The Case Against Euthanasia

Euthanasia is not about making sick and dying people as pain free and comfortable as possible. That is what is known as palliative care, and that is something which is improving all the time. Euthanasia is about allowing other people – doctors, lawyers, even family members – to determine who should live and who should die.

As Pastor Andrew Lansdown explains, “euthanasia has little to do with refusing futile or extreme treatment. The man who rejects a heart transplant or declines a third bout of chemotherapy is not committing suicide, but rather is accepting the inevitability of his own death. The doctor who withholds or withdraws undue treatment at the request of a terminally ill patient is not killing his patient but rather is refusing to prolong his patient’s life at any cost. Properly understood, euthanasia involves an intentional act to end a person’s life. Opponents of euthanasia do not advocate the unnecessary and unwelcome prolonging of human life by artificial means. Rather, they oppose active measures to bring human life to a premature end.”

The horror stories about extended periods of pain and suffering are misleading. As even a pro-euthanasia doctor in Holland admitted, “essentially all pain can be controlled. . . euthanasia for pain relief is unethical”. Medical advances in the area of palliative care are making pain control more and more successful.

The euthanasia mentality leads to the dehumanisation of man and the desacrilisation of life. The sacredness of human life becomes viewed as mere sentimentalism, and expediency takes priority.

Consider, for example, a report issued last year by EPAC, the Economic Planning and Advisory Council, a government think-tank. The report discussed the rising costs of medical care for the elderly, and rising hospital costs in general, and actually suggested that euthanasia might be an option in dealing with this crisis. There was no mention of suffering or the humane treatment of dying human beings. Instead, cold utilitarian considerations of cost-cutting were given as the reason to consider euthanasia.

That is exactly the problem with opening the door to assisted suicide. More and more reasons will be given for why we should get rid of “useless” and “unproductive” lives. Just as Nazi Germany promoted euthanasia for various classes of people not considered worth keeping alive, leading to the “Final Solution” of the death camps, so too this legislation in Australia will lead to more and more cases of doing away with the unwanted for the flimsiest of reasons.

As Dr David van Gend, a Brisbane medical doctor put it, “Having severed any solidarity with our offspring through abortion on demand, and with our spouse through divorce on demand, [euthanasia] will now cut loose our parents through suicide on demand. It corrodes community, so that when [someone] gets lonely and tired of life, the community comes to him or her not with encouragement and involvement, but with a needle. It corrodes character so that the human ideal of facing life to the end with courage and good humour is abandoned as too distressing; it is easier to tear the chapter called ‘Dying’ out of our story; it is easier just to be made dead than to have died.”

It is the responsibility of governments to protect vulnerable and weak people from abuse. But as more and more of these laws are passed, it will become harder and harder to justify keeping alive various groups of people that society no longer considers useful or worth spending money on.

But a civilised society is defined by how it treats its most vulnerable. As one French biologist put it, “I have the weakness to believe that it is an honour for a society to desire the expensive luxury of sustaining life for its useless, incompetent, and incurably ill members. I would almost measure society’s degree of civilization by the amount of effort and vigilance it imposes on itself out of pure respect for life.”

Moreover, euthanasia undermines our trust in the medical profession. When we sanction euthanasia, the frail, elderly and sick cannot be confident that doctors will treat them rather than terminate them. Suffering and sick people need assurance and comfort, not anxiety and fear as to what their doctors may do with them.

Euthanasia is an option for people who don’t have to face it. Consider an opinion poll in Holland which found 70% support for euthanasia in the general public, but found 90% opposition in the nursing home population.

When we legislate in favour of euthanasia we send out the wrong signal to those who may not ordinarily be inclined to suicide. As one doctor put it, “Patients in Holland, and they are well documented, who do not actually want euthanasia are being talked or pressured into it by families, and I find that concept very difficult.”

As the Pope has said recently, we have become “a culture of death”. Abortion, infanticide, and euthanasia are all signs of a culture that has abandoned life and embraced death. This is the exact opposite of the Christian gospel which affirms life and eschews death.

