Bhakta David Nollmeyer
A positive and correct valuation of human life will support decisively whether euthanasia or mercy killing is or should be moral, legal, and ethical. To undertake this issue, what must also be addressed is the right of the individual versus the collective. The idea of laws must also be invoked. Does any entity or feature of nature operate or bind us to participate in our existence in an absolute universal manner or is our existence and this subject relativistic? Are we at liberty to choose our own preference without the fetters of a macro organizer of sorts?
To state the case a very simple outline of the theory laws will be used as an outline to which is common in philosophy and political science. This framework will support the case of the Sanctity of Life: 1
1. Eternal Law: This is religion and universal.
2. Natural Law: This is the physical laws of nature and universal. It may also include the natural reason of humans as philosophy.
3. Positive Law: This is the legal law of a state or supranational organization; it may be universal or particular.
The Sanctity of Life, in it's simplest presentation argues that all life has a value and status that should be recognized before any measures are deliberated to extinct or terminate life. Death is an irreversible condition. Great aforethought should be taken in light of the end condition. The Sanctity of Life case extends to all life not just the exclusive case of humans. However in the particularity of the present issue of euthanasia we are dealing with humans.
The theory of laws is important. In degree laws are stronger than principles. There are times when a law may be described as a principle. In analogy, all mathematics are reducible to the operations of four laws: commutative, distribution, association, and addition. The same terms are used in predicate calculus or formal logic.
The concept of eternal law is an extremely important feature, if not the most important consideration in any debate. It is basically an abstract feature of the deity or Godhead. It is universal, eternal, and exists as a higher substance than events in natural and positive law, which would be subordinate and descend from eternal law. As eternal, time and space would not be able to operate on eternal law which would have authored the two. As two eternities cannot exist simultaneously, the eternal law must emerge victoriously or such does not exist. It is therefore only a fetish, or a perception.
Arguing in an existential manner, than is to say arguing in the positive that eternal law does exist as authorized religious authorities say such exists, we will examine a few primary arguments.
If a Godhead or deity exists all subsequent living entities are drawn from such. As such we are dealing with propriety of office. This argument will also be reflected towards the positive law that has roots in religious traditions. I will use the Catholic tradition for an example. Christianity believes that there is a Triune Godhead that exists a priori to the human condition. The second person of the Godhead, Jesus has been handed over the power to judge mankind twice, once at death singularly, and then collectively at a second coming. To deny this right makes Jesus human. It takes away his position as being sent to judge mankind. This position is to not be taken lightly (Thigpen).
A second case is that "He created them and loveth them all." and "Thou shall not kill." Here we are referring to the Father or first person and to all life. But this verse in context is taken in regard to the power and authority to judge. Historically, as is pointed out by Saint Augustine in The City of God, there is no euthanasia for Christian soldiers on the battlefield. Other soldiers must walk past the fallen until God calls them home. This is also related to free will.
This is also a moral instruction in courage, martyrdom for the church, and creating a sustainable culture. This is orthodox and is a facet of Christian love, not a mundane human commutative relationship that is strictly neighbor to neighbor (Thigpen). In continuo will follow a very direct passage by Franjo Cardinal Seper (Seper):
3. Intentionally causing one's own death, or suicide, is therefore equally as wrong as murder; such an action on the part of a person is to be considered as a rejection of God's sovereignty and loving plan. Furthermore, suicide is also often a refusal of love for self, the denial of a natural instinct to live, a flight from the duties of justice and charity owed to one's neighbor, to various communities or to the whole of society although, as is generally recognized,at times there are psychological factors present that can diminish responsibility or even completely remove it.
A Sanctity of Life position would have the non believer consider that there are many whose first ideal consideration is God and the dominion that this potency has. For a person of faith it should not give some feeling of superiority over one who claims no position in the eternal law to judge the end condition.
The natural law exits universally without any dispute. The forces of nature have created all animate and inanimate objects. If there is an eternal law above the natural law, the operations of such will not violate the eternal law but be secondary or participatory to such. The natural law operates on the world of our experience and would not bind the eternal law. I will use Christian natural law as the example. To argue such one does not have to believe in the eternal law to understand the natural law. One's experience is able to aid in proofs of events conforming to natural law.
I will present some primary reasons to demonstrate why euthanasia is inconsistent with natural law of any sort. Life is a universal of all forms of animate objects. From every kingdom of beings from single celled entities to the complex species known as homo sapiens life is regarded as being as means of sustaining the individual members as well as the collective species. A bear caught in a human's trap snare does not try to commit suicide or lay defeated. It will chew it's foot off to be free again; not a trophy or food to another species. Animals in the state of nature without intelligence or reason do not kill off fallen, diseased, or injured members. It is common to note that herd animals, as the buffalo, when fallen or injured will have it's mate or other member guard it against wolves until the last instant is exhausted.
