Right to Die and Euthanasia
In this paper, the relationship between suicide; morality and human suffering has been presented with the help of the two texts by Norman Cousins and James Rachels. The thesis for the paper is that both the authors are quite successful in making a convincing case that suicide or active euthanasia should not be condemned morally.
Cousins’s Essay and Suicide
The essay written by Cousins presents the case of Dr. Van Dusen and his wife who ended their lives with their own hands. They committed a suicide together as they were very ill and they knew at some point in time they will require continual medical care and they would be completely dependent upon someone else for living. The couple believed that they had the right to die in this circumstance as their life had no value (Philips and Rakusen).
The essay presents an argument over human suffering. According to Cousins, when a person becomes terminally ill and requires continuous medical attention, he should have the right to commit suicide. The other side of the argument has also been presented that since the past hundreds of years, the notion of suicide have been condemned whether it is related to religious perspective or not. Cousins’s argument becomes more convincing when he relates to the case of Dr. Van and reveals the fact to the readers that the couple was not selfish when they decided to commit suicide (Philips and Rakusen).
The essay demonstrates that there was little dignity left in the lives of the couple and they decided to kill themselves as they saw benefit of living anymore. It was their belief that it would have been wastage of medical science to keep them technically alive as there are more mouths and fewer hands to feed in the world. The author convinces the reader that those committing suicide because of illnesses are not selfish as they think more about the society and the betterment of others than they think about their own pain.
In this essay, the author discusses the difference between active and passive euthanasia. The major difference that a reader can draw from the text is that active euthanasia is the use of an instrument or a lethal injection to kill a terminally ill person, whereas passive euthanasia involves stoppage of medical treatment of a patient so that he/she can die. The author presents the argument that it is better to perform active euthanasia than passive.
Rachels presents several cases in the essay involving babies being born with Down syndrome and the cases in which people are killed for a purpose. The essay argues that active euthanasia is not worse than passive euthanasia morally. Both types of euthanasia have the same impact and the differentiating factor behind the two types is not just making a moral difference. A doctor is in the same moral position, as put by Rachels, if he lets a patient die or gives him a lethal injection to kill him. The patient is the one who is being affected if the decision is wrong. Much less pain and agony could be suffered by a patient if the doctor uses active euthanasia to kill the patient (Philips and Rakusen).
This essay, however, is not as compelling as the essay written by Cousins in which he presented only a single case and used it as a reference till the end. Rachels does provide a convincing case on the use of active euthanasia, but the examples and the cases used are not compelling enough as there are no emotional aspects used for description. Not much is talked about human suffering but the focus of the author is more on the morality.
Philips, A. and Rakusen, J. The New our bodies, ourselves: a book by and for women. Penguin Books, Limited, 1989.