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Sample Argumentative Paper: The Euthanasia Decree or Aktion T4
Euthanasia is a "merciful" act of ending an individual’s suffering by granting death. It is a voluntary procedure where a patient or another legal authority decides that the best option for them is to die. Since the concept of euthanasia allows the legal termination of life, some, such as the Nazi party, can abuse it to rationalize their malicious intent. The Nazi’s Euthanasia Decree and Aktion T4 showcased the exploitation of the euthanasia concept to cover murderous and discriminatory acts.
The Euthanasia Decree and Aktion T4
The Euthanasia Decree and Aktion T4 were programs that Hitler ordered during the second world war and persisted until the end of the conflict. The goal of the programs was to “euthanize” mentally and physically-disabled individuals, the elderly, and those who fit the criteria of “economic burden” (Berenbaum, 2018). Throughout the second world war, the programs killed more than 200,000 disabled individuals, including at least 10,000 children (Berenbaum, 2018). Initially, the programs only targeted disabled children but eventually extended to adults when Hitler ordered Aktion T4. These programs preceded the Holocaust and were relevant in the creation of concentration camps and gas chambers.
Meaning of Euthanasia vs. Euthanasia Decree Killings
The Nazis claimed that the killings under the Euthanasia Decree and Aktion T4 were euthanasia or mercy killing. However, comparing the definition of euthanasia to the Nazi’s Euthanasia Decree killings can reveal that the two subjects are different. Euthanasia is a process where an authorized individual hastens a patient’s death to end their suffering (Annadurai et al., 2014). Most euthanasia patients are individuals who have painful and serious illnesses that prevent them to function. While the Euthanasia Decree targeted disabled individuals, some were not suffering from painful and incurable diseases. For instance, some patients were criminals, long-term patients from various institutions, and non-Germans (Euthanasia Program and Aktion T4, n.d.). This shows that the Euthanasia Decree is not trying to end patients’ suffering but pursuing the eugenical goals of the Nazi Party.
There are many types of euthanasia, including voluntary and involuntary euthanasia. Most legal euthanasia is voluntary while most involuntary euthanasia is illegal (Annadurai et al., 2014). Looking at the Euthanasia Decree killings, most, if not all, the deaths were involuntary. Nazi physicians were the authority figures in the process and they assess if an individual will receive euthanasia or not (Berenbaum, 2018). Most of the patients did not have an option or power to affect the decision. The Nazi government also required medical professionals and parents to report and admit disabled children to pediatric clinics for euthanization. This lack of autonomy meant that the killings under the Euthanasia Decree were involuntary and illegal.
Meaning of Murder vs. Euthanasia Decree Killings
Since the Euthanasia Decree killings do not meet the definition of euthanasia, it is then possible that they were acts of murder. According to experts, such as Hawkins, Russel, and Coke, murder is the act of killing an individual with malice aforethought (cited in Hossain & Rahi, 2018). Malice aforethought refers to the intention of causing harm or killing an individual. Murder is any form of killing where there is intent to harm and kill, which prevents cases of self-defense and abortion from becoming murder. This shows that not all forms of killing are murder since the act depends on the intention.
Examining the Euthanasia Decree killings reveal that there might be malice aforethought behind the acts. As mentioned earlier, there must be an intention to harm an individual for a court to consider an act as murder. Some can argue that the Nazi’s racism toward the non-Aryan race caused them to have the intention to harm other individuals. It is common knowledge that the Nazis were hostile towards non-Aryan races , especially Jews, thus leading to the Holocaust. This meant that the Nazis may have utilized the Euthanasia Decree to purge non-Aryan races, as well as those who do not and cannot contribute to their goals. One can then argue that the Euthanasia Decree was an act of mass murder that the Nazis concealed as euthanization.