These acts demonstrate that animals under direction of natural law attempt to inbreed collective traits that lead to individual and species survival; not destroy such.
These are only basic analogies. What is demonstrated is that a subculture of suicide or mercy killing is not a feature of any species writ large. What separates the genus Homo from the other members of life rests insides our cranium. Our brain is the seat of our cognition and permits humans to reason deliberately over events of experience and abstraction that no other animal or machine may. This is moral reason. The choice of euthanasia is the result of an overactive logical and reasoning process attempting to correct the inefficiency perceived in permitting nature to run it's course when the ends of death appear conclusive.
The philosophy for euthanasia is individual choice and is based on moral conditions. Robert Young (2003) has complied five moral reasons for euthanasia Advocates of voluntary euthanasia contend that if a person is: 2
(a) suffering from a terminal illness;
(b) unlikely to benefit from the discovery of a cure for that illness during what remains of her life expectancy;
(c) as a direct result of the illness, either suffering intolerable pain,or only has available a life that is unacceptably burdensome (because the illness has to be treated in ways which lead to her being unacceptably dependent on others or on technological means of life support);
(d) has an enduring, voluntary and competent wish to die (or has, prior to losing the competence to do so, expressed a wish to die in the event that conditions (a)-(c) are satisfied); and
(e) unable without assistance to commit suicide, then there should be legal and medical provision to enable her to be allowed to die or assisted to die.
Dick Sobsey of the University of Alberta Developmental Centre has briefed a Special Senate Committee on Euthanasia and Assisted Suicide on September 30,1994 in Canada. 3 He has stated that these conditions to voluntarily make a decision on euthanasia or physician assisted suicide are not readily met. Many patients with serious illnesses are poorly informed about their conditions and prognoses. They cannot be expected to make informed decisions about suicide. People are given unclear or misleading information about their prognosis or how long they are expected to live. Their professional help simply do not know or are incorrect in expectations (Sobsey).
Sobsey also has contended that most conditions permit the patient to commit suicide. In effect their condition would not prevent an individual act of suicide. In fact, very few people have disabilities or illnesses that make it impossible for them to commit unassisted suicide. The great majority of people with illnesses or disabilities are perfectly capable of committing suicide by the same means employed by other individuals. Cases reflective of assistance are coma or high level nerve or spinal injury. In this condition the competence of the patient is in jeopardy (Sobsey).
The five moral conditions lead into the legal placement of physicians to assist in suicide and their credibility is suspect (Sobsey):
Safeguards through the involvement of the health care professionals would not be equivalent to legal due process safeguards…there is no reason to believe that their inclination, training, or experience prepares them to exercise life and death power more wisely than any other group of individuals.
The abuse of by providers of assisted suicide is heightened resulting in a conflict of interest between health providers and life ending roles by physicians. The cost control issue predisposes encouragement to physicians to gain consent from patients. This is triage not euthanasia (Sobsey).
The Sanctity of Life position here can involve the medical field which is duty bound to the preservation of life. Natural law is unique in that it is perceived universally and does not require any supernatural gift of faith that many genuinely do not have. In the ideal, professional medical consultation is a key to a correct choice. The natural law is common ground.
The positive law in this paper reflects that law which is the standing code in a particular jurisdiction at a given time. I will focus on the United States primarily. The universally accepted form of constitution for a government is the Social Contract Theory. This is Roman or civil law in contrast to common law or case law descended from the British system. Civil law states what the citizen's rights and duties are. It also states the punitive measures in writing for infractions. Common law or case law permits the latitude of discretion in an issue by the judge. The United States system is derived from both traditions (Rehnquist).
Euthanasia is a classic example of the individual versus the state. How much liberty, the greatest state of freedom, should be enfranchised to the citizen versus the interest of the state?
The case of Washington v. Glucksberg , 521 U.S. 702 (1997) arrived to the United States Supreme Court. Glucksberg and associates were four physicians who would have provided assistance in dying in Washington State if not for a ban. In the instant case in District Court, they, along with three gravely ill plaintiffs who have died and an organization that counsels people considering physician assisted suicide, filed suit against Washington State on the ban as unconstitutional. They assert a liberty interest protected by the Fourteenth Amendment's Due Process Clause, which extends a personal choice by a mentally competent, terminally ill adult to commit physician assisted suicide. Arguments centered on Planned Parenthood of Southeastern Pa. v. Casey, 505 U.S. 833,, and Cruzan v. Director, Mo. Dept. of Health, 497 U.S. 261. The Federal District Court concurred concluding that Washington's assisted suicide ban is unconstitutional because it places an undue burden on the exercise of that constitutionally protected liberty interest. The en banc Ninth Circuit affirmed.
