Ethical considerations of Euthanasia

Euthanasia is a controversial ethical issue; there are opposing view on this topic. On one hand, euthanasia activist and patient argue to have their right to die when their life is painful. On the other hand, it is argued that euthanasia is morally and religiously wrong despite of the patient’s will to die. Is it right to build euthanasia machine to buffer the pain of the patient?

Against euthanasia

Euthanasia will encourage patients to end their life with the painless treatment that help relieve their suffering life. However, this may not be the best option for the patients, in modern technology there is always alternative treatment for the disease. For example, a new treatment has been invented this year to cure certain type of terminal cancers. This would prevent the chance of rehabilitation if patients decided to end their life with euthanasia.

From Christianity and Islamic point of view, the value of human life could not be measured by health or intelligence. The patients who are old sick have the equal value to the healthy people. If we do not assist a healthy individual to suicide, why should we assist the patients to end their life. Human should respect life and the intrinsic dignity of others. In other word, euthanasia would violate the sanctity of life of individual religious conviction. Assisting people to end lives are legally considered murder. Therefore, the device aims at killing people should not be constructed as the device is just another sanguinary weapon.

Euthanasia devices may be abused to kill patients against their will. Although some of the serious patients might want to shorten their life as they cannot really withstand the pain, the patients who cannot express their will would lose their right. In the case of Terri Schiavo who was in vegetative state, she was unable to make a conscious choice. She was euthanized based on the point of view of her family and the court. Allowing euthanasia implies that some of the chronic illness patients are worth less than others. This may weaken the society’s respect for the sanctity of life. It is foreseeable that the disabled people, patients or even elderly would be deprived of their right to live by society.

Possible actions to face the dilemma

  1. Government set up laws to restrict any types of euthanasia.
  2. A comprehensive system for doctors to examine if the patients are suitable for euthanasia.
  3. Patients want to euthanasia must need authorized from court.
  4. Euthanasia could be done when patient is willing to.

Although there is criticism that the euthanasia machine would be used to commit suicide by the patients. However, if there are highly structure laws established by the government, it is unlikely to happen as the machine can be bought by hospitals and used in the hospitals only. A permission from doctors is needed for the patients to use the machine. It is impossible for anyone to operate the machine; just the patient intends to euthanasia only.

For Euthanasia

Although the medical technologies are flourishing, there are countless of diseases that are incurable. The patients endured chronic disease and congenital disability would experience a rougher life as the patients are confronted by the illness during their life. Euthanasia machines allow the patients to have a choice on their destiny. The British House of Lords Select Committee on Medical Ethics states that euthanasia is “a deliberate intervention undertaken with the express intention of ending a life, to relieve intractable suffering”. Deliverance Machine is one of the euthanasia device which requires patients to answer three questions to proceed, which could ensure the patients intend to end the life at their own will. From a patient point of view, the patient would no longer suffer the pain from their terminal illness.

The economic benefit of euthanasia will be examined through the view of the engineer, the patient and family member, and society.

The engineering stoic point of view is that by not building the machine, there would be a missed opportunity for financial gain. This straightforward point of view argues that the machine would be built by other engineers regardless as it is not a specialised or difficult machine to construct. It should also be noted that this machine has been built before by various professionals hence not building it would be ill-advised. Therefore, from an engineering viewpoint, the building of a euthanasia machine would result in financial gain, not loss.

From a utilitarian point of view, building the machine would free up medical and hospital resource. This would allow the allocation of resource towards patients with curable illnesses. Palliative care of patients could cost from £154 to £1,600 per person while care for cancer patients in their last year could cost more than £14,236. Furthermore, patient care exponentially increases as death approaches. However, it is should be note that this does not take into consideration of emotive cost suffered by the family of the patient. Emotive cost can range from therapy or days missed work following the death of a family member. The emotive cost of family members can be greater than direct medical cost depending on the view of individual family. However, since this argument is centred around voluntary euthanasia for the terminally ill then the emotive cost of the family could be lower as the death is expected. Furthermore, according to the model, if “family member see death as “good” then the cost of euthanasia may go down”. In the elderly, voluntary euthanasia would take the pressure off national pension and the social support budget as well as future medical and hospice care because of the aging population. Therefore, from a utilitarian point of view, voluntary euthanasia has greater benefit in the future.

