• Subject Name : Social Work

The Universality of The Human Rights Concerning Euthanasia

Table of Contents


Research question/s

Research aims

Concepts and variables

Relevant literature


Ethical considerations


Reference list

Introduction to Euthanasia

The word euthanasia is derived from the Greek word euthanatos; “a quiet and easy death”. It refers to a death given to someone by his or her choice and permission (Emanuel et al, 2016). A more accurate term is perhaps mercy killing. Following are some of the cases in which the method of euthanasia is followed, a patient suffering from an irreversible, terminal disease, or injury with no hope of recovery. Disease is incurable and the patient is in great pain; the patient request death and it is authentic and genuine is made over a prolonged period; The main aim or goal for killing the person is to have empathy an him or her and give them a good peaceful life after death; Accommodating the person in reverberation to his or her appeal or desire (Friesenecker et al., 2013). This research proposal will look into the process of evolution of the concept of euthanasia and modern definition through the lens of various cultures across the globe. In view of multivariate cultural back ground, the research aims to answer important questions revolving the debatable subject of euthanasia. 

Research Questions:

  • Should euthanasia be regarded as the individual choice of a patient?
  • Is the practice of euthanasia helpful in serving humanity?

Research aims:

  • To comprehend the concept and process of euthanasia from a cultural perspective.
  • To establish the understanding for the necessity of legalizing the practice of euthanasia.

Concepts and Variables of Cross-Cultural Issues

The first concept is ‘Euthanasia’, which from Greek is defined as, ending the pain and suffering of someone intentionally, especially a patient with a terminal illness or a disease. The laws for practising euthanasia differ in all countries. The second concept is of ‘human rights’: which includes respecting patient’s autonomy:The government gives the rights to patients to make well-informed decisions regarding their health care and the third important concept is ethical and legal factors involved in practicing euthanasia. Countries such as the Netherlands or Belgium, support euthanasia, when carried out by doctor’s depending upon the condition of the patient. However, The Dutch law, includes the concept of euthanasia under the broader definition of "assisted suicide and termination of life on request" but does not use the term for it.

Variables which are presented in the research study include, patients with debilitating or terminal illness, for instance, patients who are comatose or in a vegetable state; preference of patients to have more quality of life instead of quantity of life; government policies and procedures across the globe; professional code of ethics of the healthcare provider.

Relevant Literature of Cross-Cultural Issues

Ideologies and Historical Perspectives: Evolution of Euthanasia

To have a belief in any practice as to whether it's authentic in terms of morality and beliefs is difficult. To place our judgement in place, it’s imperative to reflect on the historical sketch of the beliefs and analyse them with the generation who has lived it or in cultures different to us. While the developing western cultures were conflicting active euthanasia, most modern cultures were happily accepting it (Kennedy & Kennedy, 2018). A quick mention of the different cultures actively opposing or accepting it is the Greco Roman tradition, the Jewish tradition, early Christian era, modern secular post-Christian philosophers. The traditional Judeo-Christians have always opposed practising euthanasia very strongly. Thomas Aquinas argued it was inconsistent with the theory based on the survival instinct of a human being, and had many supporters such as Francois Ranchin (1565–1641), a French physician and professor of medicine, and Michael Boudewijns (1601–1681), a physician and teacher.On the other hand, many took a stand on euthanasia, such as Caspar Questel's the author of, "On the pillow of which the dying should not be deprived”, accelerated a discussion on thissubject (Geijteman, 2015). Questeldefineddiversemethodsused to hasten the death for patients nearing death, removing the pillow (which in those times was believed to hasten death), and it was strongly opposed as being "against the laws of God and Nature".Despite of which euthanasia was being practiced, involving techniques such as Suffocating the patient to death, causing bleeding and others.

The Major Theories Regarding Euthanasia

The utilitarian theory: Utilitarian philosophy means that the action taken in accordance to the situation and medical condition of a patient should be taken exclusively according to or taking into the overall increase or decrease in the happiness and wellbeing of that individual or person. An action or deed is morally proscribed if it serves to decrease happiness and thus, in turn, increase the suffering of an individual (McGee, 2013). Today, it's also thought that the "Principle of Utility" is baseless and not worthy because an increase in happiness and prevention of misery are not the only criteria for deciding someone's fate.In the article written by Applebaum, (2016), the limitations of Euthanasia and how it is followed in different parts of the country have been researched in detail. Many countries in Europe, are being given the option for euthanasia with the consent and aid of a physician throughout the process. Due to this many mental health patients have conformed to euthanasia as a means to escape their suffering instead of fighting the debilitating disease and have hope for survival by trying new medical techniques. On the other hand, researcher Appelbaum et al, (2016), also focuses on that, "right to euthanasia" is a concept that violates the country's "Charter of Rights and Freedom (1982)" as per the Canadian Supreme Court. According to which, "Everybody has the right to life, liberty and security and right not to be deprived thereof, except following the principles of fundamental justice." Eminent sociologist and researchers, Randalf and Downie, (2010), however, have a dissimilar opinion. They presented a debatable issue, contributing to the concept of euthanasia from a completely different point of view. They believed that that euthanasia must not involve a physician but should be carried out with through the non-professionals to circumventunscrupulous precedents in the healthcare practices (Keown, 2018). The researchers depicted to the conscience of the society to be negative towards acceptance of the concept as well as the process of euthanasia. The ideology of passive or assisted euthanasia is considered offensive, but on the contrary, active euthanasia did not account for some level of offence.

