• Top 10 Pro & Con Arguments

Should euthanasia or physician-assisted suicide be legal?

  • Legalization
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  • Vulnerable Groups
  • Hippocratic Oath
  • Legal Right
  • Slippery Slope
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We are able to choose all kinds of things in life from who we marry to what kind of work we do and I think when one comes to the end of one’s life, whether you have a terminal illness or whether you’re elderly, you should have a choice about what happens to you…

I’m pro life – I want to live as long as I possibly can, but l also believe the law should be changed to let anyone with some severe medical condition which is causing unbearable symptoms to have an assisted suicide. I wouldn’t want to be unnecessarily kept alive against my own will.”

Coordinator, Society for Old Age Rational Suicide (SOARS)
“Euthanasia: The Right to Die Should Be a Matter of Personal Choice,”
Aug. 19, 2013

Public Policy Fellow, Center for Ethics and Culture, University of Notre Dame
“Q&A with the Scholars: Physician-Assisted Suicide and Euthanasia,” Lozier Institute website
Jan. 30, 2017
on the ballot in November. In 1997, as executive editor of the New England Journal of Medicine, when the issue was before the US Supreme Court, I wrote an editorial favoring it, and told the story of my father, who shot himself rather than endure a protracted death from metastatic cancer of the prostate.

It seems to me that, as with opposition based on whether the physician is ‘active,’ the argument that physicians should be only ‘healers’ focuses too much on the physician, and not enough on the patient. When healing is no longer possible, when death is imminent and patients find their suffering unbearable, then the physician’s role should shift from healing to relieving suffering in accord with the patient’s wishes. Still, no physician should have to comply with a request to assist a terminally ill patient to die, just as no patient should be coerced into making such a request. It must be a choice for both patient and physician.”

Senior Lecturer in Social Medicine, Harvard Medical School
“May Doctors Help You to Die?,”
Oct. 11, 2012

, ama-assn.org
June 2016

Governor of California
Statement upon signing ABx2 15, gov.ca.gov
Oct. 15, 2015

There would be other long-term consequences of legalising euthanasia that we cannot yet envisage. We can be sure that these consequences would be pernicious, however, because they would emanate from an initiative which, while nobly motivated, is wrong in principle – attempting to deal with the problems of human beings by killing them.”

Australian politician and former member of the Victorian Legislative Council
“Opinion: Why We Should Not Legalize Euthanasia,”
Nov. 13, 2010

Professor of Moral Philosophy, University of Oxford
“Assisted Dying and Protecting the Vulnerable,” blog.practicalethics.oc.ac.uk
Sep. 17, 2015

The truth is that assisted suicide as public policy is rife with dangerous loopholes and consequences, especially for the vulnerable in our society. We should reject laws that legalize the practice.”

President and CEO of the American Association of People with Disabilities
“Assisted Suicide Laws Are Creating a ‘Duty-to-Die’ Medical Culture,” thehill.com
Dec. 17, 2017

Retired family doctor
“Doctors Debate the Ethics of Assisted Suicide,” scpr.org
May 18, 2015

I believe that the ambivalence and discomfort experienced by a substantial percentage of PAS-participating physicians is directly connected to the Hippocratic Oath – arguably, the most important foundational document in medical ethics. The Oath clearly states: ‘I will neither give a deadly drug to anybody if asked for it, nor will I make a suggestion to this effect.’…

Indeed, when patients nearing the end of life express fears of losing control, or being deprived of dignity, compassionate and supportive counseling is called for – not assistance in committing suicide.”

Emeritus Professor of Psychiatry, SUNY Upstate Medical University
“How Does Assisting Suicide Affect Physicians?,” theconversation.com
Jan. 7, 2018

US Senator (R-OK)
Consideration of House Resolution 2260, Pain Relief Promotion Act of 1999, gpo.gov
Oct. 27, 1999

Professor of Law, Dalhousie University
“Fact Check: Has Assisted Dying Been a Legal Slippery Slope Overseas?,” abc.net.au
July 15, 2018

Indeed, this has materialised to some degree, whether by a formal extension of categories of persons to whom euthanasia is allowed, or by loose application of criteria by personnel involved in the administration of euthanasia. For example, Belgium removed the age restriction for euthanasia in 2014; assisted death has extended beyond the line originally drawn by the law in the Netherlands to patients regarded as legally and mentally incompetent and the possibility of extension to those who are not terminally ill but feel their lives are complete is being considered; severe psychic pain in and otherwise healthy person has been thought sufficient ground for requesting euthanasia; and researchers have found cases of non-voluntary euthanasia in the form of the termination of lives of disabled infants in the Netherlands.

Denying euthanasia honours the sanctity of life and the equal, underived, intrinsic moral worth of all persons, including the very weakest who can no longer contribute to society – principles of which so many other laws pivot.”

Associate Professor of Law, Singapore Management University and Solicitor
“The Case against Physician-Assisted Suicide and Voluntary Active Euthanasia,”
Aug. 2017

Opposing euthanasia to palliative care…neither reflects the Dutch reality that palliative medicine is incorporated within end-of-life care nor the place of the option of assisted death at the request of a patient within the overall spectrum of end-of-life care.”

Associate Professor in Medical Philosophy, Center for Ethics and Philosophy at Vrije Universiteit, Amsterdam
Professor in Philosophy and Medical Ethics, Center of Ethics and Philosophy at the Vrije Universiteit Medical Center, Amsterdam
“Assisted Death in the Netherlands: Physician at the Bedside When Help Is Requested,”

Professor in the Department of Neurology, Weill Medical College of Cornell University
Professor in the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, New York Medical College


Professor of Palliative Care, Medicine, and Psychiatry, University of Rochester
“Should Physicians Help Terminal Patients Die?,” medscape.com
Aug. 25, 2016

Professor of Philosophy, City University of New York
“Physician, Stay Thy Hand!,”

“The Facts: Medical Aid in Dying in the United States,” compassionandchoices.org
Dec. 2016

President and CEO, American Association of People with Disabilities
“Assisted Suicide Laws Are Creating a ‘Duty-to-Die’ Medical Culture,” thehill.com
Dec. 17, 2017

argumentative essay on animal euthanasia

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Philosophy of a “Good Death” in Small Animals and Consequences for Euthanasia in Animal Law and Veterinary Practice

Kirsten persson.

1 Stiftung Tierärztliche Hochschule Hannover, Bünteweg 9, 30559 Hannover, Germany; [email protected]

Felicitas Selter

2 Medizinische Hochschule Hannover, Carl-Neuberg-Straße 1, 30625 Hannover, Germany; [email protected] (F.S.); [email protected] (G.N.)

Gerald Neitzke

Peter kunzmann, simple summary.

Euthanasia in veterinary practice is often discussed as one of the profession’s major burdens. At the same time, it is meant to bring relief to terminally ill and/or severely suffering animal patients. This article examines “euthanasia” from a philosophical perspective regarding different definitions and underlying basic assumptions concerning the meaning of death and welfare for nonhuman animals. These theoretical issues will then be discussed in relation to laws and guidelines on euthanasia and practical challenges with end-of-life decisions in small animal practice. Factors which are identified as potential causes of the complex problems regarding euthanasia are as follows: the confusing framework for euthanasia in law and soft regulations; the inclusion of many stakeholders’ perspectives in end-of-life decision-making; potential conflicts between the veterinarians’ personal morality and legal requirements and professional expectations; and, most of all, the veterinarians’ lack of awareness for underlying philosophical assumptions regarding possible understandings of euthanasia. Different practical suggestions are made to clarify and facilitate euthanasia in small animal practice.

Moral stress is a major concern in veterinary practice. Often, it is associated with the challenges in end-of-life situations. Euthanasia, however, is also meant to bring relief to animal patients and their owners. The reasons for the moral strain euthanizing animals causes to professional veterinarians need to be further clarified. This article investigates “euthanasia” from a philosophical, legal, and practical perspective. After introducing relevant aspects of euthanasia in small animal practice, the term is analyzed from an ethical point of view. That includes both a broad and a narrow definition of “euthanasia” and underlying assumptions regarding different accounts of animal death and well-being. Then, legal and soft regulations are discussed with regard to the theoretical aspects and practical challenges, also including questions of personal morality. It is argued that the importance of ethical definitions and assumptions concerning euthanasia and their intertwinement with both law and practical challenges should not be neglected. The conclusion is that veterinarians should clarify the reasons for their potential discomfort and that they should be supported by improved decision-making tools, by implementation of theoretical and practical ethics in veterinary education, and by updated animal welfare legislation.

1. Introduction

Euthanasia is an established part of veterinarian practice. The “good death” (Greek “ eu ” and “ thanatos ”) is meant to bring relief to animals and their owners. Nevertheless, many veterinarians consider it to be one of the profession’s major burdens, and many owners of companion animals feel overwhelmed by the need to make a decision on behalf of vulnerable individuals. On the one hand, the phenomenon of moral stress [ 1 ] and the alarmingly high suicide rate among veterinarians are often associated with their professional obligation to kill their patients [ 2 , 3 , 4 ]. This, on the other hand, is not reflected in the concept of euthanasia as a powerful tool that has been at the veterinarians’ (while not at the human medical doctors’: Human euthanasia is illegal in most countries. Exceptions are Benelux, Canada, and Colombia.) disposal for good reasons.

This article investigates the interrelations of philosophical considerations with laws and guidelines, personal moral attitudes, and practical context and constraints as the potential causes for the striking ambivalence that accompanies euthanasia in small animal practice.

The frequency and diversity of euthanasia cases are dependent on both the legal framework of a country and the veterinarian’s working environment. What is perceived as stressful or burdensome, however, can also be based on motivational or other psychological properties of the individual veterinarian. Representing an American perspective on the issue, Rollin [ 1 ] claims that the crucial conflict lies in the discrepancy between the reasons for choosing the profession, these being the animals’ advocate, helping animals, etc., and the necessary choices and actions of a veterinarian’s daily routine, like having to decide in favor of the owner’s instead of the patient’s interests, killing surplus animals in shelters, and so forth. This assertion is especially true for those countries in which “convenience euthanasia” is legal and not uncommon.

There are, however, further potentially influential factors that contribute to the field of tension concerning end-of-life (EOL) decisions in small animal practice.

Despite euthanasia being a common process in veterinarians’ professional practice, research suggests that veterinarians do not feel well-prepared for the task during their theoretical education [ 5 , 6 ]. On the one hand, some veterinary students report decreasing empathy with animals during the course of their studies [ 7 , 8 ], which could facilitate coping with euthanasia, as trained veterinarians feel more detached from animals. On the other hand, euthanasia is one of the most frequently mentioned challenging or dilemma situations in small animal practice [ 9 ]. It is also judged to be most stressful [ 10 , 11 ], and, occasionally, performing euthanasia is even refused for moral reasons [ 12 ]. Although veterinarians are familiar with the legal framework, they often cannot name the relevant criteria or tools that they use in EOL decisions [ 3 , 9 ], and few are convinced that further development of such tools would be necessary and helpful [ 5 ]. The discourse on implementing more training regarding communication and ethical judgements skills in veterinary education cannot be fully elaborated here. Nonetheless, there is apparently some request for improvement [ 13 , 14 , 15 ].

A fundamental challenge, however, is also presented by the tension of the motivation underlying the choice to become a veterinarian in many cases; helping animals and improving their lives, on the one hand, and the mere act of taking their lives, leaving aside reasons and justifications, as part of the job as a veterinarian. It is, therefore, important to differentiate between moral stress due to killing animals per se (which makes euthanasia challenging per se) and moral stress due to killing animals for the wrong reasons (which asks for precise criteria for justified euthanasia); a difference that is not always clearly separated in the literature.

Furthermore, it is necessary to distinguish between a veterinarian’s patient-centered ethical approach (i.e., animal-centered or “care orientation” [ 16 ] (p 2)) that is led by empathy for the vulnerable individual and a balancing ethical approach (or “justice orientation” (ibid.)) that is based on the weighing of factors of all involved individuals, aiming at a fair outcome. While the veterinarian’s role of the animals’ advocate is still dominant in, for example, German-speaking European countries, the “Unit-of-Care” is an upcoming concept of the American animal hospice movement [ 17 , 18 ]. The latter focusses on the relationship between the companion animal and its owner and not only takes into consideration the animal’s needs, but also, for example, the owner’s religious beliefs or good death ideals.

We thus argue that the problem of moral stress linked to EOL decisions in small animal practice is as follows:

  • Multilayered;
  • Linked to psychological factors like professional motivation;
  • Linked to conceptual confusion regarding uses of “euthanasia”;
  • Linked to a lack of reflection of theoretical differentiations in laws and guidelines.

Having introduced current challenges with EOL decisions in veterinary practice (cf. 1. Introduction, we next examine euthanasia from a philosophical perspective, regarding different definitions, connotations, and basic assumptions (cf. 2. Euthanasia in Ethics). In a third step, laws and guidelines on euthanasia will be considered in relation to the practical and theoretical issues raised in the first two sections (cf.3. Euthanasia in Laws and Guidelines). Finally, the analysis will be discussed, addressing a number of specific problems that emerge for veterinarians in the context of euthanasia.

2. Euthanasia in Ethics

Justification for killing nonhuman animals is a crucial issue in animal ethics. Amongst other contexts, such as slaughtering, self-defense, culling, or killing in research and testing, euthanasia is prima facie considered ethically justifiable. However, this judgement depends on different factors: first, there are two fundamentally different definitions of euthanasia; second, these different definitions indicate multiple underlying accounts of the meaning of death and, third, different accounts of welfare for nonhuman animals. These distinctions are also related to different criteria for a death being “good”.

2.1. There Are Different Definitions of “Euthanasia”

When used in human medical ethics, the widely accepted meaning of the term “euthanasia” depends on the context, such as a country’s legal guidelines and medical practice. It is a blurry and loaded concept that requires semantic clarification ahead of ethical debate [ 19 ]. It may be helpful to state the same regarding the euthanasia discourse in veterinary medicine, as it is used for procedures which differ in ethically relevant aspects. There are even requests for a new term or terms to provide more precise linguistic concepts when talking about killing animals: “The term euthanasia, defined as an act which fulfils the interest of the one who will die and motivated by a moral imperative, applies to one form of morally justifiable killing of animals, but we need terminology that recognises the distinction between these and poorly justified or ethically unjustifiable killing of animals” [ 20 ] (p 217).

2.1.1. At Present, There Is a Broader Definition that Explicitly Widens the Literal Meaning

In the Encyclopedia of Animal Rights and Animal Welfare , it reads, “The definition of euthanasia differs slightly in veterinary medicine and human medicine. In human medicine, the term is restricted to ‘mercy killing’—killing a patient when death is a welcome relief from a life that has become too painful or no longer worth living. The definition is broader in veterinary medicine, however, including as well the euthanasia of healthy animals for owner convenience, for reasons of overpopulation, for behavior problems, or as donors of tissues [sic] for research” [ 21 ] (p 164).

