Explore our summary of the euthanasia debate
The arguments for euthanasia:
- We need it - ‘the compassion argument’. Supporters of euthanasia believe that allowing people to ‘die with dignity’ is kinder than forcing them to continue their lives with suffering.
- We want it - ‘the autonomy argument’. Some believe that every patient has a right to choose when to die.
- We can control it - ‘the public policy argument’. Proponents believe that euthanasia can be safely regulated by government legislation.
The arguments against euthanasia:
- Alternative treatments are available, such as palliative care and hospices. We do not have to kill the patient to kill the symptoms. Nearly all pain can be relieved.
- There is no ‘right’ to be killed and there are real dangers of ‘slippery slopes’. Opening the doors to voluntary euthanasia could lead to non-voluntary and involuntary euthanasia, by giving doctors the power to decide when a patient’s life is not worth living. In the Netherlands in 1990 around 1,000 patients were killed without their request.
- We could never truly control it. Reports from the Netherlands, where euthanasia and physician-assisted suicide are legal, reveal that doctors do not always report it.
- The assumption that patients should have a right to die would impose on doctors a duty to kill, thus restricting the autonomy of the doctor. Also, a ‘right to die’ for some people might well become a ‘duty to die’ by others, particularly those who are vulnerable or dependent upon others.
For further information on the arguments for and against euthanasia, download our briefing on the euthanasia debate here. (PDF)