The euthanasia ethic is a further expression of the reigning philosophy of our time, the philosophy of complete autonomy; the supremacy of self-determination over any deeper community considerations. Euthanasia is a simple solution for a selfish society, but it is not an option Christians should consider.

[890 words]

37 Replies to “The Case Against Euthanasia”

  1. Dear Bill Muehlenburg,
    I am writing you today (for a school assignment) to discuss the practice of euthanasia. I will be discussing your topic on your web page titled “The Case Against Euthanasia” ( This topic has been debated for years. Euthanasia is the act of a doctor letting a person die or mercifully killing someone when they have a fatal illness. It is cutting off any kind of medical treatment. I am writing this e-mail because I believe that euthanasia should be legal. There are three main reasons for euthanasia: ridding a person of unbearable pain, giving a person the right to commit suicide, and being free to not be forced through living with a fatal illness.
    I understand that for many people euthanasia does not abide with their morality but I feel that legally forcing someone to suffer through an illness is against my morals. Although it could be considered murder, when people are in so much pain from fatal illness that they no longer have the will to live any longer, they should not be required to live in pain for their last stretch of life. If it is their choice to take their life than nobody should determine their right to do so. It is also their right, if they choose, to have a family member determine their fate. Euthanasia is a compassionate choice that keeps the patient in mind. Euthanasia is supported by the same safeguards as marriage, procreation, and the refusal of medication that could save someone’s life. In fact, what’s the difference? Terminally ill people should have the right to end their pain.
    While I understand it is a doctor’s job to keep a patient alive, once a patient gets to the point where they are going to die anyway, they should have the right to choose whether they should live or not. Instead of someone living with no substantial quality of life, they or their family should be given the choice to pull the plug.
    I also understand that your religious backgrounds differ from mine, but putting that aside I think we can both agree that life is a cherished thing. If a family member decides that euthanasia is the best choice for them who are we to stand in their way? They do know the person at stake better than we. I do agree with you that it is wrong on many levels to force a person into euthanasia, but if a person has agreed to it than there should be no arguing against it.
    Emily Murray

  2. Thanks Emily

    But you did not read this post very carefully. If a person is on the path of natural death, then no one is arguing that they should be forced to stay alive artificially against their will. So you have a fundamental misunderstanding of what this whole debate is about.

    And how is it compassionate to kill the sufferer? I would have thought compassion meant relieving the suffering, not killing the patient. And with things like palliative care, most suffering can be managed pretty well nowadays.

    What we are talking about here is giving doctors the right to kill their patients, which is the exact opposite of the first principle of medicine: do no harm. I think you need to read more carefully the case being made against euthanasia. You have largely just presented a series of clichés by the pro-death lobby.

    Bill Muehlenberg, CultureWatch

  3. Mr. Muehlenberg,
    I am a high school student in Charleston, West Virginia in the U.S. I, like Emily, am doing a school project about euthanasia, and in my research I came across your article. While I respect the manner in which you have presented your argument, I must disagree: euthanasia is a very moral option for a patient in pain, and should be legalized.
    While the concept of lawyers and physicians having the ability to choose who lives and who dies is horrifying, this is not the case for euthanasia: euthanasia (under the laws of the state of Oregon with which I am familiar) can only be initiated by the patient. The only downside to this is, as you said, that family members and others may influence the choice of the patient in question; however, there could be legislation put in place to ensure the patient made the choice of his or her own accord.
    Furthermore, as for palliative care, both the increasing cost of medicine and physicians’ growing reluctance to prescribe pain medication to patients (fearing addiction) have made effective pain reduction much less widespread than is desirable. There are many families who are required, by law, to keep a family member (who desires physician assisted suicide) alive through costly treatment that drains their funds. Can this be constitutional or moral?
    Finally, the only implication of legalizing euthanasia is giving patients in intractable pain, of sound mind, and who repeatedly ask for it the option for physician assisted suicide. Trying to force a person to request physician assisted suicide would be, as it should, illegal if such legislation was passed.
    I would like to close my argument by thanking you for allowing your readers to post their comments, and hope you give my view some consideration.
    Stephen Heywood

