Inspired by a discussion between the members of the Debating Society (quite a few weeks ago), I thought I would present to you all my own thoughts on the topic.
To start off, I want to ask the obvious; what is euthanasia? Euthanasia is ‘the termination of a [terminally ill] person’s life in order to prevent further suffering’. Immediately this definition raises queries, how do we define ‘very sick’ or even ‘terminal’ disease? Many diseases or illnesses can be considered terminal despite their lack of physical ailments or impediments, for example: bipolar disorder or even advanced dementia could be acknowledged as terminal. Bipolar disorder, for example, leaves up to 50% of sufferers attempting suicide at least once. (www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/10826661).
There are two major sides to the Euthanasia debate, those who firmly agree that such actions ought to be banned out-right and those who believe that each individual has the right to choose the means of their own death. It’s possible that those on the other side think this too, but just don’t believe in the killing of one human by the hands of another. Some ‘on the fence’ people may not show much interest or simply state the generic “how would you regulate euthanasia?”. It seems like an obvious concern, how do we prevent the treatable from seeking euthanasia? And how do we stop people from feeling pressured into a decision? Independent regulatory bodies would presumably be in charge of making the final decision in addition to a GP’s professional opinion, but how can any form of criteria account for an individual’s personal suffering which leaves them contemplating death in the first place?
The right to life is perhaps one of the most exercised rights that people posses, but why not the right to die? It seems a vital one, why should we not be able to end our own lives on our own terms when it becomes unbearable? Or perhaps we should ‘soldier’ on with palliative care provided by hospices, and just face up to the prospect of degenerative illness. It seems that the most active protesters supporting the right for euthanasia are people who face the uncertain future of their own health or the health of their family. Why should we prevent those who suffer the most from ending their own pain when they deem it unbearable?
Perhaps I am viewing the subject too negatively. There are 220 hospice care units in the UK, which spend over £1,400,000 a day (http://www.helpthehospices.org.uk/about-hospice-care/facts-figures/) on treating their patients and helping to improve their daily life. Therapeutic services such as art therapy help patients to view life more positively and live out their lives in happiness, but what about those that don’t see palliative care as a viable alternative? Surely we should be able to have the option at the very least? And this is my issue with euthanasia in the UK. We are not given the decision to take charge of our lives, this choice may mean little to some people and but may mean the difference between suffering and peace for others.
Since his stroke in 2005, Tony Nicklinson had been left paralyzed from the neck down. Due, in his eyes, to the lack of quality of life Tony decided to seek the legalization of euthanasia within the UK. The court’s decision to deny Tony and other in his position the right to die by regulated means resulted in Mr Nicklinson ending his life by starvation, a painful method of suicide. The idea that someone should be forced to commit suicide by unregulated means when the alternative is far more humane is ridiculous.
Palliative care is a viable option for some, but those that seek peace in death should be given the choice, despite the continued objection of Parliament, which is essentially an institution of people with differing opinions to myself and other members of society.