By: Thian Amarasekera
Agony. Pain. Misery.
How much can you endure?
Family members are forced to witness the agonizing sight of their loved ones suffering at the hands of terminal illnesses. These individuals are stripped of the chance to a good death. A sense of feeling trapped arises as they have no way out. People suffering from terminal-illnesses are being denied their right to a peaceful death.
Society has deemed it unexpectable to aid in physician-assisted suicide, however I believe that there is compassion shown in the act. Relieving the unbearable and endless pain at the patient’s request should be viewed as an act of kindness. Feelings of torture and intense hurt can finally be freed.
The term euthanasia has become intensely controversial which has led to an everlasting argument over the legality of it. Voluntary euthanasia creates a fair and just approach to relieve pain from a terminally ill patient as it provides consent from the one being affected. Physicians work relentlessly to encourage a speedy recovery; however, there are cases that don’t have a solution.
In 1984, the Dutch Supreme Court legalized voluntary euthanasia and since then other countries have joined the movement to legalize “physician-assisted suicide”. As a result, “the Netherlands had over 4,000 cases of euthanasia in 2012” to end people’s suffering at the hands of incurable diseases. Belgium has also seen a drastic increase in legal cases of euthanasia in recent years; and has helped set the stage to a better future for terminally-ill patients.
These countries have a large number of people adhering to a religion, the majority of those people being Christians. This may come as a surprise because, “Pope John Paul II (described) euthanasia as an example of the ‘culture of death’” publicly denouncing legalizing any form of euthanasia. However, there’s been a surge of support for euthanasia in the eastern religious world- contradicting the western beliefs. Major eastern belief systems see the moral flexibility with cases concerning the need for euthanasia. Acts of compassion and obtaining a ‘good death’ is essential for Hindu and Buddhist beliefs. Religious scholars increasingly support euthanasia as a “door to liberation, (and) the culmination of life in detachment from the material world”. These religious concepts are highly acclaimed in Hinduism and Buddhism, allowing there to be more leniency for the tolerance of euthanasia.
The primary concern for the fight to legalize euthanasia has averted away from religion, and the sizable factor now would be legal technicalities. When considering voluntary euthanasia, what are the ethical parameters required to justify it?
Voluntary euthanasia must include an adult’s or family’s direct consent to terminate any care. The patient must also indicate that they’ve made a considered decision which is a ‘Living Will’. This notion has shown it’s almighty power in legal terms in court during previous cases. “The court held that the execution of a Living Will allows caregivers to withhold artificial life support from an incapacitated person even when death is not imminent”. The Living Will alludes to the right to die movement which is also facing an uphill battle to be accepted in society’s eye.
The Living Will was presented to the New Jersey court as they witnessed one of the first modern cases revolving euthanasia. Karen Ann Quinlan, 31, went into a coma and had little hope for her recovery. Her devastating situation resulted in heart ache and intense frustration for her parents. The only valid option left was to terminate her life support to ensure she would pass peacefully. At first she was denied, however, her desperation and willingness won the case in the end.
Voluntary euthanasia should be legalised for numerous reasons and the way to guarantee the proper conduct of euthanasia comes through legal action. There should be a change in the Hippocratic Oath to allow a physician to partake in euthanasia at a patient’s request. Terminating pain on demand can change the lives of many unfortunate individuals. This can bring about a more promising environment in the future as multiple victims would be able to die peacefully.
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