Can we die?

If an animal is in pain, we alleviate their suffering by euthanizing them. If we can no longer help an injured or sick animal, we euthanize them. If we don’t want to prolong their suffering, we euthanize them. With justified reasons, we are able to euthanize an animal in our care.

But what about humans? If we know there is no hope in saving our life through medical intervention, do we have the option of euthanizing ourselves? Unfortunately in certain countries, the answer is no.

We can euthanize animals that are suffering, but what about humans? Photo by rawpixel on Unsplash.

A difference in death

Now before you get alarmed, I’m not trying to promote suicide. In fact, suicide is vastly different from voluntary euthanasia and assisted suicide. Voluntary euthanasia is when the doctor is allowed by law, to end their patient’s life with given consent. Meanwhile, assisted suicide is when the doctor assists their patient in ending their life, only if the patient requests it. Only doctors can approve patients undergoing this procedure. On top of that, patients are often required to undergo a psychiatric evaluation.

As such, patients must be of sound mentality and not be suffering from treatable depression. They must make their decision freely and voluntarily with serious consideration.

In doing so, these methods are also generally only reserved for terminally ill patients, or patients suffering from a debilitating and non-curable condition.

Human euthanasia is only reserved for people suffering from a terminal illness, or from a debilitating and non-curable condition. Photo by rawpixel on Unsplash.

So unlike suicide, voluntary euthanasia and assisted suicide is carefully planned with a doctor, and requires given consent from the patient before it can occur. But not surprisingly, they are both a controversial topic. And it became even more controversial when Australian scientist, Professor David Goodall, ended his life through assisted suicide at the age of 104.

What’s more, he didn’t end his life in Australia, but flew over to Switzerland where it was legal to do so.

A choice in life

Now the primary reason for patients ending their life is not because they wanted to end the physical pain they were suffering. In fact, in Oregon where assisted suicide is legal, the primary reasons for patients ending their lives was due to their inability to participate in activities that made their life enjoyable. Such was the reason for Professor David Goodall choosing to end his life through assisted suicide.

The second most listed reason was a loss of bodily function, followed by the loss of dignity.

And so by allowing terminally ill patients to end their life through assisted suicide and voluntary euthanasia, patients will be able keep their dignity intact. It’ll allow patients to end their life in the comfort of their homes surrounded by close friends and families. And at the same time, it’ll also save friends and family from having to watch their loved ones succumb to a slow and painful death.

Human euthanasia allow patients to keep their dignity intact. Photo by truthseeker08 on Pixabay.

In doing so, human euthanasia will also prevent terminally ill patients from seeking alternative and more violent means to end their life. In fact, going back to the example with Oregon, violent suicides amongst terminally ill patients also reduced significantly.

But there’s still the issue of human euthanasia going against religious views. Fortunately, since patients have the choice in ending their lives, they can choose whether they want to undergo this procedure or not. So patients can confidently make their decision based on their own beliefs and values.

Making death legal

For these reasons, some countries have already legalised human euthanasia in one form or another. These countries include Belgium, Canada, Switzerland, Netherlands and Luxembourg.

Meanwhile for Australia, euthanasia is currently illegal. Euthanasia was legal in the Northern Territory, but only from 1996-1997. Fortunately, it was announced last year that voluntary euthanasia will become legal in Victoria from mid-2019.

Choosing between life and death

So while modern medicine can be used to treat all kinds of diseases, unfortunately not all can be cured. In these instances, patients can choose whether to wait for a hopeful outcome, or to move on with the next step in their lives.

2 Responses to “Can we die?”

  1. Kimberly Chhen says:

    Thanks Sam! Indeed a doctor’s job is to treat their patients and save their lives. But their job also entails alleviating their patient’s pain. So there’s this trade-off of trying to save lives, but at the same time, potentially increasing the pain their patients have to go through. We often see it in cancer-suffering patients undergoing chemotherapy. In most instances, doctors can do both – save lives and alleviate their patient’s pain. But in rare cases, this is when they face the moral dilemma of whether to alleviate their patient’s pain and allow them to undergo human euthanasia, or force their patients to suffer in order to stand by their “saving lives” principle. I guess in the end, it really boils down to the individual doctor and what principles they follow. And likewise, the patient that they are treating.

  2. Sam Widodo says:

    Hi Kim, this is really an excellent writing. The ethics behind assisted suicide has been greatly debated. Don’t you think it contradicts a doctor’s principle to save lives?