The subject of assisted suicide and euthanasia is highly controversial both in medical circles and the wider population. Advocates on both sides of the debate make a compelling argument supporting their viewpoint, but how does the medical profession view euthanasia?

In the UK both euthanasia and assisted suicide are illegal, but the debate has recently been reignited when Noel Conway took his case to the Court of Appeal. The case captured the attention of the press, giving both sides of the argument a chance to publicly state their views. In countries where euthanasia is legal it is becoming an increasingly common choice. Research indicates that in the Netherlands assisted suicide accounts for 4.5% of deaths, with the vast majority having a serious illness or health issues related to old age, early stage dementia or psychiatric problems.

With euthanasia becoming a common debate, what are the arguments for and against?

The arguments in favour of euthanasia

The main reason cited by those in favour of euthanasia is giving the freedom for people to die with dignity. It is a human right for people to have autonomy over their own body. This is an issue that’s particularly important to people that are affected by serious illnesses, such as those that have a significant impact quality of life. In these cases, people argue that making the decision to die allows the person affected to retain more control over their life.

Another argument is that death is a private issue and one that the state should have no say in. Advocates argue that it’s a personal choice that each individual should be free to make themselves. It’s often noted that euthanising pets is considered an act of kindness when they would be in pain, and that this thinking should be transferred when it’s the will of the person affected.

The arguments against euthanasia

The case against euthanasia centres on medical issues. Firstly, some people have raised concerns that it places too much power in the hands of doctors and could potentially worsen the care and commitment that is currently on offer to terminally ill patients, including research that’s conducted.

Another key issue against euthanasia is that it’s a final choice. In some cases, it is possible for someone to recover or their condition to improve, beating the odds and defying expectations. It’s also been stated that some people may feel a pressure to choose euthanasia as they don’t want to be a burden, even if it’s ultimately not what they want.

Where do you fall on the euthanasia debate – Do you believe that euthanasia goes against the job description of a doctor? Or do you think it should be used in certain circumstances?

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