You may have heard of the stories of a doctor or nurse deliberately helping their incurable patient pass on to the other side. They are usually promptly arrested, and the mass media enjoys giving these persons names like “Angels of Death” or “Suicide Helpers.” Some people might think such doctors’ actions are merciful and graceful, since many patients who are terminally ill are waiting to die, sometimes being in severe pain. Yet, there are also opponents to this rationale who claim that killing is still killing, no matter what motives the murderer had, or how difficult the patient’s suffering was. One of the main questions in treating patients who cannot be cured is whether mercy killings are to be allowed legally to help end someone’s suffering—the answer should be, “No.”
Euthanasia—the proper term for mercy killing—is the practice of intentionally ending a life in order to relieve pain and suffering. This assumes a patient is aware they are going to die, and in some cases, they must administer the poison themselves. This is also called assisted suicide.
Arguments supporting euthanasia usually present the fact that the patient would have no cure, and no way of contributing to society in the state they are in. They claim humanity cannot help such individuals either: all that can be done is prolonging their agony when suffering from terminal diseases, or letting them live with a defective life in the case of suffering from serious mental deviations. However, the very thought of killing people due to their disabilities seems unnatural; besides, who is competent and authorized enough to decide whom to kill and whom to let live?
The German child Gerhard Kretschmar, whose case is one of the most well-known examples of euthanasia, was born blind, missing limbs, and prone to convulsions. Adolf Hitler gave Kretschmar’s doctor permission to commit a child murder, since medicine could not help him. This incident started the Nazis’ T4 Program (that implied killing incurably ill people, as well as physically and mentally-disabled individuals), and led to the killings of almost 300,000 mentally and physically handicapped people who otherwise would have no other way of being cured (BBC). The problem is that while Kretchmar’s killing was done by parental consent, 5,000 to 8,000 children were forcibly taken from their parents because the state decided to do so. These children were either starved to death or killed by lethal injection.
As the T4 Program continued, handicapped people were killed with gas vans and killing centers, eventually leading to the death of 70,000 German adults. Since this campaign was clearly being used as a murderous machine to take out the unwanted, the definition of euthanasia was stretched to fit the government’s viewpoint. The main danger here is that in the scenario of modern society weakening its control over the issue of euthanasia, history can repeat itself and soon it will be up to the government whether or not you are able to contribute to society.
People who want to commit suicide—due to despair, disappointment, or for any other reason—seem to be unwilling to make this fearsome step on their own. Thus, they strive to share the responsibility of cutting their lives short in the presence of others, basically with doctors. But if a person feels they want to die, they should not bring in someone to do it. If suicide is illegal, then why are we helping people commit suicide? The very fact that people call it mercy killing does not mean that it stops to be a murder, since you still take their lives away.
Euthanasia is an act of seeming mercy, and should not be allowed legally. While being justified as humane towards people who suffer and cannot live a full life, it is a murder no better than many others and different only in motives. No person is authorized to decide whether another person should live or die except that person. In the case of an individual deciding to pass away beforehand, no one should help him or her in this deed. Besides, there exists the danger that governments may take the role of a judge deciding whom to kill, as it has happened in Nazi Germany. The consequences of this could be truly dreadful.
BBC-Genocide Under the Nazis Timeline: http://www.bbc.co.uk/history/interactive/timelines/nazi_genocide_timeline/index_embed.shtml.