A Rational Take on Euthanasia

Euthanasia has been extensively debated for a long time now. Northern Territory legalised euthanasia for some time. Victoria has legalised euthanasia following the legislation in November last year and the law would be in effect from mid next year. Federal law has illegalised euthanasia and it is unlikely to be changed in the near future. Euthanasia has many arguments in favour and against. Proponents highlight medical, legal and ethical issues. Critics also present medical, legal and ethical arguments. There are some contentious aspects as well. It is necessary to take a rational view of euthanasia, setting emotions aside and only considering the real issues that matter at the end of the day for those ailing and those closely associated.

The Case in Favour of Euthanasia

A terminally ill patient should have the right to die with dignity, just as everyone has the right to live with liberty and equality. No one speaks of euthanasia for people who are hale and hearty so even considering mercy killing or assisted suicide in the generic context is a nonstarter. Some people do raise the issue of the law being abused by people who are not terminally ill or suffering from an incurable disease but then every existing law is abused and is exploited in some way, by however small a fraction of the population. Using the argument of possible abuse is to be seen in the right context. If the law in favour of euthanasia is stringent enough to disqualify every patient who is not suffering from an incurable disease or a particular condition that has been already stated in the statutes then the scope of exploiting or abusing the law is limited. The other possible misuses will have to be prevented by effective enforcement of the law and regulation of all euthanasia cases.

A terminally ill patient, someone who is suffering from an incurable disease or any person who is disabled to an extent that living a normal life is not possible and the experience is unbearable should ideally be given the opportunity to have a peaceful death. Compelling people to live in pain and suffer for years without any hope of recovery is as cruel as condemning a healthy person to death. Medical supervision is the key in euthanasia. It is not just assisted suicide but physician assisted suicide and hence there are no potential risks or side effects, there is no pain involved during the administering of the lethal drug and a person can die with dignity. Dying with dignity is much better than suffering for a long time and then succumbing in a brutal inhumane manner.

Euthanasia is deemed by many as unethical and even immoral. Indeed, allowing someone to die or playing a part in it is against the tenets of humanism. However, letting a person suffer when everyone knows that there is no cure or relief is also immoral and unethical. Relieving the person of pain and suffering is actually the moral or ethical thing to do. Parents helplessly watching their terminally ill kids suffer and adults hopelessly witnessing their elderly parents deal with the insurmountable odds in an attempt to just stay alive, even if it is a bedridden state, are unbearable experiences. Euthanasia does emerge as the right option in such rarest of rare cases.

There are some irrefutable facts that make the case for euthanasia. Ethics, moralities and even humanism can be debated. There can be varying perspectives. Finance or money cannot have any dispute because it is all about numbers. Terminally ill patients, anyone suffering from an incurable disease and those with rare ailments that cannot be cured in the foreseeable future would compel their families to spend anywhere from a reasonable sum of money to all the savings they have. Families can have their livelihoods, their present and future ruined simply because they have to take care of someone who is not going to survive but requires plenty of resources to just keep breathing. There is no relief from pain or suffering and more people are likely to suffer in the long run in an attempt to make absolutely no difference in how the ailing person feels. Avoiding euthanasia is akin to condemning all these directly affected family members to lifelong suffering. Some may recover from the financial loss and eventual bereavement. Some may not.

Euthanasia can help medical research, healthy vital organs of a person who is otherwise terminally ill can be used for transplants and people can also actively decide if they wish to die with dignity should they ever be terminally ill or go into a coma. In the absence of such a declaration, there is nothing one can do now but keep paying the medical bills when the comatose patient may never wake up.

The Case Against Euthanasia

There is a serious scope of abuse of the law. Doctors in many parts of the world where euthanasia is illegal already practice it when prodded by the patients and their families. Some ethical questions do remain unaddressed, especially religious beliefs. Some miracles are also possible wherein a terminally ill person may not die anytime soon, a few incurable diseases may become curable in the near future and it is not unlikely for a comatose patient to wake up, albeit full recovery remains a question. It is these real possibilities and counterarguments that have prevented euthanasia from gaining unanimous support, either among the masses or among the political leaders and even legal luminaries.

