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All You Have To Do Is Pull The Plug, But Can You?
“The very word euthanasia is never used because of the madman Hitler.” (DR. PIETER V. ADMIRAAL 1)
“You are not being untrue to your god if you choose to die. If your life has gotten to the point where you are no longer celebrating your existence, no longer celebrating your creator or your make then the point of living is gone.” (PAUL SPIERS 4)
When you put the Greek words “eu” and “thantos” together you get the English word with plural meanings and several views on it: euthanasia. The denotative definition for euthanasia is relatively painless mercy killing, but there are a number of different legal definitions and people subscribe to different forms depending on their point of view. Religious beliefs, those who have euthanized, government decisions and views shared through society determine the use of euthanasia. While various religions perceive euthanasia as a sin, many people regard as their right. To many people, euthanasia is preferable to suffering unendurable pain. So if it ends pain and is the victim’s choice then should it not be legalized? Since euthanasia by omission and involuntary euthanasia have been argued as inhumane, only certain types are open to legalization such as voluntary, non-voluntary depending on the country concerned. It is the argument of this writer that in order to prevent inhumane suffering, certain forms of euthanasia should be practiced despite the religious or moral beliefs of those involved.
There are over a thousand religions that are practiced in this world yet most of them teach euthanasia is a sin. Hinduism teaches that actions like this will affect your karma (the effect of an act on your next life) and most of the time it is looked down on. The religion of Christianity teaches that euthanasia is a sin because “the lord gives and the lord takes”, and this is not something a human should control.
“Euthanasia is a grave violation of the law of God, since it is the deliberate and morally unacceptable killing of a human person.” (POPE JOHN PAUL ll 1)
By and large religious leaders have argued that there is no one who has the right to decide whether a life- given by god – should be cut short or not and that we are humans and we cannot try to play the role of god by ending lives. Many religions such Buddhism and Judaism view euthanasia as a fancy word for suicide with the same meaning and consequences and this is the exact conflict that takes place in courts with cases related to euthanasia.
A forty-five year old mother, Sue Rodriguez, suffered from amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS). This disease causes muscle weakness and prevents neurons from reaching the muscles making them unable to function resulting in the patient losing all physical abilities except for eye movement. She fought for the right to voluntary euthanasia after discovering she had ALS. Having being unsuccessful in her first few attempts she took her case to the Supreme Courts of Canada.
“Why are we not allowed to make the choice of dying with assistance if we are ill and in pain?” As Sue Rodriguez said, ‘Who owns us? Whose body is this?’ We don’t ban people from driving because an accident might happen. We don’t ban people from drinking because alcohol might be abused…If we are to follow this logic to its own conclusion, we would never have any freedom at all.” (EVELYN MARTENS 10)
However, since doctors and physicians agreed with Sue Rodriguez, she was euthanized by the help of doctors in 1994 and she proved through her actions that there is nothing wrong with euthanasia because she was the owner of her body. Unlike Rodriguez, Robert Latimer took the responsibility for the involuntary euthanasia (ending the suffering of someone because they are paralyzed or in a similar state) of his daughter who functioned at a three month olds brain level. Since this was considered as murder, he was unfairly sentenced to prison more than once for a crime in the eyes of the government although he compassionately ended his daughter’s suffering and endless pain. There was no treatment capable of reducing his daughter’s pain and the fact that she was unable to take any painkiller stronger than Tylenol indicates that her pain was not controlled. However, it seems no one has yet made sense of why the government would punish someone for ending another person’s unendurable pain and that too of his own child. Would any compassionate parent not want to relieve their child if their constant suffering? Yet, no matter what the circumstances are, it is rare that one is excused for committing euthanasia by the Supreme Courts in countries other than the Netherlands where euthanasia is partially law.
