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  • Society of Bioethics and Medicine

The Right to Die

Updated: Mar 8, 2022

Written by Marium Ghobriel

Edited by Ishraq Nihal

Euthanasia, also known as assisted suicide, is the act of ending the life of someone who suffers from an incurable and painful condition. According to Britannica, the definition of euthanasia is the “act or practice of painlessly putting to death persons suffering from painful and incurable disease or incapacitating physical disorder or allowing them to die by withholding treatment or withdrawing artificial life-support measures.”[1] At this point, medical treatment is essentially limited to pain management because there are no procedures or treatment plans that can improve one’s condition. In the United States, only ten states allow euthanasia to be practiced, Oregon and Washington being the first to legalize the practice.[2] Only a handful of countries permit it, including Belgium, Canada, the Netherlands, and a few others. Legalizing euthanasia would provide patients with one of the most important decisions they will ever make. The option is only for those who have lost hope in improving their health.

Many oppose this practice for various reasons, but the overlapping concern is the loss of a precious life. The disabled and terminally ill communities have expressed fear in the case that euthanasia becomes legalized because it opens up the opportunity for medical professionals to discriminate against them. There is a national shortage of medical resources, and this has only worsened as a result of the pandemic. Euthanizing someone is beneficial to hospitals because it is cheaper than keeping a patient alive and it creates space for new patients in need of treatment. There are many situations to consider and there is certainly room for a slippery slope to appear as a result. It brings into question: who decides whether one should die? Another popular view is that life is precious regardless of the circumstances, and for a patient to choose euthanization is to throw this “gift” away. However, why should these people be forced to continue living their lives with a painful and debilitating illness that has an incredibly slim chance of improving? If these people have truly weighed out all of their options and decide that life is not worth going through countless medical treatments anymore, who are we to deprive them of that choice?

Euthanasia has been a controversial issue for centuries. However, as the years go by, medical and legal professionals, as well as the public, seem to be warming up to the idea of assisted suicide for the sake of ending a patient’s long and painful suffering.[3][4] There are many circumstances and outcomes to consider prior to legalizing the procedure, but once standards are established and there is a strict and well-planned rulebook behind it, patients with painful and incurable diseases will have the ability to decide when their lives end, rather than leaving it to nature’s timing. Instead of being viewed as a cowardly act, euthanasia should be viewed as empowering – people should not have to fully submit to their terminal illness and play a miserable waiting game. There are still years and likely decades before euthanasia will be permitted in the United States, and there is a chance that it will never become nationally legalized. Regardless, more countries and individual states are considering the pros and cons behind the practice, and it is looking quite optimistic that there will be an increase in the number of areas that decide to decriminalize or possibly permit euthanasia.

[1] Britannica, The Editors of Encyclopaedia. "euthanasia". Encyclopedia Britannica, Accessed 14 November 2021.

[2] Physician-Assisted Suicide Fast Facts | CNN.

[3] Hensley, Scott. “Americans Support Physician-Assisted Suicide for Terminally Ill.” NPR, NPR, 28 Dec. 2012,

[4] Brenan, Megan. “Americans' Strong Support for Euthanasia Persists.”, Gallup, 13 Aug. 2021,

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