Choosing a Hospital

When it comes to choosing the hospital that is right for you and your specific situation, there are many things that you will want to take into consideration. The points can be considered a starting point when choosing your hospital. You will find plenty of free advice to guide you in the process of finding the best hospital. This advice is something to be put to good use.

Location

One of the most important factors to consider when choosing a hospital is going to be location. Depending on the services you are seeking and the length of time that you might be there, you will want to go to a hospital that is in a location that is convenient for not only you, but for friends and family members that will want to visit while you are there. Is it more convenient for you to go to a public hospital in the city? Perhaps a private hospital in the bush will be the best choice for you.

Patient Status

Should you choose to visit a public Victorian hospital, you have the option to be treated as a private or public patient. If you are a public patient, you will not have to pay for your hospital stay. As a public patient, you will be treated by a team of doctors that is nominated by the hospital. State and territory governments own and manage public hospitals.

If you are a private patient, you have the ability to be treated by a doctor of your choice as long as that specific doctor has permission to practice at that hospital. As a private patient, you will be billed according to your health insurance.

If you have private health insurance, you will have some coverage for your cost of care in a private hospital. You of course have the option to use a public hospital but, you will have to pay for it.

Specialist

If you are faced with a situation where you will need to be treated by a specialist, this will weight heavily on the choice you make when it comes to a hospital. You may choose your specialist based on a recommendation of your doctor or you of course have the option to go with the specialist that is nominated by the hospital.

Specialist services can include cardiology, neurology, or even dermatology. Specialists can be found in both public and private hospitals throughout Australia. Depending on your insurance provider, you may be required to get a referral in order to be seen by a specialist.

Ratings

If your visit is something that can be planned out ahead of time, you may want to consider researching the ratings of the potential hospital you are going to go to. Of course, if yours is an emergency situation, you will not have time to do this. However, if time and circumstances allow, take the time to read reviews of previous patients. Consider their opinions and let them weigh in on your own final decision.

Consult with your insurance

Your insurance plan is going to have a huge impact on your choice of which hospital to go to. If you have good insurance coverage, there is a good possibility they will want you to go to one of the better hospitals and see their recommended doctors or specialists. You can make this decision with the comfort of knowing that those doctors or specialists are well trained and competent of doing the best job possible for you as a patient.

Emergency Services

In Australia, you will find that most emergency departments are located in public hospitals. The purpose of these departments is to treat patients who need medical attention or unplanned surgery right away. If you are unsure if your particular situation is considered and emergency, it is suggested that you call your doctor if it is within open hours. If in doubt, of course take a trip in just to be safe.

The choice of which hospital you should go to, is not one to be taken lightly. There are many factors to consider. Given that it is not an emergency situation, it is strongly suggested to take the time to do your research and make the decision that will be the most beneficial for your own situation and circumstances.

Great lengths have been taken in Australia in order to have amazing healthcare for each and every citizen. The options are there for you to get the medical attention that you need or desire. It is simply up to you to take the steps to get that particular healthcare.

There are some healthcare options that are the same statewide, and there are others that are going to be based on where you live. You will find that there are differences between states and difference between the city and bush. Both people of the city and country have access to good nurses, but, doctors are more concentrated to the cities.

In doing your research, not only should you contact your insurance company if available, but you can also visit the Department of Health website. On this website you can also find information about Medicare and other insurance options that may be available to you. Australia’s health care system has been designed to provide not only prevention but, well thought out treatment plans as well. This also includes rehabilitation and palliative care as well. The options are certainly there.

