Euthanasia, is there any individual liberty?

Essay by ReDdOgGCollege, UndergraduateB-, March 1997

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Pro-euthanasia people typically portray euthanasia as a case of individual liberty. If a person decides that he wants to die, perhaps you and I do not think this is a good idea, but what right do we have to tell him that he cannot do this? They usually describe a situation like this. A person has some terrible, deadly disease; he is trapped in a hospital bed, with all sorts of medical equipment connected to him, unable to move or do much of anything. He is in terrible pain and begs to have these machines disconnected so he can go home and live out whatever life he has left in peace. But the doctors refuse, because turning off the machines would surely result in his death, and they are, as would anyone be, morally against this.

Doesn't the patient have the right to make that decision for himself? It is his life.

It is extremely rare today for a doctor to try to force someone to receive medical care that he doesn't want. Pro-lifers readily agree that anyone should have the right to refuse medical treatment if he believes the side effects are worse than the disease. If someone refused medical treatment because he literally decided that he would rather be dead, we would assume that he is not being pressured by others and he is sane and not making this decision rashly in a period of depression. This certainly stretches the limits of what we mean by personal liberty, but that's a difficult, debatable moral issue. This is not the issue that we face today. The real issue today is two types of cases: One deals with people who, perhaps because of a serious illness or perhaps for reasons unrelated to their illness, are extremely depressed and say they...