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Sample Argumentative Essay: Why Should Euthanasia Be Legalized
The legalization and ethics of euthanasia remain a topic of debate within various countries. Its direct effect on the circumstances of an individual’s death makes it a sensitive subject that some tend to avoid while others strive to regulate. Those that try to avoid the subject often value basic ethical teachings that permit them from harming others. Alternatively, individuals that promote the regulation of euthanasia acknowledge the benefits that the practice can provide to society. These benefits often outweigh the ethical arguments that the opposition tries to instill in the topic. The legalization of euthanasia will allow for the recognition of the “right to die”, improve the organ donation process, and strengthen the support of the medical community towards the practice.
Removing Unnecessary Burden
Euthanasia patients are mostly individuals that possess incurable and painful diseases that prevent them from performing basic human activities. Most of the patients are in a vegetative state, require extensive care, or continuously feel pain. They stop becoming functioning members of society nor can they take care of others and themselves. By choosing to undergo euthanasia, these individuals can exercise their “right to die” with dignity (Math & Chaturvedi, 2012). Aside from easing their suffering and illnesses, they allow caregivers to avoid unnecessary burdens that often include financial, emotional, and physical investments. Medical institutions can utilize these resources for other patients that are more likely to survive and live a normal life. Lastly, euthanasia can prevent family members from witnessing painful and disturbing deaths which can lead to emotional and psychological burdens, especially for young and sensitive individuals.
Acknowledgment of the Right to Refuse Care
The legalization of euthanasia would promote the acknowledgment of the right to refuse care. This concept pertains to a patient’s ability to refuse medical services, provided that they have the legal capacity to make the decision. Pirotte & Benson (2021) highlighted that autonomy is a basic ethical principle in medicine and that healthcare practitioners should not impose their opinions on their patients. The right to refuse care is a form of passive euthanasia as the refusal of medical service can lead to the eventual death of the patient. However, patients will need to possess specific requirements that guarantee that they have the proper mental capacity to make such a decision. This can lead to “gray areas” where a medical professional may assess that a patient does not have the capacity to decide as they find it ethically wrong to stop treatment. Legalizing the practice can prevent healthcare practitioners from ignoring the right to refuse care and imposing their ideas on their patients. It will also strengthen the recognition of autonomy within the medical field.
The Medical Community’s Support
Since the legalization of euthanasia is a medical topic, considering the professional opinions of healthcare practitioners is integral in addressing the issue. Herath et al. (2021) revealed that the majority of medical practitioners agree with the legalization of euthanasia. Abohaimed et al. (2019) stated a similar result with 43.9% of medical practitioners agreeing to legalize the practice. Other studies acquired similar data, further supporting the premise that many practitioners acknowledge the benefits of euthanasia. However, it is important to note that some of the studies concluded that the medical community has diverse opinions regarding the matter despite the research data. This is due to the respondents that are within the category of “undecided” as well as practitioners that agree with the legalization but are not willing to practice euthanasia. The legalization of euthanasia can improve the attitudes of practitioners towards the topic since they will have first-hand experiences with terminally ill patients that desire euthanization.
Improve the Organ Donation Process
Finding a suitable organ donor can be difficult since many factors contribute to a successful transplant. Patients can often require weeks, months, or longer before they find the right donor. Some patients even utilize illegal markets or pay living donors to gain access to suitable organs. According to Luo (2019), 20 individuals die each day waiting for organ donors. This statistic suggests that there is a need for more organ donors or sources to prevent unnecessary deaths. The legalization of euthanasia can aid in this issue as terminal patients may possess healthy organs. The opportunity to save others may persuade euthanasia patients to become organ donors and help other patients live healthy normal lives. Math & Chaturvedi (2012) stated that through organ donation, euthanasia does not only respect the “right to die” but provides the “right to life” for patients that require organ donations. Through this, euthanasia patients can contribute to society and provide opportunities to others.
Counter to the Pro-Euthanasia Arguments
Euthanasia Disregards the Sanctity of Life
A common argument against euthanasia is its disregard for the sanctity of life. This argument often comes from religious perspectives since most religions teach against taking a life and committing self-harm. Since the legalization of euthanasia will lead to the disposal of patients with incurable diseases, society's value on life may focus on functionality than the condition of living or existing. Furthermore, the practice of palliative care makes euthanasia an unnecessary practice since society can allot specific resources to the care of terminal patients (Math & Chaturvedi, 2012). If governments legalize euthanasia, palliative care becomes an alternative for individuals that value the sanctity of life which can affect the quality of this type of service.
Mental Conditions of Euthanasia Patients
The refusal to receive medical care is a form of passive euthanasia and requires the patient to have the legal capacity to make a decision. From this, individuals who experience intoxication, psychiatric conditions, and other mental impairments cannot refuse medical care. In Breitbart et al. (2010), researchers revealed that terminally ill patients with depression are likely to desire death. There was also a correlation between the response to antidepressants and the decreased desire for death. This study suggests that some euthanasia patients may be suffering from some form of depression which causes them to prefer euthanization. The role of antidepressants in the study also suggests that the desire for euthanasia may decrease if terminally ill patients take the medicine. Through this, anti-euthanasia individuals may argue that the legalization of euthanasia can lead to indirect methods of self-harm for patients with depression.
While euthanasia may seem to trivialize the value of human life, it provides terminal patients the option to alleviate their suffering and pain. According to Cipriani & Fiorino (2019), medicine aims to relieve patients’ suffering which often requires control over the circumstances of their death. Instead of disregarding human life, euthanization acts as a form of mercy to prevent more suffering. Additionally, while depressed patients are more likely to desire death, professional assessment and regulations of the practice will prevent decisions from incapable patients. The practice of euthanasia is simply the fulfillment of a healthcare practitioner’s duty as well as the acknowledgment of patients’ autonomy.
