True, that the religion of the cancer patients interviewed in the study may have compelled them to believe that life must be valued at all costs. However, it must equally be remembered that respect for the sanctity of life is a foundational societal value, which is inculcated in all citizens. Proponents of euthanasia may argue that people have the right to choose the manner, time, and place of their death (Brock, 1992). But, as Somerville (2003) points out, what such arguments usually fail to take into consideration is that allowing individuals such a right would undermine the capacity of both medicine and law to maintain the respect for human life. In other words, allowing euthanasia would weaken the prohibition on intentional killing, which human society has historically upheld as a sign that human life must be valued (Brock, 1992). Thus, it is not surprising that the cancer patients opined that their trust in their doctors would be impaired if euthanasia was ever discussed as a solution to their constantly being in pain.
Indeed, it appears that the American Medical Association (AMA) agrees with the view taken by the cancer patients. For, this is one of the major reasons why the AMA has taken a strong anti-euthanasia position: "There is, in short, compelling evidence of the need to ensure that all patients have access to quality palliative care, but not of any need for physician-assisted suicide." In addition to this statement, which was issued in an amicus brief in the 9th circuit case for doctor-assisted suicide, the AMA has expressly stated that doctors perform a crucial act of healing and saving life. Accepting a dual role of taking life, while at the same time, protecting life, would undermine their credibility and the sacred trust that exists between a patient and doctor (Life Issues Institute, 1997).
The AMA, as well as the legal system, have other reasons for being anti-euthanasia as well. The first, as the Netherlands experience has shown, is that euthanasia would make it extremely difficult to prevent abuse. This is particularly true of physicians who have opportunities to kill that are not open to other people (Somerville, 2003). A system that permits euthanasia would, in addition, also make it easier for families of mentally incompetent people to claim that a previously lucid patient had expressed a wish for euthanasia. In fact, this is one of the major contentious issues in the recent, much publicized Terri Schiavo case. Over and above individual motives, which can be construed as tantamount to homicidal (Brock, 1992), there is also the fear that euthanasia would be an all too tempting avenue for a society faced with an ageing population and scarce health-care resources (Somerville, 2003). This may lead to severe abuse and the perpetration of grave injustices both at the individual as well as the social level.
Thus, it is evident that the risks of permitting euthanasia far outweigh the benefits, if any. Further, the case for opposing euthanasia does not, at any point, deny the need for a system that focuses on relieving the pain and suffering of seriously ill or challenged people. All it suggests is that the solution lies in providing hope, affordable palliative and hospice care, and counseling.
BBC News. "Fireman's recovery stuns doctors." May 4, 2005. Accessed May 7, 2005:
Brock, D.W. "Voluntary Active Euthanasia." The Hastings Center Report. Vol. 22:2,
1992, p. 10+.
Life Issues Institute. "AMA: Anti-Euthanasia, Pro-Pain Control." Pregnant Pause Web site. 1997. Accessed May 7, 2005: http://www.pregnantpause.org/euth/amagomez.htm
Price, J. "Cancer Sufferers with Severe Pain Reject Euthanasia: Report Finds They Seek
Only Relief." The Washington Times. June 28, 1996, p. 12.
Schwartz, J. "New Openness in Deciding When and How to Die." The New York Times.
March 21, 2005. Accessed May 7, 2005: http://www.nytimes.com/2005/03/21/health/21dying.html?pagewanted=1& ei=5070& en=dfcc89a8188bb900& ex=1115524800& oref=login
Somerville, M. "The Case Against: Euthanasia and Physician-Assisted Suicide." Free