The Shona Conception of Euthanasia: A Quest to Depart from Zimbabwe Tradition

Article excerpt

Introduction

The concept and definition of euthanasia have been well documented in the literature, and scholars have provided a number of interpretations to the term. When looking at different kinds of theoretical debates on euthanasia held in several academic journals, it is striking how many articles especially from the Western world, just arguing for or against euthanasia. There is, indeed, a need for a more comprehensive research on euthanasia, especially from Africa where research on euthanasia has been sketchy, and very narrowly focused. The latter factor is also true of research by Western scholars on this important topic wherein most are limited either to pro- or con-euthanasia arguments. This paper argues for the need to move beyond this to create a more radical holistic and balanced approach to further developing the field of medical ethics that takes greater account of factors such as liberal life-style, moral intensity and intention development.

'Choosing death' should be recognized as one of the human rights and civil rights to be accorded members of society. Hence Donnelly (2003) suggests that "human rights are those basic standards without which people cannot live in dignity"; the rights or entitlements one has, for the plain reason that s/he is a human being. Likewise, "human rights can mean either natural rights or civil rights" (Turner, 1993). Whereas natural rights are possessed by all human beings and are derived from nature, and civil rights are derive from society rather than God or nature and thus can be changed and therefore depend on a particular degree of social organization.

This paper conceptually analyses euthanasia before advancing a moderate view of euthanasia and demonstrates through cases' the plausibility of this view like the right to choose death' which is useful in that it represents a human right oriented response from a more liberal and autonomous perspective. Second, the emancipator approach of the paper uses exemplary cases' to demonstrate how we can seek to understand euthanasia from credence values of autonomy, liberty, mercy and simple logic. This paper therefore is an attempt to integrate a moderate view, the principle of autonomy and civil rights into the main stream of euthanasia discourse. In the Shona culture and other cultures of Zimbabwe and the world over, this is necessary because in the name of African communalism and biblical ethics, some civil rights are often neglected, yet there are long term advantages to be gained by actively promoting them. In view of this, it can be concluded that a moderate view of euthanasia is not only necessary but sometimes indispensable in a culture such as the Shona. And in short, the virtue of this paper is to ascertain how useful and influential a moderate view is, especially as a strategy where forces of medical ethics would essentially benefit healthy professionals and the public in general, not only in Zimbabwe, but in the global world community concerning decision making relevant to euthanasia issues. Nevertheless, it is worth noting that the answer to the moral problems on euthanasia is very difficult to stipulate; thus the role of judging and deciding cases of euthanasia should not be solely accredited to medical doctors, nor should it be accredited to relatives or the clients themselves. Instead, many parties such as non-governmental organizations, euthanasia committees, relatives of the patients, the patient (in the case of active euthanasia), physicians and academics should contribute before a final deliberation on a euthanasia case is made.

Conceptual Analysis of Euthanasia

Euthanasia is an issue in the medical fraternity that has aroused the interest of many professional ethicists, academicians and the public in general. The concept is deeply controversial, for moral and practical reasons. As a result, a number of interpretations to the term have been provided by scholars. Some have generally considered euthanasia as killing. …