Euthanasia around the World

Euthanasia has more than one definition. Literally, euthanasia is painless killing of a patient who is suffering from an extremely painful disease and incurable or terminal ailment. It also applies to irreversible coma. Euthanasia is also referred to as mercy killing and assisted suicide. The assistance has to be provided by a physician or doctor. People in general cannot play a role in assisted suicide as euthanasia is physician assisted suicide. Beyond these broader definitions are the different types of euthanasia. There are active euthanasia and passive euthanasia. Active euthanasia is presently legal in Netherlands, Canada, Belgium, Luxembourg and Colombia. Assisted suicide or euthanasia is also legal in Germany, Switzerland and some states in America like Oregon, Washington, California, Hawaii, Colorado, Montana, Vermont and Washington D.C. Euthanasia has been legalised in the state of Victoria in Australia but it is poised to be in effect from mid 2019. Euthanasia remains illegal in Australia as per a federal law but states have the right to make their own laws.

Euthanasia in the Netherlands

The Netherlands was the first country in the world to legalise euthanasia. Assisted suicide and euthanasia have been legal since April, 2002. The law does have several conditions and some are quite stringent. A patient should be suffering unquestionably unbearable pain and the illness has to be incurable for the case to be even considered for euthanasia. There can be no exception to this rule. A patient should also be completely conscious at the time of choosing euthanasia. Patients who qualify for assisted suicide or euthanasia in the Netherlands are provided a lethal cocktail and the whole process is under medical supervision.

Palliative sedation has become common in the Netherlands in the last ten years. This is not the same as euthanasia by lethal cocktail. Patients who have less than two weeks to live can choose medically induced coma and their hydration & nutrition can be withdrawn. It should be noted that any kind of assisted suicide other than the grounds accounted for by the law is considered to be homicide. There are some organisations that educate people about euthanasia but they do not have any right to actually help people with assisted suicide.

Euthanasia in France

France is yet to legislate on euthanasia or assisted suicide. There have been sporadic movements and campaigns from time to time. More than one French president had promised to explore the premise of right to die with dignity but there has been no major effort to legislate. Some cases of securing the right to die with dignity have come to light over the years. A few of these cases did get some attention all over the country but there has been no impact on the stand of the lawmakers. French citizens do seek the intervention of the courts to be allowed to die with dignity. Some of these cases have been escalated to European Court of Human Rights as well. Decisions are awaited.

Euthanasia in the United States

Oregon was the first state in the United States to legislate on euthanasia and it effectively legalised assisted suicide in 1997. Euthanasia is illegal as per the federal law but states can have their distinct laws. Euthanasia is Oregon and other states in America, such as Washington, is strictly permitted for patients who are terminally ill. Patients who have fewer than six months or so to live can ask for lethal medication but they must be mentally competent to make a decision for themselves. Washington joined Oregon almost ten years later and in the last decade other states have come up with their own laws governing euthanasia. States like Vermont, Montana and New Mexico have now legalised euthanasia.

Euthanasia in Germany and Switzerland

Euthanasia is not referred to as such in Germany because Nazis had eugenicist policies so it is controversial. The terms used are assisted suicide and active assisted suicide or beihilfe zum suizid and aktive sterbehilfe respectively in German. The exact law is a little different in Switzerland and Germany than the ones in the United States, the Netherlands and other countries. Doctors in Germany cannot actually hand out the lethal medicine to a terminally ill patient. A doctor can provide guidance but not administer the lethal drug. Doctors in Switzerland can provide the lethal drug but there should not be any personal or self serving motive involved. If there is any motive or self interest then the doctor can be prosecuted.

Euthanasia in Belgium

Belgium legalised euthanasia in 2002. It was the second country after the Netherlands to legalise euthanasia. Terminally ill patients or those suffering from an incurable disease can express their desire to end their lives with dignity. Patients can also declare their will accordingly before getting into a coma so doctors can act as per their stated objective. In Belgium, the doctor or supervising physician must be present at the time of carrying out assisted suicide. The doctor must be at the bedside of the patient and should be there till the very end when the person takes the last breath. Doctors cannot give prescriptions and let patients be on their own in Belgium. This still happens in the state of Oregon in America and is not an illegal act there. Belgium has also legalised euthanasia for children. No specific age limit has been set to distinguish minors from adults. Belgium is the first country in the world to have done this.

