Why dying with dignity matters

Below are two paragraphs from a university essay that I submitted last year. The essay discusses euthanasia, through examining the sanctity of life argument, why dying with dignity matters, the slippery slope argument and real life safeguards. Euthanasia is a moral issue of our time. To stimulate thought about the subject core, I wish to share my two academically engaged paragraphs on why dying with dignity matters.

I argue that self worth and fundamental values are disrespected by restricting people from acting upon what life and death mean to them. There is no distinct moral difference between letting die and euthanasia. James Rachel’s (1986, p. 111) argues that although passive euthanasia, which merely lets someone die, as opposed to active euthanasia, which kills purposefully, there is nothing to suggest that the ‘latter is worse than the former’. Joel Feinberg (1978) lists core values of ‘authenticity, integrity and distinct self-identity’ that are aligned with autonomy. Dying with dignity encompasses intrinsic, unconditional qualities of humans, along with external physical aspects of ‘autonomy, meaningfulness, preparedness, and interpersonal connection’ (Cuttini et al. 2004). Historical tracings take us back to the Stoics, where ‘self-killing was justified’, to ‘offset the effects of pain, mutilation or incurable illness’ (Paterson 2008). A distinction must be made between being alive and merely having a life. The former focuses on biology, whereas the significant latter on ‘worthwhile biographical characteristics’ that make life valuable (Paterson 2008). Peter Singer (2011, p. 93) focuses on the quality of life in order to inform decision making when it comes to euthanasia and will in some cases justify its practice.

 Lower enjoyment of life levels, depression and pain are reasons people wish to no longer live. A study on views of euthanasia recruited a total of 142 neonatal intensive care units, predominantly in Europe and the United Kingdom. The overwhelming opinion was that active euthanasia is needed now more than ever, which I argue provides a means of relief for the ill patient, as well as the family (Cuttini et al. 2004). It must be noted that euthanasia is a method to be used for those who cannot have their suffering alleviated, because their critical position puts them past such a stage to ‘experience the relief of suffering’ (Brouwer et al. 2018, p. 2). If palliative care is also going to bring about death, I opt for different means to bring about quicker ends, to ensure individual autonomy remains. Bentham, (2007, p. 43) a key thinker of utilitarianism, suggested that it could be morally justifiable to seek to end a life, given that it had outlived its benefit and usefulness. A quality of life stance must be taken on euthanasia, rather than an obsession about how it is wrong to kill. To die with dignity is a right one should have access to, as opposed to leaving this world suffering.





Bentham, J 2007, An Introduction to the Principles of Morals and Legislation, Dover Publications Inc., New York, NY.

Brouwer, M, Kaczor, C, Battin, MP, Maeckelberghe, E, Lantos, JD & Verghagen, E 2018, ‘Should Pediatric Euthanasia be Legalized?’, Pediatrics, vol. 141, no. 2, pp. 1-5, viewed 10 September 2018, http://pediatrics.aappublications.org/content/142/3?current-issue=y

Cuttini, M, Casotto, V, Kaminski, M, Beaufort, ID, Berbik, I, Hansen, G, Kollée, L, Kucinskas, A, Lenoir, S, Levin, A, Orzalesi, M, Persson, J, Rebagliato, M, Reid, M & Saracci, R 2004, ‘Should euthanasia be legal? An international survey of neonatal intensive care units staff’, ADC: Archives of Disease in Childhood, vol. 89, no. 1, pp. 19-24, viewed 10 September 2018, https://fn.bmj.com

Feinberg, J 1978, ‘Voluntary Euthanasia and the Inalienable Right to Life’, PPA: Philosophy & Public Affairs, vol. 7, no. 2, pp. 93-123, viewed 10 September 2018, https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/journal/10884963

Paterson, C 2008,  Assisted Suicide and Euthanasia: A Natural Law Ethics Approach, Routledge, New York, NY, viewed 10 September 2018, https://ebookcentral-proquest-com.ezproxy1.library.usyd.edu.au/lib/usyd/reader.action?docID=438867&query=

Rachels, J 1986, Active and passive euthanasia, Oxford University Press, New York, NY.

Singer, P 2011, Practical ethics, 3rd edn, Cambridge University Press, England.

The 1979 Iranian Revolution and Implications

Iran before the 1979 revolution

In February of 1979, Ayatollah Khomeini led the overthrow of the Shah (king) and succeeded to power in Iran. Iran was relatively modern in the early 20th century, however regressive conservatism imposed by the revolution, which remains today, makes it worthy of attention. I argue that implications of the revolution on Iran itself and the global community at large continue to be significant and worrisome.  

In the early 20th century, constitutional values of Iran drew inspiration from the West. As early as 1925, women’s rights were on the agenda in Iran with Reza Shah Pahlavi acknowledging women’s significance in the population (Rafique & Butt 2017). Mohammed Reza Pahlavi, who rose to power in 1941, succeeding his father, imposed reforms of the ‘White Revolution’. He drew inspiration from modern European values, hoping to steer ‘internal policies on women’s rights and their compulsory education’ through democratic means (Rafique & Butt 2017).

Iran is unique in the sense that it was well ahead of its time in the 20th century for a Muslim majority country. ‘Physical aptitude’ became a requirement for marriage in 1931, and the ages for marriage for a boy and girl were raised to 15 and 18 from 9 and 15 respectively (Rafique & Butt 2017). The Family Protection Act was enacted in 1967, focusing on women’s family rights, through for example, vowing to ‘handle divorce and child custody cases in a civil court’ (Rafique & Butt 2017).

