The case against:
Our right to freedom of choice is one of the pillars of our society – what to wear, what to say, how to act – but this does not extend to our decision on how, or indeed when, to die. Whilst the popular argument states that euthanasia is a dignified way to go, once life becomes a disposable commodity it loses its worth and devalues the importance of life on a global spectrum. Despite the fact we don’t acknowledge it on a regular basis, life is the greatest gift since it is the basis for all other good things. Therefore it is made a priority; ensuring welfare is considered the most important task for any ruling power.
The legalisation of euthanasia will instigate our way down a slippery slope, in terms of when assisted suicide is or is not appropriate. Perhaps a family member begins to feel like a burden… Or a patient is ‘unfit’ to make the decision for themselves… Or knowing there is an easy way out, a patient begins to lose hope. Suffering is an undesirable aspect of any existence, which is why both medical and palliative care exists. But, what hope do we have once we welcome suicide, or in some cases murder, into our legal healthcare practices?
Ultimately, euthanasia is the glorification of death taking the form of suicide being masked in free choice. And, even when the intentions are entirely pure it doesn’t take into consideration the rights of everyone else involved. This potentially extends to friends and family, but most importantly to the wider society and perception of life as a whole. If you wouldn’t support a suicide clinic for those who are healthy, then you shouldn’t support a clinic for those with debilitating illness who are even more susceptible to feelings of despondency.
The case for:
Taken literally, ‘euthanasia’ means ‘good death.’ It always strikes me as ironic; the juxtaposition of ‘good’ and ‘death’; two terms which couldn’t be further apart in meaning or sentiment.
Those undergoing euthanasia tend to be the terminally ill who require some form of assistance to end their lives. With National Hospice Week earlier this month, and end of life care in the United Kingdom increasingly under scrutiny, is it impossible to give everyone a good death without the legalisation of euthanasia?
It’s a difficult question to answer, even more so when you look at it relatively. Every situation is different and every intention unique.
Yet, I would argue that every person facing up to the end of their life has one thing in common: the right to decide the manner of their death.
Having witnessed my father die from terminal cancer, there is no doubt in my mind that euthanasia, under strict regulation and monitoring, should be permitted as an option. Without meaning to sound blunt, a terminal illness is just that – terminal. Whether you die in considerable pain, with your illness having progressed to a stage of inhumanity whilst your family watch on, or die peacefully as a result of euthanasia, the prognosis – death – is inevitable. The palliative care my father received from our local hospice was second to none, but there is nothing, absolutely nothing, comfortable or ‘good’ about a death where you are unable to speak, to move, to remember your own daughter’s name.
The manner of your death is one of the only things anyone in that condition can control, and yet the law in the UK deprives the terminally ill of what any able-bodied person would be able to do – to end their own life. Take the tragic case of Tony Nicklinson. Paralysed from the neck down, Tony was, for all intents and purpose, trapped in a lifeless body, but with a brain still as sharp as anything. His cognitive ability remained intact and he could communicate through eye movements.
Tony wanted to die. But, the UK High Court turned down his appeal.
Six days later, he died, from pneumonia after he refused food and drink.
A good death? A death anyone reading this would choose for themselves, or for a family member, a loved one?