Ethical Reasons Euthanasia is a Hot Topic

Euthanasia has been a hot topic for decades. Many people around the world and in Australia support euthanasia. It is hard to infer conclusively if the majority of the global populace is in favour of euthanasia but it is true that a large number of people is against legalising assisted suicide or the right to die with dignity and you may use other terms to basically imply the same. Many people call it mercy killing, others use the term physician assisted suicide and some describe it as murder. There are many aspects of euthanasia and ethics or ethical reasons are one part of the entire argument. There are medical aspects, financial ramifications and humanitarian facets that are not always about ethics or morality but very real consequences that arise out of having the option to die with dignity and denying the people the same right.

Ethical Issues of Euthanasia

There are medical arguments in favour and against euthanasia. Likewise, there are ethical arguments in favour and against euthanasia. Let us first discuss the ones in favour. Every human being on the planet has a fundamental right to live, much like the right to liberty, free speech and equality as guaranteed by constitutions of different countries and also by international laws. Should every human being on the planet also have the right to die? This is the basic dilemma.

A person should be able to decide whether or not one must endure the unbearable pain and continue to suffer. It is the person who is suffering and no one else should have the right or any say in the matter. Others can empathise, sympathise, be compassionate and even take care of a terminally ill or disabled person who has no hope to recover or be cured. Others cannot actually share the pain or take the place of the person so it is futile to even have the rest of the world decide on behalf of the ailing individual. A civilised and more importantly mature society should guarantee the right to die with or in dignity and without pain & suffering. Every individual is the sole custodian of their physical self or the human body. It is everyone’s right to decide what one wishes to do with their physical self.

Proponents of euthanasia argue that forcing a person to live on despite the pain & suffering, hopelessly since one knows there is no cure or recovery is actually a breach of the other fundamental rights, such as right to liberty or the right to decide how one wishes to live their life. Right to self determination, which is an argument used by many activists and lawyers with diverse causes, should be applicable to terminally ill patients. This perspective establishes the simple fact that it is unethical, immoral and even cruel to compel a person to continue to live in unbearable pain and suffering.

Critics of euthanasia and those who firmly stand opposed to legalising mercy killing or assisted suicide argue that it is not for someone to decide when one must die, just as one cannot control when he or she is born. This is indeed an ethical issue with euthanasia but it is mostly given a religious hue. Most religions do not propagate any concept of the right to die in dignity. There are nonreligious ethical concerns too. Critics argue that euthanasia can be misused. If euthanasia is legalised, people could be abused using the law and many vested interests could come into play whenever someone is terminally ill or if a person becomes unmanageable for any reason whatsoever. The laws that exist around the world vary considerably and there is enough room for loopholes. Euthanasia is illegal in most countries around the world but there are doctors who still administer lethal drugs or stop palliative care to help a terminally ill patient die.

Another set of ethical issues pertain to the medical profession. Doctors take an oath to do everything in their capacity to help save a life and to help people be completely cured or recovered. There is nothing in the oath or in any part of the training that doctors undergo that permit them to help people end their lives. The essence of the medical profession is not to assist in a suicide, even if it is mercy killing. Hence, doctors also face this moral dilemma, albeit not all. Is it acceptable for a doctor who actually saves lives to end lives? A parallel can be drawn, although not identical, that of a mother who gives life through birth being given a right to take life.

In Conclusion

Most of the ethical reasons that have been highlighted here are unlikely to be resolved through any debate. People will always have their beliefs and they would think, act and react accordingly. Global perception about euthanasia has changed substantially in the last five decades. While most people were stringently against it in the last century, most people in developed countries tend to favour euthanasia but they also insist on having stringent conditions. According to various studies conducted in Australia, the United Kingdom, the United States and many European countries, most people want legislation to clearly define the conditions, diseases or disabilities that would be considered acceptable for euthanasia. Many people do not want family members to have any veto or any role whatsoever. Many people want doctors and lawyers to be actively involved in the process so the law cannot be misused by healthcare professionals, patients, families or society as a whole.