This is not a comfortable subject to discuss or listen to, so if you don’t have the stomach for it, best look away now.
To begin with, we should understand what is meant by this word, though that in itself is subject to shades of meaning and perception, depending on your standpoint. The Oxford dictionary describes Euthanasia thus:
“The painless killing of a patient suffering from an incurable and painful disease or in an irreversible coma.”
Perhaps it’s also worth including the BBC’s guide to all relevant terminology so we’re clear on precisely what we mean:
Key terms and definitions
In active euthanasia a person directly and deliberately causes the patient’s death.
This is when the person who wants to die needs help to kill themselves, asks for it and receives it.
A competent patient is one who understands his or her medical condition, what the likely future course of the disease is, and the risks and benefits associated with the treatment of the condition; and who can communicate their wishes.
The value that a human being has simply by existing, not because of any property or action of an individual.
Abbreviation for Do Not Resuscitate. Instruction telling medical staff not to attempt to resuscitate the patient if the patient has a heart attack.
Ethical theory that allows the use of drugs that will shorten life, if the primary aim is only to reduce pain.
Treatment that the health care team think will be completely ineffective.
This means providing treatment (usually to reduce pain) that has the foreseeable side effect of causing the patient to die sooner.
This occurs when the person who dies wants to live but is killed anyway. It is usually the same thing as murder.
A document prepared by an individual in which they state what they want in regard to medical treatment and euthanasia.
This is where the person is unable to ask for euthanasia (perhaps they are unconscious or otherwise unable to communicate), or to make a meaningful choice between living and dying and an appropriate person takes the decision on their behalf, perhaps in accordance with their living will, or previously expressed wishes.
Medical, emotional, psychosocial, or spiritual care given to a person who is terminally ill and which is aimed at reducing suffering rather than curing.
In passive euthanasia death is brought about by an omission – i.e. by withdrawing or withholding treatment in order to let the person die.
Abbreviation for Physician Assisted Suicide.
This is where euthanasia is carried out at the request of the person who dies.
And if you recall the legal cases, it’s presently against the law to help someone die, though guidelines on whether of not their loved ones will be prosecuted for murder are clear as mud. To me it seems obvious that providing some protection against abuse by others to make someone die against their will, particularly if their prognosis is not that bad and reasonable quality of life attainable, someone who genuinely wants to die with dignity rather than suffering a lingering and painful death without any quality of life should be assisted in that objective.
We put animals out of their misery, but insist on human beings living every last tortuous minute, drugged to the eyeballs if necessary but often still suffering incredibly. This is not a kindness, so why is euthanasia confused in the eyes of the law with crimes of hate such as murder and manslaughter? After all, to help someone in this way is the greatest act of love you can conceive of, or to be done by the medical profession with consent is surely their jobs?
Presently their tendency is to withdraw meds and to starve people to death slowly (I’ve seen this happen) rather than being honest and open, and giving an overdose of morphine by agreement with the patient and their family, for example. Going to Switzerland or wherever the law permits euthanasia should not be the answer – it should be legal here, and established in a legislative framework that enables due protection to the vulnerable.
As I’ve said clearly, when I go I want to do so with dignity and with all guns blazing, not sink into a pale shadow of myself. Being able to live a full and active life, or at least to achieve what you want to achieve by hook or by crook, seems critical. If I were “locked in” or quadriplegic, the chances are that I would request an overdose. That would not be for everybody, and nobody has suggested any degree of compulsion in this – only an option, with legal hurdles, that allow someone who is not capable physically of terminating their own life, to be given that option.
Remember Whose Life Is It Anyway? Nowhere have I seen the key argument addressed effectively, but proponents and opponents are poles apart. In favour or against, the arguments are always much the same but the opponents have control – in spite of what I view as a weak and negative case – the sort where slippery slopes are discussed rather than the essential truths about liberty and making informed decisions.