Sue Rodriguez in British Columbia, Canada fought the courts for the right to choose euthanasia. At first, she lost her case and wasn’t given the right to commit euthanasia because
“…there would be reason to fear that homicide of the terminally ill could be readily disguised as assisted suicide and that, as a result, the most vulnerable people would be left most exposed to this grave threat.” (COUNCIL 1)
In the case of Robert Latimer, the government failed again to recognize his twelve year old daughter was incapable of speaking and could not express her pain and or her will to bring an end to her pain through any actions. It is a known fact that most children under the age of 18 are unable to make informed decisions so even if 12- year-old Tracy Latimer could have spoken, it would be near impossible to register trust in her words as her brain would not be functioning at a legally responsible level. She could be unaware of what she was saying. It is incredible how the government still struggles to determine whether the right of euthanasia and to end inhumane suffering should really be given to citizens under the title of a constitutional right to life and liberty or whether it should be overruled by its relation to assisted suicide.
“There is something terribly amiss in our legal system, in our society, in the way of implementing end of life choices…” (GEORGE FELOS 1)
The Canadian government has failed to make reasonable decisions regarding euthanasia in other cases as well. In Spain, 1993, Anthony Bland had been in persistent vegetative state for three years before the court finally allowed him to die. They claimed that had he made a choice to have been allowed to die peacefully before his vegetative state took roots in his body, then they would have allowed him to die peacefully earlier. But, how had they expected him to predict his future and the decisions he should have made then? So from religion to personal circumstances of emotional and physical pain, and what we deem as our right and what the government states as our right should euthanasia be legalized?
Almost 50% of the people who have shared their views on euthanasia have expressed that they agree with the people who have committed euthanasia. (proof?) When one thinks about the situation of the people who have committed euthanasia it is difficult to understand why one would not make that choice. In the case of Ramon Sanpedro, who was paralyzed, it is only comprehensible why he would no longer like to go on living. He thought:
"Why die? Because every journey has its departure time and only the traveler has the privilege and the right to choose the last day to get out. Why to die? Because at times the journey of no return is the best path that reason can show us out of love and respect for life, so that life may have a dignified death." (RAMON SANPEDRO 1)
At the age of twenty-one Karen Ann Quinlan entered a coma from which she would never recover on April 15th, 1975. Her parents sided with euthanasia and knew their daughter would not like to be kept alive, yet she was still connected to feeding tubes and was kept a living corpse until a year later when she finally died of pneumonia. Involuntary euthanasia could have occurred in this case, and it should have just as it did in Tracy Latimer’s life. How many people need to die torturous and degrading deaths before the government learns humanity?
When you are in the situation where euthanasia is the only option, when someone you love is suffering every minute of every day and nothing can be done, when no one understands your pain or their’s, government’s decisions and religious laws seem to be obstacles. Yet, we cannot always choose to disobey the government because it is the government that keeps our society together; however, in a pain and death situation it is sometimes more humane not abide by government rules. Still, we can try to ease someone’s pain by completely ending all feeling. Religion is one of the few things in this world that people look to when all else has failed to provide reassurance. It is what gives countries such as India unique unison, it sheds light to some of the darkest corners of this world, but when it teaches against the actions one would only take in desperate circumstances, then it should be overlooked. If all else has failed we still know that sometime, someday it will all end and the feeling of pain will be gone, so when the time comes that there is nothing else that can help but the end itself then why not bring it closer? Like everything in this world the legalization of euthanasia should have rules and exceptions. The only acts of euthanasia that should be acceptable morally and humanely would be voluntary (Sue Rodriguez), involuntary (Robert Latimer’s daughter Tracy Latimer) and active euthanasia (Sue Rodriguez). Those who argue with religions against euthanasia seem to have forgotten that we are only human and can not be absolutely pure. Those who have argued with governments saying that euthanasia and suicide are the same have not yet realized that euthanasia is not listed in the thesaurus as a synonym of suicide, but in the dictionary as a different word with a different definition. Though death brings sadness and darkness into lives; voluntary, involuntary and active euthanasia can make the darkness a shadow in the light because the pain will have ended.