Euthanasia is among the most popular titles of several academic debates on studying prevailing social norms concerning medical ethics, and thus, most of the literature focuses either on arguments for or against euthanasia. The Shona culture of Zimbabwe is one culture that abnegates euthanasia. This paper therefore invites and critically reflects on the position of euthanasia maintained by the Shona through tsumo (proverbs), zvirahwe (riddles), madimikira (idioms) and ngano (folklore) which were traditionally used to inculcate traditional values, customary laws and general rules of conduct in society. The piece then advances the argument that the conception of euthanasia by the Shona is extreme, rigid, narrowly focused, and therefore philosophically implausible. This also applies to arguments that have been forwarded for euthanasia by Western scholars throughout history. There are some cases that warrant euthanasia and others which do not. Hence, the debate between pro-euthanasia partisans and anti-euthanasia partisans can't be settled unless 'the right to choose death' is recognized as a civil right and not as a natural right or otherwise.
Key Words: Euthanasia, moderate view, Shona culture, tradition
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, …