Criteria for Euthanasia Decree Patients
The criteria that the Nazis used to assess their euthanasia patients further support the notion that the killings had malice aforethought. Nazi physicians initially evaluated their euthanasia patients based on extreme disability. This led to the euthanization of children and adults with extreme mental and physical disabilities. In general, these criteria fit the physical and psychological requirements for euthanasia, such as unbearable pain, paralysis, and depression (Annadurai et al., 2014). However, the Nazis also included an economic productivity criterion that assessed patients based on their economic contributions (Berenbaum, 2018). This was a significant criterion for the Nazis’ euthanasia patients but an invalid requirement under legal and moral laws.
Economic euthanasia, in modern times, mostly applies to pets and animals. Owners may choose to euthanize their pets due to financial problems, especially during an economic crisis (Kipperman, 2010). However, this practice remains a subject of debate today and more so when it applies to humans . The Nazis even referred to their victims as “burdensome lives” and “useless eaters” (Berenbaum, 2018). This implied that they are useless members of society and should undergo euthanasia to stop wasting national resources. Since euthanasia aims to end a patient’s suffering and not secure economic stability, the Euthanasia Decree killings are then not acts of euthanization.
Euthanasia Decree Killing Methods
Lastly, examining the different killing methods showcases the programs’ inhumane approach that contradicts the merciful characteristic of euthanasia. Before the Nazis used poison gas to kill their patients, they utilized starvation and lethal overdoses (Berenbaum, 2018). While all are dreadful methods, starvation stands out as the most abhorrent. Death from starvation takes a few days as the body weakens, organs start to shut down, and patients experience stroke and toxin buildup (Sruthi, 2022). Since the Euthanasia Decree initially targeted children, these were the patients who died from starvation. The Nazis later adopted poison gas to kill more patients quickly, which they continued to use during the Holocaust. It is also worth noting that the Nazis falsified death certificates to conceal the “mass euthanasia” and gave family members ashes from common piles. These methods illustrate the inhumane treatment of the Nazis toward euthanasia patients that opposed the goal of ending human suffering.
The Euthanasia Decree was a Nazi order to eliminate the disabled and the non-productive members of the economy. The Nazis concealed their malicious intentions to terminate non-Aryan races by incorporating the term “euthanasia” in the program’s name. A close examination of the Euthanasia Decree killings shows that the Nazis’ approach to euthanasia contradicts its definition and is more aligned with government-sanctioned murders. They disguised genocide with medically-approved assessments that sentenced children and adults to euthanization. The Euthanasia Decree was a precursor of the Holocaust and a testament to the Nazis’ relentless pursuit of purging the non-Aryan races.
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Annadurai, K., Danasekaran, R. & Mani, G. (2014). Euthanasia: Right to Die with Dignity. Journal of Family Medicine and Primary Care, vol. 3(4). Available at https://doi.org/10.4103/2249-4863.148161. Accessed: August 30, 2022.
Berenbaum, M. (2018). T4 Program. Encyclopedia Britannica. Available at https://www.britannica.com/event/T4-Program . Accessed: August 30, 2022.
Euthanasia Program and AKtion T4. (n.d.). Holocaust Encylopedia. Available at https://encyclopedia.ushmm.org/content/en/article/euthanasia-program. Accessed: August 31, 2022.
Hossain, M. & Rahi, S. (2018) Murder: A Critical Analysis of the Common Law Definition. Beijing Law Review, vol. 9. DOI: 10.4236/blr.2018.93028. Accessed: August 30, 2022.
Kipperman, B. (2010). Economic Euthanasia: A Disease in Need of Prevention. Humane Society Veterinary Medical Association. Available at https://www.hsvma.org/economic_euthanasia_disease_in_need_of_prevention#.YxBVYXZByUk . Accessed: September 1, 2022.
Sruthi, M. (2022). How Long Does It Take to Die If You Don’t Eat? MedicineNet. Available at https://www.medicinenet.com/how_long_does_it_take_to_die_if_you_dont_eat/article.htm . Accessed: August 30, 2022.