Clearly, this definition is taken from the context of application and focuses on the action of euthanizing. The reference to veterinary medicine suggests that euthanasia is conducted for reasons which lie far beyond the patient’s best interest, in a strict sense. Thereby, this definition is descriptive and formed empirically rather than being prescriptive and guiding. Despite the concept’s problematic origin, the broad definition is mirrored in some guidelines (cf. 3. Euthanasia in Laws and Guidelines.), pointing out that euthanasia is performed when a veterinarian intentionally kills a patient independent of the patient’s interest. Defined in that sense, the term “euthanasia” is problematic in different ways: First, it lacks the normative impact that is strongly intertwined with the account of providing a “good death” for a patient, unless “good” is understood in a very weak, instrumental sense, meaning “painless” and “following a standard protocol”. If death caused by a veterinarian is by definition a good death—possibly because it is painless—the veterinarian does not gain any decision criteria besides the methodically correct execution of the euthanasia process. The second problem of the definition is therefore the shift in responsibility to the veterinarian. If it is his/her action that transforms the killing of a companion animal into a good death, he/she needs to decide on the basis of further, unspecified criteria if and when euthanasia is (not) indicated. A third aspect is the addressed contrast to euthanasia in human medicine. If humans are euthanized by medical doctors in their best interest (following their individual request), whereas nonhuman animals are euthanized by a veterinarian for any reason, the following issues must be raised:

  • If animals do not have a best interest regarding a prolongation or ending of their lives (ontological difference);
  • If it is not possible to determine the animals’ best interest (epistemic problem); or
  • If there is a distinct best interest but it does not have to be considered or is outweighed by the owner’s interest in the process of euthanasia (moral difference).

To bring up further confusion regarding the use of the word, there is the account of “involuntary euthanasia” used for crimes against humanity, such as in World War II, but also in medical ethics, when a patient did not consent to euthanasia despite being able to give consent. Additionally, the term “nonvoluntary euthanasia” is used when a patient is not or no longer able to give consent, but death is presumed to be in the patient’s best interest. If the terms can correctly be applied to nonhuman animals, euthanasia performed in veterinary practice should be classified as either nonvoluntary (when relieving animals from suffering) [ 22 ] or involuntary (when animals are killed for other reasons). In contrast to that, Yeates [ 23 ] suggests that the relevant criterion here lies in the owner’s will, in a way that “involuntary euthanasia” refers to situations where there is no agreement or disagreement to euthanasia by a (potential) owner, “nonvoluntary euthanasia” should be used to indicate that the animal is euthanized against the owner’s wishes and “voluntary euthanasia” for those instances where the owner agreed to euthanize the animal.

It is, however, more plausible to fully abandon those terms when talking about nonhuman animals, as they refer to the absence of autonomous human consent. Animals are nonautonomous patients and thereby per se unable to give consent—or to use Cholbi’s words [ 22 ] (p 266) “[a]nimals do not consent to their own death, nor would it make sense to ask them to do so”. If they cannot be euthanized voluntarily, the use of the terms “involuntary” or “nonvoluntary” is questionable. Not having access to their potential interest in dying or staying alive makes using the term “involuntary” euthanasia—at best—tautological. Furthermore, it makes euthanasia of companion animals a very different act from the euthanasia of humans: We assume that a per se nonautonomous creature would consent to be euthanized if it had all the information and capacities we have, knowing, at the same time, that it is exactly the difference between us (humans) and it (the nonautonomous animal) that makes a huge difference in the decision.

2.1.2. There Is a Narrow Definition in the Literal Sense of the Term

If euthanasia is understood in the literal sense as “proper euthanasia” [ 24 ] (p 21), it is defined as the (painless) killing of an individual by a veterinarian, if ending its life is presumably in the individual’s interest. The focus here is rather on the intention when euthanizing than on the action itself.

This narrow and less counter-intuitive definition is, likewise, demanding regarding several aspects. However, it is based on the following assumptions:

  • Firstly, animals do have an interest in not continuing their lives under certain circumstances (ontological premise);
  • Or animals do generally not have an interest in prolonging their lives but only in minimizing their negative mental states and maximizing their positive mental states or following their “telos” [ 25 ] (p 49) (ontological premise);
  • Secondly, veterinarians and/or owners have access to the individual animal’s interests and are therefore able to weigh the companion animal’s suffering against its interest to live on (epistemological premise);
  • Or humans do not have access to the animal’s distinct interests, but they are sufficiently competent to approximately find the point of time when continuing to live—objectively—would be worse than to die and are therefore permitted and in specific cases even obligated to end an animal’s life (life comparative account according to Cholbi [ 22 ]).

The broader as well as the narrow definition need to be accompanied by ethical considerations. The broader definition points towards the veterinarian’s ethical competencies, as he/she is the one to professionally judge cases and conduct the procedure correctly according to prescribed/formal standards. Economic and practical constraints are crucial aspects of the decision-making process, especially when considering laboratory and shelter animals.

These factors lead to a potential third definition suggested by Yeates [ 23 ], which he calls “‘contextually-justified euthanasia’ where an animal could have a life worth living in an ideal world, but the circumstances mean that that opportunity is not worthwhile. This may be due to an owner’s unreasonableness or the fault of society, but the veterinarian should not feel guilty for ‘making the best of a bad job’” (p 71). Yeates’s way of putting emphasis on the context of the case is strongly reflected in guidelines for end-of-life decision in companion animals (cf. 3. Euthanasia in Laws and Guidelines.). As much as this effort can be practically and psychologically helpful for veterinarians, it might prevent thorough reflection on factors that are crucial for euthanasia in the narrow sense, e.g., the animal’s presumed best interest and quality of life.

The debate regarding the narrow definition of euthanasia (“in their own interest”) touches very basic questions of animal philosophy and cognition (especially their account of their future life) and animal ethics (weighing up the harm of suffering and the harm of death). Once the abovementioned underlying assumptions are accepted (ontological premise and epistemological premise or life comparative account), the EOL debate focusses mainly on the best point of time to end an animal’s life rather than on the question if euthanasia is in the animal’s interest at all.

2.2. There Are Different Accounts of the Meaning of Death for Nonhuman Animals

For the narrow definition of euthanasia, it is important to clarify the meaning of death for nonhuman animals. Although it is questionable—like for many other issues in animal ethics— whether general claims can be made for all kinds of animals, the patients in small animal practice represent a rather homogenous group (mainly cats, dogs, other small mammals, and birds) regarding their potential perception of death and dying.

There is no scientific and conceptual agreement on the meaning of death—and, consequently, of killing—for nonhuman animals. Judgements whether death harms an animal are dependent on the account of harm, which is a thick concept (see, for example, different meanings of harm in Belshaw [ 26 ]). The discourse spans quite a spectrum of views, which is why only exemplary positions are presented here. For a more comprising discussion, see, for example, Harman [ 27 ].

2.2.1. Death Does Not Matter Morally

At one end of the spectrum, there is the claim that (individual) animal death does not matter morally. A prominent utilitarian view is known as the replaceability argument, as Singer explains it for fishes [ 28 ] (p 126). Death of a sentient being that lacks certain cognitive capacities does not mean harm as long as the living being is replaced by another being of the same kind. Welfare in this perspective is not linked to a specific individual but only taken into account overall. As long as the next individual reaches roughly the same amount of overall well-being, therefore, it is not morally relevant if the former individual is killed. Death, in that account, does not harm a merely sentient animal. For criticism of this view, see, for example, Višak [ 29 ].

2.2.2. Death Is the Greatest Harm

In contrast to that, it can be suggested that death is the most severe harm to animals, even if they have no understanding of death themselves. According to this position, they are living organisms that strive to go on living [ 30 ] or that have an inherent worth [ 31 ]. This view is detached from the subjective view of the animal individual. The argument why living organisms as such should be direct moral objects or have an inherent worth can only be found in the general attitude of a biocentric worldview which is metaphysically demanding. Schweitzer’s approach is critically discussed in more detail, for example, by Eck [ 32 ].

2.2.3. Death and Suffering Must Be Weighed

There are several moral theories on the killing of animals that take a middle ground between these two extreme positions. Two of these are the life comparative account and the time-relative interest account. The former suggests that death is prima facie harmful to animals and that the harm of death has to be weighed against the harm of suffering accompanying the longer life (e.g., Cholbi [ 22 ]). Death can be harmful or beneficial depending on the prospective quality of life. On the one hand, death deprives the individual of potentially good experiences; on the other hand, it can prevent an individual from living a life full of suffering. Even if it is not clear whether nonhuman animals might be able to develop a desire to die under certain circumstances, death can be in their best interest. There is, additionally, an ongoing debate, if (and if yes, which) nonhuman animals are able to make plans or have expectations regarding their future lives. These abilities, in turn, become morally relevant in accounts such as the so-called time-relative interest account [ 33 ], which considers not only the mere loss of future positive mental states but also the individual’s degree of psychological connectedness between their current and their future self. For a more elaborate discussion of this debate, see, for example, Selter [ 34 ].

2.2.4. Death Harms the Animal, but that Is Not Morally Relevant

Alternatively, Belshaw [ 26 ] suggests it is possible to acknowledge that death harms the animal, while also questioning the moral relevance of this observation. As animals are unable to have categorical desires, their death has the same moral relevance as the death of plants: It is harmful to the individual, which can be morally significant on an indirect or instrumental level, but not in a sense of direct moral relevance regarding the dying individual. Using harm in this purely descriptive sense is a clear outlier in the face of the abovementioned positions that use “harm” as a normative term, implicitly stating that it is something a moral agent generally wants to prevent.

2.3. There Are Different Accounts on the Meaning of Welfare/Well-Being for Nonhuman Animals

In EOL situations, the patient’s (presumed) quality of life is one of the crucial criteria for decisions. Similar to medically incapacitated humans, there is no way of directly accessing an animal’s quality of life. Potentially relevant parameters are subject to scientific and (critical) philosophic investigations in animal-welfare studies [ 35 , 36 , 37 ]. However, there is an ongoing debate on the best way and the best person to judge an animal’s subjective well-being. On the one hand, the patient’s owners, although being those who know a companion animal best, might be biased by their anthropomorphic conception of the animal’s preferences, emotions and well-being [ 38 ]. In addition to that, their emotional links with the animal might cloud their judgement. For veterinarians, on the other hand, the concept of animal welfare is usually linked to farm animal welfare and the five freedoms [ 39 ]. Still, they are attributed Aesculapian authority, which includes the final saying when it comes to dilemma situations. Carrying that responsibility, they should be aware that there is a range of accounts on animal welfare (objective), animal well-being (subjective), and animal quality of life.

2.3.1. Narrow Hedonism

In narrow hedonism, the focus is on the avoidance of negative welfare states such as pain, stress, suffering and lack of fulfilment of basic needs. Although narrow hedonism is implemented in prominent animal welfare concepts such as the five freedoms, it is criticized for its logical consequences: “If avoiding suffering was truly all that mattered, then every animal should be killed as soon as possible, since this would ensure the absence of suffering” [ 24 ] (p 20). See also Fawcett [ 20 ].

2.3.2. Broad Hedonism

Therefore, the concept of broad hedonism suggests considering both negative and positive mental states when evaluating an animal’s welfare. If we take positive mental states into account, then we might question cases in which a painless death is considered permissible (but not obligatory), for example when killing surplus animals in shelters. Ending a life with net positive well-being might be seen as doing harm when adopting an account of broad hedonism [ 24 ] (p 23). This view is also supported by the suggestion of promoting a “live worth living” [ 40 ] (p 32) in addition to preventing a “live worth avoiding” (ibid.).

2.3.3. Quantity Versus Quality of Life

Much like in EOL debates in human medicine, there is a challenging weighing process, linked to the assumption that keeping a patient alive should always be prioritized: prolonging life without increasing quality of life might cause more harm than good. With progress in veterinary medicine and the attitude to consider companion animals as family members, it is possible to keep animals alive until a very old age or until a disease has progressed quite far. If being alive is not considered a value in itself (cf. 2.2.2. Death Is the Greatest Harm), the quality of life has to be measured separately [ 1 ].

3. Euthanasia in Laws and Guidelines

Dealing with veterinarians’ practice, laws and guidelines that establish rules for euthanasia introduce even further perspectives, i.e., the animal owner’s and also public interests. The guidelines implicitly answer the question to which degree the justification of euthanasia may be based not only on the perceived animal’s interests but also on human interests, especially on those of the animal’s owners, as well as public financial or safety interests. Legislation and soft regulation in this respect offer an interesting range of verdicts: regulations, e.g., in Germany and Austria consider the protection of animals’ lives as an objective of the law and therefore demand a “good reason” [ 41 ] to end this life. In other cultures, EOL decisions in the case of animals are based more clearly on human interests.

The general shift in societal human–animal relations presents a challenge to existing laws and it has not yet been sufficiently implemented. Correspondingly, upcoming requests for justifications of morally relevant actions involving animals present a contrast to the outdated, however legally manifested, assumption that it is self-evident that animals are at humans’ command.

In companion animals, the concept of “convenience euthanasia”, i.e., euthanizing a pet against her or his presumed interest but merely due to the patient’s owner’s wishes, is legally prohibited in German-speaking countries, but common routine elsewhere (cf. 1. Introduction). However, there are cases in which the given context questions a clear distinction between cases of euthanasia in the animal’s presumed best interest and those of euthanasia in the owner’s but not the animal’s interest, for example, as subsumed in Yeats’s [ 23 ] account of “contextually justified euthanasia”.

Euthanasia is regulated in the Animal Welfare Acts of several countries worldwide (considered in this article: German, Swiss, Austrian, Swedish Animal Welfare Law). Additionally, there are legally nonbinding regulations by nongovernmental associations and organizations (considered in this article: Guidelines by the Australian Veterinary Association, Ethikkodex TÄ Deutschland, Positionspapier der Schweizerischen Vereinigung für Kleintiermedizin, Ethische Grundsätze für den Tierarzt und die Tierärztin GSTSVS, British RCVS, AVMA Guidelines on Euthanasia, Decision tools by BVA’s Ethics and Welfare Group, Entscheidungshilfe Euthanasie bei Kleintieren [ 42 ]). Depending on their definition of euthanasia, they provide criteria like diagnosis, prognosis, nonmedical factors concerning the animal, the owner’s convenience, financial constraints, and potential further interests, to guide the decision-making process. While all laws and guidelines agree on some form of euthanasia being ethically justifiable, there is a broad spectrum of legally accepted good reasons. Most of those reasons are derived from a sentientist perspective, giving highest priority to the avoidance of animal suffering (narrow hedonism, cf. 2.3.1. Narrow Hedonism) and either denying the harm of death for nonhuman animals or weighing it as less important (cf. 2.2 Different Accounts of the Meaning of Death). The wording generally suggests a narrow account of euthanasia (AVMA Guidelines for the Euthanasia of Animals 2013; RCVS 2019).

An alternative understanding of the term is provided by the former EU Recommendations for Euthanasia of Experimental Animals. from 1997 [ 43 ] (p 3) , suggesting that euthanasia is performed if it is “an act of humane killing with the minimum of pain, fear and distress” without reference to the patient’s interest, but adding the objective that death should be “appropriate for the age” (ibid.). The current EU directive on this matter completely abandons the term “euthanasia” and provides specifics on “humane end-points” [ 44 ] (recital 14) and methods of killing, instead. The killing of laboratory animals can be called euthanasia if the broad definition of euthanasia is adopted. Generally, the term “humane killing” is more adequate when referring to killing an animal without pain and distress in a context of animal research and testing. Whether killing can also be in the laboratory animals’ presumed best interest (narrow definition) cannot be discussed in full here.

