Monday, July 27, 2009

The right to die

There's a big hoo-ha in London at the moment about assisted suicide and the right to die, as well as the ethics surrounding it.

This comes after the Royal College of Nursing moved to a neutral position on assisted suicide (from being opposed to it) and has called for more guidance on the issue. Understandably, this has opened up an entire can of worms and has sparked a heated debate focusing more on terminally ill patients than on highly-strung teenagers who off themselves for random reasons.

This got me thinking - who are we to tell a person who is living in agony that they have to continue living in agony until they die naturally? Surely if that person's quality of life has no chance of improving, it is entirely their choice whether they want to end it or stick it out? Personally, I think the bone of contention here is the word "assisted". Granted, it is quite a morbid thought that someone would help a family member commit suicide and this would undoubtedly have knock-on effects for the former's mental health, but again, is it not a matter of choice? If the family member is convinced that he or she will be better off, and they are comfortable with helping, then why not?

Ironically, humans are quick to euthanize an animal who falls deathly ill - are the animals ever asked if they want to live or die? No. And that's because we believe they can't make those kinds of decisions for themselves (not taking into account the fact that we can't communicate with them, of course). But the difference is that humans CAN think for themselves and if they want to die, if they KNOW they do not want to live out the last few months or years of their lives in pain and uncomfort, why put up barriers? They'd do it themselves if they had the means to anyway. We had a Boxer who I was hopelessly attached to and, in his old age, he developed a heart defect. The poor animal could not walk or breathe properly and lay, slowly dying, on the dining room floor. My dad made the difficult decision to put him down even though the vet said that with a traumatic operation and feeding him pills everyday, "he might last another six months". Why do that to him? Is it not more cruel to force him to live another six months in pain than to kiss and hug him and wish him well on his journey to doggie heaven?

While discussing the topic with friends the other day, one brought up the issue of abortion and referred also to animals whose lives are snuffed out without a second thought if they are born with a disability. He believes that it should be ok to abort a human baby who is going to be born mentally disabled and will never have a chance at a normal life. While I have never thought of it in this way before, I think he has a point.

Concerns have been raised that if assisted suicide was legalised in the UK, then the elderly would feel pressured into committing suicide, rather than becoming a burden to family members as they lose the ability to care for themselves. While incontinence may not be pleasant, it definitely should not fall into the same disability category as being permanently paralysed or brain damaged from a car accident. I know that if I had become a vegetable as a result of my accident, I would look back on my life, say it was a good one; and then ask for kisses and hugs and well wishes as I continued with my journey to the after-life.

But maybe that's just me.

1 comment:

  1. I am all for "assisted suicide". The only problem I have with it is, what if the ill person is not "all there" upstairs and might not know exactly what they are asking for?

    But yeah, I agree with you.