Dying, dead, or deprived?

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Euthanasia is the practice of intentionally ending someone’s life to relieve them of pain. Killing the dying. Euthanasia is legal in a mere five places around the world, and Australia is not one of them. However, this should not be the case. Places such as the Netherlands understand euthanasia as ‘the termination of life by a doctor at the request of a patient’, where other places think that killing the already dying is wrong – even if they’re in immense pain. If a close friend or family member asked you to help them on their way, what would you do? Could you handle knowing that they were in that much pain they wanted to die? Some people are against euthanasia because they believe that only God has the right to end someone’s life, but how do you think someone who is terminally ill, wishing to die and are not religious are going to react? Euthanasia allows people to die with dignity and in peace.

There are several other reasons that people disagree with euthanasia, one of the main ones being that it is a rejection of the importance of human life. Yes, human life is important, and this is why euthanasia should be allowed. Euthanasia is not the rejection of human life, but it is the rejection of freedom and our right to die peacefully and in as little pain as possible. Some people worry that euthanasia will become non-voluntary and people who choose to receive care over death will feel guilty. This is why there should be a board of people who decide who has the right to euthanasia. There could be an ethics board, a medical board and perhaps even a religious board. There could be a psychological evaluation as well as a team of medical professionals to make sure that euthanasia is the best option. No decision should be made if you have just been diagnosed with an illness or are new to grief, but if you are diagnosed with a serious illness or are in a serious accident and are almost completely immobile, after years of bedsores and having a feeling of not wanting to be around, if you really want to do it there should be a way. Keeping someone alive against their own wishes is selfish. Four elderly Australians commit suicide each week, partly because doctors are not able to help them die. These people feel as though suicide is the only way out, otherwise they have to live with a horrendous death. How is it that when pets feel the need to die we can see that and we are able to dignify them with that respect, but when humans tell us that they want to die, we are not able to give them the same option?

My uncle, who is now deceased, struggled with Goodpastures Syndrome for most of his life. Goodpastures Syndrome is a rare disease that causes damage to a person’s kidney’s and lungs. He had been in and out of hospital the whole time I knew him, and when we heard he was going to get a kidney transplant we thought he was saved. After the transplant he never really kicked the disease but he was able to live peacefully with it, until 2009. He had been battling severely with it again and instead of going in and out of hospital again for another 18 years, he chose to go into palliative care and wait for death. He was in palliative care for a little over two weeks, the whole time in severe pain, just wishing he could get it over with sooner. The night my uncle died, my mum, aunt and Nan were in his room at the hospital. At this stage he was always asleep and could only mutter fragments of words. He was having a hard time lying down to go to sleep, and my mum was trying to ease him into it. When my Nan got home there was a message on her machine saying that my uncle had passed. We don’t think he could sleep because the pain was what was killing him. If euthanasia was legalized in Australia, the patients wouldn’t be in so much pain, and nor would their families. It’s so difficult waiting for someone to die, knowing that they could die at any moment. I can’t even imagine what my mum felt, knowing that as soon as she left the room, her brother died. Knowing that someone is dying in severe pain doesn’t only kill the patient, it kills the people around them, too.

In Switzerland, there are very strict rules around euthanasia. When applying for euthanasia, you need to send medical reports. There are then more medical examinations and when you have the green light, they double check that this is the choice you want to make. After taking the drug you immediately fall asleep and everything is filmed for the police. Although the filming of someone’s death might seem inhumane, it’s the best option to ensure that it was the drug that took the person’s life. When people say that euthanasia should not be legal because it will help people get away with murder, they don’t think about the rules that would be in place. Physician assisted suicide is what would be legal, not a loved one helping you to die. This is because only professionals would have the medical expertise to not only know if euthanasia is appropriate, but to do the deed itself and ensure that the person’s life is taken in the most painless way possible. This is why the key words are ‘physician assisted’. Medical oversight is needed to make sure that the patient is consenting and that the procedure is set up correctly. This is where Switzerland is correct. They have the appropriate rules in place for euthanasia. If every country in the world had these rules in place, suicide numbers would be down and people would be in less pain.

Oregon is another place where euthanasia is legal, but it is under the name Death With Dignity. The Death With Dignity Act (1997) outlines how people living in Oregon who are terminally ill are able to end their lives through the voluntary self-administration of lethal medications that are prescribed for that purpose. The Act requires the health division to collect information not only about the patient, but any physician taking part, and there is then to be a report made. If places such as Oregon and Switzerland can put very specific rules in place to allow people to pass under their own circumstances, why is Australia, a place known for being opportunistic, not able to put similar rules in place? Where is the opportunity?

People have the right to die in peace, painlessly and under their own circumstances. People deserve to die with their dignity. Medical professionals should be able to give people lethal medication in order to put them to sleep. People who don’t think euthanasia should be legal need to think about how they would feel if themselves, or a close friend or family member were suffering so much they wanted to die. Australia should be legalize euthanasia and be proud to do so.





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