Legalizing Euthanasia: A Question of Politics
Euthanasia has long been a hotly debated issue because of its inherent ties with death. In the United States, the matter of death has a naturally negative connotation with the general public since murder is considered murder regardless of its motives. However, the moral and ethical implications of euthanasia place it on the thin line between right and wrong. Death is seemingly not a black and white issue nor is killing if one takes into careful consideration the situational context surrounding so-called “mercy killings.” It is widely accepted that euthanasia is both passive and active. Passive euthanasia, which is commonly considered morally permissible, concerns the withholding of normal life sustaining medical treatment and the simple act of “letting die.” Active euthanasia, however, is the more controversial of the two because it requires the active assistance of a physician, therefore contradicting that of which the medical doctrine stands for, and constituting murder by law. There appears to be a sound and valid argument in favor of euthanasia in general, and active euthanasia specifically, if one considers what the medical profession stands for in essence. Voluntary active euthanasia should be legalized in the United States because of the nation’s value of autonomy and individual agency, and because of the doctrine of separation of church and state in regards to the governance of the general public.
The primary philosophical argument surrounding the morality of voluntary active euthanasia concerns the issue of personal agency. It is the moral and ethical duty of the law
to regard citizens with a certain degree of competence, and therefore to respect personal decisions made so long as those decisions do not cause harm to others (Brock 1992). Inherent in the notion of autonomy is a sense of personal responsibility, a responsibility for the course of action and eventual outcomes in all phases of...