How Quality of Life Arguments fail for Euthanasia and Abortion

Our dog Charlie has been suffering with bone cancer, with pain for the past seven months or so. Inevitably euthanasia has come up again and again by veterinarians and some well-meaning friends. We have instead chosen to let him have surgeries over time and to be on pain medication to minimize his suffering, continually praying he would have days without pain and would be healed (and he has had many good days without or with very little signs of pain!).

The argument for euthanasia typically goes like this:

  1. A disease is causing gross or incurable suffering.
  2. Gross of incurable suffering reduces the quality of life to an extremely low level.
  3. Death will remove the suffering.
  4. Therefore, euthanasia (controlled killing) is the compassionate choice.

Now, while this argument seems to be widely disseminated (just about everyone we’ve talked to gives some version of it) it is surprisingly weak.

There is an apparent goal in premise two, that quality of life is the thing sought after and in speaking to people who hold this view we are usually told. “Just think of his quality of his life”. However, it should be apparent that the quality of life of a dead animal is 0%. Even a life that has a fair amount of pain still registers on the scale, even say .01% is above 0%. So euthanasia doesn’t solve the problem it just eliminates it and the animal in question.

Now compare this to the argument made recently by some that abortion is justified because often (it is claimed) not having the abortion would result in a person with a very poor life. Again, there is the same logic to save person P from a possible terrible quality of life due to growing up in an unfortunate home it is better to eliminate P. So P’s suffering is now 0% but also her quality of life is 0%, which is inevitably lower than it would have been had P lived. Even homeless people or mentally ill people have good days.

I think that often the real argument goes like this, and I think in the south at least people seemed more honest about it:

  1. When a life has gross suffering/ will turn out badly it is inconvenient to take care of.
  2. Eliminating the life eliminates the hassle.
  3. The life in question is of less quality than the life caring for it.
  4. Therefore, it is most merciful to the caregiver to eliminate the life.

The odd part today is that if you say that euthanasia is off the table for these reasons you won’t be met with arguments. Instead what we have found is you will be met with insults about how selfish it is to prolong the suffering (the life part is curiously left out) or nice stories that demonstrate how others have euthanized and felt ok about it.

We believe that God is the author of life. That God has entrusted life to humans Genesis 1:29-30. That the pet/ owner relationship is a reflection of that. Finally, that we have the responsibility to provide the best care and compassion we possibly can to that life which means doing the hard labor and enduring the hard moments with him.


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