The Circuit Court's main point was "Washington's prohibition against "caus[ing] or "aid[ing]" a suicide does not violate the Due Process Clause, Pp. 5-32." It also noted that historically positions reexamining the issue had some successes but not exclusively (Rehnquist).
The original petitioners Glucksberg et al. were victorious until the Supreme Court case with Judge Rehnquist reversed and remanded the en banc decision of the Ninth Circuit Court arguing as such (Rehnquist):4
More specifically, for over 700 years, the Anglo American common law tradition has punished or otherwise disapproved of both suicide and assisting suicide… The earliest American statute explicitly to outlaw assisting suicide was enacted in New York in 1828, Act of Dec. 10, 1828, ch. 20, § 4, 1828 N. Y. Laws 19 (codified at 2 N. Y. Rev. Stat. pt. 4, ch. 1, tit. 2, art. 1, § 7, p. 661 (1829)... The Washington statute at issue in this case, Wash. Rev. Code § 9A.36.060 (1994), was enacted in 1975 as part of a revision of that State's criminal code. Four years later, Washington passed it's Natural Death Act, which specifically stated that the "withholding or withdrawal of life sustaining treatment... shall not, for any purpose, constitute a suicide" and that "[n]othing in this chapter shall be construed to condone, authorize, or approve mercy killing...
Rehnquist followed defining the question of state interest as criteria that was met and dispensed with in the majority opinion (Rehnquist):
These interests include prohibiting intentional killing and preserving human life; preventing the serious public health problem of suicide, especially among the young, the elderly, and those suffering from untreated pain or from depression or other mental disorders; protecting the medical profession's integrity and ethics and maintaining physicians' role as their patients' healers; protecting the poor, the elderly, disabled persons, the terminally ill, and persons in other vulnerable groups from indifference, prejudice, and psychological and financial pressure to end their lives; and avoiding a possible slide towards voluntary and perhaps even involuntary euthanasia.
The position of granting a primary law status to American citizenship was refuted after great deliberation taking into account a great deal of historical precedence. Punishments from the common law era where natural reasoning and natural law had sway within the discretion of the court were dismissed as too harsh. However it was noted that suicide and the like was prohibited and this tradition was taken into account to form the opinion at hand. The result being 79 F. 3d 790, reversed and remanded. The question presented in this case is whether Washington's prohibition against "caus[ing]" or "aid[ing]" a suicide offends the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution. We hold that it does not (Rehnquist).
The argument of the Sanctity of Life is reflected here. Deep consideration was given to how government has dispensed with the issue of euthanasia from a historical religious, common law, to the strictly civil decision handed down here. It is to be noted that in order for a writ of certiorari to be granted a constitutional issue must be involved that goes beyond a single individual or a small group of persons. Sanctity of Life not only involves the preservation and giving value to life in all it's forms, and recognizing that diversity has assigned different values for life, but also to rescue life.
Summary and Conclusion
It is important to note the levels of laws that come into formation whether they are faith based, natural, or positive. Consideration has to be made whether the position from one of these areas is even admissible especially with the separation of church and state. The prior recognition of all three levels of laws is one of thoroughness. Even if a court per se would not allow argument from every law, the impact in the form of acceptance or rejection of a rule or practice can be formidable. It is to be noted that if existence is spiritual there is a cognizant being that is directing all acts and judgments all levels. If existence is materialist this would only occur at the positive law level. Nature is defined as being no more than physical laws of weak and strong forces.
What is seen in the question of euthanasia is the classic political question of freedom of the individual versus the right of the state to regulate and bind the subject for the good of the commonwealth. An important aspect of this decision is cognition. One cannot be absolutely sure than even the most devout practitioner is receiving revelation descending from on high for the benefit of all. Nature is a highly efficient system and the individual and species must maintain a certain level of fitness or perish individually and collectively.
Advocacy of many personal instances of end of life suffering by a range of professionals of persons deemed to be in the last stand of life with no remedy and best supporting circumstances as stated by Young are the best personal examples cited by the pro euthanasia platform. Their suffering which occurs at the physical level is natural and will confront a great majority of persons at the end of their life. Individual liberty must be contrasted with those of the sustainable benefit to the greater majority. The death rate is 100 percent for all. Such may be fast or prolonged.
The Sanctity of Life case is a common ground platform. It is coming to the fore in bioethics and is required subject matter at many medical schools. To adopt such gives one a chance to comprehend not only the background of medical specialists but also spiritual, psychological, and moral considerations of many different perspectives. One may argue it's roots are faith based but even materialist philosophy argues positions which by an individual or collective manner have sanctity or value which should be recognized regardless of one's type of spirituality, hence beyond matter or physically based morality.
