March 5, 2024


Why should people have to be suffering to deserve voluntary euthanasia, asks a Finnish academic in the latest issue of the journal Bioethics. Jukka Varelius, of the University of Turku, insists that his point is principally a logical one: that if we allow VE at all, suffering cannot be regarded asan essential requirement. Indeed, as he points out, suffering can be an opportunity for personal growth for some people.

The crux of his argument rests upon a definition of medicine. There are two main approaches to this. The traditional one says that medicine’s job is objective — to maximise health and relieve pain and suffering. But more recently bioethicists have argued that “the proper goals of medicine are ultimately determined by the autonomous decisions of patients”. One implication of this is that if a patient wants to die, a doctor has no business stopping him.

So, concludes Dr Varelius, “if one accepts voluntary euthanasia in the case of a person who is suffering, one should also accept it in the case of a person who is, for example, tired of living, considers her existence as meaningless, and autonomously wants to die.”.