Why should euthanasia be legal in the US?Why should euthanasia be legal in the US?

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Ashley Kannan eNotes educator| Certified Educator

If this particular topic is being phrased in a debate form, it is important to lay out both sides and address the compelling points of both.  The reality is that this particular issue is a divisive one because it strikes to the heart of all individuals and impacts everyone for death is something that is unavoidable.  Along these lines, it should be noted that the thoughts offered here are strong, but your paper/ debate has to be formed from taking as many points as possible, which means that it is going to be impossible to avoid outside research.  Certainly, the arguments against euthanasia are powerfully impressive.   Human beings assuming the role of totalizing divinity would be one reason why it should not be legal, as well as the idea that it creates a "slippery slope" where the line between what constitutes "acceptable" criteria for taking a life and "unacceptable" criteria are blurred.  At the same time, others argue that it should be legal because it helps to alleviate suffering of individuals, as well as increasing the quality of life.  We see that animals suffer and we put them to sleep to alleviate their pain.  The same logic can apply to any human being in a terminal state of pain.

pohnpei397 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Here are what I think would be the main arguments for euthanasia, regardless of whether I think they're true:

  • Free will and self-determination.  If someone wants to die, it should be their choice to do so, assuming they are doing it with full knowledge of what they are doing, and not under duress.
  • Cost-benefit factors.  Here's what I mean by this.  Let's say I know that I can live one more month and it's going to cost my family $100,000.  You can make the argument that one month more of life isn't worth it (as long as it's my choice as to whether it is worth it or not).
  • Dignity.  No one should have to live out the last few months of their life in excruciating pain or in some other way that is, to them, "worse than death."
enotechris eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The United States was founded upon the principles of Rights -- that by virtue of birth, everyone has (had?) "innumerable Rights."  Freedom is the exercise of those Rights.  If it is understood that individuals, being rational beings that can determine the course of their own lives, make decisions for their own benefit, then choosing to die falls within the concept of Right.

However, if that individual is mentally incapacitated, and did not leave directions regarding their intentions, the assumption must be made that they would have chosen to live, and all reasonable effort should be expended on saving their life.

readerofbooks eNotes educator| Certified Educator

What a controversial question. This is my opinion, I think we should not allow this, because of two reasons.

1. Cultures and societies change. This means what we define as a life worth living will change from time to time and from place to place. So, there may be times when we define "life" very shallowly and may advocate euthanasia for superficial reasons.

2. Due to science and technology, there is great health care. So, even in  a person's last days, they can go in peace. More over, there is a finality to death; it cannot be undone. Hence, it is always best not to end life.

brettd eNotes educator| Certified Educator

While science has learned to prolong human life through medical technology, knowledge and machinery, that does not mean we have added quality of life.  I would like to determine when I am able to die.  I want to determine the amount of pain I go through before I can say "enough".  I want to determine ahead of time, with living wills and DNR orders what kind of treatment I am willing to endure in order to continue living.

lrwilliams eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I feel that this is a hard topic to answer unless you have been involved in have to make a decision loke this for a loved one. It is easy to sit back and say yes Ethanasia or assisted suicide should be allowed when there is nothing personally at stake. I would be interested to see how peoples opinions on this change after being in that position.

krishna-agrawala | Student

Euthanasia refers to the practice of painlessly ending the lives of people suffering from such incurable diseases or handicaps that make their lives very painful. The term is derived from two Greek words meaning good and death. Euthanasia assumes that it is carried out at the request of the person whose life is so terminated. Euthanasia can effected in an active or passive way. Active euthanasia involves methods such as administering a lethal drug, while passive euthanasia involves withdrawal of life-supporting medical treatment.

Opinions on desirability of euthanasia and making it legal is very much divided. Some people believe euthanasia should be legal as individual has a right to decide about his or her life, and it is in the interest of the patients. Opponents of euthanasia oppose it as they consider it inhuman and fear that it may be misused. There are some people who oppose active euthanasia but accept the idea of passive one. The arguments that can be given in support of euthanasia include the following:

  • Euthanasia actually ends the pain and misery of patients, and in this way it adds to peace and happiness in the world, rather than promote insensitive and inhuman behavior.
  • Every individual has the right to decide in the time of his or her death, particularly when the life is very painful. In particular the doctors and relative have no right to force invasive treatment on a patient just to prolong life that has no purpose other than satisfy the doctors and the relatives.
  • Passive euthanasia is allowing the nature to take its normal course. This cannot be called an illegal or criminal act.


In the USA, as per a ruling of the Supreme Court in 1990, patients who have clearly made their wishes known have a right to passive euthanasia. In documents called living wills, they can state what kind of care they would prefer if, due to injury or disease, they could not express their wishes.