Delineate and evaluate Kamisar’s argument on euthanasia IntroductionYale Kamisar, a distinguished university professor at University of Michigan Law School,express his viewpoint in euthanasia in a few of his essays: “Euthanasia Legislation: SomeNonreligious Objections”1, “Against Assisted Suicide – Even a Very Limited Form”2,"Physician-Assisted Suicide: The Last Bridge to Active Voluntary Euthanasia"3. In the firstpart of my essay, I am going to focus on his essay “Euthanasia Legislation: SomeNonreligious objections” and delineate Kamisar’s arguments against euthanasia. I will beelaborating on (1) the difficulty in determining the voluntariness of consent (2) thepossibilities of errors in medical decision making, (3) The slippery slope argument whichmay lead to the legislation of involuntary euthanasia. In the second part of my essay, Iam going to evaluate his argument. 1)Kamisar’s arguments on euthanasiaRegarding euthanasia, Kamisar is not an absolutist in opposing the legalisation ofvoluntary euthanasia and has pointed out that voluntary euthanasia may be justifiablemorally as long as the patient fulfils the following conditions:(1) presentlyPresently incurable, (2) beyondBeyond the aid of any respite which may come along in his life expectancy,suffering, (3) intolerable and (4) un-mitigable pain and of a (5) Ffixed and (6) rational desire to die4. However, Kamisar sees certain drawbacks in the legalisation of voluntary euthanasia. Inhis essay “Euthanasia Legislation: Some Nonreligious Objections”, Kamisar has giventhree nonreligious main arguments against euthanasia in response to Glanville William’sviewpoint that euthanasia can be condemned only according to a religious opinion5.1 Tom L.Beauchamp; Seymour Perlin, Euthanasia Legislation: Some Nonreligious Objections, Yale KamisarExcerpted from Ethical Issues in Death and Dying (Prentice-Hall, Inc., Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey, 1978) p.220-2312 Yale Kamisar, Against Assisted Suicide – Even a Very Limited Form (University of Detroit, 1995) 3 Yale Kamisar, Physician Assisted Suicide: The Last Bridge to Active Voluntary Euthanasia (University of Michigan Law School, 1995) 4 Tom L.Beauchamp; Seymour Perlin, Euthanasia Legislation: Some Nonreligious Objections, Yale KamisarExcerpted from Ethical Issues in Death and Dying (Prentice-Hall, Inc., Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey, 1978) p.2215 "Euthanasia can be condemned only according to a religious opinion, this should be sufficient for the present day to remove the prohibition from the criminal law"
Kamisar has divided his essay in three main part: The Choice, The “Hopelessly Incurable”Patient And The Fallible Doctor, Voluntary Versus Involuntary Euthanasia which has bringout his three nonreligious main arguments against euthanasia.1.1)The ChoiceRegarding the degree of voluntariness of the patients’ consent towards euthanasia, hisviewpoint is the following:Is he [the patient] truly able to make euthanasia a “voluntary” act? There is a good dealto be said, is there not.6Kamisar sees the danger that the legalisation of voluntary euthanasia will be abused as itis very difficult to determine whether the patients’ consent to euthanasia is voluntary ornot. Kamisar has provided two main reasons for this argument. First, Kamisar believesthat patient’s decisions to undergo euthanasia may be influenced by the effect of drugsand negative emotions. Kamisar, in his essay supports Dr. Benjamin Miller regarding thelucid moment faced by the patients will influence their decision-making. According to Dr.Benjamin Miller, a severely ill person will have distortedjudgment especially during theworst moments of illness. The capacity for courageous and rational thought are seen todeviate because of the toxic and pain effectof the disease.In Kamisar’s essay, he has also quote Dr Benjamin Miller's words to his support hisviewpoint that the lucid moments faced by the patients will influence their decision-making: Anyone who has been severely ill knows how distorted his judgment became during theworst moments of the illness. Pain and the toxic effect of the disease, or the violentreaction to certain surgical procedures may change our capacity for rational andcourageous thought.7 Glanville Williams, The Sanctity of Life and the Criminal Law by Glanville Williams (New York: Alfred A Knopf, 1957) p.3026 Tom L.Beauchamp; Seymour Perlin, Euthanasia Legislation: Some Nonreligious Objections, Yale KamisarExcerpted from Ethical Issues in Death and Dying (Prentice-Hall, Inc., Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey, 1978) p.2227 Dr Benjamin Miller, Why I Oppose Mercy Killing (Woman’s Home Companion, June 1950) p.103