In other regulations, the inclusion of paragraphs like “destruction of ‘dangerous’ dogs” [ 45 ] (p 57) or expressions like “dealing[…]with the euthanasia of healthy, unwanted animals[…]” [ 46 ] (p 15) suggests that, at least implicitly, most regulations are based on the abovementioned broad definition of euthanasia, despite their rather explicit references to the animals’ best interests.

Although decision trees and algorithms are neither appreciated nor frequently used or asked for by the majority of veterinarians [ 47 ], there are numerous suggestions how to sort factors and criteria that are and should be considered in EOL decisions. These are often directly connected to the legal scope of a country. The British Veterinary Association, for example, provides an algorithm including questions like “Is the benefit to the owner of euthanasia greater than the harm to the animal?” [ 23 ] (p 73), whereas Herfen et al. [ 42 ] provide an algorithm that includes financial reasons as ultima ratio for euthanasia. The latter also go along with Yeates’s [ 23 ] suggestion of a contextually justified euthanasia as the algorithm takes the actual living circumstances of the patients and owners into account—and thereby spares the veterinarian the feeling of having performed euthanasia for morally wrong reasons. Furthermore, most of the legal provisions present a great scope for interpretation as they lack precise definitions of criteria for decisions (“good welfare”, “prolonged death”, “compromised welfare”, “continuing to live would be worse than death”, “the animal’s best interest”, etc.) in many cases. On the one hand, they present a necessary legal framework for professionals; on the other hand, they shift the responsibility to both veterinarians and companion animal owners to make the (ethically) right decision in each individual case.

4. Intermediate Result

Before discussing the matter, a brief classification of the various uses and definitions of euthanasia is provided (see Figure 1 ).

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Definitions of euthanasia.

The more criteria are added to the definition, the less cases classify as euthanasia. The classification starts from the very rough and unspecific definitions that only focus on the method of killing animals. Euthanasia then simply means killing (a) executed by a veterinarian and (b) with a method that avoids pain and distress; in these definitions, the reasons or the justification of the action are not considered at all.

Most definitions of euthanasia include further reflection of the motives of humans involved. They then specify euthanasia by contrasting it to other types of killing animals by mentioning the special interests behind the action. “Proper Euthanasia” [ 24 ] (p 21) is considered to be in the animal’s interest, whereas other occasions of killing animals (hunting or slaughter) are purely based on human interests. There is a great variety of theories of what may be considered to count as an interest of an animal, e.g., weighing death against suffering, and judging it to be the minor evil.

Definitions within the context of theories that deny animals own interests to carry on living (for whatever reason), may only refer to the painless character of the action in itself.

An even broader type of definition may also include the interest of the animal’s owner. In case the ending of an animal’s life is not beneficial for the animal itself, these definitions would also take into account the perspective of the owner. The owner may wish to keep his or her animal alive but is unable to provide the necessary resources (contextually justified) or he or she simply wants to end the animal’s life and his or her desires are simply considered to be overriding: Euthanasia then would be called “convenient”.

Additionally, there are cases of public interest, such as the elimination of potentially dangerous animals, the killing of surplus animals in laboratories and shelters or the financial burden of livestock-attacking dogs. There is a broad spectrum of views on many animal-related issues, such as animal research and testing, breeding of certain breeds, killing animals in shelters, etc. However, we refer to procedures that are performed for financial reasons or safety reasons and thereby supposedly in the interest of the public. Here, neither the owner nor the companion animal has an interest in ending the animal’s life, but societal aspects justify what is still subsumed under “euthanasia”. For those reasons, it can be helpful to establish a new terminology, including cases of morally justifiable killing which are not cases of euthanasia [ 20 ].

5. Discussion

In light of the ethical and legal aspects, it is possible to systematically look at the sources of challenges in EOL decisions in small animal practice.

5.1. It Is Possible that Practical Constraints Are Guiding EOL Decisions, While Veterinarians Feel They Should Not

There are reasons why Yeates [ 23 ] suggests a concept of “contextually justified” euthanasia and why Herfen et al. [ 42 ] develop an algorithm that includes the ultima ratio justification for financial reasons. The conflict between moral arguments favoring the animal’s life to continue and circumstances like time, effort and money that finally lead to euthanasia in spite of what is considered to be in the animal’s best interest is frequently mentioned when discussing moral stress among veterinarians (e.g., [ 1 , 9 ]). If this gap between personal ethical values and practical constraints was the main reason for the numerous cases of burnout and suicide among veterinarians, there should be a significant difference between those countries in which euthanasia is more strictly regulated and those in which convenience or crowded shelters are legitimate reasons for killing animals. Although precise figures are missing for many countries, there are, however, clear hints that cases of burnout and suicide are linked to the veterinarian profession worldwide [ 2 , 3 , 9 , 48 , 49 ]. While the abovementioned tools can provide some relief to those that can acknowledge the argumentative power of certain external circumstances, there is still the option not to euthanize if feeling uncomfortable about an owner’s request [ 12 ]. This, again, presents a field of tension for a veterinarian who defines himself as the animal’s advocate but at the same time as a service-provider to a client.

5.2. It Is Possible that Veterinarians Have a Fundamental Problem with Killing

Grounded in the quasi-universal human intuition that killing is morally wrong, veterinarians might feel some discomfort when putting an end to a companion animal’s life. In an Austrian study, veterinarians agreed to the statement “I see euthanasia as an unavoidable evil in my responsibility”. Furthermore, they were ambivalent regarding the statement “I am still not used to euthanizing animals” [ 9 ] (p 5). As parties being responsible for the decision, both owners and veterinarians report feeling guilty after euthanizing a pet, even if they are convinced it was an overall good decision [ 50 , 51 ]. This feeling is confrontedwith euthanasia being a common service in veterinary practice and therefore a procedure that is taught in veterinary schools and expected of a professional veterinarian. Furthermore, euthanasia is also legally defined and thereby supported as something acceptable. The commonly perceived intertwinement of legal norms and moral evaluation (see, e.g., Feldman [ 52 ] ) potentially confronts veterinarians with the impression of simultaneously doing something right (according to law) and wrong (according to their moral intuition). The lack of awareness for different accounts of animal death and welfare and especially a lacking access to what is ubiquitously referred to as “the animal’s best interest” might present a difficulty for veterinarians to explain their discomfort precisely or to dismiss it with a clear positioning within the possible spectrum of accounts.

5.3. It Is Possible that Veterinarians Think Euthanasia Is Acceptable, but They Are Not Able to Pinpoint Justifications

Intuitively, that is what might be expected of a veterinarian by a companion animal owner: The veterinarian gives a clear diagnosis and prognosis and some advice on how to come to a good EOL decision. If a veterinarian feels confident to decide intuitively in EOL situations and without precise criteria, the decision might still be acceptable for her and for the patient’s owner. If, however, she decides on the basis of what is legally required, she can be torn between contradictory and unclear statements: Is this euthanasia morally acceptable because the animal is free of pain and discomfort? Is the decision “appropriate for the age” [ 43 ] (p 3), and why is age an important factor? Data suggest that veterinarians indeed consider factors, like “Did the animal have a qualitatively and quantitatively positive life?” and “How is the animal’s future perspective?” [ 53 ] (p 210) [translated from German by the first author], but they do not further specify how they proceed in his weighing process or which factors give weight in favor of one decision or another. If the best explication for a decision is pointing to a law or guideline that is not clear regarding its normative assumptions or even contradictory, there is a clear challenge for veterinarians to create transparency about their criteria.

5.4. It Is Possible that Veterinarians Feel Mentally Torn between the Patient’s, the Owner’s, and the Public’s Interests

Not only the owners who are unwilling or unable to pay but also those who do not want to let go of their companion are part of small animal practice. Apart from that—depending on a country’s circumstances—crowded shelters, biting and game-killing dogs, stray animals, injured free-living animals, or the owner’s convenience are also part of veterinarian practice. Cases of aggressive fighting dogs injuring people, for example, often receive huge media attention (see, for example, [ 54 ]). A veterinarian who is acting for reasons of public safety in those cases also euthanizes a dog against the dog’s presumed interest.

At the same time, progress in veterinary medicine holds the potential for overtreating patients [ 55 ], an issue that has become an important concern in veterinary practice [ 56 ]. Owners who consider their companion animals as family members might want to make use of every possible treatment to keep their pet alive as long as possible—and presumably against the animal’s own interest in cases of an unfavorable prognosis. Again, tools might be helpful for veterinarians for weighing the interests of different parties.

6. Conclusions

The plurality of aspects coining the ethical discourse of animal death is not fully reflected in the veterinarian world—neither in laws and guidelines nor in small animal practice. Knesl et al. [ 10 ] state that “Euthanasia is an emotional, psychological, and economic issue that every veterinarian must wrestle with” (p 5). While this, unfortunately, seems to be true, it must be emphasized that euthanasia is also an ethical issue that veterinarians must deal with. They are bound to laws and advised by guidelines that are, although not explicitly, mainly based on pathocentric assumptions, i.e., the veterinarians’ attention is directed to the animals’ suffering. In a society that increasingly considers companion animals as family members, though, EOL situation and the value of their lives as such are gaining attention. Besides those individual considerations, research on and specializing in severe diseases in animals might be neglected as long as euthanasia presents an “easy way out”. This context is additionally supported by the American Animal Hospice Movement that provides a spectrum of services around EOL care but also alternative options to euthanasia. (For an elaborate discussion on animal hospice, see Joswig [ 17 ].) Finally, euthanasia does present a unique option for veterinarians to bring relief to both the patient and the owner in many cases and leaves the veterinarian with a powerful tool that physicians in human medicine are missing.

The increasing multilayer challenges regarding EOL decisions in small animal practice ask for the following:

  • Psychological support of veterinarians (and pet owners) in EOL decisions.
  • An adapted “toolbox” containing, for example, decision trees or handouts on a deliberate framework [ 10 ]. These tools should be implemented in teaching in veterinary schools, and their use should be demonstrated by experienced veterinarians (integrated ethics teaching).
  • A basic training in philosophical assumptions underlying different accounts on animal death, suffering, and welfare. If the veterinarians are familiar with the theory, their own positioning might be facilitated.
  • A more differentiated training in communication, especially in EOL situations.
  • An update in animal law regarding underlying assumptions about animal life, death, suffering and welfare.

At the same time, more practice-oriented work on the meaning of death for nonhuman animals and platforms for the intersection of veterinary ethics and practice could be beneficial for those veterinarians who experience their professional task as burdensome and those animal ethicists dealing with the challenges only theoretically.


Many thanks to Johanna Risse for her valuable thoughts and remarks on the topic.

Author Contributions

Formal analysis, K.P., F.S., G.N., and P.K.; funding acquisition, G.N. and P.K.; methodology, K.P.; project administration, G.N. and P.K.; supervision, G.N. and P.K.; visualization, P.K.; writing—original draft, K.P.; writing—review and editing, K.P., F.S., G.N., and P.K. All authors have read and agreed to the published version of the manuscript.

This research was funded by the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG), project number “AOBJ 651914”.

Conflicts of Interest

The authors declare no conflict of interest.

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Home > Books > Euthanasia - The "Good Death" Controversy in Humans and Animals

Debate For and Against Euthanasia in the Control of Dog Populations

Submitted: 25 October 2010 Published: 15 September 2011

DOI: 10.5772/18104

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Author Information

Antonio ortega-pacheco *.

  • Universidad Autonoma de Yucatan, Mexico

Matilde Jiménez-Coello *

*Address all correspondence to:

1. Introduction

Dogs share the same environment of humans and play an important role in their ecological adjustment. Since its domestication 12,000 to 15,000 years ago, they have been part of human evolution with increases on its population as humans settle down. Dogs provide social and health benefits to humans but they may also be involved in social conflicts such as bites, zoonosis, destruction of ecosystems, etc. As consequence of its uncontrolled and logarithmic growth on its population, several strategies have been taken in both developed and developing countries. Under these two scenarios, euthanasia is employed as part of the strategy to overcome the surplus of this species. However, ethical issues arise when healthy dogs are killed or methods used for euthanasia are inhumane and against international standards. Besides, euthanasia as a method to control the dog overpopulation has shown to be expensive and ineffective on long term. In humans euthanasia is restricted to compassion or “mercy” killing to relief the patient of an terminal disease or when life become too painful and with poor life expectative. In veterinary medicine the term euthanasia is broader since it also includes healthy animals such as dogs, for elective euthanasia considering owner convenience, reasons of overpopulation, for behavior problems or research purposes.

Canine overpopulation arises when uncontrolled breeding of dogs and irresponsible ownership act together. Dogs are promiscuous species by nature and since not a well defined seasonality occurs in this species, are ready to mate all through the year. Owners frequently claim their rights to own a dog but may be reluctant to take care of their responsibilities. If no laws to regulate dog ownership exist or if they exists but are not reinforced, the imminent consequence will be a surplus of the species ending on the streets or shelters. Even in shelters, it is estimated that 2 out of 3 animals entering a shelter won’t have a chance to be adopted and have to be euthanized.

Several methods for euthanasia in dogs have been used. Some are recommended by international associations and others are considered illegal in some countries. Barbiturates (pentobarbitone or pentobarbital sodium) are by most the more common used drug for euthanasia in dogs; barbiturates cause deep anesthesia and unconsciousness before leading to respiratory failure. However, in case of anesthetized animals other methods such as Magnesium sulfate, potassium salts, carbon monoxide gas and even captive bolt shots can be administrated. Some inacceptable methods, still used in some countries are the use of strychnine, electrocutation, cyanide, decapitation, drowning and curariform drugs (for example, succinylcholine).

This manuscript describes the situation of canine overpopulation and strategies to control it with special reference to the use of euthanasia. The use of mass euthanasia of stray dogs in developing countries and euthanasia performed in dog shelters will also be addressed. A fair description of methods used for euthanasia will be described. A general discussion about ethical and moral issues about the use of euthanasia methods to control the population of dog over plus and better strategies to address the problem will be generated.

