With all the talk of Terry Pratchett’s BBC program in which he travels to, Euthanasia clinic, Dignitas in Switzerland, I thought I’d discuss the ethical argument surrounding the controversial subject.
Pratchett is suffering from Alzheimer’s disease, where not only do you begin losing short and long-term memory but eventually you lose the capability of your bodily functions. Your body forgets how to live. Alzheimer’s is a terminal illness that has symptoms of severe depression (quite understandably considering the prognosis), so euthanasia or assisted suicide is an option that some may consider in order to escape before they lose themselves completely. Illegal in this country, euthanasia can be carried out in the Dignitas clinic Pratchett visited in Switzerland, but should there be this option? Is it an acceptable solution?
The Religious Argument
According to the devout Christians among us, it is against God’s plan to commit suicide. Despite his granting of freewill to us, they don’t want it used as it denies God’s right to our lives. Some even believe that the suffering process is good as it allows a Christian to better understand the sacrifice Jesus made; Pope John Paul II wrote that “It is suffering, more than anything else, which clears the way for the grace which transforms human souls.” But Jesus didn’t have a terminal illness that caused suffering and degradation over a period of years, did he?
The Medical Argument
Some worry that if euthanasia is legalized it may become a more commonly used procedure on the elderly and sick to save on expensive medical bills. It is widely believed that if Palliative care is working to its purpose than euthanasia is unnecessary as pain should be relieved in more “ethical” ways. How true this is, I cannot say. Does it undermine a doctor and nurses duty to care? Well in my opinion no, if it is truly what a patient – who is still in sound mind – wants then it is within their right to end their suffering that way, and doctors and nurses will have a duty to oblige to the patients needs.
Aktion T-4 was the name of the Nazis’ program that authorised the mass killing of the disabled and mentally ill, starting with children that were seen as “life unworthy of life”. Seen as a drain on the economy and an obstacle to Nazi ideology regarding the superiority of the Aryan race, the Nazis were ruthless enough to order their deaths without their consent. It is this disregard for life, that is argued by many to have led to policies such as. ‘The Final Solution’; the genocide of 6 million Jews. It is this sort of escalation that many are afraid of, at first it would be euthanasia of the consenting patient, but before long the patient may have no say in the decision process what so ever.
I personally believe that euthanasia is acceptable if the patient is still deemed able of making his/her own decisions. It should not however be down to relatives who could have ulterior motives such as an earlier inheritance; disgusting as it may sound, there are people like that out there. When the choice is taken away from the patient and made by someone else it is no longer euthanasia that is a sanctioning of murder by an outside party. Understandably it must be difficult for a spouse, sibling, parent, child to sit and allow their loved ones to suffer, however they ultimately cannot decide when their loved one can die; the law would be simply too difficult to police. The medical and slippery-slope argument have merit, and these are certainly dangers regarding the legalisation of the euthanasia process, however if sufficient regulations are installed and it is strictly a decision by the patient then I can see little room for escalation in a 21st century liberalised world; relatively fresh from the horrors of the Nazis’ genocidal policies.
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