  4. Thanks Stephen
    I have already made my case, so won’t repeat the arguments here. But what you are doing is calling for the moral and legal sanction of suicide, something all civilized societies have always rightly frowned upon. And to be consistent, you would have to argue that anyone, for any reason, has a right to take his or her own life. With youth suicide rates already skyrocketing, I am afraid that if your point of view were to win out, this would simply get a whole lot worse. You totally ignore considerations of the social good in your determination to make personal autonomy the highest value.
    Bill Muehlenberg, CultureWatch

  5. Thanks Bill, Many good points.

    I think we even need to reconsider what value actually lies in enduring pain, by the grace of God. Given that pain is a gift. As is the relief that one can know as well.

    Of course, where faith is not present, this can all be a difficult pill to swallow. But people need to consider if there may indeed be more purpose in it, in terms of their eternal destiny, than they realise.

    Trevor Faggotter

  6. Although I heartily agree with your article, I would wish that your supporting quotations had been footnoted. That would help me to effectively persuade others to reconsider their cases for euthanasia.
    Darayl Larsen

  7. Dear Mr. Muehlenberg,
    i am writing to you because i am doing a senior project and i would like more information on why you do not think euthanasia should not be aloud.
    i think Euthanasia should not be aloud because of the fact that pain can be controlled and the fact that it is murder.
    Nicole Klobchar

  8. Thanks Nicole

    But my arguments against euthanasia are made here, and in the related articles (see the top left of this page for ‘related posts’). There is not much more that I can add to these articles.

    Bill Muehlenberg, CultureWatch

  9. Hi Mr. Muehlenberg,

    thanks for your article.

    We are currently studying euthanasia (in a small Christian college in Melbourne) and whether it should be legalised in Australia.

    We were just wondering if there were many ways to sustain a coherent and convincing opinion without displaying a bias (e.g. Christian moral values). Do you think there are many ways to explain why you’re against euthanasia without bringing up a prejudiced view that atheists could criticise?

    Looking at your article, we could see that you brought upon quotations from people of high moral ground. Would you be able to elaborate on your views without including those?

    It would be great if you could help us out by sharing the wisdom you’ve obtained from keeping this blog/site. Thanks a lot.

    Vicky & Cristina

  10. Thanks Vicky and Cristina

    As I keep telling students, the article seems to me to give a pretty cogent and rational case against euthanasia. As to quotations, they mainly come from doctors, professionals in the field, and medical ethicists – all the very sorts of people one would want to cite in an article like this.

    If the fact that some might be religious is a problem, then I offer two replies: One, there are plenty of non-religious people who believe the same way (that euthanasia is wrong). So just ignore any religious-based quote if you like. The argument against euthanasia still stands.

    Two, everyone is religious (that is, has an all-embracing worldview). So a secularist or atheist is also pushing a religion or worldview in everything they argue for as well. They have a view on the sanctity of human life, for example, and they argue for it in such issues as euthanasia.

    And given that the overwhelming majority of humankind professes to be religious, why should religious arguments be excluded from such a debate as this? Should only a handful of atheists and secularists be allowed to discuss these things?

    But as I say, a purely ‘secular’ argument can be made against euthanasia. Indeed, I quote no religious books in my piece, but simply make medical, scientific, philosophical and ethical arguments – all quite appropriate in such a moral hot potato issue.

    One other thing. You speak of the “high moral ground” and the like. But clearly this is overwhelmingly a moral issue. It is about who should live and who should die. It does not get much more moral than that. So morality has to be taken into account in this issue. Even atheists make moral arguments on this issue. They will argue that is it right (a moral claim) that people can choose suicide. They will say it is wrong (another moral claim) that people cannot choose suicide, etc.