Second, even though the patient’s decision towards euthanasia is known to be “clearand incontrovertible”, Kamisar sees the risk of abuse if legislation of voluntaryeuthanasia is justifiable since there is a chance that the decisions made by the patientsare influenced by their family members:Some who are not really tired of life, but think others are tired of them.............Will notsome feel an obligation to have themselves “eliminated” in order that funds allocated fortheir terminal care might be better used by their families or financial worries aside, inorder to relieve their families of emotional strain involved.8Due to the influence of drugs, depression and family members, Kamisar doubts that thevoluntariness of the consent of the patients’ decisions on euthanasia.1.2)The “Hopelessly Incurable” Patient And The Fallible Doctor In this section, Kamisar has provided two arguments. First, Kamisar believes that theremay be chances that physicians will make the wrong judgments on the patients’conditions, as doctors are mere human and might make honest mistakes like otherpeople due to the human mind and its limitations.9given that Doctors are only human beings, with few if any supermen among them. They makehonest mistakes, like other men, became of the limitations of the human mind.9In this case, the patient’s conditions may be exaggerated which leads to wrongjudgments. Besides the misjudgement of the patient's condition, Kamisar further raisedthe point that given today's advanced technology, there is always a possibility of the curein presently incurable illnesses in the future, thus if voluntary euthanasia was to madelegalised, some patients might die unnecessarily.1.3)Voluntary Versus Involuntary EuthanasiaKamisar has formulated a slippery slope argument which Griffiths and van der Burg8 Tom L.Beauchamp; Seymour Perlin, Euthanasia Legislation: Some Nonreligious Objections, Yale KamisarExcerpted from Ethical Issues in Death and Dying (Prentice-Hall, Inc., Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey, 1978) p.2249, Tom L.Beauchamp; Seymour Perlin, Euthanasia Legislation: Some Nonreligious Objections, Yale Kamisar Excerpted from Ethical Issues in Death and Dying (Prentice-Hall, Inc., Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey, 1978) p.225
outline the argument in a precise way:If we allow A (the use euthanasia at the request of terminally ill patients), B (abuse ofeuthanasia, that is, ending the life of vulnerable patient groups without their consent)will necessarily or very likely follow. B is morally not acceptable; therefore, we must notallow A. 10Kamisar has provided three main reasons in his essay. First, Kamisar has seen that thereasons proposed by the proponents of voluntary euthanasia are as well applicable forsome involuntary euthanasia cases, for example, the "congenital idiots’’, thepermanently insane” and the senile11. Second, he quotes data from a poll which showsthat American show more support for euthanasia for defective infants more than thosewho are incurably ill. Third, in support of the wedge argument, Kamisar as wellmentions the laments happened in Nazi Germany, which Leo Alexander12 names it as the“small beginnings” theory13. He further And expresses his concern that the law oflegalisation of voluntary euthanasia will be abused, meaning that we will inevitably slipdown the slippery slope towards Nazism. He suggests that the legal machinery mightend up killing people who are considered to be nuisance to others rather than killingpeople who are nuisance to themselves, thereby taking a strong stand againstEuthanasia. :The legal machinery initially designed to kill those who are a nuisance to themselvesmay someday engulf those who are a nuisance to others.14101112 Alexander was the first one to apply the Nazi analogy to medical ethics 13The beginnings at first were merely a subtle shift in emphasis in the basic attitude of the physicians. It started with the acceptance of the attitude, basic in the euthanasia movement that there is such a thing inlife not worthy to be lived. This attitude in its early stages concerned itself merely with the severely and chronically sick. Gradually the sphere of those to be included in this category was enlarged to encompass the socially unproductive, the ideology unwanted, the radically unwanted and finally all non- Germans. But it is important to realise that the infinitely small wedge in lever from which this entire trend of mind received its impetus was the attitude towards the non-rehabilitable sick. 14