Dismiss Notice
Join Physics Forums Today!
The friendliest, high quality science and math community on the planet! Everyone who loves science is here!

Euthanasia - yes or no?

  1. May 23, 2009 #1
    I struggle to find arguments against euthanasia. Can anyone help me?
  2. jcsd
  3. May 23, 2009 #2


    User Avatar

    Staff: Mentor

    Sure - life is precious, so taking a life is wrong.
  4. May 23, 2009 #3


    User Avatar
    Staff Emeritus
    Science Advisor
    Gold Member

    Are we making a distinction between cases where the patient wants to be (or has given permission to be) euthanized and those where the patient is not in a position to influence the decision (i.e., voluntary vs. involuntary euthanasia)?

    I support the first and oppose the second. I also think that criminalizing suicide is a gross curtailment of individual rights (so naturally, I think voluntary euthanasia should be legal).
    Last edited: May 23, 2009
  5. May 23, 2009 #4
    There is a historical precedent for the slippery slope argument that euthanizing invalids can lead to euthanizing healthy people of particular types for the sake of eugenics --- the nazi gas chambers were first authorized by doctors for the 'treatment' of people with disabilities, especially mental.

    The truth is that most people do not want to be euthanized because of pain, but rather because of a shattered personal and social image that leaves them ashamed and unable to imagine life going on. Fortunately it is possible to evolve our society to correct this problem, but obviously if we as a society favor euthanasia for people with certain conditions then people with those conditions will feel that their lives are not worth living.

    Here are some links to further reading by philosopher Ronald Amundson:


    Last edited by a moderator: Apr 24, 2017
  6. May 23, 2009 #5
    Life is nothing by itself (so not precious). It's the individual actions that make his life precious to himself and others.

    I support both voluntary and involuntary euthanasia but we should try to prevent them from happening.
  7. May 23, 2009 #6


    User Avatar
    Gold Member

    My wife and I have both "Living Wills" with clauses that forbid extraordinary measures to prolong life. I believe physician-assisted suicide should be legal, too. I have watched too many people grow hopelessly ill and suffer so much that their quality of life is nil. How could it hurt our society to give people an opportunity to go out on their own terms, with as much dignity and peace-of-mind as possible?
  8. May 23, 2009 #7


    User Avatar
    Homework Helper
    Gold Member

    Oh really.

    So a struggling painful life, which involve anything from physical pain that disables you from thinking or multiple seizures per day, is precious?

    I need to see a better argument russ.
  9. May 23, 2009 #8
    This is a very heated, very personal issue. So before I start arguing, I want to make it clear that I am not personally vested in the issue and I am not demanding political change. I am just presenting arguments as the OP desired.

    What if the causation is not in the same direction as you describe, what if the largest contribution to their suffering is the fact that their quality of life is perceived by others as being nil?

    A major injury that causes such impairments as quadrapoligia will undeniably change a persons life. But life, in the biological sense, is all about adapting to change. Why do some people, especially those later in life, fail to adapt to newly aquired impairments? I claim it is because the social support that would help them adapt is absent, instead replaced by the sentiment "I wouldn't want to live if I were you."

    A particularly resented condition is mental impairment. I find the constant judgement of each others mental capacity on the basis of the ability to perform superficial feats such as recall to be dreadful. For example, and older person will misremember something simple and then start to doubt the value of their own life. News flash: a computer is an infinitely stupid commodity item that will always be able to out perform humans at most of the superficial mental feats that we use to judge each other and ourselves. But the judging continues regardless, and so no wonder that people who sustain head injuries often lose the will to live: the condition itself can be adapted to, but the ongoing pain that is inflicted by society (at all levels, family, friends, TV, etc) is not something that most humans can adapt to.

    When a person becomes permanently physically impaired they will typically lose the ability to do many of their favorite activities. But if the person chooses to adapt, then they will find new activities. But it is not possible to adapt to the constant message "I would want to die if I were you."

    If society endorses the message that some conditions are not worth living through, then anyone who falls victim to such a condition will most likely feel that there life is not worth living.
  10. May 23, 2009 #9
    Aristotle's vision of the ideal society, eudaimonia, is one in which everyone is satisfied because they are fulfilling a role that they are good at and receiving positive feedback from others.