    So don’t allow the secularists to squeeze you into their mode. Everyone has a worldview (thus everyone is religious) and everyone makes moral claims all the time about all sorts of issues. Why can’t we?

    Bill Muehlenberg, CultureWatch

  11. No, thank you, Mr Muehlenberg.

    The only reason we asked you how we could prove ourselves to be unbiased was because in our upcoming exams, we are discouraged to write about our views referring to our Christian background, and so forth.

    Of course, we supppose it’s common sense to not include something ‘religious’ in a state-wide pre-tertiary exam, but you’ve still encouraged us to hold our beliefs firmly, no matter how secularists and atheists mock us for our ‘bible-bashing’.

    Thank you so much for your contributions on the net. We didn’t know that you even wrote books! You see, we were abhorred at some other articles we saw on the net that were completely vitriolic towards religious people and their ‘naivete’ or whatever. So for us it’s indeed refreshing to see some people, like you, have respect for others’ opinions and moral standards. So thank you again. We shall make sure to browse through this site more often 🙂

    Vicky & Cristina

  12. Thanks again Vicky and Cristina

    I hope you do well in your exams.

    This story might be of interest: not too long ago some secular students at a secular university approached me about this issue as well. They interviewed me for an hour, and made use of my documented version of this article. Then they had their debate, and they ended up doing very well with the “no” case, and even gots high marks for it as well.

    Thanks for taking your faith seriously in your education, and keep up the good fight.

    Bill Muehlenberg, CultureWatch

  13. Hi Bill,
    I am doing an assignment on Against Euthanasia, I am wondering if the ‘cost’ factor has been taken into account.
    How much does it cost to keep someone alive, as too Euthenasia and if you have a general idea or a website that might be able to give me a ‘numbers’ amount.
    Thank you
    Nacole Green

  14. Dear Bill,
    I am doing a little research for a assignment, and have happened to come across your website. It was going to be a unbias report (for / against / recommendations) on gun control, but I have found it difficult to think of a good reason why any civilian in their right mind should own a AK-47 (unless perhaps you are in a war zone). Instead I have opted for the moral mine field that is Euthanasia, finding it a much more interesting topic. I have gone through a few “for” sources from Dr Philip Nitschke’s & Dr Fiona Stewart’s “Killing Me Softly” to Dr Rodney Syme’s “A Good Death: An Argument For Voluntary Euthanasia”.

    As every story has two sides, I have googled for points of view from the other perspective. I think you bring up some thoughtful points in your article “The Case Against Euthanasia”. Especially the improvements to palliative care, as well as its social implications regarding the abuse of those more vulnerable.

    I have not given this topic much thought previously. Sure I have seen it put through its paces in the media every now and again, but never taken the time to delve any deeper than the surface. From my own point of view I have discovered that I consider suicide and euthanasia two very different things. Those that tragically take their own lives because they have given up on life, and those decide to take it because they believe they have reached its end. One does it because of a broken heart, and the other does it because of terminal Cardiomyopathy.

    Both seem like selfish decisions made without a second thought, life is certainly a special gift and one can’t be certain you will ever get a second chance at it (unless perhaps your Buddhist or Hindu). After surviving the first of the above, I can personally say life does get better and the world does keep spinning. However after reading some of Anna Knights letters (a patient that requested assistance from Dr Rodney Syme’s), it was certainly a eye opener regarding the latter. As stated in your article I am sure there misleading stories regarding the pain and suffering of patients, as only emotional journalism is capable of.

    However I cannot deny that the idea of being a invalid in a broken body, being bathed and clothed by someone and having my colostomy bags changed seems like a great retirement plan either. Waiting for my time so to speak. In your article you noted “the philosophy of complete autonomy”, which is possibly the heart of the matter. The right to choose, I do not think any doctor, lawyer, family member or government could make such a decision for you.

