The Choice to Die With Dignity

By Julian Jonge Poerink

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Euthanasia, a terrible, unethical solution for patients, or is it? Is it unethical to be against these so called “mercy killings”? Is there a point where death is a better option than living?

The most important thing to remember is that not everyone can get euthanasia, in every country where it’s legal a patient must be facing intense suffering, death in the near future and get at least two physicians confirmations of these facts. Many of these people see their lives reduced to nothing but their disease, their death.

Brittany Maynard was a teacher who got diagnosed with terminal brain cancer, she had no chance of recovery and her cancer would, over the span of weeks, reduce her to nothing. She states: “Because the rest of my body is young and healthy, I am likely to physically hang on for a long time even though cancer is eating my mind. I probably would have suffered in hospice care for weeks or even months.” (CNN) She says any remaining treatments to slow it down “would have destroyed the time I had left.” (CNN)  Although death is far away for many of us, we all would like to die with grace, not brain dead in a chair with machines hooked up to you every second of every day.

For many people with terminal illnesses such as Parkinson’s, cancer and ALS that is their reality, they have to accept becoming immobile and becoming dependent on other facilities to complete what was once a basic task. According to a study by physician, Doctor Brown, “17% of patients facing death in the near future wish to speed up the dying process” (NCBI).

My great-grandmother once faced a choice: either suffer through the last 5 months of your life with a sickness, have everyone around her assist her with basic tasks; to lose all dignity or take a injection, and go to rest peacefully. She chose to die happy, but many people never get to make this choice, is this fair?

A counterclaim to Euthanasia is that it is a rejection of life itself, that it is morally wrong to take away life from a person who could live longer. However you would need to consider that forcing someone to live without any grace, with intense suffering is selfish. If someone person would want assisted suicide, to speed up death out of fear of immobilisation then do we have any right to deny this person that?

For many patients across the world, dying with dignity is not an option, in only seven countries in the world is human euthanasia legal, with some countries such as the US only allowing six states to carry out assisted suicide. This is not ethical. We need to rethink the way we see death.

Works Cited

  1. “ALS.” Muscular Dystrophy Association, 10 Jan. 2016, http://www.mda.org/disease/amyotrophic-lateral-sclerosis/signs-and-symptoms/stages-of-als.
  2. ALSA. “Facts You Should Know About ALS.” ALSA.org, June 2012, http://www.alsa.org/about-als/facts-you-should-know.html.
  3. “Cancer Statistics.” National Cancer Institute, 1 Mar. 2017, http://www.cancer.gov/about-cancer/understanding/statistics.
  4. “Facts .” NHDD, 2014, http://www.nhdd.org/facts/.
  5. Griggs, Brandon. “Dying Young: Why Brittany Maynard’s Story Resonates.” CNN, Cable News Network, 14 Oct. 2014, edition.cnn.com/2014/10/08/living/death-dignity-brittany-maynard/index.html.
  6. Guy, Maytal, and Theodore A. Stern. “The Desire for Death in the Setting of Terminal Illness: A Case Discussion.” Primary Care Companion to The Journal of Clinical Psychiatry, Physicians Postgraduate Press, Inc., 2006, http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1764532/.
  7. “Immobility – Cancer-Related Side Effects | CTCA.” CancerCenter.com, 1 Jan. 2009, http://www.cancercenter.com/ctca-difference/integrative-cancer-treatment/immobility/.
  8. Maynard, Brittany. “My Right to Death with Dignity at 29.” CNN, Cable News Network, 2 Nov. 2014, edition.cnn.com/2014/10/07/opinion/maynard-assisted-suicide-cancer-dignity/index.html.
  9. Reporter, Daily Mail. “Number of Terminally Ill People Choosing to Die by Assisted Suicide Leaps by 40% in Just One Year in US State of Washington.” Daily Mail Online, Associated Newspapers, 11 June 2014, http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2655649/Number-terminally-ill-people-choosing-die-assisted-suicide-leaps-40-just-one-year-US-state-Washington.html.
  10. Reporter, Daily Mail. “Number of Terminally Ill People Choosing to Die by Assisted Suicide Leaps by 40% in Just One Year in US State of Washington.” Daily Mail Online, Associated Newspapers, 11 June 2014, http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2655649/Number-terminally-ill-people-choosing-die-assisted-suicide-leaps-40-just-one-year-US-state-Washington.html.
  11. Wikipedia. “Great Depression in the Netherlands.” Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation, 28 Feb. 2018, en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Great_Depression_in_the_Netherlands.
  12. “You and Your Family: Death and Dignity.” Washington State Department of Health, 2013, http://www.doh.wa.gov/YouandYourFamily/IllnessandDisease/DeathwithDignityAct/DeathwithDignityData.

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