Euthanasia – Moral justification and ethical acceptability

Euthanasia and whether it is morally justified and hence ethically acceptable

The term euthanasia is used differently by most people. Personally, I use it to include all forms of assisted suicide. The question for most people is whether euthanasia can be morally justified. Many people consider this practice to be against all ethics. This is despite whether compassion was the motive or otherwise. There are many dynamics that are involved when a person requires it to alleviate extreme pain or a condition that is considered to be torture towards the person experiencing it. There is need for the act of assisted suicide to be morally justifiable to make it ethical. However, the major question is to whom the act is meant to justify morality to. Every case that requires euthanasia should be considered differently with its own tenets. The use of euthanasia is morally justifiable and is therefore ethically acceptable since the use requires the opinion of medical practitioners.

If their expert opinion is considered after the condition of the individual is thoroughly analyzed to make sure that all actions to alleviate their pain has been taken and no other options are available, then it is crucial for euthanasia to be applied for the good of the individual as well as that of the people closest to him/her. Many people may argue that there is a higher power that guides human life and that only that power and that power alone is responsible for giving and ending human life. I differ with this position vehemently and I strongly believe in the power of the human being to derive his/her own destiny. The advances in technology have given people the power to claim expertise in a certain profession. This is no different for the medical practice. This means that they opinion of these experts should be regarded in light of the advances in technology. It is therefore moral for one to have the dignity that one deserves if they are considered to be suffering from the problem that they have and that there are no other options available for that person.

The position taken by this paper on the use of euthanasia is one that is opposed by the Kantian theory. What this theory tends to lean on is more towards the duty that human beings have rather that to the emotions that they harbor (Beck 50). The theory further suggests that in order for an end to be arrived at, a principle or maxim, which is supreme and devoid of human influence is followed. This is the sole scale on which the moral worth of any action is weighed. The theory believes that all human beings were created supreme and as such have it in them an inherent capability to decide what is either good or bad.  The father of this theory, Immanuel Kant, strongly believed that a categorical imperative is what is responsible for the actions that human beings choose to follow.

The fact that the maxims contained in this theory are universal and as thus are right. The simplicity of this theory is that if for example a maxim stated that killing people who you dislike holds true, then the human race would not exist as ultimately, we will be forced to end the lives of all who we dislike and consequently, those who do not like us will kills us. On that example alone, the Kantian theory tends to suggest that it is impossible for a maxim to be untrue or wrong as it is not ultimately decided by the human being himself but rather on a power that is beyond the human being himself. The theory however only holds true where the human being applying the maxim believes in it and follows it to the latter.

The Kantian theory is flawed in some aspects. First, when a person conceives the maxim to hold true but it is no longer a means to an end, then the result may not be what is desired by the theory. The above consequence of the Kantian theory is interpreted as a perfect duty as the maxim has been upheld. In the case of the use of euthanasia, then the end of human life may not follow the maxim since its following will not be the best option for the afflicted, which involves both the person with the condition and the people who are hurt by what is happening to that person. Since the theory strongly advocates for the control of human life by a given maxim that decides when the particular life should end, the worsening condition of a sick person that adds to their pain and that of their loved ones does not appear to be the most prudent course of action.

It does not appear to be the best way for the person to continue living. This point shows that even the Kantian theory did not conceive a scenario where a maxim would not be the end result that is most fitting to a given situation. I agree that taking a human life is wrong in all ways, but the taking of life from a person whose end was death in the most cruel and painful way for the purpose of alleviating the inevitable pain for all involved where all other avenues have been exhausted is morally justifiable. Where morality has been established, then ethics have clearly been upheld. In this argument, compassion is morally justifiable and is therefore ethically acceptable. I strongly believe that upholding the tenets of the Kantian theory so that the end result is a perfect duty for a terminally ill person in a lot of pain is not fair to that person and to all others who are involved.

The second failure of the Kantian theory is when an imperfect duty is the end result. Here, the universalized maxim may not be followed by the human being meaning that they were not convinced the maxims way was the right one. The will of the person is the main driver towards this imperfect duty. Where a person’s life has been terminated through the use of euthanasia or any other reason, the maxims of the Kantian theory are disregarded. The latter scenario would not be prudent. However, the use of euthanasia to end a human life is still not prudent in the eyes of the theory. The theory did not forecast a scenario where the will of the person could take over. In fact, it states that it is inherent in us to know and follow the maxims. However, the human being does not rely on duties towards the maxim alone.

In fact, human beings are more inclined towards the emotions that they feel. Whereas most of our emotions are in accordance with the maxims, they are not morally justifiable unless the right maxim was in play. This means that all actions that are done by people for all other reasons other than the rational ones are not morally justifiable and hence are not ethically acceptable. For example, if one was to help an elderly person on the street simply because they felt pity on that person, then, the helper has not done a morally good act. This is because the motive for that action was not the rational one. Meaning that in most instances, the Kantian theory does not consider many actions as being morally good. Applying the above example in the use of euthanasia, it is not morally good to assist a person in suicide simply out of compassion. The reason for the above is however deeper than simply doing what is rational as rationality in the case of the theory and other human factors in play may not be always in sync.


Kant believed that the consequences of any action taken do not contribute to the moral strength of that particular act. He completely disregarded whether an outcome was good or bad as long as the rational act was done and as long as the universalized maxim was adhered to. His reason for simplifying matters to such extremes was simply that the human being does not have the full facts on the dynamics of the world and as such is incapable of making decisions that are completely true. Hence, the simplest option was to advance a higher power that controls both the human being and the circumstances he exists in. He also advanced this theory in fear that since human beings are incapable of understanding the events, then they cannot be responsible for the consequences of their actions.

In the above discussion, even Kant himself admits that the theory was mainly advanced out of fear of the consequences rather than the inherent good or bad that occur from the actions taken. The fear he justified by saying was out of the lack of enough facts. With much consideration of the advances that have been achieved in technology in the near past, a time when Kant had already advanced his theory, it is possible to conclude that much knowledge has been amassed on the medical field. Many illnesses that were unknown to people in the era of Kant are now easily remedied by the advances made. While admitting that more has to be done on conditions such as cancer, it is not prudent to let people suffer simply because there is failure on the part of the human in advancing more on the medicine field.

All the discussions that have been advanced to prove that in all ways, it is prudent to consider all the fact before making any decision. Instead of following Kant on establishing facts, it is prudent to also consider emotions so that the suffering of those that are terminally ill and those in too much pain is alleviated. Consequently, compassion should be the major guide towards the assisting of people so that they transition to the afterlife in less suffering but only after all facts have been carefully considered and all alternative avenues have been exhausted.

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