38: Wai Fung Tsui, Lap Yin Lee, Tsz Hin Kwok, T


7 thoughts on “Ethical considerations of Euthanasia

  1. In your opening paragraph the two opinions are not presented equally.
    “euthanasia activist and patient argue to have their right to die when their life is painful”
    “It is argued that euthanasia is morally and religiously wrong despite of the patient’s will to die”
    It seems to me that the 2nd sentence is written in a more negative light than the first. This causes me to think that the opening statement is biased towards pro-euthanasia. To correct it I would suggest framing both in a positive light such as “humans should have free choice over their lives” and “human lives are always intrinsically valuable” as I think it’s difficult to get a completely unbiased view on this subject.

    For the against euthanasia article:
    I would recommend providing a link to the euthanasia device you were talking about as I didn’t know what a euthanasia machine was.
    You presented some issues with euthanasia which was good.
    You also provided different options that could be taken in regards to this issue.
    However, your final paragraph seems to be pro-euthanasia and doesn’t conclude the statements already made. This is a disappointment. I was expecting you to state which of the four options would be best to proceed with given the issues you’ve already mentioned.

    For the for euthanasia article:
    Putting the definition of euthanasia in the opening statement seems to be a more sensible choice as it’s describing the issue at hand.
    I’m not entirely sure whether the “engineering stoic” viewpoint would be focused on the economic aspect of euthanasia as it seems to be more focused on the internal goings on of man instead of the external.
    I don’t think there is a “straightforward” point of view. Everyone will see the straightforward path differently based on their ethical presuppositions.
    I don’t think there is an “engineering” point of view either. You seem to suggest that the engineer is most concerned with economic gain which is not true. Engineers are made up of folk from all different backgrounds with different beliefs and not all of them my think that economic gain is the purpose of engineering.

    Your final paragraph is very good. Approaching from a utilitarian viewpoint you consider both the financial cost and the emotive cost and effectively reason how the emotional cost might not be as high as people may think.


  2. About the point of setting up regulations to prevent the abuse of euthanasia:
    I don’t think it is a good attitude for human beings to rely on so-called “regulations”. There are also regulations for using nuclear energy, but accidents can still occur. “Regulations” only eliminate the chances for accidents, but not solve the problems brought by the accidents.

    Building a machine to undergo euthanasia: “Building a machine” is an interesting point. This reminds me of the “Trolley problem”. If you only need to pull a lever so as to kill one people but save five people’s lives, many people would choose to pull the lever. But if now you need to push a fat man down the bridge to save the five people, many people would choose not to push him. One of the reasons is that “pulling a lever” is only an interaction between you and the machine, so you don’t feel that you are killing a person by yourself. This is similar to the case for engineers to build an euthanasia machine. Discussing the theory about building the machine is easy, but this action is no different from using a sword to directly chop the patient’s head off.

    For the point “From Christianity and Islamic point of view, the value of human life could not be measured by health or intelligence.” :
    But this does not mean that people have their values only when they are alive. Soldiers sacrifice themselves to save the country. Parents sacrfice themselves to protect their childern. Only the patients themselves can determine how their lives would be meaningful. If they think their death can help relieve the family’s burden, they may consider death is more valuable then being alive. “Human life could not be measured by health” is not a reason for stopping patients choose to undergo euthanasia.


