THE ARGUMENTS FOR:
Choosing how we die is a basic human freedom. If an individual's quality of life is terrible, they should have the right to stop suffering.
As the recent case of disabled rugby player Daniel James showed, hundreds of British people have travelled abroad for an assisted suicide, and the Crown Prosecution Service can't prosecute the people who help them. So our euthanasia laws are, in their present state, unworkable.
Since 1961, suicide has been legal. Helping somebody who wants to die in a peaceful, painless way should also be legal.
The majority of British people are in favour of legalising euthanasia. A recent YouGov survey revealed that 86 per cent supported it.
The safeguards work. Euthanasia clinics are professionally run centres that ensure their patients are making a considered and correct decision.
THE ARGUMENTS AGAINST:
In Oregon, a recent study of people who took their lives with assisted suicide revealed that one in every six were suffering from depression. This should not be allowed to be a factor in a human's choice to die.
Life is sacred. Helping to end it is morally unacceptable.
Advances in medicine will mean that we can cure diseases and disabilities that were once considered untreatable. So a terminally ill patient may, in the future, have a bearable quality of life.
Terminally ill people are vulnerable members of society. Some might feel under psychological pressure to ease the burden on their families.
Although assisted suicide is understandable in cases like that of the multiple sclerosis sufferer Debbie Purdy, legalising it risks turning it into a lifestyle choice.
Perhaps the strongest argument made on behalf of legalizing euthanasia or assisted suicide is that it, like abortion, is a "choice" issue. Proponents argue that euthanasia/assisted suicide is "the ultimate civil right," and that to deprive mentally competent, terminally ill people who want to end their suffering of a peaceful "aid in dying" is to fundamentally disrespect their right to personal autonomy. Proponents also argue that legalizing euthanasia/assisted suicide is a necessary "insurance policy" that will ensure that no one dies in painful agony or unremitting suffering. Advocates contend that euthanasia/assisted suicide is little different from pain control since both use strong drugs and patients' deaths are occasionally unintentionally hastened as a side effect of the narcotics used in palliation. They also claim that doctors commonly engage in euthanasia/assisted suicide surreptitiously and promote legalization as a way to protect vulnerable patients from abuses inherent in the current "unregulated" practice. Acknowledging worries about potential abuses, advocates assure that "protective guidelines" would protect the vulnerable from wrongful death while still permitting suffering patients who are eligible for euthanasia/assisted suicide to obtain a desired, peaceful "death with dignity." Proponents also claim that opposition to euthanasia/assisted suicide is based primarily in religion and that laws prohibiting the practice are thus unconstitutional because they violate the division between church and state.
Opponents counter that legalizing euthanasia/assisted suicide would lead society down a dangerous "slippery slope" with legalized killing eventually being permitted for disabled, elderly, and depressed people, as well as for those who are not mentally competent to request to die. Protective guidelines "do not protect," opponents declare, pointing to the Dutch experience with euthanasia as "proof" of both the reality of the slippery slope and the relative meaninglessness of guidelines. Opponents also argue that the economics of modern medicine would promote euthanasia/assisted suicide as a form of health care cost containment, noting that the drugs in an assisted suicide cost only about forty dollars, while proper care for a dying patient can cost tens of thousands of dollars. They also note that forty-four million Americans do not have health insurance, and that medicine is sometimes practiced in a discriminatory manner against racial and other minorities. Thus, they argue that "the last people to receive medical treatment will be the first to receive assisted suicide." Opponents also deny that there is widespread surreptitious euthanasia practiced in clinical medicine, citing several published studies as proof, and urge that hospice care and proper medical treatment provide the morally acceptable answers to the difficulties that are sometimes associated with the process of dying.