2. Canine overpopulation and welfare

Dogs may be classified according to the level of supervision as restricted or supervised dogs (Fully dependent and fully restricted or supervised), family dogs (fully dependent; semi-restricted) which can have access to the streets, neighbourhood dog (semi-dependent, semi-restricted or unrestricted) and feral dog (independent, unrestricted, nobody takes responsibilities for it) ( World Health Organization [WHO], 1990 ). Neighbourhood dogs are recognized as the most common kind of dog present in urban and rural areas from developing countries ( Brooks, 1990 ; Orihuela & Solano, 1995 ; Fielding & Plumridge, 2005 ); those dogs are not necessary straying since may be allowed for freely roaming. In figure 1 an owned free roaming dog can be seen. Dog populations are very dynamics; after an initial exponential growth, the birth rate begins to decrease and the rate of death increases reaching equilibrium depending on the capacity of the environment to keep this balance (carrying capacity of the environment). The carrying capacity of the environment varies with habitat and it depends on the availability, distribution, and quality of the resources (shelter, food, water). In most cases if no control measures are taken, the density of a population of dogs is near the carrying capacity of the environment ( WHO, 1990 ). The increasing in the number of dogs in a community may vary according to different habitats, cultures, and socio-economical structures of human rural and urban populations and to different epidemiological situations ( Brooks, 1990 ; Margawani & Robertson 1995 ; Fielding & Plumridge 2005 ). Attitudes towards dogs have a great impact on its abundance and welfare. In developing countries dogs are relinquished and abandon to the streets by several reasons and become part of a stray population. India has one of the highest densities of stray dogs due to a large amount of edible litters on the streets, cultural tolerance of dogs and lack of consistently employed, sustained control programs ( Butcher, 1999 ). As consequence, general health status of stray dogs is bad with thin to emaciate body condition, skin conditions and tick infestation ( Totton et al., 2011 ). One of the critical factors leading to a fast growth of the canine population is the lack of control of birth rates as a result of failure to spay and castrate or to supervise pets. Free-roaming dogs, as a consequence, have indiscriminate promiscuity and a high birth rate achieving their maximal breeding efficiency. As result, most dogs are donated to other owners. These low or no cost pups can be responsible for a high number of the abandoned dogs ( Hsu et al., 2003 ) or high number of unwanted dogs sent to the pounds. In developed countries few dogs become stray but are relinquished to dog shelters including pure breeds. Although it is assumed that paying a large amount of money for a pure breed dog will ensure good care an permanent home, this is untrue and frequently the most popular breed are relinquished in greatest numbers (Available at: http://www.isaronline.citymax.com ). A population model based on dogs in the USA, used a birth and death rate of 12% and a turnover rate of 14%, which included stray dogs returning to the population of owned dogs. Of the dogs that died in this model (6.2 million), over a third (2.4 million) died in shelters ( Patronek & Rowan, 1995 ).

argumentative essay on animal euthanasia

An owned free roaming dog in a city

3. Methods of dog control population

There are many strategies to control dog populations but whatever the method used it should be based on ethical standpoints and/or practical experiences according to national/local situation avoiding animal suffering and when possible killing through effective, preventative programs. This ensures humane and sustainable solutions. Any program that only concentrates on the ‘end result’ such as euthanasia is provisional and do not solve the original problem. Strategies to control the overpopulation of free-roaming dogs include enforcement of law, education of owners and sterilization of pets. Dog-control programs are more widely used among the more-developed countries. In less-developed countries, dog control programs (when they existed at all) tended to employ killing methods (including poisoned baits), that are not recommended on animal-welfare grounds ( Dalla Villa et al., 2010 ). Mass culling of stray dog population has historically been used to control rabies in India ( Reece, 2007 ). Rabies has a high incidence in dogs in areas where dog populations reach high densities and where animals are poorly supervised (Wandeler & Bingham, 2000). Recommended control measures for dog rabies control include movement restriction, reproduction control, habitat control and removal of straying dogs. The removal of straying dogs by killing strategies cannot be effective in long term without the enforcement of laws and education of people. Free ranging domestic dogs are non-cooperative populations, i.e. they are not dependant on other animals of the same species to survive so any reduction in the population density through additional mortality is rapidly compensated by better reproduction and survival, and removal of the population to its maximum carrying capacity. In many developed countries stray dogs is a problem that has never risen because of different sanitary and ecological conditions but most important because of licensing programs, public education for responsible ownership and well-developed re-homing shelters.

Reducing birth rates may have a great influence in reducing dog relinquishment and consequently euthanasia. Surgical neutering is by far the most common method of birth control in dogs but it’s too expensive to be performed at large scale so in many countries because of it costs it may be restricted or even prohibited. Neutering and release strategies for stray dogs have been recommended similarly as used in the TNR for cats known as Animal Birth control (ABC) program ( Totton et al., 2011 ). The ABC program involve the capture, surgical sterilization and rabies vaccination of stray dogs with the whole idea to replace the sexually intact, unvaccinated stray dog population with a smaller population of infertile healthier dogs in order to reduce the population of dogs in a given area. To be effective in that, the work has to be intensive, 70% of the dogs should be neutered during one breeding cycle, which is approximately about the next six months ( Butcher, 1999 ; Reece, 2007 ). Success of ABC program in controlling the stray dog population has been state in India ( Reece and Chawla, 2006 ; Totton et al., 2010 ). However, dogs are always dependent on humans and releasing them back to the streets, although a progressively reduction in its numbers may occurs, that does not improve their health and still have the potential risk to bites and transmission of diseases. Under this panorama, euthanasia may be necessary considered. Besides, free-roaming cat populations have a high intrinsic growth rate, and euthanasia has proved to be more effective at reducing its populations than trap-neuter-return programs ( Andersen et al., 2004 ). Overcrowd of dog shelters because of recruitment of many dogs and lack of adoptions is also a reason of mass dog euthanasia.

A special mention is the dog meat consumption in Asian countries such as South Korea, China, Vietnan and Phillipines. In these countries eating dog is a socially acceptable practice. In South Korea for instance dog meat is eaten nationwide all year round. Their industry involves about 1,000,000 dogs killed yearly to supply the approximately 6,000 restaurants serving this food. A typical Korean dog slaughterhouse could have dogs ranging from poodles to beagles to Korean Jindo dogs; dogs are also imported from Laos to cover the demand. In China the Saint Bernard breed is becoming popular for food consumption for the fast growth of the puppies and animals are slaughtered between 6 and 12 months of age for best size and tenderness. Under these circumstances, the population of dogs may be dramatically reduced. The controversy in this case is not because of the consumption of dog meat itself or the results of this practice on reduce the population, but factors like cruelty involved with the killing. No country in the world consuming dog meat has developed a humane method of dog slaughter under intensive farming practices. Currently, cruel methods are being used including beating, strangling, boiling and bleed to death (by cutting holes in their paws) and sometimes dogs are skinned while still alive.

4. Euthanasia in dogs

In veterinary medicine the alternative to euthanasia is in many cases considered as a “clinical act”; it doesn’t mean a failure in veterinary practice, but rather a prudent withdraws in time to avoid further suffering, when we know that there is no alternative to ensure an adequate quality of life. In general, euthanasia of dogs is banned except in special justified cases such as seriously or incurably ill or proven to be dangerous dogs. However, in many countries due to the legal classification of animals as personal property, the owner has the right of ownership over his animal so that the pet can selling or killed ( Passantino et al., 2006 ). In this view a request for euthanasia is licit, whatever the animal’s state of health may be. Euthanasia must be carried out exclusively by an experienced veterinarian. When euthanasia of a healthy owned dog is requested by its owner, the veterinarian should reproach such a request based on their professional ethic code and look for more appropriate options. Veterinarians counsel pet owners on daily basis and have the knowledge and “authority” to heal human culture so they may have an important role in reducing dog euthanasia ( Scarlett et al., 2002 ). Relinquishing of dogs is the beginning to the “euthanasia route” and in many cases behavioral problems such as inappropriate elimination ( Voith & Borchel, 1982 ; Patronek et al., 1996 ), aggressive behavior ( Patronek et al., 1996 ), and other behavioral problems are involve in the relinquishment. A study of dog euthanasia from Denmark in 1997-1998 showed that, of the 2,493 euthanized dogs surveyed, 23.6 % were euthanased in response to behavioural problems ( Mikkelsen & Lund, 1999 ). A high proportion of adopted stray dogs from pounds are bringing back to the pounds for several reasons. In a dog pound from Italy, from 1,789 adopted dogs, 271 (15%) where brought back because of behavioral problems ( Mondelli et al., 2002 )

Several societies such as the World Society for the Protection of Animals does not condone mass destruction as a control population measure of dogs and cats when there are circumstances when euthanasia is the most humane option. Animals considered for euthanasia should include those sick or dangerous. However, euthanasia can also be acceptable in animals unsuitable for homing or returned to the streets or to alleviate shelter overcrowding which compromise the welfare of animals held there ( World Society for the Protection of Animals [WSPA], 2000 ). In Italy since 1991, national legislation does not permit euthanasia of unwanted roaming dogs unless they have an incurable condition or are proven to be dangerous. Unattended dogs are placed in long-term shelters in questionable conditions where they often remain for most of their lives ( Dalla Villa et al., 2008 ). Consequences of such decisions may alter the dynamic of dog populations if no other control measures are considered to reduce the number of dogs, especially those stray. For instance, in animal shelters from Barcelona Spain in 2003 routine euthanasia of unclaimed stray animals was discontinued, due to a political decision of the city council. However the suspension of routine euthanasia was associated with a marked increase in the number of stray dogs. Canine distemper became endemic in the shelter until late 2004, due to a certain unwillingness to use euthanasia to control infection transmission ( García-Rodríguez et al., 2008 ).

When euthanasia is considered, several methods are available for dogs but not all are considered acceptable ( Close et al., 1997 ). However, because of the safety for personnel, efficacy and costs, the preferred method is the intravenous injection of sodium pentabarbitone ( Table 1) . Different methods for euthanasia in dogs are well described elsewhere however some methods remain controversial ( Andrews et al., 1993 ). A reliable method will produce rapid loss of consciousness until death occurs. Regardless of the method used, it is important to minimize distress, anxiety and pain. It is compulsory to confirm the death of dog when euthanasia is performed before the body is disposed or left unattended. If an animal is not dead, another method of euthanasia should be performed. Finally the carcass should be disposed according to the local ruling legislation avoiding the risk of residues. Incineration is considered the safest way of carcass disposal.

Sodium PentobarbitoneBest option for intravenous injection. Intracardiac or intrapulmonary routes of injection should not be used as they
are extremely painful, unless under full anaesthesia.
T61Very effective agent but only to be injected very slowly intravenously. Animals may require sedation prior to administration. It may cause convulsions in the unconscious animal, which may be aesthetically unpleasant.
Secobarbital/dibucaineSecobarbital is a short-acting analogue of thiamylol sodium, whereas dibucaine is a highly toxic local anaesthetic causing rapid loss of consciousness, loss of respiration and cardiac arrest. The combination product produced a quiet and rapid death. Dibucaine alone is not desirable for use for euthanasia.
Halothane, isoflurane,
These are all acceptable methods of euthanasia for carnivores. Appropriate gas scavenging apparatus should be used to prevent
operator exposure.
Captive boltCan be inhumane if shot is inaccurate and dog is only wounded. Animal should be restrained. Personnel must be trained in these techniques to ensure correct positioning of the pistol and immediate death. No risk to operator (see free bullet) unless risk of dog infected with rabies, due to potential contact with brain issue.
ElectrocutionThis method may produce severe pain due to cardiac fibrillation before onset of unconsciousness. Pain can also be caused by violent extension of the limbs, head and neck and may not be effective if insufficient current applied (a considered lethal shock is 1 kV passing from the ear to hindleg) so the equipment must be regularly checked and maintained to ensure correct voltage. Dogs should be unconscious before being electrocuted by electrical stunning (current through the brain to produce an instantaneous stun) or anaesthesia. Death would result from current passed through the heart of an unconscious. animal. Proper equipment and trained operator is essential. May be hazardous for operator, who should use protective equipment (boots and gloves). Low cost. Death must be confirmed.
ConcussionOnly to be considered in small neonates
ShootingCan be inhumane if shot is inaccurate and dog is only wounded; dog may also escape. Skilled operator essential. Risk of injury to operators and spectators. Not necessary to handle or capture dog.
Brain tissue may be unavailable for rabies diagnosis. Shooting of carnivores using a free bullet is only acceptable under field conditions when no other methods can be used. Only specialized marksmen should be used.

Must accepted methods for euthanasia in dogs

All the above mention agents or methods are in general fast and highly efficient. The following agents are unacceptable and are condemned for use as euthanasia agents in dogs: strychnine, nicotine, caffeine, magnesium sulfate, potassium chloride, cyclopropane, hydrogen cyanide gas, methoxyflurane, trichloroethylene, nitrous oxide cleaning agents, solvents, disinfectants and other toxins or salts, and all neuromuscular blocking agents. Other methods such as drowning, concussion (adults), decapitation, asphyxia, strangulation or air embolism are also not considered as euthanasic methods. When euthanasia is considered, besides the appropriate method used The World Organisation for Animal Health [OIE] (2010 ) suggests special attention to:

Restraint. When a dog needs to be restrained for euthanasia, this should always be done with full regard for operator security and animal welfare. Some euthanasia methods should be used in association with sedation or anaesthesia in order to be considered humane.

Special equipment. When special equipment is needed to perform euthanasia (e.g. gas chamber), the system should be designed for the purpose and regularly maintained in order to achieve operator security and animal welfare.

Because neonates and adults with impaired breathing or low blood pressure are resistant to hypoxia, methods that depend upon achieving a hypoxic state (e.g. CO2, CO, N2, Ar) should not be used. These methods should not be used in dogs aged less than 2 months, except to produce loss of consciousness and should be followed by another method to cause death. In general, neonates form carnivores should be treated as adults. Sodium pentobarbitone is the preferred method but concussion and cervical dislocation may be used in very small neonatal dogs and only in cases of emergency ( OIE, 2010 ). However, operators must be well trained in the physical techniques to ensure that they are correctly and humanely carried out. When ovarian hysterectomies are performed, euthanasia of feti should be accomplished as soon as possible after removal from the dam.

5. Ethical concerns of euthanasia in stray dogs and animal shelters

Although in veterinary practice euthanasia in dogs is reasonably common, these “end of life decision” provoke an emotional period and in many instances ethical concerns occurs. For these reason, methods such as the undisclosed standardized client (USCs) and the measure of patient-centered consideration (MPCC) may reduce animal suffering and enhance the satisfaction and well-being of both clients and veterinarians ( Nogueira et al., 2010 ).

However, when a healthy dog has to be euthanized a moral dilemma occurs in the profession. Dogs may be consider animals as sensitive beings, so they have the capacity to perceive pain and pleasure and are worthy of being under the protection of a law. Killing a healthy animal have legal consequences and may be considered a crime. In contrast euthanasia is legal in specific cases. For these reasons, people involved in dog pounds and dog shelters need to be aware of the use of euthanasia as part of the strategy dealing with dog overpopulation and be aware of the moral dilemma involved. Euthanasia only treats the symptoms but not the causes of the problems of overpopulation and should be considered as the last resource.

Three different scenarios of mass euthanasia of dogs to control its population may be found, dog pounds, animal shelters and municipal campaigns of dog population control.

5.1. Dog pounds

Also called “public shelters” or “animal control agencies” are common in many developing countries where laws regulate and justify the mass euthanasia. Dog pounds activities are generally limited to the custody and euthanasia of stray animals and are commonly finance by tax found from the municipalities. The pickup and reception of surplus and stray o relinquished animals have the objective to avoid damage to the community. The OIE (2010 ) considers euthanasia as a method to reduce the number of stray dogs to an acceptable level in order to reduce the risk of rabies and other zoonotic diseases and to prevent harm to the environment and other animals.

