Modern medicine and contemporary society are frequently confronted with contentious decisions. Perhaps no decision is more challenging to reconcile than that of euthanasia. The legalisation of euthanasia continues to be passionately debated. It has been a pertinent issue in human rights discourse as it affects ethical and legal issues pertaining to both the patient and the health care practitioner (Bartels & Otlowski, 2010).
The following essay will define euthanasia and make the distinction between active, passive, voluntary, non-voluntary, involuntary euthanasia and physician-assisted suicide. Relevant legal issues within the Australian context will then be discussed. Ethical issues such as ‘sanctity of life’ versus ‘quality of life’, and the ‘slippery slope’ argument will also be explored. Ethical reflections regarding euthanasia will be considered from both a deontological and consequentialist perspective. Finally, personal opinion will be expressed based on ethical considerations.
What is Euthanasia?
Euthanasia means ‘good death’ from the Greek word ‘eu’ (good) and ‘thanatos’ (death) (Bartels & Otlowski, 2010). According to prominent Australian philosopher Peter Singer, euthanasia refers to, “the killing of those who are incurably ill and in great pain or distress, for the sake of those killed, and in order to spare them further suffering or distress” (Singer, 1993, p.175).
The different types of euthanasia are:
• Active Voluntary Euthanasia – medical