It has long been debated as to whether or not euthanasia is ethical. On the one hand, some people view euthanasia as taking a life – murder – even though the person being “murdered” has little or no quality of life, they know this quality of life will get poorer, and they want to die with dignity, while they are still of a sane mind. Other people say that this sick and dying person has the right to choose to die with dignity, and that euthanasia is a basic human right.
I am with the latter group, and an infamous Australasian doctor, known as “Doctor Death” agrees with this stance.
When we have a pet, and they have an incurable illness such as cancer, and every day life is painful for them, we make the decision to have them put to sleep, even though it is heartbreaking to do so. If an animal has this right, why don’t humans? Humans are meant to be the highest life form, yet legally (in NZ anyway) they are unable to choose to die even though there is no hope for them. They know they will be facing the possibility of constant pain, pain that is only dulled by the strongest pain killers doctors can offer (which has another whole round of side effects); the loss of their bodily functions and thus their dignity; and watching (and feeling) their body waste away, all the while knowing they are only going to get worse and worse until they finally die – there is no cure, no hope. And loved ones have to watch this person slowly getting weaker and each day slipping closer to death, yet being unable to do anything about it but watch. It is torture. How can a person who is in a sane state of mind, and requests euthanasia, possibly be classified as a “murder” victim?
Another perspective to look at it from is one day a healthy person has a serious accident, becoming severely brain damaged, basically a vegetable – unable to move or perform even the minutest of tasks for themselves. Unable to think or speak, they need constant care, and could be thought of as a burden on society. What kind of a quality of life is this? If there is absolutely no hope for this person, if several different doctors are in agreement that this person will never get better, that their brain function is non-existent and they have been damaged beyond repair, shouldn’t this person be allowed to die, if the family is in agreement that euthanasia is the best option? How is lying flat on your back in a hospital bed, every day for the rest of your life, being fed through a tube, having no control over bodily functions, not being able to move; how is this actually living? Just because the person is breathing, does not mean they are living. I believe it is more cruel to keep someone in this situation alive, than it is to help them die.
Euthanasia could also be classified as turning off the life support when a person is “brain dead”. How many doctors does it take to say there is no hope for that person, for the family to make the decision for the life support to be turned off? Can doctors make this decision without the family’s consent? I know this law varies in different countries, so which law is the most ethical? And how is euthanasia any different? Surely when there is no cure for a person, and they are becoming more and more debilitated until there is nothing left of them other than a broken down shell and a dead spirit the end result is the same – death. Why should anyone have to suffer the indignity and pain of dying slowly when all the humiliation and hurt could be avoided by choosing euthanasia? Obviously if there is even only a tiny glimmer of hope euthanasia is not a choice. But what if there is none? No hope whatsoever, just a slow, lingering, painful death?
Think about it for a moment. What if it was you? Would you want your life support turned off? What you want to be allowed to die with your dignity intact, having made the decision to speed up the inevitable? Or would you rather your death was prolonged, trying every procedure known to man to try and cure what is incurable, barely clinging to life. Or what consists of your life. Simply a life form, but being unable to truly “live”.
I know what I would choose. I would want to die with dignity, before my body is maimed by disease; before I have to suffer unnecessary pain; before my loved ones have to watch me waste away. Euthanasia is much more than ethical – it is a basic human right, and should be recognised as such.