Euthanasia in Zambia : An Ethical Assessment
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The debate on whether euthanasia is morally permissible or not has become one of the most controversial issues in the world. Despite the fact that there is not much discussion in Zambia on the practice, Zambia is not spared from moral consequences of both euthanasia being practiced without comprehensive legislation and ignorance on key issues relating to euthanasia. Although euthanasia has been discussed from many moral points of views like utilitarianism, Kantian ethics, and even virtue ethics, it has not been discussed from the point of view of a "claimed" common morality that is inherent in the Hebrew-Christian tradition. This study is divided into two parts. The first part describes euthanasia, distinguishes the different types of euthanasia, offers a short history of euthanasia, gives some moral arguments for and against the practice, and states the fact that in Zambia, there are no adequate guidelines or legislation on euthanasia. The second part discusses whether some kinds of euthanasia should be morally permissible or not. This is done through an ethical assessment of euthanasia using Alan Donagan’s ethical theory, namely the fundamental principle of common morality described in his book The Theory of Morality. By applying Donagan’s fundamental principle to the different types of euthanasia, I argue that voluntary euthanasia is morally permissible if the patient seeking it is competent. Non-voluntary euthanasia can only be morally permissible if the wishes of a patient in a written will are followed. Involuntary euthanasia and non-voluntary euthanasia where a surrogate makes a decision on behalf of those who are dying, are morally impermissible. If human beings are to be respected as rational creatures in Zambia, the moral basis for accepting or denying euthanasia should be established. This respect of human beings as rational should result in law or guidelines on euthanasia. More discussion on the issue and establishing a medical ethics curriculum in medical schools are necessary to help in establishing that much needed moral basis on the practice.