Mercy Killing, Its Definition, Pros and Cons

Table of Contents


He had been in the hospital for eight months now. Visits to the hospital where my grandfather had been admitted were one of the most painful experiences that I have ever had. I knew that he was undergoing extreme mental and physical pain. I had painfully watched my grandfather’s health deteriorate ultimately bringing him to this state where he was only living to endure pain with no hope. The Doctor had said that all attempts of recovery were now futile. I could sometimes watch him scream loudly as a result of the extreme pain that he was enduring. As I often watched my grandfather closely, I could confirm that the once enthusiastic face was gradually losing interest in life and had instead been reduced to a shell of suffering with no confidence, hope or self-esteem. It even reached a point where he was not even able to recognize friends and relatives including me, his favorite grandson. We now had to make this difficult decision-to end his life and relieve him all the pain that he was undergoing. I remember standing beside my grandfather as the doctor cut off oxygen supply. He struggled shortly before stiffening with a weak smile on his face. Although this happened five years ago, the memories are still vivid in my mind. I knew and I have always known that we made the right decision for our grandfather as a family. (Heifetz. & Mangel, 185)

Main Body

Mercy killing relieves suffering and pain not just to the patient but also to friends and family. As I had said, my grandfather was enduring extreme mental and physical pain which had reduced him to someone who was only living to endure this suffering with no hope at all. My grandfather was struggling to breathe even with oxygen tubes on his nostrils. In short, we were forcing him to live. To live for what purpose? The truth is that we were doing all these because we were afraid to lose our grandfather. One can therefore argue that we were keeping our grandfather here with us for our own selfish purposes. Our fear of losing him overlooked the great pain that he was undergoing- a pain that he was undergoing as we forced him to continue living. It is at such moments when mercy killing is considered. (Grisez, & Boyle, 509)

Mercy killing or euthanasia is a word used to denote the act of ending someone else’s life either voluntarily or involuntarily. This process is usually carried out in a painless way to the patient. Those whom euthanasia is performed on are usually people in a vegetative state and whom doctors have ruled out the hope of a recovery. In most cases, such people are usually in much pain and therefore putting them to death is in a way viewed as a merciful way of relieving their pain. This decision to administer euthanasia on someone is usually carried out by medical personnel with the consent of the patient or a close relative if the concerned person is not in a state to give out the consent. As I said earlier, mercy killing is usually performed on people who have terminal diseases and who are usually undergoing much physical pain. Although it is not bad to mourn or endure emotional pain because of a loved one that is in such kind of suffering, it is true that we can sometimes make this process unnecessarily longer by people whose time has come alive through any means. This not only increases the duration of emotional and mental suffering for us but can also increase the magnitude of pain for us. We are in danger of becoming disillusioned and ignoring important areas of our lives because our lives have unnecessarily stopped. Many other consequences can therefore follow from this like trauma, family break ups and lose of jobs among others. (Grisez, & Boyle, 511)

Our lives can therefore stop because we are not willing to execute mercy killing on a loved one although it is obvious that this person will automatically leave us in the end. It is only after such a person has died that our minds can accept the reality of the loss enabling us to confront this truth and move on with our lives. According to the Physiological fight or flight theory, our bodies are naturally intuited mentally, physically and emotionally to deal with and adapt to a changed environment. A change of an environment involves an alteration of circumstances or our world as we know it. Failure to adapt to an environment hinders our coping abilities leading to stress which can progress further to depression. This is what can occur when we postpone death by fearing to execute mercy killing. This is despite the fact that our time and emotional resources being channeled for a futile cause. The more we try to keep someone who has already left us here with us, the more it becomes expensive for us in all aspects. For example, it can start with breathing problems which would eventually lead to struggling to breath even with the more expensive mixture fed to the patient at the nostrils of the patient and finally to the most expensive pure oxygen fed to the dying patient. The array of foot and air tubes among other machinery around a dying patient is a witness that we are holding on to a life that is desperate to leave us a process that becomes increasingly expensive to the patient and to us. This is doing more damage to us and the patient than good. (Heifetz. & Mangel, 197)

One common argument against mercy killing is that God is the only one who gives life and that He is therefore the only one who should take it away. The proponents of this theory say that life is very valuable and should therefore be preserved at whatever cost. It is true that life is precious gift given by God and that we need to cherish it. The reality that is not however seen is that by avoiding mercy killing, we are using artificial means like breathing machinery to hold on to a life that should have naturally died. Is this trying to give life when we do not have the power or the means to do it? No wonder such attempts take us nowhere apart from causing us pain and misery, disappointment and draining our resources. Dying here is not just dying clinically, in cases of mercy killing, the patient has already died. By that time, he has been reduced to suffering and nothing else. (Manning, 99)

They are only living to endure pain with an imminent death. The patient is already dead. Mercy killing is not therefore taking away life; it is more of accepting a truth and relieving pain not just to a loved one but also to a family and many other people in general. The resources that are being channeled to such patients can be directed to a more worthy cause. For example, the medical equipment used on the patient can be used on another patient that can be resuscitated. What about our time and finances that can be used to cherish and appreciate those that we love but are still living? On the other hand, we have seen and heard how people have drowned to huge debts by trying to sustain a life that had already died a long time ago. Such families may have to endure the effects of such a financial burden for the rest of their lives. Our lives are short here on earth and can come to a halt at any time. It is therefore only reasonable that we try to enjoy our stay here as much as possible and concentrate on those who are alive or those that can be resuscitated back. Mercy killing allows this to happen, it brings good to the majority. (Manning, 101)

Another argument against mercy killing is that it is used as an excuse by people who don’t really value a loved one to continue with their lives something that can be viewed as selfish. Looking at such an argument closely, one will see that it can not be used as a rationale against mercy killing. This is because selfishness is a personal choice and cannot be generalized with the action of mercy killing. Many people that adopt mercy killing for a loved one do it from a heart of care because they believe that they are ending extreme suffering for their loved one. This loved one is more precious than what their pockets could give or their finances could buy. Although they have given all these wholeheartedly, it has not eased suffering for their loved one but it has increased it. Since the objective has not been realized for the one they love, they now have to painfully meet the objective of ending suffering for their loved one by ending his/her life. Ironically, those who are unwilling to adopt mercy killing can be described as selfish since they are just postponing death of a loved one who has to endure extreme pain just because they want him/her to stay around. (Jenkins, 195)


Mercy killing is a controversial area where many people can present diverse pros and cons against it. A few realities are however obvious. One is that it is executed when someone is enduring extreme pain and suffering with no hope of improving. Another reality is that keeping such a person alive is just postponing a reality and that it will just drain our efforts and resources in vain. Several moral questions arise concerning mercy killing. By following such moral ideals, we are likely to find ourselves in a labyrinth lined with uncertainties whether what we are doing is good for a patient and us. We would then be acting in pretence to preserve our moral egos instead of accepting facts and realities that are with us. The reality is that someone is already dead and that we are just increasing and prolonging his/her pain and our pain by keeping him/her alive.

Works Cited

Grisez, Germain, & Boyle, Joseph. Life and death with liberty and justice: a contribution to the euthanasia debate. University of Notre Dame Press, 1979.451-521.Print

Heifetz, Milton. &, Mangel, Charles. The Right to Die. Toronto: Longman Canada Limited, 1975.158-245.Print

Jenkins, Joe. Contemporary moral issues; Examining Religions Series, ed. Heinemann, 2002.125-205.print

Manning, Michael. Euthanasia and physician-assisted suicide: killing or caring? Paulist Press, 1998.96-120.Print

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