The argument begins with eternal law and what according to Catholic Christians binds one in act. It is common to many faiths but not all. No one can deny that there is no natural law, only whether humans are competent to discern such. Natural law is binding on the individual. This case at the present will be dispensed with by the court; the composition which by and large is civil in the world of our experience. Historical precedence's from case law will shape the decision at the Jurist's discretion.
As seen this problem is not new. The process should be deliberate and not hasty. Death is not a reversible condition. I do not believe in the legal sense there is a liberty right as regards the individual to have autonomy in a civil state to legally perform this act. To legalize euthanasia is to state sanction the practice as having moral healthy benefit for the population and setting a precedent. For a government to rule entirely in the favor individual life as a principle may jeopardize the stability of the whole nation or world community.
In conclusion, I argue that based on a deliberation of the relationship of human life of many different levels of thought from the past and concluding to the present day, that even though individual suffering may be horrendous, that euthanasia should be restricted in the interest of not committing human errors in the name of the state and having such multiply to the whole. Such libertarian ideals, even if seen in liberal construction in the manner of those who perceive such as their true feelings and morality are better not incorporated as an individual right for the benefit of not injuring the many.
1. Ninth Circuit Judge Beezer in the minority dissent of the Glucksberg case, which is discussed under positive law, has used several examples from history as arguments against killing from Saint Thomas Aquinas and Martin Luther. His dissent follows the eternal, natural, and positive law outline to craft his position. This outline is common in western philosophy from Aristotle to the present day. Rehnquist in the opinion that eventually prevails uses more of a secular common law approach to jurisprudence.
2. Timothy M. Quill's paper Death and Dignity: A Case of Individualized Decision' Making, presents the activity of the author, a doctor, with a terminally ill patient. Diane, the patient, met the outline’s points almost to the letter as prescribed by Young. The author prescribed barbiturates to Diane, who took her own life. It appears she was influenced by the pro euthanasia philosophy of The Hemlock Society (Quill 649-651).
3. The writings by Dick Sobsey as An Illusion of Autonomy: Questioning Physician Assisted Suicide and Euthanasia are an excellent refutation of The Hemlock Society philosophy and is professional paper quality. Overall I would personally recommend finding a professional level rebuttal to any work presented by this organization. They are very thorough and professional but so are the rebuttals if one wishes to be balanced and search.
4. The opinion of the Supreme Court members was as such: 79 F. 3d 790, reversed and remanded. Rehnquist, C. J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which O'Connor, Scalia, Kennedy, and Thomas, JJ., joined. O'Connor, J., filed a concurring opinion, in which Ginsburg and Breyer, JJ., joined in part. Stevens, J., Souter, J., Ginsburg, J., and Breyer, J., filed opinions concurring in the judgment.
ABC Online. (February 11, 2004). Australian Broadcasting Corporation. Retrieved from: http://www.abc.net.au/am/s564762.htm
American Medical Association (February 18, 2004). American Medical Association. Retrieved from: http://www.ama-assn.org
Cavalier. R. & Ess, C. Academic Dialogue for Applied Ethics. Carnegie Mellon University. Retrieved February 29, 2004 from: http://caae.phil.cmu.edu/Cavalier/forum/euthanasia/background/euth/9thCircuitB.html
Legal Information Institute. Washington v. Glucksberg 521 U.S. 702 (1997). Cornell University. February 18, 2004.
Quill, T. M. "Death and Dignity". Current Issues and Enduring Questions. Eds. Sylvan Barnet and Hugo Bedau. New York, NY: St. Martins, 2002, 649-654.
Seper, F. C. (May 5, 1980). Declaration on Euthanasia. Catholic Information Network. Retrieved February 15, 2004 from: http://www.cin.org/vatcong/euthanas.html
Sobsey, D. An Illusion of Autonomy: Questioning Physician Assisted Suicide and Euthanasia. normemma.com. Retrieved February 16, 2004 from: http://www.normemma.com/problem
Society Of Humankind. Society Of Humankind. Retrieved March 8, 2004 from: http://www.society-of-humankind.com/sochk_homepage.html
Thigpen, P., Ph.D. The Fathers on Euthanasia. Catholic Exchange. Retrieved March 9, 2004 from: http://www.catholicexchange.com/clibrary
Young, R. Voluntary Euthanasia. The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Spring 2003 Edition), Edward N. Zalta (ed.). Retrieved February 18, 2004 from: http://plato.stanford.edu/archives/spr2003/entries/euthanasia-voluntary