Unethical Euthanasia

by GeoKallo on April 2, 2015 - 5:41pm

Media is often criticized for being biased and not fully covering social issues. Accordingly, public opinion is frequently influenced and people start having biased beliefs as well. The Supreme Court of Canada choosing to allow the death of individuals by euthanasia and assisted suicide is one example of an issue tackled by the media, which has raised many concerns.

One article, written by Alex Schadenberg, in the National Post, takes on this ruling in a rather one-sided point of view. In this article, the Court is criticized for making an “irresponsible decision.” (Schadenberg) Schadenberg suggests that this decision has not been well formulated and many will abuse this law. He takes the example of euthanasia cases in the Netherlands and in Belgium, where “assisted death [is] becoming the norm in all of the situations.” (Schadenberg) He also mentions the fact that the assisted deaths for psychiatric conditions immensely increased in 2012, which should be worrying to all Canadians, since individuals in other countries already abuse their power to cause death.

Another article, written by Laura Payton, in CBC News, concentrates more on the positive aspects of the controversial decision of the Supreme Court of Canada. The author first briefly explains what this verdict was about and then proceeds to refer to the Carter and Taylor Cases. She then tells us about Carter’s judgment on this matter and also mentions how euthanasia being illegal in Canada “impinges on security of the person.” (Payton) The author concentrates on presenting only the pros of legalizing euthanasia in Canada and finally mentions that doctors are not even obligated to help with assisted suicide.

These two articles are framed in their respective manner. Both provide a certain perspective concerning the issue and both push the readers into having an influenced opinion about euthanasia. Framing is a common problem regarding media, which, in this case, effectively does give the readers a certain point of view regarding the matter. Essentially, euthanasia is not ethically represented in media. When journalists start framing an issue, they will stick to whatever is relevant to the frame. This therefore causes bias to form. Journalists often pick a specific side of a story and present it according to this side. Consequently, articles contain a single side of an issue, as demonstrated in both articles above, and the opposite point of view is barely, or never, expressed.

The media has the responsibility of “distinguishing disseminating information from analysis and opinions” (Ravi) and informing the citizens to help them decide how to judge different situations in their society. By spreading biased information, media services are committing an ethically incorrect act. From the deontological point of view, the media is not fulfilling its duty; the representation of the euthanasia debate is therefore ethically wrong, since their duty is to inform the public of the decision of the Supreme Court, and not develop a point of view that may influence the readers or viewers into having a biased attitude towards the matter in question. On the other hand, these media representations are also ethically wrong from the teleological point of view. In this ethical theory, “the object is to choose the action that will bring the most good to the party the actor deems most important.” (Merrill, 11) Looking at the fact that media exists in order to inform us of news in our society, the most important party is the group of people that the media targets. Therefore, feeding the readers of these two articles facts that encourage a specific opinion regarding the legalization of euthanasia in Canada is also ethically erroneous.

The two opposing sides of the euthanasia debate are presented through the two articles. Those who oppose to the Court’s decision are seen through Schadenberg’s article, while those who agree with this decision and seen through Payton’s article. However, not everybody reads both of these articles. Most people would have read only one of them, which would have given them a biased opinion. In order for the media to present this issue more ethically, the journalists should be giving out as much information as possible from as many different views as possible to maximize the readers’ knowledge concerning the debatable decision made by the Supreme Court. By imposing only one side of this story, readers are given closed parameters on how they should be thinking about the question in hand. Conversely, by presenting this matter from as many different views as possible, readers are given the chance to come up with their own uninfluenced opinion since all different point of views are accessible to them.

This suggested solution in making media representations of the Supreme Court of Canada’s choosing to accept euthanasia and assisted suicide more ethically correct takes on a rather utilitarian approach. By giving the people as much information as possible, you give them what they ultimately want (which is knowledge about the issue), and this also might positively affect media industries seeing that more people would be satisfied. Effectively, “the greatest good [is brought] to the greatest number of people.” (21) Therefore, the media would be ethically representing the euthanasia debate by properly informing the population about it and pleasing the greatest number of people!

 

Merrill, John C. “Overview: Theoretical Foundations for Media Ethics,” 3-32 in A. David Gordon, John M Kittross, John C Merrill, Willian Babcock, and Michael Dorsher (eds.), Controversies in Media Ethics, 3rd Edition (New York: Routledge, 2011).

Payton, Laura. “Supreme Court says yes to doctor-assisted suicide in specific cases.” CBC News. 6 Feb. 2015. Web. 30 March 2015.

Ravi, Bhama Devi. “Role, responsibility and ethics: a media study.” The Hindu. 11 Feb. 2015. Web. 30 March 2015.

Schadenberg, Alex. “Alex Schadenberg: A very dangerous euthanasia ruling.” National Post. 7 Feb. 2015. Web. 30 March 2015.

Comments

I think that you did a really good research in the ethical problems of euthanasia. Media is never unbiased about anything, especially when it comes to a moral dilemma. Why? Because writers and journalists are average human with their own opinion which is of course subjective and not objective.
My opinion that euthanasia is such a complex problem that we cannot fit into any simpler ethical frameworks like deontology or teleology. It doesn’t fit in deontology, because in this framework morality is defined by good action and killing a human being cannot be called good action. And it doesn’t fit in teleology either because this framework defined by the good outcome. Death doesn’t full fill this role either.
Every euthanasia case is unique. One action in a particular case can be good and the same action in another case can be wrong, isn’t it? These “good” and “bad” action are not set in stone, nor are they coming from some absolute rule. But if there isn’t an absolute rule for what is right or wrong to do than we have to develop our own opinion.
Here comes what I liked most in your article: “the media should be ethically representing the euthanasia debate by properly informing the population about it”. The media should follow the teleological point of view like you said. In this case the outcome will be a well-informed population who is aware about this serious moral problem, to form an opinion and ready to establish the base for the Supreme Court of Canada.

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