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Should religion play a role in the laws surrounding euthanasia?

08 January 2013, 12:18
Religion aside for one moment... What are your thoughts about physician assisted euthanasia? Ok, the moment has passed.  Should religion play a role its legalisation?  Conversely, why shouldn’t it?

Of course there are ethical, legal and ‘potential for abuse’ issues attached to this, which I’d prefer to debate in later article.

To begin the debate, let’s just settle the definitions of euthanasia, per and note that the subject under discussion is physician assisted suicide.

    •    Euthanasia: the intentional killing by act or omission of a dependent human being for his or her alleged benefit.
    •    Voluntary euthanasia: When the person who is killed has requested to be killed.
    •    Assisted suicide: Someone provides an individual with the information, guidance, and means to take his or her own life with the intention that they will be used for this purpose. When it is a doctor who helps another person to kill themselves it is called "physician assisted suicide."
    •    Euthanasia By Action: Intentionally causing a person's death by performing an action such as by giving a lethal injection.
    •    Euthanasia By Omission: Intentionally causing death by not providing necessary and ordinary (usual and customary) care or food and water.

What Euthanasia is NOT: There is no euthanasia unless the death is intentionally caused by what was done or not done. Thus, some medical actions that are often labeled "passive euthanasia" are no form of euthanasia, since the intention to take life is lacking. These acts include not commencing treatment that would not provide a benefit to the patient, withdrawing treatment that has been shown to be ineffective, too burdensome or is unwanted, and the giving of high doses of pain-killers that may endanger life, when they have been shown to be necessary. All those are part of good medical practice, endorsed by law, when they are properly carried out.

Right... I would ask that you put yourself in the shoes of someone who’s mother had signed a living will, in the presence of all four of her children, stating that she planned to end her life by means of starvation.  Someone with with multiple terminal cancers, no quality of life whatsoever - could no longer read or paint or even get out of bed, was in constant agony, aged 83, and waiting to die.  Consider that she was a much respected medical doctor and head of a major psychiatric unit for 15 years.  She had seen the results, all too frequently, of failed suicide attempts (a large proportion of her patients) and did not want to risk it.    Her doctors refused to help her.  So she turned to her son.  After starving herself for 33 days, she begged him to help her die.  After much agonising, he did.  He was her sole carer and in the last weeks, every time he turned her over, parts of her already decomposing flesh were being left on the sheets.  She was still 100% lucid and every time she woke she would ask “Have I not died yet?  Am I immortal?’

Consider that Dr Patricia Ferguson was your mother.  Consider that you were Professor Sean Davison, faced with this dilemma.  During his trial supporters wore t-shirts saying “Every Mum should have a Sean”.  I beg to differ... “No Mum should need a Sean”.

What would you have done?

For those interested in this subject, some websites (for and against)...

The Terry Pratchett documentary won an Emmy Award for best documentary in 2012.
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