Sanctity of Life and Quality of Life in relation to euthanasia.
Euthanasia literally translates from the Greek as “good death” but it is more commonly defined as the intentional premature ending of life. There are four types.
Euthanasia can be one of two types; voluntary and involuntary
Voluntary = When individual requests for their life to be prematurely ended
Involuntary = When the individuals consent is not taken into account – even if the individual can make a consent.
There are two methods of terminating a life than can be classified as euthanasia
Active – this is when deliberate drugs are given to bring death
Passive – this is when drugs and other machinery on which the individual is reliant are withdrawn in order to hasten death.
What is the Sanctity of Life (SoL) argument?
The SoL argument states that human life is valuable in itself. According to SoL all life is worthy of RESPECT and REVERENCE and is intrinsically worthwhile. This implies all life is equal and we have a duty to protect it.
Ties with Christianity…
Christians sometimes use this argument to found some of the their ethics (particularly medical ones) because ‘the body is the temple of the holy spirit’.
The SoL principle is crucial to the catholic position. According to Natural Law any form of euthanasia should not be allowed because it conflicts the first primary precept of life – to live the supreme good. However, now it is recognised that not everyone can handle suffering physically and psychologically, it is impractical to assume that. So even though ‘suffering has a special place in God’s plan of salvation’ and it conflicts the primary precept, the Doctrine of double effect can be used to justify some acts. If the intention is to reduce pain by giving medication not to end the individuals life it can be justified as moral. The church distinguishes between ordinary and extraordinary means and euthanasia is an extraordinary means which can occasionally be used.
– Avoids ‘group’ pressure and power of using euthanasia for selfish reasons
– Includes Christian teachings of love and compassion
– Outdated – not practical for a world where world population is exponentially growing.
– It is unclear then when this extraordinary means can be utilised.
Quality of Life
The Quality of Life principle essentially uses the ideas about Personhood to argue when people are considered persons and their life is worthwhile living.
Maguire who is a professor of Theology argues that saying that God creates life and can only destroy it implies that we are his property. He says that we intervene to save and preserve life and there is no real difference between than and euthanasia because they both have the goal of ending life with a good death.
Singer says we should move away from the SoL ethic because it is leading to people having a low quality of life. An individual can judge them self whether euthanasia is appropriate and if they are in a position where they can’t consent someone else must do it for them depending on the quality of their life which could be measured medically.
He puts forward five new commandments which he believes we should abide by:
1. Human beings do not possess equal worth
2. Accept responsibilities for the consequence for our actions
3. Bring children into the world only if they are wanted
4. Do not discriminate on the basis of species
5. Respect a persons wishes to live or die
Number 5 obviously tells us how Singer feels towards euthanasia.
– By focusing on the quality of life, we are approaching the topic more practically in the 21st century.
-Individuals in Permanent Vegetative State and other forms of suffering can be sometimes seem as a life not worth living. But this has further implication such as that many disabled and handicapped people have a life which is also not worth living – this does not sit well with the vast majority of people.