A rising and conservative faction in Iran led by Khomeini, opposed to such progression. The collapse of the Ottoman Empire after World War One in 1918 saw Muslim nations fighting for independence. Iranian conservatives preached that only through religion, could Iran express and return to its true self. The west was viewed as destructively deviant from the true identity of Iran.

Immediately after Khomeini took power in 1979, the identity of Iran began to change. The Family Protection Act was abolished immediately. A law was passed in 1983 to allow for punishment of a woman if she wasn’t wearing a black hijab, which hadn’t been required by law since 1936 (Rafique & Butt 2017). Khomeini stated that ‘women’s honor needed to be preserved’ (Khomeini, cited in Kazmir & Bell 2019) and so the guardian system was introduced. A male, preferably a family member or husband, was required to guard women at all times, and provide permission on their behalf for educational, employment, travel and social matters.

Today, domestically within Iran, implications of the revolution are evident. The Green Movement protests in 2009 reflect the discontent of people within Iran and lack of support for the regime. According to an Amnesty International study released in 2018, over 7000 political activists critical of the Republic have been arrested(Amnesty International, cited in Etehad & Mostaghim 2019). Women’s employment in the labor force is a total of 17% according to the World Bank (World Bank, cited in Etehad & Mostaghim 2019). Today, people are dissatisfied with the high level of unemployment and poor economic progress despite the oil revenues that hold the economy together.

Global implications of the revolution transpired. The United States supported Suddam Hussein, former President of Iraq, with weapons and training, helping Iraq to take control of the Iran-Iraq war. Events such as Saddam Hussein’s invasion of Kuwait in 1991, the creation of al-Qaeda terrorist network and the tragic events of 9/11 have their foundations in elements of the Iranian Revolution. Divisions in the global community remain, with the United States being once a close ally to now a distant enemy.

Perhaps the most worrisome implication that follows the revolution is the inspiration its success could potentially serve to those hoping to achieve the same. The Iranian Revolution displays that a goal of establishing an Islamic State could transform into a reality. There can always be a possibility of ‘winning’ whether it is done ethically or not. Progression and modernisation are essential to remain fluid and adaptable. However, principles of the revolution suggest that the opposite is desirable. The revolution implies that to treat women as objects and to remove their rights is acceptable and in fact in accordance with ‘religion’. I use the term ‘religion’ lightly, because the interpretation of any religion varies widely. Implications upon human rights are immense.

I believe we are some time away from seeing Iran return to its state before the revolution. However, powerful voices of the hopeful will eventually flourish at large.

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Etehad, M & Mostaghim R 2019, ‘It’s been 40 years since Iran’s Islamic Revolution. Here’s how the country has chnaged’, LA Times, 11 February, viewed 14 May 2019, https://www.latimes.com

Kazmir, M & Bell, B 2019, ‘Before and After: Iran 1979’, International Policy Digest, 22 February, viewed 14 May 2019, https://intpolicydigest.org

Rafique, S & Butt, KM 2017, ‘Position of Women in Iran: An Analysis of Pre and Post Islamic Revolution’, A Research Journal of South Asian Studies, vol. 32, no. 2, pp. 431-439.

Brunei a prime example of why speaking up matters

Flag of Brunei

Brunei is a small and relatively wealthy country located in Southeast Asia, with Islam being the main religion. In October of 2013, Sultan and Prime Minister Hassanal Bolkiah introduced plans of a new penal code. The code expressed of legally enacting whipping and stoning to death of people found guilty of homosexuality and related acts (Gant 2019). Despite the delay in execution of the law, in early April of 2019, its implementation was expressed.

International widespread condemnation followed the announcement, with the United Nations highlighting serious human rights violations. High profile celebrities such as George Clooney and Ellen DeGeneres called for a boycott of hotels owned by the sultan of Brunei. Companies such as JPMorgan Chase and Deutsche Bank called for their employees to avoid giving business to the hotels too.

Today, the world woke up to the news that Brunei will not be imposing the death penalty on those found to be engaging in homosexual acts. LGBT citizens can still face other penalties such as fines or jail time. However, the retraction of the death penalty imposition is certainly a step in the right direction.

This decision was clearly influenced by the international communities disapproval and responsive action. Although people in this day are disenfranchised, many still do have a voice. Social media platforms must be used to speak up in a good hearted and respectful matter on behalf of the voiceless. Had the international community not spoke up for the rights of the people of Brunei, there is a strong likelihood that retraction would not have occurred anytime soon, or ever.

I compare the value of our voice to the value of our right to vote. They are both vehicles of expression and power. I was stunned by the fact that 4/10 Americans in the 2016 presidential election, who were eligible to vote, did not vote (Pew Research Center 2018). Of course, a single vote or a single voice itself may possess minimal impact. However, the collective influence of accumulated voices and desires rising together is enormous.  Such a privilege should be used wisely and never taken for granted.

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Gant, J 2019, ‘Sultan of Brunei says he will NOT enforce the death penalty for gay sex after widespread backlash led by celebrities including Elton John and George Clooney’, Daily Mail, 5 May, viewed 6 May 2019, https://www.dailymail.co.uk/home/index.html

Pew Research Center 2018, For Most Trump Voters, ‘Very Warm’, Feelings for Him Endured, Trust, Facts and Democracy, Washington, viewed 6 May 2019, https://www.people-press.org/2018/08/09/for-most-trump-voters-very-warm-feelings-for-him-endured/