Gaps in Existing Studies

The literature is still unable to reach a definite resolution of the process for conducting Euthanasia as far as legal consideration is concerned.Euthanasiacan be conducted in two ways, voluntary& involuntary (Goel, 2008).A continuous debate occurs among between the physicians about whether or not the non-voluntary (and by extension, involuntary) killing of patients be considered as euthanasia, irrespective of an object or the patient's situation. Euthanasia has been called the moral basis of the health system in olden days. However, the existing meaning of the term euthanasia is more role constricted and action-oriented in modern-day language. In the past, euthanasia, has become a part of a patient’s desire to refuse medical treatment and is hence confined to mercy killing or active euthanasia while passive euthanasia is termed as rejection of treatment or in easy language letting die (Johnston, 2017). The literature does not reach a decisive conclusion pertaining to executing the process of euthanasia.

Main Issues and Problems Pertaining to Euthanasia

Certain extremely religious people usually confront the very idea of euthanasia and claim it to be baseless with no moral grounds and to be abandoned. Cultural boundaries are wide in terms of religion and everyone has a different attitude towards both life and afterlife (Strinic, 2015). Our deeds and beliefs do not permit us to keep someone alive with suffering and agony when all they want is a peaceful death. If there is some pain because of some evil deed, it is no less a sin to let them suffer. Some cultures and religions have a conjecture that an individual is to complete their natural life span. Any perspective which leads to an act of euthanasia must be reconsidered. It may be far easier to erode life-affirmation than to build it anew out of a pervasive pessimism. To limit the correct and judicious use of life, active euthanasia should be restricted to the case of terminally ill conditions or conditions in which having a peaceful end is better than daily miseries and sufferings. A well-designed rule of laws for ending one’s life with dignity will surely enhance the courts to avoid the slightest chance of fight and imbalance between the law and medical science whilst safe-guarding the individual interest (Keown, 2018; Kydd, 2016).

Methodology of Cross-Cultural Issues


In my understanding, the practices of euthanasia support the ideology of having the quality of life instead of quantity of life.It is found to be prevalent more in the older generation or population who is suffering from terminally ill diseases and who have no hope of improvement despite of the ongoing treatments (Emanuel et al., 2016). However, it has raised a valid question in the minds of various scholars and academicians regarding the ethical nature of this concept (Goel, 2008)

Theoretical Framework

In a healthcare setting, euthanasia is being practiced in the case of patients who are terminally ill with the permission of the physicians whoare treating them (Keown, 2018). They only help in reducing the suffering of the patient due to any condition which has a poor prognosis and treatment outcome specifically in cases of people who are suffering from mental disorders, euthanasia serves as an option of escape from the pain and misery.However, this practice has been conveniently selected by the patient to escape their deliberating state of mind of the physical ailment without seeking medical help first. This raises an ethical and moral concern for any healthcare professional (Emanuel et al., 2016) which has been portrayed through a relevant literature.


The indicative research approach has been adopted for sourcing the relevant information from multiple sources by broadening the horizon for enhancing the quality of research and understanding of the topic (Cash, 2018).Descriptive research design has been used in this study, by encompassing the qualitative data for finding the answers to the research questions (Johnston, 2017). Secondary data has been used, using the peer-reviewed articles and journals, in English language. Abstract screening method was used to narrow down the research as well as only those who are patients or those who have patients at their home, suffering from terminally-ill conditions.

Ethical Considerations

There has been no discordance in the research from an ethical point of view. The researchers are given complete credit from where the relevant information has been drawn. Plagiarism free content has been developed through personal efforts and no text has been copied from another article (Bishop, 2012). There are enumerable factors which guide the results of the research, such as assessing or evaluating relevant data, using highly qualified research sources and peer-reviewed journal articles, instead of using mediocre articles. The sources of information and data extraction are reliable and authentic, which help in producing a quality research document and adds value to the subject (Cypress, 2018). Meeting the ethical criteria encompasses certain principles, such as recognizing the veracity of the data; respecting the intellectual property; not allowing mis-representation of information while reviewing the literature. The research should cause no harm to the subjects involved and must be conducted in way which fulfills the aim of the research and highlighting the facts as they are.

The ethical consideration also involves assessing the research from all standpoints and not forming opinion for the readers, but presenting the critical evaluation of the literature, without modifying the facts and providing in detail discussion to help the readers walk through the research step by step, to draw an agreeable conclusion. There is no conflict of interest of the researcher in providing the analysis of the subject. The articles used are completely relevant to the topic or subject and have been cited correctly (Jol & Stommel, 2016). All the articles are without ethical bias and have not caused any harm to their subjects during the process of research. Sufficient literature has been used for this research so that there is no scope of missing important data; latest journals are used that findings are not misleading; it also makes the research more impactful and helps in understanding the topic in the present scenario.