    Can such a decision be made on a case by case occurrence, and not reflect on all of humanity? And if so who would be responsible for the management of sanctioned euthanasia. Quite the Pandora’s box, but a interesting one non the less. Your article also went further than conventional euthanasia, which I consider to be about individuals, with incurable terminal diseases consent to assisted death. On a much larger scale, where eventually the consent is not required and euthanasia is conducted involuntarily. To consider that we as a society would be so disconnected from the ones we love to allow this is a interesting theory.

    The EPAC idea, seems very similar to the 1973 movie Soylent Green, starring a very young Charlton Heston. I think someone on their team has had one too many late nights watching old Sci-Fi flicks. In the “Against” I have opted for:

    Consent Under Duress – Financial, Emotional, Physical
    Improvements to Palliative Care
    The Feasibility of State Sanctioned Euthanasia –Management, Liability
    The Taking of a Life – Morality / Ethics

    On a final note, I was going to add religion however I thought that like politics it has no bearing on the individual’s decision who undertakes euthanasia. If the person has agreed to undertake the procedure, being of whatever religious faith they have considered and accepted its outcome.

    You have a great site Bill, with a lot of interesting subjects keep up the good work.


    Roger Steele

  15. Dear Mr Muehlenberg,

    I am also doing a school project on euthanasia.

    But I am looking at being unbias and gahering information on both sides of this argueement.

    I was wondering if you have any cases of non induced comatosed patients how have maded a natural recovery?

    The reason for this questions is i am creating a negative side to euthanasia and a point i am thinking of is the question of – is it possible to recover, therefore not need euthanasia.

    I realise that it is confidential information but I am not asking for personal, but rather a statistical view to recovery rate.

    I was also wondering if it was ok to include some of your views in my essay?

    You have some very good points and information.


    Kelly West

  16. Hi Bill i am currently doing a legal studies assignment and i am going to be trying to prove that euthanasia should stay illegal. I feel confident on my stance but there are a few scenarios that i felt didn’t help my cause. For an examples the cases where a suffering individual whose pain can’t be treated through pallative care must wait it out, that if euthanasia was legalised then perhaps the person wanting to die would administer the dose, and the people who want to end their life because they themselves think it is not worth living and they are against suicide but for euthanasia.

    I hope that made sense and i just wanted to know what your response to those points would be.

    King Regards

    Lachlan Pedersen

  17. Dear Bill,
    Thanks so much for this article. I had to find a con to Euthanasia and this is my number one source! I do not agree with all of these points but some of them I can not refuse but to go along with! You’re an amazing writer! Thanks a ton!
    Calvin Cognac

  18. Hi, Bill!
    I, too, am doing a philosophy paper on euthanasia. I am thankful that people like you are out here expressing the truth and giving an accurate assessment of cultural trends. I am shocked at the slippery slope of decline in the Netherlands…and yet because of gentle wording and spotlighting specific end-of-life cases, the Comp. & Choices political machine is spreading from state to state here! I could hardly sleep last night! I don’t know where I’ve been, not realizing what has been happening. How would you address the curious stats, in an essay as possible supporting evidence against euthanasia, that it is primarily well-educated, white males that chose to end their lives in Oregon..I am sure you already have an idea–it is their world perspective—making sure they are still their own masters, even in death…shaking their fist at God…I’m thinking it probably cannot be included in an unbiased essay, but maybe as a personal biased opinion at the end? I think you are very patient after reading the previous posts…keep on, keeping the faith…forgive me if you have commented on that already…haven’t been able to read other posts…thanks again!!
    Sue Bell, Brentwood California

  19. Hello again!
    Thanks for your comment, Bill,and further reading helps. Another quick question pls….Do you know what is presently happening in the Netherlands? I read the architect of the euthanasia law is regretful now of listening to the political and social influences of that time. Are the laws the same, Dutch citizens still carrying cards in their wallets stating no euthanasia for them if they unexpectedly find themselves in the hospital? Do they see the error in the ways (1991 Remmelink Report) and plan to repeal the law? Any info would be helpful. I plan to do get active in fighting it here in California and sharing with others! People need to be made aware!! Thanks Bill.
    In Him,
    Sue Bell, Brentwood, Northern CA

