent god that understands your suffering or you’re an atheist the pain will cease.
The law of necessity was quoted in the Nicklinson case, this is when there’s no other option left, Tony Nicklinson is never going to get better. The judges ignored this because it’s too hot an issue basically no one wants to be the first one to make a ruling on it. They want to pass the buck on to parliament. Nicklinson also argued from a human rights perspective, that it is every mans duty to be able to decide the time and manner of their own death. His suffering was so grave that he would just refuse to eat and starve to death which is in fact what he did when he was denied the right to die a less painful way. What he was trying to say was it was his right to die painlessly and with dignity.
Essentially, denying his right to die caused him more suffering as he starved himself and refused treatment for pneumonia which resulted in his death.
Refusing treatment is seen as a valid way to stop life saving measures, as a form of passive euthanasia, if that treatment is simply keeping me alive as opposed to increasing my quality of life, I have the right to deny it. On the other hand the Medical culture is one of trying, they never want to give up, they always want to save the patient and treatment even if it is futile and it won’t decrease that persons suffering. Doctors never take into account the measure of the individual person’s suffering it’s just a battle against death.
Allowing someone to die if they choose to is seen as ethically justified because death is inevitable and natural and standing in the way of the inevitable is unnatural. The right to self determination should also include a human right to die. Self determination is complacent comes to wearing a seat belt; I am unable decide that I don’t want to wear a seat belt as a form of euthanasia, as there are penalties attached to it and because it could cause harm to others.
The courts defend their position against assisted dying as a way of protecting vulnerable people from having unrequested assisted death. They’re throwing up this ridiculous reason for not having sanctions in place as it may be abused when here you have someone in writing telling you they want to die and there are countries all over the world who do this every day. Surrogate decision making is not relevant to this because it doesn’t happen and sometimes doctors give the option for people to decide beforehand whether they would life euthanasia if in a situation where they could not communicate that wish.
There is a strict criteria for what constitutes someone that has no option but death. When someone says they want to kill themselves they’re usually given medication and access to a psychiatric facility but when a disabled person states a wish to die, it can be justified as a reason for death because their quality of life has less chance of increasing. Disabled people should have access to mental health treatment as well as able people.
The right to die is selfish in a way that it affects the community because you have a right to die but it doesn’t just affect you, it affects your family and the nation and the law and possibly society as a whole. We don’t care anymore; modernity has impinged on our relationship with others. Religion and culture in theory should have no stance on this, life is the only freedom we truly have, and if someone wants to end it that’s their choice.
Religion wants us to just bear it because its founded on a work ethic, we suffer to make others money, we suffer in hope of a future reward that never comes, religion doesn’t care about suffering because it rationalises suffering, for example if you have a headache, a normal person just takes a painkiller a religious person might think god is punishing them for something.
Isn’t keeping someone alive against their will to endure more suffer, torture? What is the benefit to society to force someone to prolong their life against their will?
Michele Causse ingested 15g of powdered Nembutal, dissolved in 60ml of normal tap water, Ending her life. In Switzerland it’s legal to assist someone in ending their life if it is not done for egotistical reasons.
Michele Causse loved life but didn’t want it to lose form; she’s basically saying that although she loves life it’s all downhill from here because of her health. Life is only going to get worse, so she wants to end on her terms instead of slowly deteriorating into a creature that can’t feed itself.
She already can’t shop or cook or do a lot of the things she enjoyed in life, so what’s the point in living to lose more of things you loved to do? She has no control of her life anymore.
She’s killing herself because her life is losing it meaning. Death is easy, life is difficult. Everything is taken care of, even her death, there’s nothing to worry about, all your worries are gone because you’re going to die.
She wonders why people say life is sacred, when we should be able to do with our own lives as we wish, you don’t need to tell people to cherish life, one person choosing death doesn’t equate to the whole world following suit.
Hordes of women didn’t all have abortions when abortions were legalized but they had the choice to do so. What she’s saying is her want for death doesn’t affect her or anyone else’s love for life, she loves life and people will still love life after she’s gone, death is inevitable, why shouldn’t we be able to control it?