An example of dog pound facilities is shown in Figure 2 . Dog are protected for 3-10 days to give them the opportunity to be re-homed to their original owners or being adopted. However in dog pound, very few dogs are claimed and the adoption rate is very low or practically non-existing. Under these situation an overflow of dogs rapidly occurs and the quickest way to obtain space is by eliminate them by “strategic euthanasia”. Since practically all dogs are euthanized, no moral conflicts arise by selecting candidates.

argumentative essay on animal euthanasia

A municipal dog pound building

Dogs that arrive in very bad conditions without few possibilities to be adopted should be immediately euthanized. In Figure 3 two typical case of dog going to immediate euthanasia are shown; in these cases there is no chance of treatment. It is estimated that 75% of the world’s dog population are strays. Managing them presents a problem in many countries, and has serious implications for public health and animal welfare. Killing stray dogs often produces a short term effect, even when maximal catching rates (up to 24% of dog population/year) make no significant impact ( WHO, 1988 , 1990 ). Efforts of dog pounds should be focus on preventing these problems by public education including the supervision of breeding, management of behavioral problems and promoting the culture of adoption. In Barcelona Spain, with the formulation of a city Plan for Pet Animals, the activities were redirected, concentrating on services within the city limits and stimulating adoption. Participation of both professional and humane organizations was sought, premises were renovated, responsible ownership of animals was promoted, controlled urban colonies of cats were established, and adoptions become the cornerstone of policy, centering the activity of the pounds toward its clients. Changes in the dog pound's activity since 1998 reflects a clear decrease in the number of animals retained, as well as in the proportion subjected to euthanasia (from 83.4% of euthanasias of animals entered in 1993 to 47.2% in 2001). This decrease may reflect an improvement in the problem of stray animals. Besides, these developments have also resulted in a positive change in the relationship with the media and animal welfare organizations ( Peracho et al., 2003 ).

argumentative essay on animal euthanasia

Stray dogs from a dog pound apt for euthanasia

5.2. Dog shelters

Also called human agencies are usually non-profit agencies depending on charities and donations to fund their operations. In these agencies relinquished animals are accepted and educational programs on animal care and welfare to public are offer. Adoptions of dogs are also offered and this is fundamental for the flow of animals through the shelter. Ideally, no healthy, adoptable animal should be euthanized. However, euthanasia in dog shelters occurs frequently because of the flow of dogs is altered by the high income number of animals and limitations of space and funds, or when old age and terminal diseases requires to end a poor life quality. An estimation of euthanized rates in North American dog and cat shelters indicates figures of 10 to 20 million each year ( Olson, 1990 ; Caras, 1993 ). In 2003, Michigan shelters discharged 140,653 dogs: Of these, 56,972 (40%) were euthanized and 40,005 (28%) were adopted ( Bartlett et al., 2005 ). In Colorado shelters, after considerable efforts centered in increasing adoptions, increasing the number of dogs returned to owners by implementing licensing requirements and improving identification methods, education of public on animal welfare issues and subsidizing spay neuter programs, the number of unwanted dogs have decreased but after almost a decade, no changes in the euthanasia rate of dogs (3.7/1000 residents/year) have been observed indicating that the shelters dynamics of dogs appeared to reached an equilibrium with respect to euthanasia ( Morris et al., 2011 ). A model suggests that the balance between supply and demand for dogs can be achieved such that euthanasia is never required ( Frank, 2004 ).

argumentative essay on animal euthanasia

A dog from a shelter considered for euthanasia

However, euthanasia is always required for the animals difficult to adopt (old, sick, unpopular breed, behavioral problem). As seen euthanasia in shelters is a used resource but it also generates moral issues. No kill shelter dog should be defined as one in where no adoptable dog is euthanize but where this resource may be used in old and dying dog in pain or suffering. In figure 4 an old dog in pain with bad life quality is shown. Although veterinarians have the professional knowledge and experience to euthanize dogs, other professionals, such as animal shelter workers, may also be trained to euthanize dogs. Killing shelters may bring a moral stress to their workers when dealing with euthanasia. Although workers realize that euthanasia of dog as a police to deal with over-population, this will not diminished the problem and they have to rationalize it even when they become enrolled to shelters with the idea of interacting and love caring of dogs. Euthanasia training for shelter workers also includes seminars on dealing with the irony that responsible animal care sometimes includes killing animals ( Arluke, 1991 ).

The concept of canine health management is accord with the concept Shelter medicine or population medicine. Population medicine is based on setting production goal, identifying risk factors of disease, preventive disease and maximizing production. Production goals in companion animals would be an acceptable level of welfare and considerations of the incidence and prevalence of clinical and behavioral disease ( Hurley, 2004 ). The implement of the shelter medicine in two Italian shelters (where laws do not currently allow euthanasia as a suitable method to control shelter population or used for scientific purposes) during three years and without admission of new dogs “closed system” resulted in improved dog health and welfare, as indicated by the significant reduction in both the prevalence and incidence of major pathologies during the next two years ( Dalla Villa et al., 2008 ).

argumentative essay on animal euthanasia

Stray dogs poisoned during a municipal campaign

5.3. Municipal campaigns

Other scenario of mass destruction of dogs in order to control its population, specially stray dogs, is sometimes carried out in small rural municipalities using poisonous baits with strychnine or cyanide; strychnine causes violent convulsions and painful muscle contractions whereas cyanide pose extreme danger to personnel and the manner of death is aesthetically objectionable. Use of such method is totally unacceptable since are not considered euthanasic agents. In figure 5 an example of stray dogs poisoned during a campaign in Yucatán Mexico is shown; baits with strychnine were placed in the main streets were dogs were free roaming. Cats an opossums are also victims of the baits. Other variety of inhumane methods used in such campaigns include shooting, hanging and electrocution in a futile attempt to control the number of stray dogs. Such strategies are inhuman and potentially dangerous specially in kids and wild life consuming the baits and should be condemn. The prevention culture through education of the public should be considered by the local authorities to deal with this kind of problem.

In extreme situations for instance in provinces of Argentina, a recently promulgate law prohibit the function of dog pounds and euthanasia was banned in small animals, including animals with cases of terminal diseases or serious injuries ( La Nación, 2011 ), these may result morally questioned because of the unnecessary suffering of the dog. In Mexico, despite the existence of laws regulating dog pounds and management of stray dogs (NOM-042-SSA2-2006), these are in most cases not conforming for several reasons. Many cases of mass killing of dogs and cats are reported throughout the country and condemned by the society. In some circumstances like in a small town in Mexico (Tlaxiaco, Oaxaca), with the increasing number of stray dogs (considered as pests), the Municipal Health Bureau announced that it expects the slaughter of over a thousand dogs in the streets because they are a source of pollution and the number of attacks to humans have been increasing for the large population of these pets. The sterilization campaigns which are made in order to prevent further proliferation of stray dogs in Tlaxiaco has been very erratic and no more than 55 animals had neutered, not even 10% of the estimated population. This is an example of municipal mismanagement and the consequent failure of campaign to sterilize dogs and cats, and most of all, a failure of public education about responsible pet ownership. In a different context in the Jaltenco municipality of Mexico city, were massacred with machetes and beaten to death around 30 dogs and cats that were under guard in a separate animal protection. Hooded men in black, with the approval of municipal police and some neighbors, the animals were attacked, leaving them very badly wounded amputees under cries of pain and fear. Only 12 of them managed to recover. This is an example of irresponsible brutality of ignorant authorities dealing with the problem of dog overpopulation.

argumentative essay on animal euthanasia

Signal of protest against the decision of killing dogs in the city of Neuquen, Argentina. From the text “Why is my fault? No to the euthanasia law against stray dogs. What would you do with 22 millions of dollars a year? Our government will kill dogs” (available at: http://www.taringa.net/posts/solidaridad/6490679/Firma-el-petitorio-en-repudio-a-la-matanza-en-Neuquen_.html )

Fortunately, the society and animal protection associations are aware of these activities and accuse and expose the authorities responsible of such strategies to control stray dog populations. An example of society claims against massive dog killing is seen in the province of Neuquen in the Patagonia region of Argentina. After an outbreak of leptospirosis, a municipal resolution to sacrifice over 1100 dogs was announced. The resolution planned for the coming five days sacrificing 220 dogs, many of them delivered by their owners. These woke up the action from neighbors and animal welfare groups across the country. Authorities said that they will not kill animals, but called the neighbors to take charge of homeless pets. An example of protest and call to the society against this resolution is showed in figure 6 .

6. Conclusion

The use of euthanasia in control programs of the canine population generally tends to generate controversy and misinterpretation of the criteria recommended by different agencies. In general society strongly opposes to euthanasia and condemns governments that employ this strategy as a means of dog population control. Euthanasia is only a temporal remedy to cure the symptoms rather than causes of the problem of overpopulation, and should be the last resource to use at the end of a long process of evaluation. Euthanasia may be required in specific scenarios to balance the flow of dog overcrowd, to reduce the risk of zoonotic transmission and damage to the environment and to avoid unnecessary suffering. However, ethical concerns come about when healthy animals have to be killed. Nothing is going to solve the dog overpopulation problem except the capacity of humans to understand the situation and take actions avoiding the born of unwanted puppies and become responsible owners avoiding the relinquishing of their pets.


Authors would like to thank the Dog pound (Canine & Feline Control Center) from the municipality of Merida Yucatan, Mexico, to the Arqta Silvia Cortés from the dog shelter “Evolución” and to Mrs Marcia Lara de Moreno from AMEDEA (Asociación Mexicana por los Derechos de los Animales, A.C. Yucatán) for their kindness collaboration and permission to take pictures included in this chapter.

  • 16. La Nación.com 2016 Prohíben perreras y la eutanasia de mascotas. In: La Nación , 12.02.2011.
  • 22. OIE, ( 2010 Stray dog population control. In: Terrestrial Animal Health Code 6.03.2011.
  • 34. Voith, V.L. & Borchelt, P.L. 1982 Diagnosis and treatment of elimination behavior problems in dogs. Veterinary Clinics of North America Small Animal Practice , Vol.
  • 35. World Health Organization 1988 Consultation on dog ecology studies related to rabies control. WHO/Rab.Res 88.25
  • 36. World Health Organization 1990 Consultation of dog population management. WHO.ZOON 90.166 , 6-37
  • 37. WSPA 2000 Humane euthanasia for dogs and cats. Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. 1 4
  • 38. ISAR 1991 A prime source of canine overpopulation. In: International Society of Animals Rights, law and education serving animals- Special report. 11.02.2011

© 2011 The Author(s). Licensee IntechOpen. This chapter is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike-3.0 License , which permits use, distribution and reproduction for non-commercial purposes, provided the original is properly cited and derivative works building on this content are distributed under the same license.

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Euthanasia - Essay Samples And Topic Ideas For Free

Euthanasia, also known as assisted dying or mercy killing, remains a deeply contested ethical and legal issue. Essays could delve into the various forms of euthanasia, such as voluntary, non-voluntary, and involuntary euthanasia, discussing the moral and legal implications of each. The discourse might extend to the examination of the cultural, religious, and societal attitudes towards euthanasia, exploring how different societies and religious groups perceive the right to die. Discussions could also focus on the experiences of countries and regions that have legalized euthanasia, examining the impact on healthcare practices, legal frameworks, and societal attitudes. Moreover, the broader implications of euthanasia on medical ethics, patient autonomy, and the sanctity of life could be explored to provide a comprehensive understanding of the complexities surrounding euthanasia and the ongoing debates on its legalization and practice. A substantial compilation of free essay instances related to Euthanasia you can find at Papersowl. You can use our samples for inspiration to write your own essay, research paper, or just to explore a new topic for yourself.

Euthanasia: is it Ethical

While doing research on the topic of Euthanasia and Physician Assisted Suicide, I have come to see that people have a hard time believing that this should be an option for people who have terminal illnesses. Euthanasia is the painless killing of a patient suffering from an incurable and painful disease or in an irreversible coma and Physician Assisted Suicide (PAS) is The voluntary termination of one's own life by administration of a lethal substance with the direct or indirect […]

Arguments for and against Euthanasia

Euthanasia is also known as physician-assisted suicide or good death. It refers to the method where animals that are suffering or in discomfort are helped to rest in death. Many pet owners consider Euthanasia a more compassionate manner of bidding their beloved animals goodbye. In the case of people, many states have not legalized euthanasia for people with dementia or those suffering from incurable diseases. Euthanasia creates an ethical dilemma on three main lines: legal, medical, and philosophical. There are […]

Ethics Behind Physician-Assisted Suicide

Assisted suicide is the act of intentionally killing yourself with the assistance of someone else. In the United States, physician-assisted suicide is when a physician provides a patient, who meets the criteria of having a terminal illness, with medication in order to terminate their life to relieve pain and/or suffering. Physician-assisted suicide is often confused with euthanasia. Euthanasia is illegal in the US. It requires a doctor, or another individual, to administer the medication to the patient. Other terms for […]

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Why Euthanasia should be Legalised

Did you know that the word euthanasia comes from Greek which means good death? However, Only 9 out of the 196 countries in the world have legalised euthanasia or assisted death, including the Netherlands, Belgium, Switzerland and Japan. - posted on Deccan Chronicle. These are all first world countries that value freedom and I strongly believe that Euthanasia should be extended to all other countries. There are 4 different types of euthanasia voluntary, involuntary, active and passive euthanasia. First, I […]

The Ban on Euthanasia

Imagine your girl best friend gets into a car crash. After the incident, you find out she suffered major spinal cord damage and her legs will be paralyzed for the rest of her life. You go to visit her in the hospital the same week but arrive to shocking news. She tells you she has lost the will to live and wants to be euthanized, or painlessly killed. She tells you she is worried about how this accident will affect […]

Assisted Suicide the Rights we have

The right to assisted suicide is one of the most controversial topics ever discussed because of the fact that other people control your life when you are unable to. But some people think that they can stop you from dying even though death is inevitable when one is terminally ill. They think that because of religious and moral reasons they could stop someone from ending their own life. Assisted suicide also known as ""Euthanasia"" is used to make a painless […]

Economic Benefits of Euthanasia

Euthanasia is assisted suicide, it is an action taken by a doctor with consent of the patient in order to relieve immense pain and suffering. However, is the overall process of Euthanasia beneficial for the economy? Based on research, euthanasia is beneficial to the economy, and saves a vast amount of money for families for hospital stays, private insurance companies, taxpayers, and medicare each year. For a hospital stay, the average cost per inpatient day is $2,534.00 for a local […]

Euthanasia Debate

The intention to deliberately help someone accelerate the death of an incurable patient, even to stop his or her suffering has never been an easy task. The ethics of euthanasia is one that has been debated over since the fourth century B.C. Euthanasia is translated from Greek as "good death" or "easy death. At first, the term referred to painless and peaceful natural deaths in old age that occurred in comfortable and familiar surroundings. Today the word is currently understood […]

Physician-assisted Suicide: Right to Die

You may have heard of Physician-assisted suicide before, but what exactly is it? Physician-Assisted suicide is when someone who is terminally ill and completely competent of making choices the right to take their own life, legally with the help of a doctor. Though it seems as if they should be able to do that, in most states the law does get in the way of that. There are ethical and moral issues surrounding this issue. Regardless of those issues, those […]

Religious Perspectives on Euthanasia

Death is one of the most important things that religions deal with. All faiths offer meaning and explanations for death and dying; all faiths try to find a place for death and dying within human experience. Most religions disapprove of euthanasia. Some of them absolutely forbid it. Virtually all religions state that those who become vulnerable through illness or disability deserve special care and protection and that proper end of life care is a much better thing than euthanasia. Religions […]

Active and Passive Euthanasia

Euthanasia is the termination of a terminally ill person's life in order to relieve patients of their severe and untreatable pain. It is further broken down into two types: active and passive. In this paper, I will be focusing on active euthanasia and will argue that it is morally justifiable for a physician to alleviate agony for a patient and their family via direct action. Active euthanasia is morally permissible when a patient explicitly states their consent due to the […]

