Euthanasia is currently illegal. Does this compromise a person's freedom of choice?Euthanasia is currently illegal. Does this compromise a person's freedom of choice?

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belarafon eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Euthanasia is usually defined as mercy killing, although assisted suicide often falls under the same laws. Mercy killing has a negative connotation; the major difference is whether the euthanized person still has the mental faculties to approve the death and either participate or sign off on it. It is usually divided into Voluntary (consent of patient), Non-Voluntary (patient cannot consent), and Involuntary (patient refuses consent).

In the United States, euthanasia is classified as Criminal Homicide and is punishable by the same standards as any  other homicide, although cases can be individually argued in court and may receive lesser charges under extenuating circumstances. Euthanasia -- as mercy killing -- is illegal in all 50 states, while Physician Assisted Suicide/Dying (PAD) is legal in Washington, Montana, and Oregon.

Euthanasia in itself does not compromise an individual's freedom of choice, since the act  is illegal unless it is passive. Freedom of choice only extends to illegal acts when we understand the consequences; most people say that they would not commit an illegal act unless they could get away with it, and therefore the freedom is to not act. However, PAD does directly involve the patient's choice, and so the illegality of PAD means that a patient who wants to end his own suffering is denied that as a choice.

PAD has gained increasing support around the world as methods of dying become more painless, and proponents argue that the choice to die is preferable than the non-choice to continue living in suffering. Legislation is in constant debate about the moral and ethical stances behind both euthanasia and PAD, and the legalization of PAD in three states means that Euthanasia may soon be reexamined as a viable choice.

boblawrence eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Suppose a crazy person wanted to have their left ear cut off by someone else.  If some other person did so, she would have broken the law (having committed mayhem). A law that prohibits such an action is not, in my opinion, a violation of the requester's rights.  We do not have the right to ask others to do something to us that so obviously wrong...even though we might demand it.

Euthanasia is not so clearly wrong as loping off someone's ear.  But it is illegal.  While a rational person certainly might request euthanasia, I feel it is wrong for someone else to kill them.  Instead, the requester should commit suicide.

But I do acknowledge that your question occupies a grey area.

I think that a person has the right to participate in legal and reasonable activities.  But they do have the right to ask another to break the law, or do something that may cause that person harm.

I, myself, would never ask someone else to kill me.  I would simply shoot myself or take an overdose of sleeping pills.

I don't think the right to be killed is something the government should support.

readerofbooks eNotes educator| Certified Educator

This is a good question. However, I do not know if you want to go the social theory route on this question. If euthanasia is illegal, then by the law a person cannot go this route. If this is the case, then a person who believes in euthanasia cannot do it legally. By this virtue, there would be a curbing of a person's freedom.

If you had to use a social theory, then you can talk about how ideology works. In social theory ideology is what those in power spin off as objective truth, when it is actually socially constructed. More importantly, those who create ideology usually benefit from the ideology. So, if you think about euthanasia and the prolonging of life, you can ask who benefits? Perhaps hospitals who could charge a lot of fees. If you go this route, you can argue that a person's freedom is compromised, because those who make laws are thinking to benefit non-sufferers.


rrteacher eNotes educator| Certified Educator

It obviously infringes on a person's freedom of choice, or at least restricts it. Whether that is acceptable is another issue. It's an interesting question because it points at a fundamental issue, i.e. whether an individual has absolute control over their own body, and whether they can transfer that control to someone else of their own volition. One interesting thing to consider: The state can, and does, assume absolute control over our bodies when we convict capital crimes. (I'm not trying to open that can of worms, by the way) So denying one the right to be euthanized with their own permission is to say, in a sense, that we have less control over our own bodies than the state does.

pohnpei397 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Of course it's an infringement on our freedom to choose.  If I want to kill myself with the help of a doctor, I generally am not allowed to do so (though in my state I could).  That means that I either have to keep living or I have to find some other way to kill myself.  I think that the real question here is whether this infringement is right or not.  Some people would argue that it is, either for religious reasons or out of fear of seniors being coerced to kill themselves.  I do not think it is right to infringe on our choice in this way.  I think that people should be able to choose when they will die if that is consistent with their own beliefs.

enotechris eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The exercise of Rights is the definition of Freedom, so by making an action illegal, the law does indeed curb freedom of choice, in this case, to live, or to die.

The question should be stated as "Is euthanasia a Right?"  As an individual gets to decide his or her own life, shouldn't they be allowed to decide their own death? If they are not able to decide, shouldn't the presumption be that they wish to live?

The etymology of the word is interesting -- from the Greek, "eu" meaning "well" and "thanatos" meaning "death."  If an individual chooses to "die well," shouldn't they be allowed to?

All good questions!!


wshoe eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I think this is one of those topics that you have to experience to fully appreciate, and I hope this is a situation I never find myself in.  I can't imagine what it must be like to have a fatal disease and have to suffer for a long time.  I surely wouldn't want that for any of my loved ones.  I watched an interesting documentary on Oregon as a right to die state.  I recommend viewing this for anyone who is interested in this topic.  I believe it is currently available on HBO On-Demand. 

literaturenerd eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I agree with pohnpei. It is an infringement on a person's choice. That being said, I think that this law is like many others: ban it completely (so people do not take advantage of it). I think the issue which arises are for those who are not mentally capable of making the decision (my thoughts anyway). I must say, that some people, regardless of the law (for example, suicide), take this infringement into their own hands.

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