Ludwig A. Minelli, Secretary General Dignitas. States; ‘ Even a teenager has a right to die when his girlfriend leaves him’ On the other hand he wouldn’t help him until he explained that things can get better; there are plenty of fish in the sea but this is not the case for someone that is terminally ill.
Remy Salvat (1984-2008) was a French man who suffered from a degenerative nerve disease. He wrote a letter to the French president asking for assisted suicide, he didn’t want to go to Switzerland because he didn’t think it was right that it wasn’t legal in France.
The French president, Nicolas Sarkozy, wrote back to Remy stating that on philosophical grounds, the government does not have the right to take life, but if they can’t do it and the person can’t do it and the parents can’t do it, should these people hire assassins?
Remy Salvat committed suicide alone in his room with a cocktail of pills and alcohol, his parents found him that way. He didn’t die peacefully in a bed he drowned in his own vomit on the floor of his bedroom. Eveline Widmer-Schlumpf – Minister of justice in Switzerland is against euthanasia because people come to Switzerland to die but are not seriously ill, it’s created a culture of ‘ death tourism’, she doesn’t like the way in which it depicts Switzerland as a place to die.
Marc Englert from the Control commission on euthanasia in Belgium says there are three conditions for lawful assisted suicide; Incurable disease, intolerable suffering and a conscious un-coerced request. 85% of people that request euthanasia are cancer patients. A natural death is a nice thought but in reality, especially for cancer patient it’s long and it’s horrible. People should be able to avoid that if they want to.
Lynn Gilderdale a young woman who was very ill and who wanted to die, enlisted her mother in assisting her suicide, her mother now is on trial for murder. Lynn injected herself with an overdose of morphine and then when it appeared that it didn’t work her mother crushed up some pills and gave them to her to make sure she was dead. Which is where the controversy lies; although Lynn initiated her suicide her mother essentially ended it.
Baroness Campbell of Surbiton states that sanctioning assisted suicide is too dangerous and could lead to opening the flood gates for disabled people to be killed, what they’re worried about is that someone can be coerced or feel bullied into it by the standards society sets people.
She thinks it’s as wrong to kill someone with their permission as it is to kill them without. Basically what she’s saying is by trying to prosecute Lynn’s mother Kay for murder they are setting an example as a deterrent to others that assisting in someone’s suicide is wrong but how can it be wrong in England and legitimate in Switzerland?
Obviously the idea that it is wrong is just an opinion, so how can you try someone for attempted murder on a difference of opinion? There have been regulations set in place in Britain around assisting suicide and one of them is that the person assisting cannot benefit from the death but in all likelihood it will be a family member enlisted to assist who will more than likely benefit financially so who else could you get to do it?
Doctors and strangers can’t do it for liability reasons and you’re family can’t do it for it financial gain, so who does that leave? Debbie Purdy (sufferer of advanced ms) has won a court case in which her husband will not be prosecuted if he takes her to another country to die if her ms worsens. She says that it’s a failure in the democratic process to ignore people’s rights to die. The law is saying it’s ok to take your own life but not ok for someone to assist you if you are not able. Lynn was acquitted and the crown prosecution was heavily criticised for seeking attempted murder.
In conclusion I do think assisted suicide is justified in a democratic society, as the idea of democracy is that you can decide what happens in your life, i. e. changing government and policy. The idea that this principal should not literally stretch to the nature of actually living and quality of life is absurd because democracy is supposed to be a fair system that allows everyone their own choice.


Dignitas – la mort sur ordonnance (death on prescription) (2010). Retrieved from
http://www. youtube. com/watch? v= 52fJRnhDjmo
Nicklinson, T. (2012). Assisted dying debate: Tony Nicklinson in his own words. Retrieved
http://www. bbc. co. uk/news/uk-england-wiltshire-18398797
Panorama. (2011). I Helped My Daughter Die. Retrieved from
http://www. youtube. com/watch? v= QBMXpVLLfZ0
The Stream: Choosing death (2012) Aljazeera. Retrieved from
http://www. youtube. com/watch? v= kthE9AQc53k
Steinbock, Bonnie. (1994) Killing and Letting Die (Paperback)