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Suicide and euthanasia - should it be legal and is it moral?

asked Sep 27 '10 at 10:39

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Tammy ♦♦

I have puzzled on this for several hours. First, the two are separate and distinct from each other so really cannot be discussed in a single commentary.
Suicide other than when as a form of self euthanasia is often a symptom of severe emotional or mental illness making ethical assessment a problem. That said, it is the ultimate "cop out" avoidance of constructive problem solving. As such, I would consider suicide to be not ethical conduct. As far as "legality", I see little or no justification for government to be involved in a person's self care unless that person injures others.

(Sep 27 '10 at 20:46) ethwc ♦ ethwc's gravatar image

Euthanasia, as it currently debated appears to be an action that is externally sanctioned and applied; the merciful killing of a human being who is hopelessly sick or injured. In the present debate it is compared and contrasted with assisted suicide where the mechanism for suicide may be externally administered but the choice is exercised by the person whose life or death is at stake.

In that context, I would say that euthanasia is not moral and should not be legal. Assisted suicide should be legal, and, if care is taken that the person accepting the lethal mechanism is fully recognizant, it is moral as well. Both the legal and moral judgements would remain valid in the event that the individual in question had anticipated the possibility of being or becoming incompetent at the critical juncture and left binding instructions on what to do at that point and had never subsequently rescinded them.

Whether a depressive state or other mental or emotional inadequacies affect the legality of the issue would depend on the cognizance of the individual in question. Morally I would have a hard time judging against the person because I would not have their inner perspective governing whether they thought their continued life was of value to them. But as a general principle, opting for suicide in the face of temporary difficulties would not be moral.

answered Sep 27 '10 at 21:34

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c_andrew ♦

I agree with this answer except that I'm a little confused about your use of the term euthanasia. According to Wikipedia (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Euthanasia), euthanasia is a broad term that can refer to killing a patient with or without their consent (or in cases where consent is unavailable). By this definition, assisted suicide is just a type of euthanasia.

(Sep 28 '10 at 02:51) jasoncrawford ♦ jasoncrawford's gravatar image

"euthanasia is a broad term that can refer to killing a patient with or without their consent (or in cases where consent is unavailable)"

If so, then it is crucial to identify this as a package deal. The consent of the dying person is not a minor detail -- conceptually, morally, or legally.

(Sep 28 '10 at 11:26) Andrew Dalton ♦ Andrew%20Dalton's gravatar image

The question begins with "should it be legal"? But why should we begin an inquiry about any given activity by asking this question? The correct question to ask about any given activity, when attempting to determine whether it is within the proper scope of human action, is the opposite--is there any reason why this activity should NOT be legal? Does it violate the individual rights of others? Does performing this activity constitute the initiation of the use of force on anyone or entity? If the answer is yes, then it is not only immoral, but it should also be illegal.

However, trying to determine whether a particular activity constitutes the initiation of the use of force, is often a very technical and difficult-to-determine issue, whose complexity increases proportional to its distance from reality, conceptually.

In the case of suicide, are you initiating the use of force on anyone by killing yourself? Let me be very blunt: if you don't provide the funding for your burial and the removal of your body from wherever it was found, and the cleanup of the mess, then you are forcing someone else to do this (i.e. the state, and taxpayers). If you leave behind debt and unfulfilled contractual obligations when you commit suicide, you are initiating force on your debtors. If you leave behind a family with no means of supporting themselves, and you vowed at your wedding to provide for them until you died, or until they became able to provide for themselves, you are violating one of your verbal contracts.

I believe I have covered the 'initiation of the use of force' aspect of suicide. As to whether it is moral, I will leave that response to someone else for the nonce.

Regards, -Sev

answered Sep 27 '10 at 23:37

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Sev ♦

edited Sep 27 '10 at 23:39

Suicide does not initiate any taxative force.

(Jan 27 '11 at 02:10) dreadrocksean dreadrocksean's gravatar image

A person's life is their own so suicide should not be illegal. Whether it is moral depends on the context. If a person were suffering from some horrible affliction for which there was no hope of salvation and no value was had from life, then it would be moral. A person who commits suicide due to a serious mental illness is basically operating outside a moral context and the concept doesn't apply. A person whose long-term immoral choices have led to an unbearable state is really not making just a single immoral choice, but the last in a long series.