Physician Assisted Suicide: Medical Practice

Physician assisted suicide is when a physician provides a patient with the necessary means and information to help the patient perform a life ending act. Physician assisted suicide is when is when a person gets prescribed a lethal dose of medication from their physician that they can take when they get ready too. Physician assisted suicide has become an option for those around the world and even legal in certain States in the US. This option is legal in 6 […]

The Controversy over Euthanasia

Euthanasia, as defined by the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, is the act or practice of killing or permitting the death of hopelessly sick or injured individuals (such as persons or domestic animals) in a relatively painless way for reasons of mercy. The growing euthanasia epidemic has raised a profusion of controversy in recent years due to the legal and moral implications. Although described as relatively painless,euthanasia is something that should be methodically and thoroughly thought through because of the permanent effect it […]

Euthanasia and Death Penalty

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Physician Assisted Suicide: the Growing Issue of Dying with Dignity and Euthanasia

Is someone wanting to die with dignity more important than the conscience of a doctor who provides care for others? The issue of physician-assisted death can be summed up by simply saying it has a snowball effect. What starts as physician-assisted death turns into euthanizing and from there it could end up in the killing of patients without their full comprehension as to what they agreed to. The solution to this issue is accepting there is a problem and figuring […]

Definition of Euthanasia

Euthanasia defined as an intentionally ending of the life of the terminally ill person in order to relieve pain or suffering, done by a physician, legally. This is not to be confused with the similar physician assisted suicide, the suicide of patient suffering from an incurable disease, effected by the taking of lethal drug by a doctor for this purpose. It is legal in only a few places of the world, and the laws vary by the places. That means […]

Physician Assisted Suicide

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Euthanasia and Physician-Assisted Suicide

In a documentary, Charles Scott was a man who loved to read, sing, and enjoy being outdoors. He was diagnosed with lymphoma. Struggling every day just to breathe after walking 10 steps to the bathroom and dealing with his eyesight deteriorating, He found life to be full of pain instead of joy. He found no want in having to wait through multiple medications, operations, pain, hospice, and finally him dying suffocating trying to catch his breath” he wished to die […]

Physician-Assisted Euthanasia/Suicide

Part 1: Ethical Question Should doctors have a choice to opt out of assisting terminally ill patients with euthanasia/suicide? Part 2: Introduction Some people think being a physician is an exciting job for the most part. However, physicians have the task of making tough decisions that could hurt many people emotionally. The morality of assisted euthanasia and suicide has been questioned by many people. Some may consider euthanasia and suicide immoral any wrong. Unfortunately, euthanasia and suicide may be the […]

Arguments for Legalizing Euthanasia

I once heard euthanasia is a heart-wrenching kindness and i believe that to be true.Although we as vet techs know it is the right thing to do, being apart of ending there pain and suffering,it is hard being the one to end it knowing the bond an animal has with its owner.Everyone has their own thoughts about this topic and how we prefer to handle it.There are different tolerances everyone has on how it should be done and what the […]

Why Active Euthanasia and Physician Assisted Suicide should be Legalized

This reference source gives us an overview of why euthanasia should be legalized. It goes into depth about how patients and doctors are affected by the decision to end a person's life, and moral issues, and whether it is right or wrong to purposely end someone's life. This source highlights that euthanasia should be in the best interest of the patient who is suffering from an illness, such as an incurable disease or a serious health issue. Doctors should be […]

Physician-assisted Suicide is not Federally Mandated

Physician-assisted suicide is not federally mandated due to the lack of bipartisanship in Congress, the principles of federalism, and contributions from conservative organizations and interest groups. The attitudes and moral acceptability about certain behaviors and actions differ significantly among Republicans and Democrats. According to a 2007 survey, 62% of Democrats support doctors assisting a terminally ill patient to commit suicide, while only 49% of Republicans support this notion (Gallup, Inc 2007). 59% of Democrats also find physician-assisted suicide to be […]

Physician-assisted Suicide and Euthanasia

Physician-assisted suicide and euthanasia have become some of the most highly controversial topics discussed in medicine, making those who have medicine as an occupation question the morality behind the act. A common misconception people often times make is confusing the fact that physician-assisted suicide and voluntary active euthanasia as the same thing. The NCI dictionary of cancer terms states euthanasia is accessibility to ""[a]n easy or painless death or the intentional ending of the life of a person suffering from […]

Euthanasia and Physician Assisted Suicide

Sometimes people criticize euthanasia and physician-assisted suicide from what is called "pro-life" perspectives and other times from "pro-death" perspectives; each perspective has a different argument about their position and the side they are on in this debate. This paper will review some of these arguments that have been made to date, as well as some of the more recent developments in this issue (Dieterle 129). To begin with, many people argue that euthanasia and physician-assisted suicide are morally acceptable because […]

Hinduism and Buddhist Perspective of Suicide and Euthanasia

The principle of ahimsa, or no violence, is fervently held in Hinduism and is reflective in followers' everyday lives. This concept extends to oneself as well as others. For one, suicide is condemned in this religion because all life is considered sacred. Humans life is perceived as precious because only through one of the three human realms can liberation be achieved. Other living things, such as insects and animals, do not receive the same opportunity, so it is crucial followers […]

Euthanasia – One of the most Debated Topics Today

The topic of euthanasia is one of the most debated topics today. Elderly patients can be pressured into a decision they don't want to make. Citizens can also be unfairly euthanized as well. Euthanasia should stay illegal due to the obligation to elderly patients, non permitted euthanization, of an individual, and which can open hopefully widen perspective on this issue, as well as many others. Euthanasia is a complex topic that can't be described simply and without depth. Euthanasia can […]

Physician-assisted Suicide Debate

Let's say a patient is in incredible pain or has an incurable illness and the patient can only be kept alive by machines or by enduring their pain. Should any patient who is in these circumstances be allowed to choose death over this life? Many people go against assisted suicide because of religion and or whatever they believe in. Another reason why people may disagree is that the patients who are not in the right mind and or are too […]

Ethics and Challenges of Euthanasia

As there are other patients who have a higher chance of living, euthanizing the patient was the more practical option. Euthanasia advocates argue that futile care may harm others. For instance, a young child with an acute respiratory disease, who has a potentially higher chance of getting cured, could not get a bed and ventilator in the ICU because others were using it even though they are not getting any personal benefit from the treatment (Niederman & Berger, 2010). This […]

Euthanasia: Merciful Death or Playing God

A death by suicide. Just hearing the word suicide can send chills down one's spine. How could someone get to the point of self-termination? Why would anybody ever consider such a terrible way to die? The thing is, suicide does not have to be a terrible or scary way to die if one is faced with insurmountable troubles accompanying an untreatable disease. With assistance from licensed professionals, it can give those suffering a painless option if they so choose to […]

What is Euthanasia?

Euthanasia is a easy death, some may say euthanasia is a undeviating act for taking a life through prescription drugs. A patient that has a short expand of life can address such an issue with their healthcare provider. Counseling can be provided before the final decision is made by doctor and the patient. At anytime the patient reserves the right to with draw from the process. The patient however must have good reason for the process before a doctor will […]

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How To Write An Essay On Euthanasia

Introduction to the concept of euthanasia.

When embarking on an essay about euthanasia, it’s crucial to begin with a clear definition of what euthanasia entails. Euthanasia, often referred to as "mercy killing," is the act of intentionally ending a person's life to relieve them of suffering, typically from a terminal illness or an incurable condition. In your introduction, outline the various types of euthanasia, such as voluntary, non-voluntary, and involuntary, and the ethical, legal, and moral questions they raise. This introductory segment sets the stage for an in-depth exploration of the arguments for and against euthanasia and its implications in the realms of medicine, ethics, and law.

Exploring the Arguments For and Against Euthanasia

The body of your essay should delve into the complex arguments surrounding euthanasia. On one hand, proponents argue that euthanasia is a compassionate response to unbearable suffering, respecting an individual's right to choose death over prolonged pain. They may also cite the importance of dignity in death and the reduction of medical costs for terminally ill patients. On the other hand, opponents raise concerns about the sanctity of life, the potential for abuse, and the slippery slope towards non-voluntary or involuntary euthanasia. They may also discuss the moral obligations of medical professionals to preserve life. This section should present a balanced view of the debate, providing a comprehensive understanding of the various perspectives on euthanasia.

Ethical and Legal Considerations

A crucial aspect of your essay should be an examination of the ethical and legal considerations surrounding euthanasia. Discuss the ethical principles involved, such as autonomy, beneficence, non-maleficence, and justice. Explore how different countries and cultures view and legislate euthanasia, noting the variations in legal frameworks and the criteria required for it to be carried out. This analysis should provide insight into the complexities of legalizing and regulating euthanasia, and the ethical dilemmas faced by healthcare providers, patients, and their families.

Concluding with Personal Reflections and Broader Implications

Conclude your essay by summarizing the key points and offering personal reflections on the topic. Reflect on the implications of euthanasia for society and the field of healthcare. Consider how advances in medical technology and changes in societal attitudes might influence the future of euthanasia. Your conclusion should not only provide closure to your essay but also encourage further thought and dialogue on this sensitive and contentious issue, highlighting the ongoing importance of ethical deliberation in decisions about life and death.

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Essays About Euthanasia

Euthanasia essay: examples, types of euthanasia essays:.

  • Euthanasia Argumentative Essay: This type of essay presents arguments for and against euthanasia and requires the writer to take a position on the issue.
  • Euthanasia Persuasive Essay: The purpose of this essay is to persuade the reader to support or reject the idea of euthanasia. The writer needs to use convincing arguments and evidence to support their position.
  • Euthanasia Controversy Essay: This type of essay explores the controversies surrounding euthanasia, including ethical, moral, legal, and religious issues. The writer needs to analyze and present different perspectives on the issue.

Euthanasia: Argumentative Essay

  • Choose a clear position: Before you start writing, it's important to decide where you stand on the issue of euthanasia. Do you believe that euthanasia should be legalized, or do you think it should remain illegal? Your position will guide your research and the evidence you present.
  • Conduct thorough research: Euthanasia is a complex and controversial issue, so it's essential to do your research before starting to write. Look for reliable sources of information, such as academic articles, government reports, and medical journals.
  • Develop a strong thesis statement: Your thesis statement should clearly state your position on euthanasia and provide a roadmap for the rest of your essay. It should be clear, concise, and easy to understand.
  • Provide evidence to support your arguments: Use evidence to support your arguments, such as statistics, expert opinions, and case studies. Make sure that your evidence is credible and comes from reputable sources.
  • Address counterarguments: It's important to address counterarguments to your position to demonstrate that you have considered all perspectives on the issue. Addressing counterarguments will also make your essay more persuasive.
  • Use persuasive language: Use persuasive language to make your argument more convincing. Use strong, clear language that emphasizes your point of view.

Euthanasia: Persuasive Essay

  • Conduct research: The writer should conduct thorough research on the topic to gather as much information as possible to support their argument.
  • Develop a clear thesis statement: The writer should clearly state their position on euthanasia in the thesis statement.
  • Present convincing evidence: The writer should use credible and convincing evidence to support their argument, such as statistics, case studies, and expert opinions.
  • Address counterarguments: The writer should acknowledge and address counterarguments to their position, and provide strong rebuttals.
  • Use persuasive language: The writer should use persuasive language and techniques, such as emotional appeals and rhetorical questions, to convince the reader of their position.

Euthanasia Controversy Essay

  • Start with a clear and concise introduction that presents the topic and the main arguments.
  • Conduct thorough research on the topic, using credible sources, such as academic journals, government reports, and expert opinions.
  • Present a balanced view of the issue by providing arguments for and against euthanasia.
  • Use clear and concise language, avoiding emotional language that may detract from the argument.
  • Consider the ethical and moral implications of euthanasia, and the different perspectives of stakeholders involved.
  • Conclude the essay with a summary of the main arguments and a final thought on the topic.

Tips for Choosing a Topic for Euthanasia Essays:

  • Identify your stance: Before choosing a topic, decide on your position on euthanasia. This will help you select a suitable topic for your essay.
  • Conduct research: Thoroughly research the topic of euthanasia to gain a better understanding of the subject matter. Use reliable sources such as books, journals, and academic articles.
  • Brainstorm: Create a list of potential topics related to euthanasia and narrow down your choices based on your research and personal interest.
  • Focus on a specific aspect: Instead of trying to cover the entire topic of euthanasia in your essay, focus on a specific aspect such as the ethical or legal implications.

Hook Examples for Euthanasia Essays

Anecdotal hook.

Meet John, a terminally ill patient who faces excruciating pain every day. His decision to seek euthanasia sparks a controversial debate over the right to die with dignity.

Question Hook

Is it ethical for physicians to assist patients in ending their lives to relieve unbearable suffering? Explore the moral dilemmas surrounding the topic of euthanasia.

Quotation Hook

"Dying is not a crime." — Jack Kevorkian. Investigate the legacy of Dr. Kevorkian, who championed the cause of physician-assisted suicide, and its impact on the euthanasia debate.

Statistical or Factual Hook

Did you know that euthanasia is legal in several countries, while it remains illegal in others? Examine the global landscape of euthanasia laws and the factors that influence these decisions.

Definition Hook

What exactly is euthanasia, and how does it differ from other end-of-life choices? Delve into the definitions, types, and terminology associated with this complex issue.

Rhetorical Question Hook

Should individuals have the autonomy to decide when and how they will end their lives, especially in cases of terminal illness? Analyze the arguments for and against euthanasia's role in preserving personal freedom.

Historical Hook

Travel through history to explore the evolution of euthanasia practices and laws. Discover how societies have grappled with the idea of mercy killing across centuries.

Contrast Hook

Contrast the perspectives of medical professionals who advocate for euthanasia as a compassionate choice with those who argue for preserving the sanctity of life at all costs. Explore the ethical dilemmas inherent in these differing viewpoints.

Narrative Hook

Step into the shoes of a family member faced with the agonizing decision of whether to support a loved one's request for euthanasia. Their personal story sheds light on the emotional complexities involved.

Shocking Statement Hook

Prepare to be shocked by the cases of covert euthanasia that occur outside the boundaries of the law. These stories expose the gray areas and ethical challenges surrounding end-of-life decisions.

Euthanasia, Assisted Dying and The Right to Die

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Discussion on Whether Human Euthanasia Should Be Made Illegal

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Euthanasia is the practice of intentionally ending life to relieve pain and suffering.

Euthanasia is categorized in different ways, which include voluntary (when a person wills to have their life ended), non-voluntary (when a patient's consent is unavailable), or involuntary (.done without asking for consent or against the patient's will)

Jack Kevorkian, Philip Nitschke, Barbara Coombs Lee.

The United States (Washington, Oregon, California, Colorado, Montana, Vermont, Hawaii), Switzerland, Germany, Japan, the Netherlands, Belgium, Luxembourg, Colombia, Canada.

Though euthanasia is still illegal in England, King George V was euthanized. Euthanasia is mostly administered by giving lethal doses of painkiller or other drugs. Despite Euthanasia being generally illegal in India, there is a tradition of forced euthanasia in South India.

