Euthanasia will be left unhappy (1-2), so the net

Euthanasia is now legal
in Canada.  Also known as mercy killing, euthanasia
is the practice of intentionally ending someone’s life to relieve persistent
pain and suffering. This may be done in several ways, one of the most common
being physician assisted suicides. There are different types of euthanasia, but
the issue that will be discussed is about active, voluntary euthanasia, wherein
the doctors can actively provide a lethal dose that the patient has voluntarily
requested and agreed to. A thirteen-year-old girl named Samantha is in the last
stages of cancer and does not want any further treatment, including an experimental
therapy for which there is some hope, because she does not believe it is going
to make her well. The doctors can end her life with a fatal dose of a drug, to
which her parents object, or they can sedate her and continue with the
treatment. From a utilitarian perspective, Samantha’s decision will cause more
suffering, even among her parents, outweighing the total happiness. Secondly,
the natural law theory states that there is a higher law that must be followed,
and so the preservation of Samantha’s life is more sacred than respecting her
decision. Lastly, ending her life cannot be universalized and disrespects not
only her parent’s decision, but her personal worth, which is a direction
violation of two forms of Kant’s categorical imperative. For these reasons, I believe the doctors should sedate Samantha and
proceed with the treatment, attempting to preserve her life in any way.

From
a utilitarian perspective, the doctors’ decisions should be based on what will
guarantee the maximum amount of happiness. Sarah’s death may relieve her of
pain and make her happy, but her loved ones will mourn her. If it is to be
calculated based on the information given, the outcome of giving her the lethal
dose will be that Samantha is happy and her parents will be left unhappy (1-2),
so the net score is one unit of unhappiness. 
Therefore, it is best if the doctors continue with the treatment and sedate
her, guaranteeing net happiness.

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Although
Samantha’s decision should be respected, the natural law theory states that
there is a higher law that must be followed and that doctors are morally bound
to keep her alive. Most physicians take an oath similar to the Hippocratic Oath
at the beginning of their careers in which they swear to treat their patients
to the best of their ability and to “do no harm” (MacKinnon & Fiala, 2014).
One part of the oath states that they will “neither give a deadly drug to
anybody who asked for it, nor will they make a suggestion to this effect
(MedicineNet.com, 2016).” Moreover, St. Thomas Aquinas, who firmly believed in
natural law theory, said it is our innate tendency to preserve our being and
health and ought not to do things that will harm us. It is against our human
nature to succumb to death because humans are born with the will to live. Though
it can be argued that natural law theory also asserts that we should honour
each other’s capacity to understand and choose freely, it must be taken into
consideration that terminal illnesses can affect one’s mental competence and
influence one to consider suicide. 

According
to Kant, suicide cannot be willed for all people, nor is it justified by
circumstance. He believed that euthanasia violates the first form of the categorical
imperative, since it is impossible to universalize (MacKinnon & Fiala,
2014). If it was morally permissible for all people to commit suicide, we would
say that everyone should kill themselves, which is completely immoral. Relativists
will contend that Samantha’s situation warrants her decision to be taken into
consideration. She is terminally ill and her treatment will only prolong her
suffering, possibly even to an unbearable extent. However, the only reason
given for her choice to stop treatment is that she doesn’t believe they will work.  What one believes is not necessarily what is,
especially if they are not based on scientific grounds as in medical cases.
Furthermore, non-relativists can counter that even if a treatment for one
individual will not be beneficial to another, the ultimate goal is maintaining
health. The differences should primarily be in the way that optimal health is
obtained and choosing to die does not achieve this.

Samantha’s
decision to stop treatment is unethical because she would be using herself as a
means to an end. This is in direct violation with Kant’s second form of the
categorical imperative (MacKinnon & Fiala, 2014). Ending her life would be
her means to escape painful circumstances, the end ultimately being liberation
from her suffering. Her parents would also likely be the ones to pay for the
lethal dose (as well as her ongoing treatment), against their own wills, so
they too are being used as a means for her to get what she wants.

Additionally,
Samantha’s decision to end her life out of self interest-to escape pain-
contradicts her own self worth. Kant describes self interest as self-love
(MacKinnon & Fiala, 2014). Harming oneself out of self interest is not in
one’s best interest. It can be disputed that it is better in the long term and
that the harm will only be temporary, but Samantha cannot even be sure what
awaits after death. There is no guarantee that she will find comfort,
especially considering the possible existence of an afterlife.

In
conclusion, it is not necessarily Samantha’s age that affects the ethical
implications of her decisions, but rather the situation as a whole. The
legality of an act does not necessarily dub it as permissible either because
there are many ethical considerations surrounding its morality. She is
intending to relieve her suffering, but will only be creating unhappiness for
those who love her, resulting in net unhappiness. Doctors are morally bound by
their profession to uphold the natural law and refuse to give Samantha a lethal
dose as per her request. From a non-relativist perspective, her situation
should not justify her decision either. Human nature dictates that we act to
maintain life and will to live. She may receive different treatment, but the
end goal should be for the benefit of her health (while living). Using herself
as a means to a literal end is self contradictory to her own self worth and
cannot even guarantee her liberation from her suffering. The best decision is
for the doctors to sedate her and try the treatment of which there is some hope
to help her.  Even little hope is better
than none at all. 

x

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