Assisted suicide should be legal for the first reason I outlined above. Withdrawing life-support from someone, especially if they have a "living will" provision, should also be allowed. Conversely, it is improper for the state to demand that private individuals provide expensive resources to keep someone else alive, that is tantamount to slavery. If private individuals wish to provide the resources, and there is no living will, that should probably be allowed. If you look at those who most oppose allowing seemingly unconscious people on life support to die, you find they are almost always motivated by religious arguments about an "intrinsic" value to life, in other words, "value" that has no relation to an actual valuer, but just some abstract value in and of itself. I can't think of anything more horrible than being utterly immobile, not able to communicate, in horrible pain, and having my existence maintained that way perpetually.

answered Oct 10 '10 at 21:48

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BradAisa ♦

"Suicide other than when as a form of self euthanasia is often a symptom of severe emotional or mental illness making ethical assessment a problem. That said, it is the ultimate "cop out" avoidance of constructive problem solving. As such, I would consider suicide to be not ethical conduct.

The key word here is 'often'. But suicide isn't always a 'cop out avoidance of constructive problem-solving'. Sometimes a person is so physically sick, and life is so physically painful for them, that they no longer have any desire to live. There is no physical cure to their problem, so they face an entire life of constant pain. In such a case, suicide is moral, because it is preferable to life. Death is a form of problem-solving in this case--it amounts to the avoidance of constant pain, whereas life means sacrificing the avoidance of pain in favor of constant pain. Death can be a value, if a life of pain is the alternative.

Regards, -Sev

answered Sep 27 '10 at 23:44

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Sev ♦

Limited space prevents complete ideas on occasion. By "self euthanasia", I was intending to include self or assisted suicide for persons with terminal illnesses or massive incapacitation. I have given strict instructions to family, friends and health providers that I am to have NO medical treatment for any illness should I ever be diagnosed with progressive dementia. I consider such decisions as moral whatever the "never allow anyone to die if possible" crowd may wish to do to me.

(Sep 28 '10 at 19:03) ethwc ♦ ethwc's gravatar image

The question asked is devoid of any context and therefore makes both suicide and euthanasia frozen abstractions.

With regard to legality and morality of these actions the question that must be asked is if the action initiates force on another person.

With that criteria it becomes obvious that euthanasia in which someone, or some group decides that all persons over the age of "X" years should be killed (as in the old Sci-fi movie Logan's Run) is a blatant initiation of force and is therefore obviously both illegal and immoral.

However in a situation where the person being euthanized has of their own free will determined a set of conditions under which a responsible authority may end his/her life (some call this assisted suicide or perhaps a "living will") then there is no force and therefore no illegality. The right to life includes the right over your life and, should you choose, your death.

Is such euthanasia moral? If a car accident renders a person a vegetable and that person had in place a living will outlining under what circumstances he/she was to be euthanized would it be moral to force him/her to live in spite of his wishes? I don't think so.

Suicide is not that different from euthanasia. The only real difference being that it is done by the person themselves.

Speaking of the legal aspect this issue becomes clouded because of the "repercussions" suicide has on others. Someone mentioned children and spouses and claimed that a marriage contract is violated by suicide and therefore is an initiation of force. That line of reasoning leads to the concept that one persons life belongs to another and that marriage is a statement not only of a loving and hopefully lasting relationship but a contractual demand placed on those who enter into it. Such a contract would mean that the couple should literally live for each others sake. The same goes for children.

If you agree with the notion that there is such a thing as a right to life, then you must realize that placing an obligation like marriage above that right destroys the concept entirely.

Is suicide moral? Well that would depend on the person and the situation. Personally I don't think I could ever consider suicide, as long as I have it in me to pull a trigger or jump off a bridge or what have you, then I have the ability to do something else which might further my life instead of ending it.

answered Sep 28 '10 at 12:33

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Martin Gasser ♦

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Asked: Sep 27 '10 at 10:39

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Last updated: Jan 27 '11 at 02:10