  20. Thanks Sue

    No, Holland still goes down the tubes in this regard. The minister responsible for legalizing euthanasia there now is full of regret, wishing she had never gone down that path. Els Borst, who was the Health Minister for the Netherlands (1994 to 2002), and was instrumental in getting it legalized in 2001, now thinks it was the wrong move:

    And you might consult some of my newer articles on this:

    Bill Muehlenberg, CultureWatch

  21. Dear Mr. Muehlenberg,

    I’m discussing euthanasia in a paper as well and I was wondering if you could tell me the source that you took Dr David van Gend’s argument from? I would really appreciate it, thank you.

    Spencer Semian

  22. dear bill
    i am curently doing about euthanasia, i have chose yours as an article i have written about it.. but the only problem im facing now is when choosing an article it should be at least 1000 words, your article is 888word. is there any way you can expand “the case against euthanasia” further and then give me the source because i have already written about it.

    thank you so much
    regs, UK

  23. hi bill
    i really like your website. it gives me idea in preparing our upcoming class debate. Im on the negative side,can you give me another alternatives against euthanasia aside from palliative care?

    much thanks bill,
    Jaycilyn Luyas

  24. I just want to thank you for this article. As a person with a disability I wish more people could see the dangers of legalizing euthanasia. I live in Canada and they are currently fighting to legalize this here, I wish more people would speak up against it.
    Sherri Barrow, Canada

  25. Dear Mr. Muehlenberg,

    Hi, my name is Kevin Chuang. I’m an 8th grader who goes to Morrison Academy Kaohsiung in Taiwan. Recently for our Language Arts class we are doing project that requires me to research about reasons that euthanasia should not be allowed. So for this week our teacher gave us some time to research, and while I was researching I bumped into your blog. I found your blog very powerful, attacking emotions, logics, and so many other things. If you have time, would you be willing to answer some of my questions? First, I want to ask you about how can we make palliative care more affordable to more people. Please, don’t get me wrong, I do think that human life should be put above money, but it is a fact that Palliative Care requires more money than euthanasia, which causes more people to choose euthanasia. Second, how can we argue against some specific cases, which really make the lives of those terminally ill look like hell. Sometimes when we read some specific cases, their lives sometimes do seem very painful, and when others argue in favor of euthanasia, I find it very difficult to rebut that argument. Third, how can we argue against that it is the patient’s choice to choose euthanasia? I already went and looked at the reports of abuses in America and the Netherlands, but are there more support I can give to this argument? Thank you for spending your time to look at my questions!

    Kevin Chuang, Taiwan

  26. Thanks Kevin. You ask some good questions which cannot so easily be answered in a short comment here, but I will try. Many of the answers you are looking for can be found in my 34 other articles on euthanasia here:

    One. If governments would put more emphasis on palliative care, that would help to bring the costs down. And arguments for money alone do not carry the day. All end-of-life health care is expensive. If we really wanted to save money, we would cut all such care. In fact, to save even more money, we should cut all health care to all people at any age! That would save heaps of money! So economic considerations are only part of the equation of course.

    Two. As I said here and elsewhere, suitable pain management is getting better all the time, and only a tiny minority of people experience the “hell” you mention. And again, compassion for people should mean relieving the suffering, not killing the sufferer. And we can always find such hard, emotive cases here. But hard cases make for bad law. The law should reflect the normal range of cases, not the rare, hard cases.

    Three. Most nations throughout human history have rightly not allowed people unlimited rights to do anything, thus most countries have laws against suicide. Individual rights must always be balanced against the concerns of the greater community.

    Thanks for your questions.

    Bill Muehlenberg, CultureWatch

  27. Great article Bill.
    My inner proof-reader wants to point out that ‘rejects a heart transplant’ has two possible meanings. I know which one you intended. Perhaps ‘declined’? ?

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