Undecided Medical Practitioners Lean on Anti-Euthanasia Opinions
As mentioned earlier, the studies regarding medical practitioners’ opinions on euthanasia revealed that the field shares diverse perspectives on the issue. However, in a study by Herath et al. (2021), the “undecided respondents” approached the questionnaires with answers leaning on unfavorable opinions of euthanasia. This suggests that while some medical practitioners prefer to not answer the questions, their values may lean on anti-euthanasia perspectives which implies that more practitioners are against the legalization. This can be due to various cultural and environmental factors, such as religion which is a major reason against euthanasia (Abohaimed et al., 2019). Through these arguments, anti-euthanasia individuals can infer that medical practitioners possess values that oppose the legalization of euthanasia.
However, it is important to note that the same studies stated that there are diverse opinions about euthanasia among medical practitioners. While the research data in Herath et al. (2021) implied that more practitioners disagree with the legalization of euthanasia, other studies concluded the diverse opinions. This included different approaches to the different forms of euthanasia. Abohaimed et al. (2019) revealed that 29% of medical practitioners in Kuwait approve of passive euthanasia while only 8.7% approve of the active form. This data may suggest that the “undecided respondents” may disapprove of active euthanasia but may condone passive euthanasia. To answer these questions, researchers will need to conduct further studies to better measure the collective opinion of the medical community.
Negative Effects of Euthanasia on Organs after Death
While euthanasia can promote a better organ donation process, there is the issue regarding the effects of euthanasia death on a patient’s organs. A sedation process is common in euthanization as it allows a patient to die without pain and stress. According to Tajaâte et al. (2021), patient sedation using propofol or midazolam can potentially damage the quality of donated organs. Furthermore, organ donation requires euthanasia patients to die within hospital facilities to ensure the proper protocols for organ harvesting. However, 80% of euthanasia patients prefer to die at home which increases the risk of damaged organs. This makes euthanasia an inefficient source for organ donation due to patient preferences and the adverse effects of the process on organs.
In response to this issue, some medical institutions have employed innovative processes to meet the preference of euthanasia patients while protecting the quality of donated organs. An example of these processes is the Organ Donation After Euthanasia Starting at Home or ODAEH which Tajaâte et al’s (2021) article discussed. In this method, a euthanasia patient falls asleep at home where they lose consciousness. Medical personnel will then transport the patient to a hospital facility where they will perform the final step in the euthanization process. ODAEH allows medical practitioners to safely harvest healthy organs from euthanasia patients while still allowing them to “die” at home. As the medical field develops more ways to effectively harvest organs, euthanasia patients can become integral parts of the organ donation process.
Legalizing euthanasia can be a beneficial act to improve the quality of life in society. The legalization will lead to better recognition of the “right to die”, improve organ donation processes, and strengthen the support of the medical community towards the practice. Euthanizing terminally ill patients will allow them to die with dignity and even provide the opportunity to help other patients that require organ donations. The legalization can further strengthen the support of the medical community towards the practice as they experience the process and understand its benefits. While there are many cultural and ethical barriers to the legalization of euthanasia, surpassing these hurdles can lead to a better and more efficient society.
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Abohaimed, S., Matar, B., Al-Shimali, H., Al-Thalji, K., Al-Othman, O., Zurba, Y., & Shah, N. (2019). Attitudes of Physicians Towards Different Types of Euthanasia in Kuwait. Medical Principles and Practice. Available at https://www.karger.com/Article/Fulltext/497377. Accessed February 22, 2022.
Breitbart, W., Rosenfeld, B., Gibson, C., Kramer, M., & Li, Y., Tomarken, A.,... Schuster, M. (2010). Impact of Treatment for Depression on Desire for Hastened Death in Patients with Advanced AIDS. Psychosomatics, vol 51(2). Available at doi: 10.1176/appi.psy.51.2.98. Accessed February 22, 2022.
Cipriani, G. & Fiorino, M. (2019). Euthanasia and Other End of Life in Patients Suffering From Dementia. Legal Medicine, vol 40. Available at https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S1344622319301208. Accessed February 21, 2022.
Herath, H., Wijayawardhana, K., Wickramarachchi, U. & Rodrigo, C. (2021). Attitudes on Euthanasia Among Medical Students and Doctors in Sri Lanka: A Cross Sectional Study. BMC Med Ethics. Available at https://doi.org/10.1186/s12910-021-00731-2. Accessed February 21, 2022.
Luo, E. (2019). How Organ Transplants Work. MedicalNewsToday. Available at https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/325631. Accessed February 22, 2022.
Math, S. & Chaturvedi, S. (2012). Euthanasia: Right to Life vs Right to Die. The Indian Journal of Medical Research, vol. 136(6). Available at https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3612319/. Accessed February 21, 2022.
Pirotte, B. & Benson, S. (2021). Refusal of Care. StatPearls Publishing. Available at https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK560886/. Accessed February 21, 2022.
Tajaâte, N., Dijk, N., Pragt, E., Shaw, D., Kempener-Deguelle, A., de Jongh, W., Bollen, J., & Mook, W. (2021). Organ Donation After Euthanasia Starting at Home in a Patient with Multiple System Atrophy. BMC Med Ethics. Available at https://doi.org/10.1186/s12910-021-00686-4. Accessed February 21, 2022.
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