Wednesday, 26 January 2022

Euthanasia-Arguments For and Against


Euthanasia which means “good death” is the practice of intentionally ending a life in order to get rid of the pain and end the suffering. It is also known as “mercy killing”. In many countries, there is a divisive public controversy over the moral, ethical and legal issues of euthanasia. Euthanasia is categorised in different ways that involve voluntary, non-voluntary, or involuntary. Euthanasia is also classified into active and passive Euthanasia. 


Voluntary Euthanasia: Euthanasia conducted with the permission of the patient is called as voluntary euthanasia. Voluntary euthanasia is legal in some countries. Jurisdictions where euthanasia is legal include are Netherlands, Colombia, Belgium, and Luxemburg.

Non-Voluntary Euthanasia: Euthanasia conducted in cases where the consent of the patient is unavailable is called as non-voluntary euthanasia. Non-voluntary euthanasia is illegal in all countries. Examples like child euthanasia, that is illegal all around the world but decentralised under certain specific circumstances in the Netherlands under the Groningen Protocol.

Involuntary Euthanasia: Euthanasia conducted against the will of the patient is called involuntary euthanasia. Involuntary euthanasia is usually considered murder.


Voluntary, non-voluntary and involuntary euthanasia can all be further divided into passive or active variants.

Passive Euthanasia entails with the withholding of common treatments like antibiotics, necessary for the continuance of life.

Active Euthanasia entails the use of lethal substances or forces like administering a lethal injection to kill and it is the most controversial means.


Historically, euthanasia debate has focused on a number of main concerns. According to euthanasia opponent Ezekeil Emanuel, proponents of euthanasia have represented four main arguments:

  1. that people have a right to self-determination, and should be allowed to choose their own fate

  2. assisting a subject to die might be a better choice than requiring that they continue to suffer

  3. the difference between passive euthanasia, which is often allowed, and active euthanasia, which is not substantive (or that the underlying principle–the doctrine of double effect–is unreasonable or unsound);

  4. permitting euthanasia will not necessarily lead to unacceptable consequences. Pro-euthanasia activists often point to countries like the Netherlands and Belgium, and states like Oregon, where euthanasia has been legalized, to argue that it is mostly unproblematic.

  5. Other arguments:

    1. Under Constitution of India: ‘Right to life’ is a natural right embodied in Article 21 but euthanasia/suicide is an unnatural termination or extinction of life and, therefore, incompatible and inconsistent with the concept of ‘right to life’. It is the duty of the State to protect life and the physician’s duty to provide care and not to harm patients. Supreme Court in Gian Kaur Case 1996 has held that the right to life under Article 21 does not include the right to die.

  6. Caretakers burden: Right-to-die‘ supporters argue that people who have an incurable, degenerative, disabling or debilitating condition should be allowed to die in dignity. This argument is further defended for those, who have chronic debilitating illness even though it is not terminal such as severe mental illness. The majority of such petitions are filed by the sufferers or family members or their caretakers. The caregiver’s burden is huge and cuts across various domains such as financial, emotional, time, physical, mental and social.

  7. Refusing care: Right to refuse medical treatment is well recognised in law, including medical treatment that sustains or prolongs life. For example, a patient suffering from blood cancer can refuse treatment or deny feeds through a nasogastric tube. Recognition of the right to refuse treatment gives a way for passive euthanasia.

  8. Encouraging the organ transplantation: Euthanasia in terminally ill patients provides an opportunity to advocate for organ donation. This, in turn, will help many patients with organ failure waiting for transplantation. Not only euthanasia gives ‘Right to die‘ for the terminally ill, but also ‘Right to life‘ for the organ needy patients.


  1. not all deaths are painful;

  2. other alternatives, such as cessation of active treatment, combined with the use of effective pain relief, are available;

  3. the difference between active and passive euthanasia is morallyimportant; and

  4. legalising euthanasia will place society on a slippery slope, which will lead to unacceptable situations

  5. Other Arguments include:

    1. Euthanasia weakens society’s respect for the sanctity of life.

    2. Euthanasia might not be in a person’s best interests, like, getting old aged parents killed for property will.

    3. Belief in God’s miracle of curing the terminally ill.

    4. Prospect of a discovery of the possible cure for the disease in near future.

  6. Practical arguments

  • Proper palliative care makes euthanasia unnecessary.

  • There is no other way of properly regulating euthanasia.

  • Allowing euthanasia will lead to less good care for the terminally ill.

  • Allowing euthanasia undermines the commitment of doctors and nurses to saving lives.

  • Euthanasia may become a cost-effective way to treat the terminally ill.

  • Allowing euthanasia will discourage the search for new cures and treatments for the terminally. ill.

  • Euthanasia gives too much power to doctors.



Passive euthanasia is legal in India. On 7 March 2011, the Supreme Court of India legalised passive euthanasia through means of the withdrawal of life support to patients in a permanent vegetative state. This decision was made as part of the verdict in a case involving Aruna Shanbaug, who was in a Persistent Vegetative State (PVS) for 42 years until her death in 2015.

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