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argumentative essay on animal euthanasia

Arguments in Favor of Euthanasia Essay

  • To find inspiration for your paper and overcome writer’s block
  • As a source of information (ensure proper referencing)
  • As a template for you assignment

Mankind has always struggled to deal with numerous illnesses that have been in existence at different periods of time. Different treatment alternatives have been employed ranging from those by traditional medicine men to the modern scientific methods.

All these efforts have been motivated by the desire to remain alive for as long as one can (Buse 7). However, there are situations when living is more problematic and either the victim or other stakeholders contemplate ending life. This is referred to as euthanasia.

It is the act of deliberately terminating life when it is deemed to be the only way that a person can get out of their suffering (Johnstone 247). Euthanasia is commonly performed on patients who are experiencing severe pain due to terminal illness.

For one suffering from terminal illness, assisted death seems to be the better way of ending their suffering. The issue of euthanasia has ignited heated debate among the professionals as well as the law makers and the general public (Otlowski 211).

The physicians should do everything humanly possible to save lives of their patients, however, euthanasia should be considered as the only alternative to save extreme cases like the terminally ill patients from their perpetual pain and suffering.

Euthanasia can either be active/voluntary, non-voluntary, or involuntary. In voluntary euthanasia, the patient suffering from terminal illness may give consent to be assisted end his/her prolonged severe pain through death (Bowie and Bowie 215).

The patient may also decline to undergo burdensome treatment, willingly terminating treatment procedures like removal of life support machinery, and simply starving. Non-voluntary euthanasia, on the other hand, involves who cannot make sound decisions.

They may be too young, in a coma, senile, mentally challenged, or other severe brain damage (Gorsuch 86). Involuntary euthanasia involves ending the life of the patient without his/her consent. This usually happens when the patient is willing to live despite being in the most dangerous situations.

For instance, an infantry man has his stomach blown up by an explosive and experiences great pain. The army doctor, realizing that the soldier would not survive and has no pain relievers decide to spare the man further suffering and executes him instantly.

Also, a person could be seen on the 10 th floor of a building on fire, the person’s clothes are on fire and cries out for help. The person on ground has a rifle and decides to shoot him dead with a strong conviction that the individual would have experience a slow and painful death from the fierce fire.

Due to the sensitivity of the issue, laws that will protect the rights of both the patient and the physicians who practice euthanasia should be put in place.

A patient has the right to demand or refuse a given form of medication as long as it will alleviate their suffering (Bowie and Bowie 216). It amounts to violation of the patient’s rights if the physician does not respect the will of the patient.

Each one has a right to determine what direction their lives should take and is their own responsibility (Buse 7). A study conducted among adult Americans indicates that about 80% of them support the idea.

They argue that someone suffering from terminal illness, a condition which no medical intervention can reverse, should be allowed to undergo euthanasia. It is inappropriate to subject an individual into a slow but painful death. Such an individual ought to be assisted to end his/her life in order to avoid a prolonged painful death.

The laws guiding the practice of euthanasia in the state of Oregon are quite clear. Active euthanasia should only be performed on a patient who is 18 years and above, of sound mind and ascertained by at least three medical doctors that assisted death is the only alternative of helping the patient (Otlowski 212).

Under such a situation, the doctor prescribes the drugs but is not allowed to administer them. The patient in question takes the drug (s) voluntarily without any assistance from the doctor. The patient will then die in dignity, without any intense pain that living with the condition would bring.

It is evident that some terminal illness may not present unbearable pain to the patient. Instead, a chronically ill patient who is in a no-pain state will not be in a humanly dignified state. The patient of doctor may propose euthanasia as the better treatment alternative.

This has been occasioned by the advancement in the field of medicine where pain can be significantly control (Buse 8). All patients are entitled to pain relief. However, most physicians have not been trained on pain management and hence the patients are usually left in excruciating pain (Johnstone 249).

Under such a condition, the patient suffers physically and emotionally causing depression. Leaving the patient in this agonizing state is unacceptable and euthanasia may be recommended.

Moreover, the physician who practices euthanasia should be protected by the law. This can be achieved by giving him/her the ‘right’ to kill. A doctor handling a patient who is in excruciating pain should be in a position to recommend euthanasia so as to assist the patient have a dignified death.

It is not required by law or medical ethics that a patient should be kept alive by all means. Hence, the patient should be allowed to demand death if he/she considers it necessary (Gorsuch 88).

It would be inhumane and unacceptable to postpone death against the wish of the patient. It would also be unwise to insist on curing a condition which has been medically regarded as irreversible or incurable.

Most terminal illnesses are very expensive to cure although they are known to be incurable. The patient as well as family members ought to be relieved of the accompanying financial burden (Buse 8). The patient, considering the amount of money and other resources used in an attempt to keep him alive, may demand to be assisted to die.

This can only be possible through euthanasia (Johnstone 253). In fact, spending more on the patient would only serve to extend the individual’s suffering. Human beings are caring by nature and none would be willing to live their loved ones to suffer on their own.

They would therefore dedicate a lot of time providing the best care that they can afford. Some would even leave their day to day activities in order to attend to the terminally or chronically ill relative or friend.

Euthanasia, therefore, serves to spare the relatives the agony of constantly watching their family member undergo intense suffering and painful death. In most occasions, attempts to keep a patient alive would mean that he/she be hospitalized for a very long period of time (Bowie and Bowie 216).

Terminally ill patients in hospitals imply that facilities would be put under great pressure at the expense of other patients who would benefit from using the same services. These facilities include; bed space, medical machines, drugs, human resource, among others. Even if they were to be given homecare, a lot of time resource and facilities would be overstretched.

Other than the issue of homecare and the financial obligations that may arise, there is also the issue of personal liberty and individual rights. Those who front this argument explain that the patient has the right to determine when and how they die.

Since the life of a person belongs to that person only, then the person should have the right to decide if he or she wants to end it, if ending life would also mean ending irreversible suffering (CNBC News para 4).

This mean that individual undergoing great and irreversible suffering have the power to chose “a good death” and thus decide when they want to die (para 7).. Furthermore, these patients are dependent on life sustaining medication, which adds only adds the misery.

This brings forth the question about whether such patients can be forced to take life sustaining drugs if the said drugs only lead to extended life full of suffering.

The law should provide for such individuals to refuse to take such drugs and also to request drugs that will lead to end of their misery, even it if mean that these drugs will end their lives.

Therefore patients in this condition should be allowed the legal tight to end their miseries through assisted suicide.

Those who oppose any form of euthanasia argue that a terminally ill patient or a person suffering irreversible pain from an incurable disease should be assisted to live by all means including any medical procedure that guarantees that they live the longest possible period.

This argument is valid but has logical flows. The argument presupposes that such patients need to be prevented from dyeing through any possible means. In reality though, this efforts are futile as when a patient has determined that death is the easier way out of the misery they are suffering, the emotional distress will only pull them closer to death (Morgan 103).

Furthermore, such efforts to prolong the patients’ lives do not prevent death, as but just postpone it at the same time extending the patients suffering. This is because such patient’s life is hanging by the thread and they have been brought near to death by the virtue of their illness.

In severe cases such patient may result to suicide, as in the case of Sue Rodriguez, Canadian woman who suffered Lou Gehrig’s disease, and was refused the right for assisted death (CNBC News para 2). As such efforts to prolong their lives pushed them closer to death

While some countries such as The Netherlands, Belgium and Denmark have embraced the idea of euthanasia, others have move at a snails pace in this direction. Canada, one of the most developed countries is such countries.

Euthanasia is still illegal in Canada and any person found trying it is subject to prosecution. Furthermore, any person found to have assisted another person commit suicide is also liable to prosecution for up to 14 years in prison.

Still in Canada, the law after many years of legal battle has differentiated euthanasia and assisted suicide. Assisted suicide is what is otherwise referred to as active euthanasia where a terminally ill patient asks for help to end life.

The law in Canada has also allowed for these patients to refuse life sustaining medication if such medication does not in any way improve the quality of their lives (CNBC para 17).

If the law acknowledges the power of a person to refuse such medication then it must also allow such a person the legal right to determine the condition and the manner in which they die. This means that there is light, though, at the end of the tunnel for Canadians patients who may wish to end their lives.

Such argument for any form of euthanasia tends to conglomerate around two valid arguments. First, if a terminally ill patient who is suffering extreme and irreversible pain is determined to be of sound mind and is adult then such patients should be allowed to make judgment about their lives.

If such a patient decides that ending their lives will be end their misery, then no doctor has the legal as well as moral obligation of coercing the patient to continue taking medication that only prolongs their suffering (Morgan 145).

If doctors manage to successfully administer the drugs against the wishes of such a patient, they will have committed an assault against the patient and this is a legal as well as a professional misconduct (Morgan 146). Secondly, the desires of such a patient are supreme.

This means that the patients’ right to self determination overrides the fundamental but not absolute belief that life is holy and should only be ended by the maker.

Therefore such patient’s should be treated as competent enough to make decisions about their lives and that no medical officer has the legal or moral right to determine that such a patient is wrong. Any medical help provide to such a patient thus be for the benefit of the patient.

From a religious point of view, it can be argued that God is love and people of God should demonstrate compassion. If someone is undergoing intense pain and a slow but sure death, it would be evil to allow such a person to experience the full extent (Gorsuch 89).

Euthanasia would therefore be the better option. Helping the patient have a dignified death can be the best show of agape love. There is also the issue of quality of life where if someone is leading low quality or worthless life, then one should opt for euthanasia.

The essay has discussed several points in favor of euthanasia as an alternative when it comes to treating people suffering from terminal illness or responding to perplexing situations where death is the ultimate end although one may go through severe pain and agonizing moments.

It has also highlighted three main forms of euthanasia; voluntary/active, non-voluntary, and involuntary. Anyone can argue against the points raised in this essay but it would be difficult to justify why an individual should be allowed to suffer for a long time either willingly or unwillingly.

The doctors should do everything humanly possible to save lives of their patients, however, euthanasia should be considered as the only alternative to save extreme cases like the terminally ill patients from their perpetual pain and suffering.

Works Cited

Bowie, Bob & Bowie, Robert A. Ethical Studies: Euthanasia (2 nd ed). Neslon Thornes, 2004, Pp. 215-216.

Buse, Anne-Kathrin. Euthanasia: Forms and their Differences . GRIN Verlag, 2008, Pp. 7-8.

CNBC news. “ The Fight for the Right to Die. ” CNBC Canada . 2011.

Gorsuch, Neil M. Euthanasia- The Future of Assisted Suicide . Princeton University Press, 2009, Pp. 86-93.

Johnstone, Megan-Jane. Euthanasia: Contradicting Perspectives (5 th ed). Elsevier Health Sciences, 2008, Pp. 247-262.

Morgan, John. An Easeful Death?: Perspectives On Death, Dying And Euthanasia. S ydney: Federation press Pty Ltd. 1996. Print.

Otlowski, Margaret. Euthanasia and the Common Law . Oxford University Press, 2000, Pp. 211-212.

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Tips on How to Write a Euthanasia Argumentative Essay

How to write an essay on euthanasia

Abortion, birth control, death sentencing, legalization of medical marijuana, and gender reassignment surgery remain the most controversial medical issues in contemporary society.  Euthanasia is also among the controversial topics in the medical field. It draws arguments from philosophy, ethics, and religious points of view.

By definition derives from a Greek term that means good death, and it is the practice where an experienced medical practitioner or a physician intentionally ends an individual's life to end pain and suffering. The names mercy killing or physician-assisted suicide also knows it.

Different countries have different laws as regards euthanasia. In the UK, physician-assisted suicide is illegal and can earn a medical practitioner 14 years imprisonment. All over the world, there is a fierce debate as regards mercy killing.

Like any other controversial topic, there are arguments for and against euthanasia. Thus, there are two sides to the debate. The proponents or those for euthanasia believe it is a personal choice issue, even when death is involved.

On the other hand, those against euthanasia or the opponents believe that physicians must only assist patients when the patients are sound to make such a decision. That is where the debate centers.

This article explores some of the important basics to follow when writing an exposition, argumentative, persuasive, or informative essay on euthanasia.

Steps in Writing a Paper on Euthanasia

When assigned homework on writing a research paper or essay on euthanasia, follow these steps to make it perfect.

1. Read the Prompt

The essay or research paper prompt always have instructions to follow when writing any academic work. Students, therefore, should read it to pick up the mind of the professor or teaching assistant on the assigned academic task. When reading the prompt, be keen to understand what approach the professor prefers. Besides, it should also tell you the type of essay you are required to write and the scope.

2. Choose a Captivating Topic

After reading the prompt, you are required to frame your euthanasia essay title. Make sure that the title you choose is captivating enough as it invites the audience to read your essay. The title of your essay must not divert from the topic, but make it catchy enough to lure and keep readers. An original and well-structured essay title on euthanasia should give an idea of what to expect in the body paragraphs. It simply gives them a reason to read your essay.

3. Decide on the Best Thesis Statement for your Euthanasia Essay

Creating a thesis statement for a euthanasia essay does not deviate from the conventions of essay writing. The same is consistent when writing a thesis statement for a euthanasia research paper. The thesis statement can be a sentence or two at the end of the introduction that sums up your stance on the topic of euthanasia. It should be brief, well crafted, straight to the point, and outstanding. Right from the start, it should flow with the rest of the essay and each preceding paragraph should support the thesis statement.

4. Write an Outline

An outline gives you a roadmap of what to write in each part of the essay, including the essay hook, introduction, thesis statement, body paragraphs, and the conclusion. We have provided a sample euthanasia essay outline in this article, be sure to look at it.

5. Write the First Draft

With all ingredients in place, it is now time to write your euthanasia essay by piecing up all the different parts. Begin with an essay hook, then the background information on the topic, then the thesis statement in the introduction. The body paragraphs should each contain an idea that is well supported with facts from books, journals, articles, and other scholarly sources. Be sure to follow the MLA, APA, Harvard, or Chicago formatting conventions when writing the paper as advised in the essay prompt.

6. Proofread and Edit the Essay

You have succeeded in skinning the elephant, and it is now time to cut the pieces and consume. Failure to proofread and edit an essay can be dangerous for your grade. There is always an illusion that you wrote it well after all. However, if you take some time off and come to it later, you will notice some mistakes. If you want somebody to proofread your euthanasia essay, you can use our essay editing service . All the same, proofreading an essay is necessary before turning the essay in.

Creating a Euthanasia Essay or Research Paper Outline

Like any other academic paper, having a blueprint of the entire essay on euthanasia makes it easy to write. Writing an outline is preceded by choosing a great topic. In your outline or structure of argumentative essay on euthanasia, you should highlight the main ideas such as the thesis statement, essay hook, introduction, topic sentences for the body paragraphs and supporting facts, and the concluding remarks. Here is a sample outline for a euthanasia argumentative essay.

This is a skeleton for your euthanasia essay:


  • Hook sentence/ attention grabber
  • Thesis statement
  • Background statement (history of euthanasia and definition)
  • Transition to Main Body
  • The legal landscape of euthanasia globally
  • How euthanasia affects physician-patient relationships
  • Biblical stance on euthanasia
  • Consequences of illegal euthanasia
  • Ethical and moral issues of euthanasia
  • Philosophical stance on euthanasia
  • Transition to Conclusion
  • Restated thesis statement
  • Unexpected twist or a final argument
  • Food for thought

Sample Euthanasia Essay Outline

Title: Euthanasia is not justified

Essay hook - It is there on TV, but did you know that a situation could prompt a doctor to bring to an end suffering and pain to a terminally ill patient? There is more than meets the eye on euthanasia.

