Friday, 11 October 2013

The Legalisation of Euthanasia

Euthanasia has long been a controversial issue, with ardent supporters on both sides of the argument, and is the spark of much debate across the world. But first of all - what is it? Euthanasia is defined as the act of deliberately ending a person’s life to end suffering. Although euthanasia is currently illegal in the UK, it is my opinion that this should change, and that patients suffering from illnesses or injuries which are terminal or causing them great pain, ought to be able to choose euthanasia on a voluntary basis. 

If you have terminal illness such as cancer, is it really worth being alive if your quality of life is so low that every waking moment is a struggle? Is there a point to undergoing arduous courses of chemotherapy and other treatments which may simply extend your life only by a few months? Many would agree that death would be preferable to what some would consider only a half-life. You may say disagree - but in that case, you would simply not opt for euthanasia. The point of euthanasia is that gives the individual a choice, allowing them to decide when and how they want to die, and enables them to end their life in dignity, surrounded by family and loved ones. The fact that this choice is not currently available in this country seems to me a gross injustice. 

Some may argue that legalising euthanasia would make people who would have fought their illness before turn to the ‘easy option’ of death instead, but this argument doesn’t ring true. Choosing euthanasia would still be a long process, with the patient going through therapy and receiving all the necessary help to ensure that they are certain of their decision. It would prevent people from enlisting members of their family in a desperate bid for peace, which could leave them with feelings of guilt or even have them held legally responsible. The same way the Abortion Act of 1967 ceased the practice of horrific ‘backstreet’ abortions, I believe legislation to allow euthanasia would prevent many home suicide attempts, allowing the patient to die much more peacefully without fear of legal consequences. 

Most other arguments against euthanasia have their basis in religious beliefs - for example, many theists would argue that as God gave life, only God can take it away. Using this argument, however, it would be equally plausible to say that if God choses when you die then giving someone medical treatment to prolong someone's life, rather than end it, is also going against the will of God. Once again, it comes down to the matter of choice. Not everyone subscribes to a religion, and even those who do may disagree with anti-euthanasia campaigners. Legalising euthanasia allows people to make a decision, so someone who disagrees with euthanasia, be it for secular or religious reasons, can simply decide against it if the choice ever arises for them. Conversely, banning it eliminates the possibility of any kind of personal choice or independence at all. We do not live in a theocracy and matters of religion should not influence the law. 

Euthanasia is a choice which does not influence the rest of society in any way, solely those who are making the decision for themselves. Since it promotes the best interests of those concerned, without violating the rights of anyone else in the process, it is my view that it is perfectly morally acceptable, and that the state has no right to interfere with such a personal and private choice. 

Life and death are different sides of the same coin; everyone has the right to live, but similarly everyone has the right to die. Legalising euthanasia is the only way to give this basic right to all of those who are currently denied it. Granting death to those who want it is the kindest, fairest thing to do. 


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