  3. Good article with a range of arguments for both sides are outlined. It would be interesting to include perspectives of doctors/healthcare workers, as it would directly impact their role, responsibilities and increase their moral burden, as doctor’s have close proximity and knowledge of patients and health.
    Also, emotional motives for wanting euthanasia are not brought up in the article, as it is often a combined force of physical pain and emotional burden or feelings of hopelessness, rather than physical pain itself (due to options available in palliative care) that may cause individuals, especially those with small or detached support networks, to desire euthanasia. This also brings up wider social discussions on how the sick and elderly are framed and treated, differing in different cultures, and the indirect emotional implications this may have on the debate.

    Agreeing with a comment above, the engineering view would be better framed as an economic or business perspective, as it deals with cost/profit motivations for building the machine you mentioned.


  4. Great range of issues brought up here regarding the impacts on society, the family involved, and the individual.

    The psychological acceptance and wellness of everyone involved should be also considered. There are stages of dealing with death, and euthanasia complicates things even more, as the power of life/death is place in the hands of us.

    All in all, in regards to the future development with euthanasia laws and regulations, careful thought must be put into the process in which it would occur.


  5. This topic is challenging in every way. You’ve well presented the potential considerations very well. But the “for” argument really makes me think…and it may get a bit philosophical, how can we define the value of life? It has to be a similar argument over abortions and hunting animals for pleasure or extending out of this context, even in pet stores where animals are “put down” because they can’t find a care taker.

    We need to think about this more as human development and not financial benefits or linkin to religious beliefs. We want to progress and do better to the world as a whole.


  6. I pretty agree with Ash’s comment. I really think that the point of view from the doctors and healthcare workers should be included in the article since they are really in touch with euthanasia machines. Their thoughts are probably the main factors to influence should engineers building the machine because they are more professional about determine about the health condition of patients.

    As more stakeholders are considered, the more obvious decision could be made for “Is it right to build euthanasia machine to buffer the pain of the patient?”.


  7. In conclusion, euthanasia device should be built in support of patient choice and to a much lesser extend the economic benefit of voluntary euthanasia. However, like any device the, it is prone to abuse by individual in the society as noted in the ‘against’ section of the blog. Therefore, strict regulation and law should be put in place to prevent such abuse.

    Possible preventative actions in face of such abuse includes
    1. Government set up laws to restrict any types of euthanasia.
    2. A comprehensive system for doctors to examine if the patients are suitable for euthanasia.
    3. Patients want to euthanasia must need authorized from court.
    4. Euthanasia could be done when patient is willing to.
    5. Limited production of euthanasia machine

    The analysis of the feedback shows that the majority of the feedback are not comprehensive enough to lead us to believe voluntary euthanasia is ethically perverse as long as the above action is implemented and continue to be regularly updated to suit its current society.

    One feedback focus on the style of the argument and how the argument is communicated on the blog rather than the argument itself. We noted that there are certain part of the argument which is unclear causing misinterpretation and misunderstanding to the audience. However, the method of communicating, i.e. via a blog, is not instantaneous nor extensively interactive to clarify or thoroughly debate certain point. Therefore, in future debate, we will make an effort to clearly layout our argument.

    Some of the feedback stated that the meaning of ‘value of human life’ is vague and they disagree with putting a value on human life. We believe that everyone have different measure to the value of life, like Sandy mentioned ‘parents sacrifice themselves to protect their children’ only the person who involved in the incident can determine the value to their life, this is their choice and interests of the stakeholder. Therefore, it will be vague and difficult to understand by outsider.

    Another feedback suggested that the viewpoints of doctor or the health care worker should be included in the article. The determination on the action of euthanasia for the patients would be affected by the responsibility and the moral value of the doctors, which would directly impact the life of the patient. The emotional factor was suggested to be an element of the issue. Ash mentioned the reason of the desire of euthanasia would be the combination of the physical and emotional feeling, rather than mention the physical pain of the patient merely.

    It was noted a great range of issues was carried from the social, family and individual aspects. However, the psychological aspect of the stakeholders should also be included, as Chu suggested. The issue of euthanasia would be a forbidden term for some East Asian countries as the public are fear of death. Euthanasia may not be accepted by the society psychologically.


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