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  • Abia Mohammed Kabeer

Mercy Killing

Updated: Nov 18, 2023


Mercy killing, also known as Euthanasia in medical terms or assisted suicide in layman’s terms, has long been a topic of controversy. It involves intentionally ending the life of a terminally ill or suffering individual with their explicit request, aiming to alleviate their pain and grant them a peaceful death. This complex issue has ethical, moral, legal, and medical implications, making it a highly sensitive and divisive subject. The ethical questions surrounding autonomy, human dignity, compassion, and the value of life lie at the heart of this debate. This essay voices for the legalization of mercy killing, contending that it is morally required to give those who are experiencing prolonged and irreversible suffering a compassionate option.

Mercy killing is mainly of two types based on the consent or request for euthanasia, namely voluntary euthanasia and involuntary euthanasia. Voluntary euthanasia occurs when a competent competent individual, facing unbearable suffering due to a terminal illness, makes a clear and voluntary request for their life to be ended. Involuntary euthanasia occurs when a person who is unable to provide consent, typically due to their mental incapacity or unconscious state, but might have previously expressed a desire for mercy killing under specific circumstances.

Further there is two types of euthanasia on the basis of the procedures followed in its conduct, it is active and passive euthanasia. The distinction between active euthanasia and passive euthanasia is that, the former involves the administration of a lethal substance to hasten death, while the latter refers to the withdrawal or withholding of life-sustaining medical treatment to allow death to occur naturally. Both forms of euthanasia raise profound ethical concerns and trigger debates on the moral justifiably of intentionally ending a human life.

One of the cornerstones of medical ethics is the respect for an individual's autonomy. Every person should have the freedom to decide how they want to live their lives, especially if they are dealing with an untreatable illness that causes excruciating pain and a loss of self-respect. Legalizing mercy killing respects and upholds the autonomy principle by giving patients the power to decide their own fate. Denying people this option essentially makes them suffer physically against their will and prolongs needless suffering. By allowing terminally ill patients to end their lives on their terms and with dignity, legalizing mercy killing respects their autonomy.

To end intolerable suffering is the primary reason for mercy killing. In some cases, patients with terminal illnesses endure excruciating pain, severe discomfort, and a loss of bodily functions. Palliative care and pain management may not be enough for some people to get them the relief they need. By making mercy killing legal, we give those who are experiencing unbearable suffering a way to stop their suffering before it lasts for a very long time. Denying people the right to a peaceful death after they have tried every medical option and their suffering has become intolerable is cruel.

The legalization of mercy killing, according to critics, might result in abuses and compromise the value of human life. However, a rigorously controlled framework can address these issues while still giving those in need compassionate options. To ensure that patients are making an informed decision free from coercion or psychological distress, legalization should be accompanied by stringent safeguards, such as strict eligibility requirements, multiple medical opinions, and the involvement of mental health professionals. Strong oversight procedures should be part of the legalization process to guard against abuse or deviance from predetermined standards. We strike a balance between upholding individual autonomy and guarding against potential abuses by putting these safeguards in place.

The legal status of mercy killing varies significantly from one country to another. Some countries have fully legalized euthanasia under specific circumstances, while others have strict prohibitions against it. The Netherlands, Belgium, Colombia, Canada, and several states in the United States are among those that have legalized either voluntary or both voluntary and involuntary euthanasia, subject to stringent regulatory and ethical standards. Conversely, many countries, particularly influenced by religious or cultural beliefs, strictly forbid mercy killing and consider it a criminal offense. In such jurisdictions, individuals who assist in euthanasia may face severe legal consequences, including imprisonment.

Where mercy killing is legalized, stringent safeguards are crucial to ensure that the practice remains ethical and compassionate. Establishing rigorous legal and ethical frameworks can address concerns about potential abuses and protect vulnerable individuals. The process of euthanasia should be well-regulated and closely monitored to guarantee that patients' decisions are fully informed, voluntary, and not influenced by external pressures. Strict eligibility criteria, multiple medical opinions, and the involvement of mental health professionals can help assess a patient's mental capacity and ascertain their decision-making ability. Implementing strong oversight procedures is vital to ensure compliance with established ethical standards and protect against potential deviations from the intended practice.

A strong ethical framework, respect for individual autonomy, the reduction of intolerable suffering, and the legalization of mercy killing are all ethical imperatives. Individuals are stripped of their autonomy and human dignity when the right to a peaceful death is denied to them, making them subject to pain and suffering against their will. We can make sure that mercy killing stays a well-regulated and compassionate option for those facing terminal illnesses by carefully crafting regulations and safeguards. Legalisation gives people the power to decide their own fate and gives them a compassionate option when all other options have failed. The decision to legalize mercy killing ultimately demonstrates our dedication to human rights, compassion, and the alleviation of needless suffering.


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