Thesis statement : despite the arguments for and against euthanasia, it is legally and morally wrong to kill any person, as it is disregard of the right to life of an individual and the value of human life.

Paragraph 1: Euthanasia should be condemned as it ends the sacred lives of human beings.

  • Only God gives life and has the authority to take it and not humans.
  • The bible says, Thou shalt not kill.
  • The Quran states, "Whoever killed a Mujahid (a person who is granted the pledge of protection by the Muslims) shall not smell the fragrance of Paradise though its fragrance can be smelt at a distance of forty years (of traveling).

Paragraph 2: Euthanasia gives physicians the power to determine who lives and who dies.

  • Doctors end up playing the role of God.
  • It could be worse when doctors make mistakes or advance their self-interests to make money. They can liaise with family members to kill for the execution of a will.

Paragraph 3: it destroys the patient-physician relationship

  • Patients trust the doctors for healing
  • When performed on other patients, the remaining patients lose trust in the same doctor of the facility.
  • Under the Hippocratic Oath, doctors are supposed to alleviate pain, end suffering, and protect life, not eliminate it.

Paragraph 4: euthanasia is a form of murder

  • Life is lost in the end.
  • There are chances that when tried with other therapeutic and non-therapeutic approaches, terminally ill patients can always get better.
  • It is selfish to kill a patient based on a medical report, which in itself could be erratic.
  • Patients respond well to advanced care approaches.

Paragraph 5: ( Counterargument) euthanasia proponents argue based on relieving suffering and pain as well as reducing the escalating cost of healthcare.

  • Euthanasia helps families avoid spending much on treating a patient who might not get well.
  • It is the wish of the patients who have made peace with the fact that they might not recover.


In sum, advancement in technology in the medical field and the existence of palliative care are evidence enough that there is no need for mercy killing. Even though there are claims that it ends pain and suffering, it involves killing a patient who maybe could respond to novel approaches to treatment.

Abohaimed, S., Matar, B., Al-Shimali, H., Al-Thalji, K., Al-Othman, O., Zurba, Y., & Shah, N. (2019). Attitudes of Physicians towards Different Types of Euthanasia in Kuwait.  Medical Principles and Practice ,  28 (3), 199-207.

Attell, B. K. (2017). Changing attitudes toward euthanasia and suicide for terminally ill persons, 1977 to 2016: an age-period-cohort analysis.  OMEGA-Journal of Death and Dying , 0030222817729612.

Barone, S., & Unguru, Y. (2017). Should Euthanasia Be Considered Iatrogenic? AMA journal of ethics, 19(8), 802-814.

Emanuel, E. (2017). Euthanasia and physician-assisted suicide: focus on the data.  The Medical Journal of Australia ,  206 (8), 1-2e1.

Inbadas, H., Zaman, S., Whitelaw, S., & Clark, D. (2017). Declarations on euthanasia and assisted dying.  Death Studies, 41 (9), 574-584.

Jacobs, R. K., & Hendricks, M. (2018). Medical students' perspectives on euthanasia and physician-assisted suicide and their views on legalising these practices in South Africa.  South African Medical Journal ,  108 (6), 484-489.

Math, S. B., & Chaturvedi, S. K. (2012). Euthanasia: the right to life vs right to die.  The Indian journal of medical research, 136 (6), 899.

Reichlin, M. (2001). Euthanasia in the Netherlands.  KOS , (193), 22-29.

Saul, H. (2014, November 5). The Vatican Condemns Brittany Maynard's Decision to end her Life as �Absurd'.

Sulmasy, D. P., Travaline, J. M., & Louise, M. A. (2016). Non-faith-based arguments against physician-assisted suicide and euthanasia.  The Linacre Quarterly, 83 (3), 246-257.

Euthanasia Essay Introduction Ideas

An introduction is a gate into the compound of your well-reasoned thoughts, ideas, and opinions in an essay. As such, the introduction should be well structured in a manner that catches the attention of the readers from the onset.

While it seems the hardest thing to do, writing an introduction should never give you the fear of stress, blank page, or induce a writer's block. Instead, it should flow right from the essay hook to the thesis statement.

Given that you can access statistics, legal variations, and individual stories based on personal experiences with euthanasia online, writing a euthanasia essay introduction should be a walk in the park.

Ensure that the introduction to the essay is catchy, appealing, and informative. Here are some ideas to use:

  • Rights of humans to life
  • How euthanasia is carried out
  • When euthanasia is legally allowed
  • Stories from those with experience in euthanasia
  • The stance of doctors on euthanasia
  • Definition of euthanasia
  • Countries that allow euthanasia
  • Statistics of physicians assisted suicide in a given state, locality, or continent.
  • Perception of the public given the diversity of culture

There are tons of ideas on how to start an essay on euthanasia.  You need to research, immerse yourself in the topic, and scoop the best evidence. Presenting facts in an argumentative essay on euthanasia will help convince the readers to argue for or against euthanasia. Based on your stance, make statements in favor of euthanasia or statements against euthanasia known from the onset through the strong thesis statement.

Essay Topics and Ideas on Euthanasia

  • Should Euthanasia be legal?
  • What are the different types of euthanasia?
  • Is euthanasia morally justified?
  • Cross-cultural comparison of attitudes and beliefs on euthanasia
  • The history of euthanasia
  • Euthanasia from a Patient's Point of View
  • Should euthanasia be considered Iatrogenic?
  • Does euthanasia epitomize failed medical approaches?
  • How does euthanasia work?
  • Should Physician-Assisted Suicide be legal?
  • Sociology of Death and Dying
  • Arguments for and against euthanasia and assisted suicide
  • Euthanasia is a moral dilemma
  • The euthanasia debate
  • It Is Much Better to Die with Dignity Than to Live with Pain Essay
  • Euthanasia Is a Moral, Ethical, and Proper
  • Euthanasia Law of Euthanasia in California and New York
  • Effect of Euthanasia on Special Population
  • Euthanasia is inhuman
  • Role of nurses in Euthanasia
  • Are family and relative decisions considered during the euthanasia
  • The biblical stance on euthanasia

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Euthanasia Argumentative Essays Samples For Students

29 samples of this type

Do you feel the need to check out some previously written Argumentative Essays on Euthanasia before you start writing an own piece? In this free directory of Euthanasia Argumentative Essay examples, you are provided with a fascinating opportunity to discover meaningful topics, content structuring techniques, text flow, formatting styles, and other academically acclaimed writing practices. Implementing them while composing your own Euthanasia Argumentative Essay will surely allow you to complete the piece faster.

Presenting superb samples isn't the only way our free essays service can help students in their writing ventures – our experts can also compose from point zero a fully customized Argumentative Essay on Euthanasia that would make a strong basis for your own academic work.

Dax Cowarts Case Argumentative Essay

Dax cowart’s case.

Dax Cowart should have been allowed to stop treatment. He was 25 years old during the accident and had full knowledge of his own capacity to tolerate the pain of treatments. He was also well aware of the quality of life that he would want for himself. The following sections describe his accident and treatments, relate the stand of Dax Cowart about his treatments, and discuss the rationale for euthanasia in the case of Dax Cowart.

The accident and treatments

Example of argumentative essay on the morality of euthanasia: who has the right to die, argumentative essay on why i support euthanasia.

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Sample Argumentative Essay On Arguments In Support Of Voluntary Euthanasia

Good example of human rights argumentative essay.

- The legal issue surrounding flag burning and its verdict in relation to human rights - The First Amendment - Comparison between the Arab and Western world on human rights - Conclusion - Drawing comparison through cultural expressions - Debriefing the two authors views - Justification of Argument


What are human rights? It’s the rights humans have. Anybody and everybody born on this planet, irrespective of their nationality, sex, color, religion, and language are equal before the law, and are thus, entitled to be treated equally without discrimination.

The majority of people in the countries in the Middle-East, Africa, and to a certain extent, South America, face discrimination, and human rights issues. Can non-government organizations, or the elite society of a country help protect their citizens from human rights issues” On reading In Defense of Professional Human Rights Organizations, by Azzam (2014), and Elites Still Matter When Protecting Human Rights, by Cordero (2014), it is apparent that they both failed to address what needs to be done to protect innocent citizens from human rights violations.

In a report in Human Rights, by an anonymous writer in 2009, said that, Kosba, an Egyptian woman, and a few other Egyptian participants, which included lawyers, journalists, engineers, researchers, pharmacists, and activists, participated in a three-week program on human rights abuse, in the U.S. On completing the program, Kosba voiced her opinion that, human rights in their country could come, “if there is an empowered civil society and a new generation of reformers who are grounded in their faith and freedom.”

Kosba’s view has a lot of authenticity, simply because, here, we have a person who has seen and experienced or heard of human rights discrimination at close range. Her view is a perfect example of what needs to be done to stop human rights violations in her country.

In 2013, as the man who tried to become another Hosni Mubarak, Mohamed Morsi was abdicated from office by the military. The so-called empowered civil society is none other than the government, for, it is the government alone, which can initiate and introduce laws to protect people from injustice. It is governments alone, which has the ethical and legal duty to ensure that their people live with dignity. Human rights cover a wide range of issues. It’s not just providing basic security and amenities to the public; it also covers social, cultural, economic, religious and other humanitarian issues. These are not issues that non-government organizations or the elite club members of a country can address or solve. It has to have the support of the government.

People diagnosed with a terminally ill disease should have the right to choose their fate in order to keep their dignity.

Euthanasia is defined as the intentional killing of a person on compassionate grounds, to relieve the person of misery and pain. In most cases of euthanasia, the affected person is put to sleep by a direct action of using a lethal injection, or terminating an action necessary to maintain life. For euthanasia to occur there must be an intention to act to kill. Euthanasia can be voluntary and involuntary, depending upon the seriousness of the case. Of these, the most common cases relate to voluntary euthanasia, where the affected person asks for mercy killing. Harsh as it may sound, euthanasia harbors around this category, for it is the only accurate, non-emotional word to describe the reality of the action and a word that the law uses

The debate on euthanasia continues to cover the front pages of medical journals and the like, yet, there are no clear winners so far, to address the plea of those who seek mercy killing. Dr. Donald Low produced a video eight days before his death, castigating the medical establishment for forcing unnecessary suffering on terminal patients.

Nursall (2014), reporting on euthanasia in The Star.com, wrote that Ed Hung, “who suffered from ALS, died on Sunday in Switzerland, the only country that allows physician-assisted suicide for non-residents.” The other countries that have similar laws for their residents are Belgium and Holland. Several states in the U.S allow doctors to prescribe fatal drugs to terminally ill patients.

The debate on both, assisted suicide and euthanasia continue to rage, as many people try to take the extreme step on medical and mental grounds. No one in their senses would think of killing themselves unless they face uncertainty of life, and/or excruciating pain. To live or die, is the right of a person, and no one has the right to object to that. As Dr. Low said, just before his death, that the medical establishment had no right to put him through such pain and torture.

There is a popular belief that euthanasia shouldn't be allowed even if it were morally right, because, should the law turn a blind eye to euthanasia, it could be abused and used as a cover for murder (BBC, 2005). This argument clearly shows that it has to be a law, that decides what is right and what is wrong, and not, any non-government organizations or the elite society.

Freedom of speech, freedom of press, freedom of association, freedom of assembly and petition are all expressions that are based on human rights. These are laws passed by legislation, approved by the government and practiced by the judiciary.

In 1984, during the Republican National Convention in Dallas, Texas, a certain Gregory Lee (Joey) Johnson was part of a political demonstration. The protest was against some of President Reagan’s, and some Dallas-based corporation’s policies. In the heat of the moment, and sometime during the march, it came to light that Johnson had burned an American flag in full view of the demonstrators.

While the march was peaceful, and no one was physically injured or threatened with injury, several protestors who were witness to Johnson’s defamation, were offended by his action. Johnson was found guilty and convicted for desecrating the national flag in violation of a Texas statute. He was charged, and the case was allowed by the State Court of Appeals (Apel, 1989).

However, the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals reversed their earlier decision, citing that, the State of Texas, consistent with their opinion of the First Amendment, would not punish Johnson for burning the flag. The court declared that Johnson’s act of burning the flag was an expressive conduct that could be protected by the First Amendment. The First Amendment ensured that there could be no prosecution of Johnson under the present circumstance, and so, concluded that the State could not file criminal charges against Johnson for his act. The statute too, did not meet the State’s goal of preventing breaches of the peace, and so, Johnson was not guilty of causing and serious public disturbances (Apel, 1989).

It would be illogical to even contemplate questioning certain Muslim nations whether they have such freedom available to them. It is the rulers who dictate and pass laws there, and the government is just an entity. The question, therefore, is not whether these countries have such liberties accorded to their citizens, but, can an elite league or a non-government organization, let alone, the government; have the power to overrule the hierarchy in those nations?

In the U.S, the First Amendment was passed into law by the government, and protected by the judiciary. Therefore, such human rights are clearly under the jurisdiction of the government, and not some non-government organizations or elite societies.

Would it be possible for them to disobey the hierarchy and take the matter to their Supreme Court? For a nation like Saudi Arabia, where it is illegal for women to show their face in public places, or drive cars on their own, such luxuries are a distant dream, because it is the law of the hierarchy, and not a law that allows them the freedom of expression.

It can be concluded that while both, Azzam (2014), and Cordero (2014), accept the importance of human rights, they are far less convincing in assessing how human rights issues need to be addressed. True, some elites and non-government organizations do have influence with their governments, but they don’t have the power to influence governments in issues as sensitive as this, which is, a human rights issue. It is only governments that can address the issue of human rights, and not non-government organizations or the elite.

Works cited

Apel, Warren S, (1989), U.S. Supreme Court: TEXAS v. JOHNSON, 491 U.S. 397 (1989) 491 U.S. 397, Certiorari to the Court of Criminals Appeals of Texas, No. 88-155, Retrieved March 22, 2014, from http://www.esquilax.com/flag/texasvjohnson.html Azzam, F, (2014), In defense of 'professional' human rights organizations, Retrieved March 22, 2014, from http://www.opendemocracy.net/openglobalrights/fateh-azzam/in-defense-of-professional-human-rights-organizations Anonymous, (2009), Human Rights, The Washington Report on Middle East Affairs, American Educational Trust, Volume 28(5), ISSN 87554917, p. 58-59 BBC, Religion and Ethics: Ethical Issues, bbc.co.uk, Retrieved March 22, 2014, from http://www.bbc.co.uk/religion/ethics/euthanasia/overview/introduction.shtml Cordero, F, (2014), Elites still matter when protecting human rights, Retrieved March 22, 2014, from http://www.opendemocracy.net/openglobalrights/felipe-cordero/elites-still-matter-when-protecting-human-rights Nursall, K, (2014), Canada's shifting landscape on euthanasia, GTA, Retrieved March 22, 2014, from http://www.thestar.com/news/gta/2014/03/19/canadas_shifting_landscape_on_euthan asia.html Shin, H, B, (2013), Human Rights, Asian Journal of International Law, Cambridge University Press, Volume 3(2), ISSN 20442513, p. 419-420, DOI http://dx.doi.org.ezproxy.apollolibrary.com/10.1017/S2044251313000118

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