Euthanasia and Assisted Suicide: Changing Mores, Slippery Slope or Both?


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Mercy or slippery slope? Image by yanivba.

Assisted suicide: Mercy or slippery slope? Image by yanivba.

Euthanasia, or assisted suicide, also called “mercy killing,”  is legal in five places in the world today. In the U.S.A. it is legal in the states of Washington and Oregon. In Europe, euthanasia is legal in the Netherlands, Luxembourg and Belgium. Are nations beginning to think of physician-assisted suicide in the cases of terminal illness or even emotional discomfort as a personal right due to changing mores or a slippery slope – or both?

Arguments For and Against Assisted Suicide

According to, proponents of the practice argue that it is a way to end meaningless pain and suffering when the quality of life of an individual is low. Other arguments center around “freeing up” of medical funds to help others and respecting freedom of choice.

Opponents believe the practice devalues human life, and that it can become a method of reducing health care costs and increasing profits. They also believe that physicians should not be involved in ending lives – and lastly, that the practice is a “slippery slope” that starts with only allowing the terminally ill or emotionally distressed to end their own lives and leads to allowing other people to make the choice for them.

Euthenasia, The Slippery Slope, and Changing Mores

In Belgium, euthanasia became legal in 2002. Lately, euthanasia is reported to have been performed on the mentally ill without notifying family members.  Tom Mortier, in an article titled “How My Mother Died,” published on decries the termination of the life of his mother in Belgium.  His mother suffered from chronic depression, and she was killed by an injection given by a physician who stated that to Mortier that he was “absolutely certain” that his mother did not wish to continue living.  It was, the hospital explained, his mother’s free choice.

Mortier’s experience illustrates the descent down the slope.  Whereas euthanasia was originally only discussed in terms of terminal physical illness, in Belgium, acceptable diagnoses include mental illness.  Mortier writes “we ask our doctors to kill us, breaking fundamental biological and human laws.”

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