The study has been written in a way which does not hurt the feelings of any community and does not encourage any kind of discrimination or mockery at the religious point of view of any group, society or a nation at a large (Bishop, 2012). The research recognizes the value of variety in human expression in a society and does not aim at passing any judgments on the laws made by the ruling governments of the respected nations mentioned in the research. It does not point any fingers on the law making procedures and policy makers or identifies any flaws in the system of the respected countries described in the research, it only and only discretely and vividly presents the detailed analysis on the subject of euthanasia in the background of various cultures, to answer the main questions revolving around the topic without demeaning the cultural values or ideologies of any group of people across the globe. 

Conclusion on Cross-Cultural Issues

From the research, it can be deduced that many people are accepting the concept of euthanasia for the moral good, of their loved ones. The action is propelled with a belief of ending the pain and suffering of the family member who is fighting with severe pain and disability. Euthanasia offers a more peaceful and painless passage, making it easier for the patient as well as the carers to deal with the demise of a loved one. Furthermore, the practise of euthanasia or mercy killing respects the right of an individual to live or die with dignity. The research supports the fact that the individual’s ‘right to die’ is based on the ethical and legal foundation of healthcare practices which is to respectthe autonomy of the patient. This raisesavalidpointfor considering euthanasia as a beneficial procedure for the patients as well as the carers. Therefore, Euthanasia offers a solution for the patients to reduce their suffering, reduce stress and anxiety that come with itand provide peaceful passage to the other side.

Reference List for Cross-Cultural Issues

Appelbaum, P. S. (2016). Physician-assisted death for patients with mental disorders—reasons for concern. JAMA Psychiatry, 73(4), 325-326

Bishop, L. (2012). Using archived qualitative data for teaching: practical and ethical considerations. International Journal of Social Research Methodology, 15(4), 341-350.

Cypress, B. (2018). Qualitative research methods: A phenomenological focus. Dimensions of Critical Care Nursing, 37(6), 302-309.

Emanuel, E. J., Onwuteaka-Philipsen, B. D., Urwin, J. W., & Cohen, J. (2016). Attitudes and practices of euthanasia and physician-assisted suicide in the United States, Canada, and Europe. Jama, 316(1), 79-90.

Friesenecker, B., Fruhwald, S., Hasibeder, W., Hörmann, C., Hoffmann, M. L., Krenn, C. G., ... &Roden, C. (2013). Definitions, decision-making and documentation in end of life situations in the intensive care unit. Anasthesiologie, Intensivmedizin, Notfallmedizin, Schmerztherapie: AINS, 48(4), 216-223

Geijteman, E. C., Brinkman-Stoppelenburg, A., Onwuteaka-Philipsen, B. D., van der Heide, A., & van Delden, J. J. (2015). Two decades of do-not-resuscitate decisions in the Netherlands. Resuscitation, 94, e7-e8.

Goel, V. (2008). Euthanasia–A dignified end of life!. International NGO Journal, 3(12), 224-231.

Johnston, M. P. (2017). Secondary data analysis: A method of which the time has come. Qualitative and quantitative methods in libraries, 3(3), 619-626.

Jol, G., &Stommel, W. (2016). Ethical considerations of secondary data use: What about informed consent?. Dutch Journal of Applied Linguistics, 5(2), 180-195.

Kennedy, J. and Kennedy, M. (2018), "The Other Side of Euthanasia: A Practice Perspective from Australia", Grant, B., Drew, J. and Christensen, H. (Ed.) Applied Ethics in the Fractured State (Research in Ethical Issues in Organizations, Vol. (20), Emerald Publishing Limited, pp. 55-66. Doi: https://doi.org/10.1108/S1529-209620180000020005.

Keown, J. (2018). Euthanasia, ethics, and public policy: an argument against legalisation. Cambridge University Press, London.

Kydd, L. (2016). Developing a postal screening tool for frailty in primary care: a secondary data analysis. British Journal of Community Nursing, 21(7), 335-341.

McGee, E.M., (2013). Can suicide intervention in hospice be ethical? J Palliative Care. 1997;13(1):27–33

Olver, I., &Eliott, J. (2016). Translating into practice cancer patients’ views on do-not-resuscitate decision-making. Cancers, 8(10), 89.

Rand, J., Lancaster, E., Inwood, G., Cluderay, C., & Marston, L. (2018). Strategies to reduce the euthanasia of impounded dogs and cats used by councils in Victoria, Australia. Animals, 8(7), 100

Randall F, Downie R (2010). Assisted suicide and voluntary euthanasia: Role contradictions for physicians. Clinical Medicine. 10(4):323–5

Saunders, J., (2008). What do physicians think about physician-assisted suicide and voluntary euthanasia? Clin Med. 2008;8:243–5

Strinic, V. (2015). Arguments in Support and Against Euthanasia. Journal of Advances in Medicine and Medical Research, 1-12.

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