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.

We are a national organisation of Australian medical practitioners, both current and retired, who are committed to having a legal choice of providing information and assistance to rational adults, who, for reasons of no realistic chance of cure or relief from intolerable symptoms, would like to gently end their lives. Assistance may be by doctor provision of medication for the patient to consume, or by doctor-administration.

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