    A person whose life resembles eudaimonia will adapt to pain and seizures. For examples in math and physics, look at Stephen Hawking or (the later years of) Lev Landau. For examples in ordinary life, look at all the parents who have over the years withstood pain and seizures to continue raising their children. The worth of a persons life has less to do with what's wrong than with what's right, and if the good sides are good enough then it is possible to adapt to any condition of impairment.
  11. May 23, 2009 #10
    That reads nice and well in a philosophy book. That has no reflection on reality.
  12. May 23, 2009 #11


    User Avatar
    Gold Member

    I can say for sure some times life is unbearable, but can get better, on the other hand for some one in constant pain i would leave the decision to them.
  13. May 23, 2009 #12


    User Avatar
    Gold Member

    I find it rather ironic that suicide is the only crime in which getting away with it results in a death penalty, while getting caught doesn't.
  14. May 23, 2009 #13
    Oh believe me, it does. You may want to, for whatever reason, think that these words have no reflection in reality, but my life and the life of many others in the disability rights movement are a counterexample to your beliefs. The point is that with enough social support its possible to adapt to impairments that seemed devastating at first.

    Especially in the last 10 years western medicine has gotten pretty good at controlling pain with drugs. Some people don't like the idea of taking drugs, but this goes backed to their shame and shattered personal image.
  15. May 23, 2009 #14
    I agree.
  16. May 23, 2009 #15


    User Avatar
    Homework Helper
    Gold Member

    Someone who is getting 20 brain seizures a day is not adaptable. Seriously.

    It's easier said then done. Oh, and Stephen Hawking is a bad example. He's not suffering enough pain that is disabling him from thinking and we know that because he's clearly thinking.

    I have a disability, but I'm not going to argue that any disability is adaptable. And like you said, with enough social support. We do not have an unlimited supply of that.
  17. May 23, 2009 #16


    User Avatar

    Staff: Mentor

    Jason, Rootx: the OP asked for arguments against it and I provided an argument against it. As I understand the OP, he's not looking for people to argue about the issue, he is only looking for arguments against it. Whether this is for homework or he's just looking for challenges to his opinion that the can deal with on his own, I don't know, but you guys are barking up the wrong tree - I'm not generally against it and I'm not going to argue about it.
  18. May 23, 2009 #17


    User Avatar
    Science Advisor
    Homework Helper
    Gold Member
    Dearly Missed

    What of the following case, russ:

    You and your buddy are soldiers in a war zone, your buddy gets splinters from a grenade (or a bullet) into his abdomen, rupturing his intestines, with all the goo oozing out, infecting everything.

    He is going to die horribly in about 12-14 hours, there is no way way to get him treated.

    He pleads that you put him out of his misery, his hands are shaking, he can't do it for himself.

    What would you do?


    I did not see your last comment.
  19. May 23, 2009 #18
    I'm not talking about loosing a leg here. There are a broad range of physical problems a person can have that can result in them living in a lifetime of constant pain. What you posted is not a counterexample of anything - it just misses my point all together.
  20. May 23, 2009 #19
    But Russ, in true PF fashion I have to take what you said out of context, and argue against you for 10 pages. :rofl:

    How can you support eating dead babies?
  21. May 23, 2009 #20


    User Avatar
    Science Advisor
    Gold Member

    That is probably true. But as far as I know no one is seriously suggesting that it would be a good idea to legalize euthanasia for people who can -with the right help and support- still enjoy life.
    The real issue is that there are times where there is no help to find. An obvious example would be some cases of late stage terminal cancer, I've never heard what I consider to be a reasonably argument (I am not religious) for why someone should need to spend their last days in agonizing pain or -as is sometimes the case- heavily sedated because the pain would is unbearable when they are awake.

    I must admit that I find the "with the right help and support..." argument a bit annoying, of course we should give people as much support as possible; but that isn't the issue.
    We shouldn't pretend that there aren't cases where all the support in the world won't help, it is an unpleasant thought but we it is nevertheless something we need to deal with.
Know someone interested in this topic? Share this thread via Reddit, Google+, Twitter, or Facebook

Similar Threads - Euthanasia Date
Suicide, euthanasia Nov 19, 2010
This world is one step closer to accepting Euthanasia, but is it righteous? Mar 19, 2003