The Impact of Euthanasia on Society

Just as one of the slogans used by abortion activists says ‘If you don’t want an abortion, don’t have one’. Right-to-die activists contend that if Euthanasia and/or Assisted Suicide (EAS) are legalised, they will only impact on those who choose to use those options. In other words, those who don’t want assisted suicide won’t be effected, so what’s the problem?

Personal autonomy

The English poet John Donne composed a Meditation, ‘No Man is an Island’, which goes like this:

No man is an island, Entire of itself. Each is a piece of the continent, A part of the main. If a clod be washed away by the sea, Europe is the less. As well as if a promontory were.

As well as if a manner of thine own Or of thine friend’s were. Each man’s death diminishes me, For I am involved in mankind. Therefore, send not to know For whom the bell tolls, It tolls for thee.

Dr Peter Saunders MBChB FRACS, a New Zealander who is now practicing in the UK, wrote in his Twelve Reasons… Why Euthanasia Should Not be Legalised:

We are not free to do things which limit or violate the reasonable freedoms of others. No man is an island. No person makes the decision to end his or her life in isolation. There are others who are affected: friends and relatives left behind, and the healthcare staff involved in the decision-making process.

Western society no longer recognises suicide as a crime, but still appreciates that a person’s decision to take his or her own life can have profound, often lifelong effects on the lives of others. There may be guilt, anger or bitterness felt by those left behind. Personal autonomy is never absolute. The effect of personal decisions on others now living or in future generations must also be considered. 1

Medical research


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  • Rowena

    Thought-provoking article! I really enjoy this line of discussion, as it highlights the fact that “life” issues like euthanasia and abortion are never simply ‘private actions’ but are fundamental and crucial statements on the nature of society, morality and what it means to be human.

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