This famous quote by an American pathologist and euthanasia promoter Jack Kevorkian, has been ringing in my head for some time now. I occasionally happen to think about death and my conclusion is always the same: it would not be so bad if it was not for the pain. Dying of natural cause is very unlikely, and there is always the possibility of being crippled by a disease or an accident. The quote strikes me so much because when I imagine myself lying on a deathbed, paralyzed or in excruciating pain, unable to do anything, I come to a realization that nothing terrifies me more than the idea of being denied the right to end my own suffering. According to Wikipedia, the contemporary euthanasia debate has begun in mid-1800s. The debate revolves around ideas of righteousness of euthanasia, its impact on society, and its improvements to quality of life as well as preservation of self dignity.
The right to die states that a human being has the ability to end its own life either by suicide, or voluntary euthanasia. This right is most often associated with cases of terminal illnesses, where the victim may be willing to reduce their suffering by committing assisted suicide or voluntary euthanasia. The right is highly controversial because even if we accept the notion of self-ownership (my body and my life belongs to me and I can do whatever I want with it), it is still necessary for a consent to euthanize to be rationally justified. The opponents of euthanasia will argue that the consent is likely to be made under pressure of family members or physicians, not to mention the risk of making an impulsive decision by the agent. This is why euthanasia should be performed only in severe cases where the dying person’s life is estimated to last only couple more days and when both sides are sure of their decisions. Besides, there are proper euthanasia regulations that for example require the patient to write a consent before undergoing the procedure. The law is very strict here, so for euthanasia to be executed, a number of conditions must be met. The patient must not be younger than 12 and if he is younger than 16, he is required to have his parents’ consent. An independent doctor must approve the patient’s condition and the procedure must be performed appropriately. Overall, it is not easy to get a permission to perform euthanasia and the whole process is very complicated which further decreases the chance of any negative repercussions.
Euthanasia is said to have a big impact on society and the way it develops. One of the main arguments that critics of euthanasia have, is that it can lead to slippery slope effect that would cause non-voluntary and involuntary euthanasia to emerge. Elderly people may decide not to be a burden to their family, which is also a form of pressure. Human factor also must not be overlooked; doctors may occasionally be wrong when it comes to diagnosis, and the condition of the patient may not actually be terminal. However, recent papers on euthanasia in the Netherlands have proven invalidity of this argument. Euthanasia in the Netherlands was legalized in 2002 and since then, the number of assisted suicides and euthanasia cases has not increased. Conversely, it can be shown that euthanasia has some positive sides to itself. According to this article: ” In Britain, a 2012 study discovered that as many as 57,000 patients each year die without being told that efforts to keep them alive have been stopped. Instead, they’re just shoved onto a “death pathway” designed to alleviate suffering without ever being told.” Euthanasia does not shorten life; instead, it improves its quality by preserving self-hood and dignity of a person.
Speaking of dignity, how does one preserve it while permanently tied to bed, dependent on other people, unable to choose his own fate? On January 11, 1983, Nancy Cruzan had a car accident after which she was diagnosed with persistent vegetative state. The condition rendered her incapable of functioning by herself. She was unable to swallow, so doctors had to insert a feeding tube in order to keep her alive. It took her parents 8 years to get a consent from the court that would allow the removal of the feeding tube. On December 26, 1990, the tube was removed and Nancy Cruzan died. Before the accident, while she was still healthy, Nancy said that “she would not wish to continue her life unless she could live at least halfway normally.” It does not matter whether after the accident Cruzan was conscious or not. It was her wish to die with dignity, without having to rely on anyone. There are cases where people in a similar state decided to starve themselves to death. Just imagine what a human must be going through if he decides to kill himself in such way. Why shouldn’t we give these people the choice they have the right to? Especially when we can make their last moments more peaceful and dignified.
Euthanasia opponents claim that it shortens lives and leads to negative changes in society and healthcare. I think it is the other way around. Shortening someone’s life even by a day, is a day too much, but I do not think that being strapped to bed, suffering from unbearable pain can be called living. Every person has the right to decide for himself and that is why the patient’s consent is needed here; only he has the right to choose his own fate. Aside from the consent, both euthanasia and assisted suicide are very strictly regulated and we should not worry about any form of negative consequences such as the slippery slope effect. I think that most of us are afraid of death, but unfortunately it is inevitable and there is not much we can do about it. What we can do is at least make the last days of some people less agonizing and ignoble.