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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


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


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    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:


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  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


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    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


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    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


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    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


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    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


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    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


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    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


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    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


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    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.
  22. May 23, 2009 #21


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    My wife's aunt was in just that situation before she died. A woman who was fun, active, and lively (she loved to cheat at cards, especially when playing against her sister) when she was well, declined quickly when the cancer took over, leaving her in unremitting pain, and when she was medicated well enough to control the pain, her "spark" was gone. She could not have survived the last few months without the morphine pump, but it's arguable whether she survived intact while on it. Visiting her was so emotionally painful.
  23. May 23, 2009 #22
    Usually extreme brain surgery is warranted in such cases, and I agree that such a condition is difficult, but what prevents the person from leading a fulfilling life in between seizures?

    Of course it is easier said then done, like everything, and I never said doing it was easy. But doing it is possible, and there are many examples of that.

    Yes, Hawking got keep doing his main activity, which is thinking, but obviously he adapted to not being able to do many, many other things. He is also notable for being one of the most long-lived sufferers of his particular disease. Don't you think this might have something to do with the social fulfillment that he receives, that most people with his disease do not?

    By definition any impairment that doesn't kill an organism is adaptable.

    Of course we don't, but if we would like to increase our supply of social support then "I wouldn't want to live if I were you" is a bad way of going about it.

    Also Jason, you seem to be very concerned about pain to the point of not being able to think. I've read elsewhere on the forum that you are a new grad student in mathematics. Without trying to get too personal, I have formed the hypothesis that you are struggling with exactly this issue. For what it's worth, I had the same problem when I was starting graduate school. The thing that made the biggest difference for me was not what I did to control the pain, which was largely ineffective, but the environment of eudaimonia in the department where I did my studies. When I became an active part of a research group, the fulfillment I got out of doing my job displaced the pain on a daily basis. That's how I know what I am saying is true.

    Now, at my age it is medically inappropriate to begin a daily regimen of opiates to control the pain, but for anyone considering suicide on the grounds of pain, it seems that drugs are a less extreme response. Sure, using drugs to control pain can make a person groggy and unable to think (but not always e.g. Stephen Jay Gould's use of cannabis to control cancer symptoms). For someone whose favorite activity is thinking, it will be especially hard to adapt to the loss of this activity. Again, I believe this has to do with the way we constantly judge ourselves on the basis of superficial mental feats. But as I keep saying, having a society that approves of you killing yourself is not an encouraging environment in which to adapt.
  24. May 23, 2009 #23
    I see that those in favor of assisted suicide are mostly using extreme cases rather then ones that reflect a more typical reality.

    Here are some facts from the second link in my first post of the thread:

    These are official statements of some particular assisted-suicide advocates in the state of Hawaii, but if you read the literature in the disability rights movement you will see that they are hardly isolated from the typical statements made by assisted-suicide advocates.

    In the philosophy department where I got my degree, I had one professor who opposed assisted-suicide (he uses a wheelchair) and another professor who got payed big bucks to advise our local hospital on when to 'pull the plug' on terminal patients. During my time there I aquired my disability, and some elderly members of my family commited pre-emptive suicide so that they would not risk becoming a burden on the family if they had a stroke etc. Despite all this background, I still don't really have an opinion on the issue. I am only arguing for life because that is what the OP asked for, but also because the arguments for this side are much less well understood by secular intellectuals of the kind that populate these forums.
  25. May 23, 2009 #24
    We signed ours just about the time my wife stopped cooking my meals.
  26. May 23, 2009 #25


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    Old story: A woman had been widowed several times. A new acquaintance asked how her first husband died, and she responded "He ate poison mushrooms." Asked how her second husband died, the response was the same, and the response was the same when she was asked about the third husband. When asked how the fourth husband died, she said "Gunshot to the head." The acquaintance said "That's awful!" and the woman responded "He wouldn't eat the mushrooms."

    Unless you are on very good terms, never let anybody who is the beneficiary of your life insurance cook for you.
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